Looking to go to Europe on the cheap? Inexpensive airfare and a strong dollar mean shopping along the buzzing streets of Paris, cruising the river Rhine, and sipping sangria in Madrid are more affordable vacation options than they've been in years.
The most affordable countries, according to Laurel Brunvoll, owner of Unforgettable Trips in Gaithersburg, Md., include Portugal, Spain and Greece, where you can get €0.80 for every $1. In emerging destinations such as Czech Republic, Croatia or Malta, the dollar can go even further because expenses like food, transportation and accommodations are cheaper than in major cities like Paris or London. A top itinerary, according to Liberty Travel, is Peregrine’s Croatia Dalmatian Coast package (8 days starting from $2,740 per person), which includes meals, transportation, accommodations and activities such as wine tastings and guided walks.
With the pound worth about 71 cents to the dollar, it's a good time for Americans to go to Great Britain — in time for a royal wedding, perhaps? According to Liberty Travel, trips to the U.K. have slowed, making it the perfect time to pick up a bargain airfare to London.
“In the past three to five years, there has been an advent of several new, low-cost carriers, and not only do they provide some new options, but it also seems to have provoked fairly regular sales on traditional carriers,” says Brunvoll. She notes that round-trip airfare from Washington, D.C., to London recently was as low as $411 per person, and D.C. to Athens, Greece, was $650 per person on a route that normally would cost about $1,300.
In addition to taking advantage of cheap airfare, travelers can find a variety of lodging options to fit their budget. An Italian villa could turn out to be more affordable than staying at a hotel. For example, a three-bedroom house in Tuscany goes for less than $350 per night, or about $116 per couple if shared per night, according to Liberty Travel.
If you want to really stretch your dollar while avoiding the summer crowds, go to Europe in the winter, which is off season, or during a shoulder season (beginning of spring or end of fall). Also, try traveling midweek for less expensive airfares.
Even with a strong dollar, cheap airfare and affordable accommodations, travelers may hit a snag when trying to enjoy popular attractions. “When the dollar is strong, your money goes farther. But that also means more people will be traveling," says Mitch Krayton, owner of Krayton Travel in Aurora, Colo. In order to see everything on your bucket list, Krayton advises: “Plan ahead wisely and get advanced reservations for transportation, sites and shows that permit them." And, he notes, a travel agent may be able to acquire VIP access to many places.