Please sign in to post.

Best summer to go to Europe, says WSJ

The strength of the dollar against the euro has created the best buying opportunity of the decade for Americans going to Europe. Even famously expensive cities like Paris have seen prices plunge. Hotel rates have tumbled for travelers with dollars to spend, and new competition this summer on trans-Atlantic routes has brought down airfares a bit, too.

Travel agency Orbitz says prices for Paris hotels booked for stays between June 1 and Aug. 31 are down 10% so far this year, to $231 from $256, based on reservations made up to March 10, compared with the same period a year earlier. The average airfare to Paris from the U.S. is down 14%, to $1,333 from $1,541.

London, Paris, Dublin, Rome and Barcelona are the most popular European destinations for Americans so far this year in Orbitz bookings. Overall hotel rates reserved are down 3% and prices of airline tickets booked down 6%.

“It’s going to be a pretty busy summer on the North Atlantic,” says Craig Jenks, who tracks airline capacity between the U.S. and Europe as president of consulting firm Airline/Aircraft Projects.

Now might be a good time for American travelers to prepay for European hotels to lock in current low prices.

The strength of the U.S. dollar and weakness of the euro, the currency of 19 European nations, sent the euro to a 12-year low this week compared with the U.S. dollar. One euro currently costs about $1.09, down 22% from $1.39 a year ago. Four years ago one euro cost almost $1.50. The British pound cost $1.72 last July but now is worth $1.50.

Hotels in some European capitals for summer do offer some eye-popping rates. For a week-long stay June 4-11, the Ritz-Carlton in Dallas is more expensive than the Ritz-Carlton in Vienna—$463 per night compared with $401, according to a recent search of Hotels.com. Le Meridien in Barcelona is cheaper than Le Meridien in Santa Monica, Calif.

The Westin Palace in Madrid is half the price of the Westin Copley Place in Boston for the same dates. And you can pay $385 a night at the W Paris Opera for those June dates, or $445 at the W New York Union Square.

For airlines, the weakness in the euro and strength of the dollar is a mixed blessing. While Europe gets cheaper for U.S. travelers, the U.S. gets a lot more expensive for Europeans to visit, meaning demand for seats from the European side of the Atlantic should weaken.

Posted by
12933 posts

How many people here stay at the Ritz-Carlton in Europe? Or in the US for that matter.

We will be in London, Venice, and Rome, one week each, apartments booked. I toy with the idea of paying the entire balance due now, even though we are not going until October. But it seems the favorable (to us) exchange will not disappear soon, and might even drop further. So we will wait.

Posted by
796 posts

Lola- Our family regularly stays at the Ritz-Carlton and Westin hotels in Europe and they fill up quickly. Many people don't choose the cheap dump approach nor rent apartments. It is good information to know for those of us who always travel first-class. I like apartments if we are staying for months but there is nothing quite like being pampered in a top notch hotel.

Posted by
11613 posts

There's a chasm between the Ritz-Carlton and cheap dumps, by the way. Most people are looking for a clean, safe place to stay in an interesting location. Interesting to see the price comparisons, though.

I would rather spend four nights in a city at €100/night than one night at €400. Just a travel choice to see and do more - I prefer to turn money into time. If time were limited, however, I would probably work in a little pampering, nothing wrong with that at all, it would probably make me a happier tourist than I am already. I have to add that I have felt "pampered" at many small B&Bs and hotels. Like the hotel owner in Todi who drove me to my departure bus stop at 5:50 am, and threw in a tour of the city gates along the way.

Posted by
12040 posts

I'm headed to Austria in May, and with the euro this low, I'm definately not staying in Pensions!

Posted by
8293 posts

" ...... those us of who always travel first class." I hardly know what to make of this remark. Who are "those of us"? And why are you denizens of this "hardly ever travel first class" website.

Posted by
6447 posts

I agree Norma, but I consider the source. And Lola, I agree that most people on here don't stay in those places as a rule, maybe occasionally as a splurge. Actually, I don't suppose there are too many people on here who live their lives according to the WSJ.

