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.