It literally happened over night. Last Thursday, vacation travel within Switzerland became about 20% less expensive. That’s like getting every fifth day free!
It’s all because the Swiss government reversed a long standing policy that set an artificially high value for the Swiss Franc. And with the decision, everything from Swiss chocolate to ski lift tickets became one-fifth less expensive for foreign travelers like you and me.
And the bargains don’t stop there. Travel within Euro currency countries (which includes France, Germany and 17 others) already was getting more affordable by the month. Since last summer, the dollar has gained about 15% against the Euro. That would make my one week Paris stay last August about 15% less expensive today.
Yes, this is shaping up as the best year in a decade for that epic European adventure!
Incurable travelers like me reflexively respond by turning on our laptops and trying to score cheap trans-Atlantic fares. My summer plans are now confirmed: Greece. And here’s how I am getting the best deal:
My personal preference is to look first to Kayak and Skyscanner for international fares. For European destinations when I have some travel flexibility, I also separately price out flights to London (or another hub), and then a low-cost European carrier to my final destination; it may mean a change of airports in London and more work for me, but the savings can be substantial. (Ryanair and Easyjet have bargain fares and extensive networks. For the very ambitious, more than a dozen different budget airlines serve Europe, and not all are listed on consolidated search engines (much like Southwest Airlines in the US); here are their links.) Generally speaking, the more flexible you are with travel dates, destinations and layover times, the bigger the possible savings.
At the moment my best bet for the dates I want to travel is to fly Icelandair to London, and a KLM City Hopper to Athens. But I’ve decided to wait a bit to see late Winter airfare specials before booking.
Here are some other moves that can save you money:
- Make your summer reservations for Northern Europe hostels on www.hihostels.com before February 15th and get a free international hostel membership card and no booking fees (for US adults, that’s at least a $30 savings). Not ready to book yet? Check out hiusa.org for hostel reservations in the USA and worldwide every day of the year.
- Don’t leave home without first confirming your credit card does not charge you extra for purchases made in a foreign currency. Foreign transaction fees can be 2-3% of your purchase, which adds up on longer trips. Here are some of the best that charge no transaction fees on your overseas purchases.
- And if you are a full time student, consider an ISIC card. For $25, this international identity card is your proof of student status worldwide and qualifies you for discounts on a wide range of travel purchases.
Europe as a destination is back. And by being smart about planning your trip before you set out, you’ll have more to spend on making those great travel stories once you get there.