Posted by
796 posts

@ Norma and @Nancy. Why are you making rude remarks to and about me? Neither of you know me. For decades I have worked in travel research and have been to over 100 countries. I am traveling most of the year. I research all sorts of places for all budgets. What do I mean by those of us who always travel first class? I mean just what it says. The original poster was discussing first class hotels and not everyone here is looking for the cheapest place to stay. Some of us do prefer luxury. The first response was rude to the poster. This site is for anyone interested in traveling to Europe, not just people looking for cheap places to stay and eat or to fly. Rick does videos about different areas and these are for anyone wanting to travel to those regions, not just those going on his tours. I own all of his videos and each year, add all of his guidebooks to our home library. I don't have to choose the cheaper hotels he suggests to enjoy the books. The books are useful to anyone. Unless you know someone, you have no business being rude and talking about "considering the source" or asking why someone is using a site that is often used by people who seek cheaper options. I have also lived in Europe and I know about both expensive and cheaper places. Phred was merely offering information for those of us who do choose more luxurious hotels. Keep in mind that all of us go to those cities to enjoy them and visit the same sites regardless of which hotel we use.

Posted by
8268 posts

The only rudness I read is the generalized term "cheap dumps". Lola is a widely traveled, classy lady who could stay wherever she wants but appears to put activity and experiences above bell hops and room service.

Very interesting article nonetheless as it applies to all categories of hotels.

Posted by
11613 posts

All we know of each other (unless we've met) is what we infer from the posts submitted. "Always" and "Never" tend to define a preference for a certain way of doing things. Creating a sharp divide between "cheap" or "riffraff" (referring to another post) and "first-class (travelers)" with no regard for anything in between tends to color the impression one gives of oneself.

So, Terri Lynn, I sometimes agree with your advice, but not the attitude of superiority that I am inferring from your posts, just as you are inferring something about those who disagree with your style of expressing your travel preferences. And you may call me "riffraff" anytime - coming from an elitist point of view (not necessarily an elitist person) it's hardly an insult.

Posted by
3658 posts

Hmmm? I didn't read the WSJ or Orbitz quotes as anything other than easy comparisons among similar hotels to illustrate the point that it is cheaper to visit Europe now because of the current exchange rate.

Personally, that similarity among chain-type hotels, regardless of their level of exclusivity, creeps me out. For others, it is that very sameness and consistency that makes them feel comfortable.

I have stayed in a few high-end hotels, but only when it was paid for by my work. Never say never, but I can't imagine spending my own money for them. But then, I also can't imagine going on a cruise or staying in a resort. All three scenarios seem very boring for this 69-year-old retired librarian from a working class background.

The good thing is that with the strong dollar, my preferred apartments, small hotels with lots of character (which may be quite modern) and B&Bs will also be much cheaper.

Even more important to my husband and I, so will the food.

Posted by
12933 posts

Whoa---I did not mean to offend anyone. I believe that most people using this site (including me) are in that middle ground between the Ritz-Carlton and "cheap dumps", as Zoe suggested. And my (rhetorical) question about how many people on this website stay at the Ritz Carlton was simply an expression of bemusement. Certainly not intended to be rude.

I actually do not use Rick's recommendations for lodging or food at all. We do not seek "cheap" lodging and especially not cheap food. But we do not care to pay €350 a night for a hotel room, no matter how low the euro goes.

My husband and I like 3-star boutique hotels with cool, modern---even minimalist---decor, and a rainshower. We do not care at all for the posh opulent furnishings found in many of the 5-star places. And we do not want to be pampered, or have someone else carry our luggage for us.

It is about preferences in travel style ( and lifestyle) more than money. In January we happily paid NZ$800 a night for comfortable but rustic lodging (and great food) along the Milford Track in New Zealand. We walked the 33 miles over three days, most of the time in the rain, and had a fantastic time. In August we will be paying more than that for a simple one-room log cabin at a wilderness lodge in Denali National Park. We have stayed there before and loved it so much we have to return. But I know that is not everyone's cup of tea, just like the Ritz-Carlton is not ours.

The one thing we do like to do "first class" is the long flight ( actually we are usually in business class, not first). The flat-bed seats make it possible for our old creaky backs to tolerate the long flight. But I have been fortunate in booking all our long flights on British Airways and Qantas with miles, so you could say we "fly cheap."

Posted by
12767 posts

At $1.09 the Euro has bounced back a bit, its lowest was $1.05, which I almost count one to one. In Germany and Vienna certain 3 and 4 star hotels offer rates from mid-July to the end of August (the absolute low months in their view) that are comparable to a two star hotel, say 56 Euro for single. Normally, that 3/4 star place offers the single at 95-105 Euro.

