Why your travel dollar buys a bit more this year

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When most people look for a travel bargain, they search for a low air fare or a great hotel at a sell-off price. But there’s one thing that can make the difference between a pricey trip and one that’s affordable. That’s the exchange rate you get for your money, and this year there’s some good news for both Canadian and American travellers.

Two years ago, when the Canadian loonie was flying low, I wrote a post that looked at currencies around the world to see if there was any relief outassorted money money there. And there wasn’t much to cheer about. I had to go as far as Australia and South America to find places where the Canadian dollar was doing well against the local currency. But this year, there are some good deals closer to home: no need to take that 24-hour flight to find a travel bargain.

For this post, I compared exchange rates from one year ago to the rates in effect this week (Jan. 30, 2017) for some of the major destinations for North American travellers. Here’s what I found (note: the rates shown are currency market rates – the deal you get at the exchange counter won’t be quite as good.)

The United States

This is the major destination for Canadians looking to escape winter. And there’s good news: while Canadians were getting scalped last January, paying almost $1.40 Canadian for a U.S. greenback, this year it’s only costing us about $1.31. That’s still a steep premium to pay for every hotel room and Budweiser, but it could be worse – and it has been.

The Caribbean

The decline in the greenback is good news for Canadians travelling to the Caribbean, too. A lot of Caribbean nations use the U.S. dollar as their currency, like the U.S. Virgin Islands. Others “peg” their own currencies to it, so the two go up and down in lockstep — that includes places like the Bahamas and even Cuba. Meanwhile, in Latin America, Panama uses the dollar as legal tender (though they call it the Balboa), and Belize’s dollar is pegged to the greenback as well.

 Europe

It’s a little cold in Europe at this time of year, but if you don’t mind the cold – or if you’re travelling a little later in the year – you’re in luck. A year travel bargain Vienna Rathausago, every euro cost a Canadian traveller $1.51; today, it’s back around $1.40. It’s been lower, but let’s be thankful for small mercies. Note: not every European country uses the euro, but you can have a great vacation in the ones that do.

Oddly, American travellers don’t get a travel bargain in Europe this year. You’d think with the recent political turmoil in Europe, the euro would have gone down against all the major currencies. But you’d be wrong. In January, 2016, one euro cost U.S. travellers about $1.08 U.S. – today, it’s about $1.07.

The United Kingdom

If you fancy a visit over ‘ome, there’s more good news. The Brits’ decision to leave the European Union has cost them dearly, especially where their currency is concerned. Last year, a British pound cost just under $2 Canadian; today, it’s about $1.64, a drop of about 17 percent. I’m not sure that counts as a travel bargain when you look at British prices, but it’s a welcome relief.

U.S. travellers get a break in Britain this year, too. The pound has fallen from $1.42 U.S. last year to $1.25 today. Again, not a huge drop, but a help when you’re buying tickets for a show in the West End.

Mexico

Next, we come to the country that’s still my pick for travel bargain of the year. Canadians vacationing in places like Cancun andtravel bargain Mexico beach Puerto Vallarta are getting almost 16 pesos for every Canadian dollar this year. That’s the most I’ve seen in decades of visiting Mexico. And compared with last year’s rate of about 13 to the dollar, it represents a 20-percent discount. With Mexico’s already modest prices, it adds up to a real travel bargain.

American travellers are hitting the beach for less, too. Last year, they got about 18 pesos to the dollar; this year they’re getting close to 21. Ironically, they can claim to have caused this bonanza themselves – it was Donald Trump’s trade war threats that sent the peso reeling.

Costa Rica

Finally, a favourite destination for Canadian snowbirds, especially those who love nature. And this year, tramping through the Monteverde cloud forest will cost about 10 percent less: we’re getting 422 colons to the Canadian dollar, up from 383 last January. Don’t forget your binoculars.

U.S. vacationers get a nice break, too. This winter they’re getting 553 colons to the dollar, up from 536 last January. And to make the deal even sweeter, it’s a shorter flight for them than for Canadians.

It’s a complicated world we travellers have to navigate; political currents can roil the waters at any time. But now and then the tide comes in for us, and this year it’s bringing a travel bargain or two when we go to change our hard-earned dollars. Sure, it won’t make travel free, but then, every little bit helps.

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Paul Marshman is a retired journalist who spent 30 years as a writer and editor on Canadian newspapers, while travelling to the ends of the earth. Now he continues to travel while passing on his travel experiences to you.

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