On Wednesday, the euro hit a near 12-year low against the dollar. While there is a downside to the so-called "currency wars," one immediate consequence for American travelers is that visiting Europe just got a little cheaper.
If you're planning a getaway this spring, here are three destinations that offer great bang for the buck. Of course, even with a strong dollar, savvy travelers can make the most of the exchange rate with these smart moves:
Stick with the local currency. Refuse offers to pay in dollars when you use your credit card, says Matt Schulz of CreditCards.com. Those transactions rarely give you the best rate.
Skip foreign fees. Choose a credit card with no foreign transaction fees. Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard from Barclaycard are good options.
Find a partner. Seek out your bank’s international partners, where you’ll pay fewer fees to use your ATM card. Say you use Bank of America. Try BNP Paribas or Deutsche Bank.
Poland isn’t part of the eurozone, but Kraków is still a good deal, coming in at No. 4 on the website Price of Travel’s 2015 ranking of affordable continental cities. This spring, though, U.S. visitors will find even better prices, with the dollar up 20% or so against the zloty over the past 12 months. Rooms at the Hotel Gródek in the charming old town start at $132 in April, down $167 from a year ago. Plus, you’ll slice a few dollars off the city’s already reasonable activities, like Chopin concerts at the Bonerowski Palace ($15, vs. $18 in 2014).
Even the notoriously expensive City of Light is now more affordable thanks to the strong dollar, says Ellison Poe of Poe Travel. Take the Hôtel Luxembourg Parc in the central Saint-Germain-des-Prés district. Rooms for April cost $293, vs. $357 a year ago. Still too pricey? Try the outer 10th and 11th arrondissements, hot areas for up-and-coming hotels and restaurants. At Generator Paris, a new, design-cen tric hostel in the 10th, private rooms are $55 this spring (an identically priced room would have cost $68 last April). Use your savings to splurge on an elegant meal, like the $62 tasting menu at the trendy Bones eatery.
In general, the currency swings haven’t done much to make flights more affordable. Fares to Greece, however, have been reasonable lately, as airlines offer bargains to lure travelers during the spring shoulder season. “I see deals like $800 flights on Turkish Airlines from New York or $900 KLM tickets from LAX,” says Jeff Klee of CheapAir.com. For a hotel, try Athens Gate, overlooking the Temple of Olympian Zeus, says Mina Agnos of Travelive. Rooms start at $148 in April (vs. $206 in 2014).