Definitely, this is the summer to go and book to lock in the rates as regards to the exchange rate and the buying power. True, some flight tickets have come down in price, now compared to what they were in January, and the rail passes have been reduced compared to last year's price for the same pass.

Posted by
329 posts

It may be a great exchange rate...... but round trip airfare from San Diego to London or to Rome (with 1 stop each way) START at $1590, at all different times, all different airlines for the rest of 2015. OUCH!!!!!

Oh, RS readers tell me this price estimate ain't so, would be delighted to be proven wrong.

Happy travels.
SuzieeQQ

Posted by
2818 posts

Unfortunately the airfare prices have not reflected the changes in exchange rates.

Terri Lynn, do you really buy all the Rick Steves books every hear? At the risk of sounding like my two year old, I will ask " Why."

Posted by
7205 posts

"cheap, dumb" - that's really brazen...almost like "out of touch with reality"! Or we could quote Miss Eliza Bennet and say "The very rich can afford to give offense wherever they go. We need not care for their good opinion."

Posted by
2818 posts

I believe the words were "cheap dumps" not " cheap dumb." Still wise to disregard either way.

Posted by
12767 posts

The difference in airfare can be attributed to the exchange rate....maybe. If not, it must be another reason, the price of oil? Who knows exactly? All I know is that I had wanted to book for departure on 20 May, returning to SFO in 20 days back in early Jan. When I checked then, the price was $1,700 plus....pretty steep. Never got around to booking, procrastinated. Feb.. still delayed, more procrastination, all the time the Euro is dropping, still didn't book the flight, this time open jaw, unlike backtracking on past trips. Mid-March passes, still procrastinated until I finally booked a week ago. The over-all price after taxes,etc, all the same requirements on the carrier, dates and times, was a bit over $1600. There must have been maybe a $150 drop. The basic price was $1491. This time procrastination paid off. In the past for a departure in late May or June, I booked before mid-Jan.

Posted by
2396 posts

My takeaway was the article pointing out that domestic hotels can be more expensive than Euro hotels. Which I always find frustrating because I can't believe what large American cities can charge for midlevel, so-so hotels.

But airfare flies up and crawls down, much like gas prices. There are several websites for hunting for airfare, it seems that nowadays we must use them all.

Posted by
796 posts

@Sasha, yes we buy the new Rick Steves books each year for our home library because we then donate the previous year's set of books to our public library for the use of readers who would like to check them out. We have done this for many years beginning with the 2007 books.
@Tim - I didn't say "dumb" and the cheap dumps refer to places to stay and not people. I have seen quite a number of people choosing places that even those who stayed there before wouldn't return to and with good reason. Personally, I never suggest such places because they are lacking.
@Zoe- I did not call you or those who choose to or need to travel cheap riffraff. That was referring to the criminal element, hookers, and aggressive beggars you will find in the areas around (and often in) the accommodations and travel options that cost the least. I was saying you would be among the riffraff and that requires an extra element of safety. It is the same if you are in an American city in dangerous areas.

My main point was that I appreciated Phred's post and hotel suggestions since those are the types of places our family loves. There are people who love Rick's shows and have watched them for years and who enjoy his books and videos and even the travel stuff he sells even if we choose to travel by first class air and train and select luxury hotels. We might not choose his suggested hotels or take his tours but there is a lot more to love about Rick Steves. Many people who come to this site love luxury travel and do not post on forums but read them and also read other information on the site. Traveling by first class air and staying in a luxury hotel doesn't mean we don't value the activities, sights, and cuisine of the places we visit. We go to the same sites, eat at many of the same places, and have the same experiences only we choose to be more comfortable while doing so and I don't see anything wrong with that.

Posted by
1831 posts

SuzieQQ--

For what it's worth, we booked last November for travel earlier this month. Open-jaw, Chicago / Paris outbound, then Naples / Munich / Chicago on the return. Economy, $1120 apiece. Didn't think we did too badly on the price. Lufthansa through Orbitz, but Lufthansa used United on the Chicago to Paris leg. Awful. No leg room, very little air, uncomfortable seats, a bunch of yuck. On Lufthansa for both of the legs back home, a lot better. Lufthansa (even with their recent problems) really does it right. At least 6" more leg room and space to the seat in front, a more comfortable seat, and a personal screen in front. Tons better.