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May 16, 2008

Where Does Your Dollar Stretch Farthest Right Now?

The U.S. dollar has gained 37 percent against Costa Rica's currency over the past five years. Oceanview rooms at Costa Rica's Arenas del Mar Beach & Nature Resort, a property on Conde Nast Traveler's Hot List, start at $200.
Photo: Arenas del Mar

by Wendy Perrin

Sorry I've been incommunicado the past few days. Between compiling my annual list of the Top Travel Specialists for Conde Nast Traveler's upcoming August issue, working on our (also now annual) August-issue cruise booklet, and creating a (hopefully not annual) major online contest with multiple cool giveaways that will happen here on this blog starting mid-June (stay tuned), I have not had one single second even to write a Perrin Report for the July, August, or September issues, much less post tips here daily. All of you who've posted "Ask Wendy" questions here within the past week, please be patient as I try to carve out five minutes to answer them. Meanwhile . . .

Where on earth can you go this summer that won't break the bank?!  That was the topic yesterday on The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC Radio--our beloved NPR station here in the New York area--where I'm the guest every Thursday morning in May as part of its month-long series on travel. I'm gonna assume you don't have time to listen to the show, so here's a short list of countries where the exchange rate is currently relatively decent:

The Americas: Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama, Argentina, Mexico, Canada, and any Caribbean countries that use the U.S. dollar (British Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos) or the East Caribbean dollar (Anguilla, Antigua, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts, Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, etc).
Europe: Eastern European countries that do not use the euro (especially Romania), countries such as Croatia and Turkey that will be adopting the euro within the next few years (go NOW, before they become unaffordable!!), Switzerland (where your dollar equals 1.05 Swiss francs), Leichtenstein (which also uses the Swiss franc), Portugal (because it's relatively cheap, despite the euro). And any of you Conde Nast Traveler subscribers who've already received our June issue know how cheap my recent villa rental in Spain was (again, despite the euro).
Asia: Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos.
The Middle East: Egypt, Jordan, Syria.

Obviously this list isn't exhaustive, but at least it should provide a few affordable vacation ideas. If you've recently traveled in a country that you found to be a bargain, whatever the exchange rate, please click on "Comments" below and tell us, so that others can benefit from learning where you went and how you made it affordable. And if you haven't read Conde Nast Traveler's February 2008 article "Dollar Power," be sure to do so before choosing your summer vacation destination.

May 01, 2008

What's the Best Way to Get Cash and Make Purchases Overseas?

20pounds by Wendy Perrin

I was asked that question this morning on WNYC Radio (New York's public radio station, where I'm talking travel on The Brian Lehrer Show every Thursday this month).  And a related question recently came in from Perrin Post reader BarbaraammJohnson:  "I will be in Northern Ireland, England, and South Africa for 30 days. In the fall, I'm in Poland. What common currency could I take?  My first choice is travelers' checks in euros. Second thought would be travelers' checks in British pounds. I don't use ATMs or credit cards."

50randBarbara's question is a tough one, so I hope other global travelers will weigh in with their opinions (by clicking on "Comments" below). I have to preface my answer by saying that I always use a combo of ATMs and credit cards. Since that's what most travelers do, let me begin with a warning to them:

Zloty Find out before leaving home how much your bank will charge you for international ATM withrawals (my bank, J.P. Morgan Chase, charges a whopping $3 per withdrawal plus 3 percent of the amount withdrawn) and also how much your credit card charges for foreign purchases (I prefer to use American Express because it charges 2 percent rather than the 3 percent my MasterCard charges). If you're looking for a bank that does not charge extra for overseas cash withdrawals, Commerce Bank doesn't (at least, it didn't last time I checked, which was about a year ago). If you're looking for a credit card that doesn't charge extra for foreign transactions, Capital One doesn't (again, last time I checked, about a year ago).

Now, on to travelers' checks and Barbara's question:

Continue reading "What's the Best Way to Get Cash and Make Purchases Overseas?" »

April 29, 2008

What Will YOU Be Spending Your Tax Rebate On?

I already spent mine on a cruise on the Norwegian Gem last month (yes, that skipping child belongs to me).

by Wendy Perrin

Yesterday those tax rebate checks meant to stimulate the U.S. economy started going out to 130 million Americans, and one of my favorite blogs, Freakonomics, asked readers, "What's the smartest way to spend your rebate?" The 88 comments are an entertaining read. By my count, 8 of the 88 respondents plan to spend all or part of their rebate on travel (with 3 of the 8 planning to stimulate the economies of foreign countries). That's nearly 10 percent.

It stands in striking contrast to the response from readers of The Washington Post's Travel Log, who were asked, "How much of your check will you spend on travel?" At last count, 39 percent said they are devoting all or part of their rebate to travel.

So now I'm curious: What are YOU planning to spend your tax rebate on?