What a wonderful dilemma to have. The cheap price of gas helps make the financial argument for an all-American road trip this summer. And yet, the surging dollar and other factors listed below reveal that a peak-season vacation in Europe will be less expensive than it has been in years.
Is this the summer for you to see Europe? Here are three reasons why it should be—and why you should be booking the trip asap.
1. It's actually possible to snag an affordable flight. The emergence of WOW Air and Norwegian Air, upstart low-fare airlines based in Iceland and (duh) Norway, respectively, has made a summertime trip to Europe more affordable for the masses. These airlines are known for advertising incredibly inexpensive fares—sometimes less than $100 each way across the Atlantic—and while you won't find flights at such prices in the summer, the peak season airfares that are available are dirt cheap compared with mainstream carriers.
A few recent fare searches revealed that, for example, WOW Air flights from Washington, D.C., to Copenhagen in August were available one way for under $200, with all mandatory taxes and fees included. WOW Air flights from Boston to Reykjavik in early July were available starting at just $155. Meanwhile, we also spotted a round trip from Los Angeles to Copenhagen on Norwegian Air for a total of $825 in August, which is easily $200 cheaper than what other European carriers were charging for the same dates.
Not long ago, travelers assumed a summertime flight to Europe would cost at least $1,000, and probably a whole lot more. So the rock-bottom fares from these airlines certainly appear to be game changers. Still, before booking a flight with these or other airlines, check the fine print—with special attention paid to fees for baggage, seat selection, and such. Low-fare airlines like WOW, Norwegian, Spirit, and Ryanair are especially prone to charging for services that competitors provide for free. Factor all of this in when making decisions.
The dollar goes a long way in Europe. Back in January, we took note of how the euro fell to its lowest level against the dollar in nine years. At that point, one euro was equal to $1.19 in American currency. A look at the online XE Currency Converter shows that the dollar has only grown stronger of late, with one euro worth about $1.08. Hotel prices throughout Europe are down significantly compared with last year for American travelers, thanks to currency fluctuations among other factors. For that matter, virtually every on-the-ground expense—restaurants, wine, tours, souvenirs—in much of Europe will be substantially cheaper for Americans. Train tickets and flights purchased overseas should be less expensive too.
As the Los Angeles Times put it, compared to last summer, when one euro was equal to $1.37:
An American tourist strolling the streets of Paris this April can buy 25% more croissants, cafe au laits or mini Eiffel towers than a year ago with the same dollars.
Hotel rates in the U.S. are soaring. While travel expenses overseas have gotten more affordable for Americans, the reverse is true within our own borders. A Hotels.com study shows that the average hotel room in the U.S. sold for $137 in 2014, a 5% increase over 2013. American hotel rates are expected to rise another 5% to 6% this year.
Recent TripAdvisor data, on the other hand, shows that hotel rates in Europe are on the decline: Rooms booked on the site for the summer of 2015 are averaging $133, compared with $164 for last summer. According to TripAdvisor's TripIndex, which factors in hotel and transportation costs, the price of a one-week vacation has dropped this year by 11% in 24 out of 25 European cities, when compared with the summer of 2014.
Point being, Europe is especially a bargain when you consider how pricey it's gotten to vacation close to home.