This is the year of Canada, with the country celebrating its 150th birthday and all. So it may surprise you to learn that right now is a great time to visit the United States too. Why? In the past month, the Canadian dollar has surged against the U.S. dollar, giving Canadian travellers the kind of bargains they haven’t seen for years.
Last year, during a trip to Ecuador – which uses the greenback as its currency – I paid a gut-wrenching $1.40 Canadian for every U.S. dollar I spent. As recently as May of this year, Canadians visiting the states were paying around $1.35. Today, as I write, the rate has come down to about $1.25. Getting 10 or 15 cents off every dollar is a real travel bargain, especially on a trip that lasts a couple of weeks or more. (Note: these are official currency rates; you’ll pay slightly more because of exchange fees.)
The good news doesn’t stop at the U.S. border, either. Besides Ecuador, some other sun spots use the U.S. dollar as their currency too, including Panama (where it’s called the Balboa), the British Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos. As well, a number of other countries peg their currencies to the greenback – when it goes up or down, they follow in lockstep. Some examples are the Bahamas, Belize, Nicaragua and even Cuba.
So if you’ve been thinking about going to visit the relatives down south, or seeing Yellowstone National Park for the first time, this may be the time to do it. And if you take a winter vacation in Florida, or in any of the southern countries mentioned, it may be a good idea to exchange some dollars now. Currency markets are fickle, so there’s no telling how long this bargain will last.
On the other side, if you’re an American traveller, this may not be the moment to take that Canadian trip – at least until your dollar regains its strength. However, you’ve still got all those other U.S.-dollar countries to visit.
The strong loonie is also good news for Canadian travellers who like to cruise. But taking advantage of it can be a complex matter. Most cruises are priced in U.S. dollars, so if you book with a site that sells in U.S. currency, you should get a significant saving. However, that’s only on the amount you pay up front; unless you pay the full price on the spot, you don’t know what exchange rate you’ll get on the next payment. As well, if you pay by credit card, the card company will charge an exchange fee.
If you book in Canadian dollars, you may or may not get the currency advantage, since the cruise lines only adjust their exchange rates a couple of times a year. The best strategy may be to compare the U.S. fare, converted to Canadian dollars, against the best Canadian-dollar rate you can get. If it all gets a bit confusing, an experienced travel agent can help you deal with the currency confusion.
Any way you look at it, though, a strong Canadian dollar is a bonus for Canadian travellers. Maybe it’s a little present for our 150th birthday. But it may not last long, so take advantage while it’s here.
Note: This post is for information purposes only and is not intended as financial advice; consult a travel agent for authoritative advice on travel bookings.