Portugal beats Paris for US travelers who take advantage of a strong dollar

With the pound and euro struggling against the dollar, opportunistic US travelers might be wondering if it’s time to book an international trip, and maybe even prepay for the hotel. Who wouldn’t love a travel deal, especially after paying through the nose last summer?

But don’t think there are bargain prices all over the UK and Europe. Sure, the dollar can get you 20% more when dining or shopping, but in-demand hotels are always expensive. For example, high-end accommodations in places like Paris and Capri have hiked rates by up to 40% and are likely to keep them there, according to Melissa Biggs Bradley, founder of luxury travel agency Indagare.

If the main goal is to stay somewhere special at a price that’s hard to beat, you’re better off staying in countries like Sweden, Portugal, or Turkey. According to travel experts, these destinations offer the best value for money when factoring in currency changes as well as airfares and accommodation.

Take the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, a five-star hotel overlooking the Royal Palace, with rooms under $300 a night by April. Spring break in Lisbon? A nonstop round trip on multiple carriers from East Coast cities will cost less than $500.

For winter travel, Bradley suggests looking to ski resorts in Europe, like Alta Badia in Italy, which may actually be cheaper than domestic hotspots like Jackson Hole thanks to the strength of the U.S. dollar.

Still, if you’ve got your heart set on a more popular European destination, there are things to keep in mind to ensure you’re still getting a good deal.

First, ask yourself if you really want to spend less on the trip than you normally would, or spend the same amount and “book in” – i.e. stay in a fancier hotel than you expect. you originally planned, or book a particular attraction or experience.

Also, think about when you are leaving. Fall and winter are considered shoulder season, of course, so flights tend to be cheaper then. Last spring, airfares jumped 19% from March to April, a record high, but have fallen month-over-month since June, according to Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights. Keyes says he doesn’t expect fares to rise as much as last spring, but rather to fluctuate more within the typical 5% increase or decrease.

Non-stop flights to London’s Heathrow Airport are still nearly $1,000 for most of this year and next, but if you’re willing to fly mid-week you can save over $300 . And if you’re flying to Gatwick, low-cost carrier Norse Atlantic Airways currently offers flights from $400.

Remember that there is no fixed day or time to book your trip that will magically guarantee the cheapest airfare. The best advice is to set a Google flight alert about six months before the trip and go from there.

If the price of a flight drops, you can sometimes rebook at a lower price and receive a voucher for the difference to use for a future flight. That’s thanks to a pandemic-induced change by major US airlines that allows travelers to change an existing flight without incurring a fee. But you are responsible for continuing to track the flight after booking and find that the price has dropped. And if you buy the most basic economy fare, you probably won’t qualify.

In terms of prepayment, you might want to think twice about paying for your hotel now. Of course, you will benefit from a more favorable exchange rate and a lower price, but it is generally not more than a 10% discount and almost always non-refundable. It just seems too risky given the state of the world.

Another helpful tip from Clint Henderson, editor of The Points Guy: Check out airline combo hotel deals. Henderson says he’s stayed at high-end hotels including the Park Hyatt in Vienna and the Adlon Kempinski in Berlin for much less thanks to hotel/airline packages offered by American Airlines and Delta. You can sign up directly for operator emails.

Finally, if you buy luxury goods in Europe, keep in mind that you can be reimbursed at the airport for the VAT on sales included in the price of the item in store, provided you complete the relevant paperwork. . (Sorry, London shoppers: the UK has ended VAT refunds in 2021.)

Given the refund and the stronger dollar, consumers could benefit from discounts of up to 35% on designer labels purchased in Paris or Rome compared to their purchase in the brand’s store in the United States, explains Bradley. Just don’t get carried away and let “discount shopping” end up costing more than the trip.

More from Bloomberg Opinion:

• Air travel is horrible. Transparency can improve it. : Thomas Black

• UK can’t afford to look so ridiculous: John Authers

• Airlines continue to abuse passengers. Regulate Them.: Adam Minter

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Editorial Board or of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Alexis Leondis is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering personal finance. Previously, she oversaw tax coverage for Bloomberg News.

More stories like this are available at bloomberg.com/opinion

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