Rising U.S. Dollar Turns Your Euro Trip Into Reality

sign of Europa cafe
Nice signs
Which way should I go?

Plan ahead and spend your spring and summer vacations in Europe as the strong dollar veers tourists away from the United States, giving them more incentive to travel to culturally rich destinations such as France, Spain and Greece. The value of the dollar hasn’t been this high since 2003 ($1.10 for one euro as of today). It’s no secret that the euro value is diminishing, among other currencies, which makes 2015 the perfect time to visit the notoriously expensive continent.

Europe has transformed into a buyer’s market especially for American travelers. Research shows that the number of bookings to Europe was high even before the dollar’s value spike. The strengthening dollar with the increased rate of advanced ticket bookings is indicative of “an explosive year for Europe.” Some speculate that European tourism won’t bloom until 2016 since the dramatic value rises in currencies tend to have a delayed effect on the travel industry.

Vienna scene
To Vienna we ride!

A report from Expedia reveals that it’s best to book international flight 171 days, or just under six months, prior to the date of travel. Typically, Americans book their tickets around 31 to 90 days before they travel to Europe. With dwindling prices of oil, and competition between budget and larger airlines in terms of “unbundling” amenities, flights to Europe are going to be more economical than ever. Thus, planning for summer, and even winter getaways, are crucial at this point of time.

In comparison to the euro, the dollar isn’t as strong against the pound. However, exchange rates are more favorable than they have been for quite some time, so traveling to the UK could still fit right within your budget. London has two of the busiest airports in Europe, Heathrow being the top and Gatwick listed as the tenth according to Parking4Less, and with dream vacations in Europe looking more affordable, passenger traffic at these airports is likely to increase.

Athena temple
The ruins of the Temple of Athena, Lindos, Greece.

Although exchange rates will work in your favor, the travel industry is always going to look for ways so that tourists don’t have access to too many cheap deals. One of the worst places, if not the worst, to exchange currencies is at an airport, yet because of its convenient location, tourists continue to lose valuable bucks instead of making the most out of their budget. Some suggestions from travel guidebook writer Pauline Frommer include using your credit card to get to your accommodations from the airport, or only exchanging a small amount before traveling. The rest can be exchanged at a local bank.

If you’ve been wanting to go to Europe for awhile, now is the time to go. Be prepared, however, to see many American tourists there with you…

sign of Europa cafe
To Europe and beyond

Major Sun in Majorca

Majorca, Spain villa view

What is the difference between Majorca and Minorca?

I had no idea. I didn’t even know where they are located.

I was searching the web for last minute cheap airfares from Munich. I was tired of the cold and wet spring. Where can I go to see the sun again?

Sunny sea view in Majorca
Ahoy there Captain! Do you need a first mate?

I found out that they are the largest of the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea, and a part of Spain. They are far enough south in latitude to have nice, sunny weather in June, unlike the flooded swamps of northern Europe.

Last minute, cheap airfare in hand I took the U-bahn and the S-bahn to the airport, and a short while later found the sunshine in Palma de Majorca, the largest city on the island.
I made my way to the northern coast of the Majorca near a town called Alcudia. After taking a detour into the local garbage recycling station (thank you Mr. GPS!), I found the resort I had booked.

Majorca villas, Spain
I’ll take any color villa as long as it is white.

While checking in I changed from my very bad German skills to equally bad Spanish skills.

“Ola, Senior! My casa is su casa! I have a room reserved,” I said.

“Bon Sera, Senior. Yes, I have been waiting for you,” said the nice Spanish man behind the counter.

He gave me the key and told me where to go. Politely, of course.

I’d like to report that something memorable and funny happened to me while I was in Majorca. However that was not the case. This short sun break was spent lying on the beach, swimming in the cold Mediterranean Sea, swimming in the cold, unheated pool, and taking long walks along the seashore.

At night the port of Alcudia came alive with families strolling along the boardwalk. Tapas was prevalent in the trendy restaurants, meant to be tasted along with the local wine. The old town of Alcudia, originally built at least in part during the Crusades, was a delight to meander along the back streets in search of gelato.

old town gate of Alcudia, Majorca
The old town gate of Alcuida, built by the Crusaders?

Even the crowds of British tourists on the main beach didn’t dampen my mood. I could retire here, I thought. I could rent a small villa on the hillside with a view of the sea. I might even learn Spanish.

Majorca, Spain villa view
I could sit on that deck every day….

By the way, Majorca is a larger island than Minorca. That is the difference…

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Crazy in the Costa del Sol

“Did you see that?”

I couldn’t believe my eyes. I looked at my wife as we walked up towards the parked car. Her mouth was agape.

“What was that?” she asked. “I don’t think it was a dog.”

“That definitely was not a dog,” I said. It was as big as a large dog, however…

We were walking back from the beach in Puerto Banus in Spain. It’s a small town down the coast from Marbella, in the Costa del Sol, not so magnifico. It was only April, still uncrowded. Dusk was falling. The sunlight was fading away and the shadows were coming out. We had crossed the busy road without getting killed, and turned into a neighborhood of nice single family homes before getting to our apartment complex.

As we walked up the hill on the sidewalk in front of the homes, a man came out of a house with an animal on a leash. He opened the back door of an old car. The animal calmly jumped into the backseat and lay down. The man shut the door and went back into the house.

We were about ten yards away from the car. As we walked past I leaned over to peer in the window. The window was rolled all the way down. I then grabbed my wife’s arm and kept walking, as fast as possible. I looked back over my shoulder to make sure everything stayed the same. No sounds, no movement.

Because in the back seat of that car was a lion. It was not a dog, nor a fantastically large house cat. It was a juvenile lion, not nearly full grown. And I wasn’t sure if it was an African lion (Panthera leo) or a North American mountain lion (Puma concolor). But either way, I didn’t want to find out what would happen when the animal jumped out of the open window.

Where does one get a juvenile lion in Spain? Why put it in the back of your car parked on a street in a neighborhood with the window open? Where was the man going with his lion that night?

We didn’t stick around to find out.

The Lion of Puerto Banus
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