The value of the dollar is up—again. As the economy roars, it continues to gain strength against other world currencies. Nevermind what it means for the US economy, let’s talk about what’s really important—what it means for your next vacation! While many global hotspots continue to be reliably cheap (Thailand for example), now is the time to use the dollar’s strength to book a dream holiday to somewhere previously out of reach. Here’s where to book while our currency is hot—and theirs isn’t.
A melting pot metropolis encircled by water and mountains and thrumming with art and culture, Vancouver has lurched in recent years to the top of Canada’s most expensive cities list. But Americans get approximately $1.25 for ever buck they spend here making right now an ideal time to visit “Raincouver” (bring an umbrella). Cycle the bike path that circumnavigates the entirety of Stanley Park (be ready for Instagrammable views); stroll the treetop Capilano Suspension Bridge in nearby North Vancouver; stuff yourself full of artfully presented Sichuan small plates at Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie; and stay at the Fairmont Pacific Rim if you’ve got some bucks to spend (Vancouver isn’t that cheap) or at the budget chic Burrard if you don’t.
A budget vacation in Western Europe is virtually unheard of these days, but a weakened Euro has made the region enticing once again. While it’s now more affordable than ever to hit up hot spots like France and Spain, savvy travelers know that Portugal is the continent’s hottest destination right now. On top of the dollar trading almost even against the Euro, Portugal is still cheaper than its neighbors. Spend a few days lingering in hilly and enchanting Lisbon, easily the San Francisco of Europe; marvel at the fairytale castles in nearby Sintra; sip port wine in picturesque Porto; and do as little possible in the Algarve Coast, where sun worship rules. Don’t forget to try salt cod, it’s the national dish and found on almost every menu.
Save all the “Cs” (Cancun, Cozumel, Cabo, etc.) for a beach vacation with your besties; instead hit up inland Mexico where the real bargains are found. With the peso plunging against the US dollar and Mexican cities becoming fashionable meccas of food and culture (think Oaxaca, Guadalajara and San Miguel de Allende), now is the time for a south of the border urban getaway. A dense and beguiling city of nearly 9 million people, Americans are rushing to Mexico City for its booming food scene (El Cardenal, Campobaja and Mercado Roma are among our current faves) and neighborhoods fueled by art galleries and boho chic (Coyoacan, Hipodromo, Roma and Condesa). Of course, don’t miss tourist sites like Zócalo and the Pyramid of the Sun.
Because Kiwi currency is also called the dollar, it’s easy to gaze at a menu at a hip Auckland restaurant (we recommend Culpeper and Federal Delicatessen) in frustration—until you do the math. The exchange rate is currently hovering around $1 to NZ$1.33 which means that $29 charred skirt steak is really only $22. Not bad, right? The top spot on any itinerary should be the Milford Sound, a series of towering peaks and cascading waterfalls that is majestic even if it’s raining (which it often is). Also, don’t miss South Island cities like Queenstown and Dunedin; roadtripping the dramatic West Coast along Highway 6; Lord of the Rings tourism at Hobbiton; 360 degree scenic vistas in the Banks Peninsula; and unspoiled beaches along the Bay of Islands.
With tensions riding high between North Korea and well, everyone, a visit to its next-door neighbor might sound fraught. Truthfully, however, the odds of North Korea launching a military offensive against South Korea are small and the Korean won took a recent hit against the dollar making now an excellent time for a Seoul-ful vacation. The country boasts 20 national parks and some of the world’s most beautiful beaches (Yang Yang in the Gangwon Province and Haeundae in Busan are two of our favorites). There’s also small towns with Buddhist temples and tourist-worthy big cities like Busan and Daegu. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with sticking to Seoul, a capital city bursting with innovative architecture and cuisine.
The currency in spindly Panama is technically the Balboa, but the US dollar is widely used. That doesn’t mean visiting this oft-forgotten Central American gem is expensive. Hardly, in fact. A luxury hotel in safe and cosmopolitan Panama City can be booked for under $200/nightly, and a rideshare will take you to most destinations around town for as little $2. Walk the city via the Cinta Costera or “coastal lane” and marvel at its many skyscrapers including the corkscrew-shaped F&F Tower. Hit up the red-hot Casco Viejo or “old quarter” where the ruins of buildings now house food trucks and chic rooftop bars. Not a city person? Find a treasure trove of outdoor adventures in Boquete or find heaven on earth in the remote San Blas Islands.
A no brainer if you ask us. A decade ago, the exchange rate was an oppressive 2-to1 and for many US tourists, Great Britain was simply not worth the price. Thanks to Brexit, the pound has been falling for the better part of a year, and while still expensive relative to other destinations, the time is ripe for an England visit. While there’s much to see and do across the UK, a slightly rebounding pound means a visit to the posh capital is in order before it climbs any higher. All the museums (National Gallery, British Museum, etc.) are already free as is strolling around bustling nabes like Soho, Notting Hill and Kensington, so invest your pennies for a chic stay at the Hoxton Hotel, the Sanderson or stylish budget fave the CitizenM London Bankside Hotel.