I was surprised, during my recent ‘leaf-peeping’ trip to the Northeast, to discover a plethora of travel-related bargains. Two years ago, I could not have traveled in the U.S. and stayed in hotels – even if I stuck to the more modest mom and pop motels – for much less than $200 per day, including meals. Yet on this trip I averaged around $100 per day, including food. Most rooms were priced between $60-65 per night and in a few cases I was able to find acceptable accommodations for as little as $35 per night.
That started me wondering whether the recent economic downturn has created an unexpected silver lining for travelers. The short answer is a very definitive YES!
First, consider that the dollar, which a year ago was performing dismally against almost all foreign currencies, has regained some of its former oomph! The Mexican peso has dropped to its weakest level ever against the dollar, as has the Brazilian real. The Argentine peso, which was already at a favorable exchange rate, dropped about 7 percent since late August to a new five-and-a-half-year low. In India, the U.S. dollar buys about 25% more than it did just a few short months ago. And U.S. travelers, who have lately shunned Europe due to the unfavorable exchange rate, are now revisiting the E.U. countries as the dollar strengthens against the Euro.
To the attractive currency situation, add the fact that economic woes have created a downturn in travel. American Airlines admitted last week that 745,000 fewer passengers boarded its planes in October compared with the same month last year. This sharp drop in bookings has forced airlines, hotels, and cruise companies to slash fares. Consider, for example, the following sampling of sizzling hot travel deals currently being offered:
- Delta is offering a non-stop, round-trip fare from Los Angeles to Honolulu, Hawaii, for numerous dates in December for only $251, including taxes and fees
- Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, is offering three free hotel nights and three days of theme park admission for booking a four-day stay
- Norwegian Cruise Line is offering a 12-day eastern Mediterranean cruise in January starting at $599 per person before taxes
- Travelocity.com is offering what it says is the biggest sale in the companyâ€™s history with 5,000 hotels offering anywhere from 25 to 50 percent off for travel through Jan. 15
- Average hotel room rates have dropped below $100 per day over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays in Las Vegas ($98), Orlando ($84) and Fort Lauderdale ($87), according to Cheaptickets.com
Travel over the Thanksgiving and Christmas is still more expensive, however Priceline.com recently announced its best days to travel for the holidays. For the lowest Thanksgiving fares they recommend traveling on November 23, 24 and 27 (Thanksgiving morning). For Christmas, try to travel on December 22, 23 and 24.
Several of the airlines are expected to announce more fare cuts over the next week. For those who have the resources, incredible travel deals abound. With all these deals in the offing, the biggest problem may be deciding where to go. Thinking stocking stuffers, anyone?