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The 5 Best Places to Take Advantage of a Strong Dollar

Get the most bang for your buck by planning a trip to one of these international destinations

For a romantic camping trip, ride in a helicopter to this mountaintop campsite. (Jesse Butler/Bulkley Adventures)

Get the most bang for your buck by planning a trip to one of these international destinations

The U.S. dollar is strong right now compared to other foreign currencies, which means it’s a great time to travel abroad. To find out which countries are best to visit right now, we called up travel expert and frequent flyer Gary Leff, author of the blog View from the Wing and chief financial officer at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. “Deals abound,” says Leff. “So pick a destination—even places traditionally thought of as expensive—and figure out what kind of a trip you want.”

Here are some places you might want to add to your list.


Located near the border of Italy, Nebasa hotel offers floor-to-ceiling glass windows offering views into Triglav National Park. (Courtesy Nebasa)

“Try less-expensive destinations that use the euro, like Slovenia or Slovakia,” says Leff. “There are fewer people looking to go to Slovenia than say, Paris. These places are undervalued treasures.” In Slovenia, you can ski the Julian Alps, go wine tasting in the Vipava Valley, and explore the coastline of the Adriatic Sea.

Book a chalet at Nebesa, at the foot of the Kuk and Kolovrat mountains, starting at $200 per night. Located near the border of Italy, the hotel offers floor-to-ceiling glass windows with views into Triglav National Park, self-serve breakfasts, a sauna, yoga room, wine cellar, and mountain bike rentals on-site. Or book a farmstay at Stekar Winery in western Slovenia’s Brda region, where you’ll sleep in a basic room or family-sized apartment above the wine cellars, starting at $47 per night. Stroll through cherry and fig orchards by day, and drink wine from the barrel by night.

New Zealand

Sea kayak in Abel Tasman National Park. (Courtesy Wilsons Abel Tasman Nat)

“You’ve got a lot more nonstop air service now between the U.S. and New Zealand than you used to,” says Leff. “That means much more affordable airfares and more frequent sales.” Air New Zealand has a new direct service from Houston to Auckland, where, for a limited time, you can add a stopover in another New Zealand city for the same price. Or fly direct from San Francisco or Los Angeles to Auckland, starting at $999.

Once you’re there, head to New Zealand’s South Island and rent a camper to drive the perimeter of the island. Classic Campers has everything from vintage Westfalias to 1990s Winnebagos, starting at $61 a day. You can hike to backcountry huts deep in the Southern Alps, sea kayak in Abel Tasman National Park, take a boat into Milford Sound, or go bungee jumping in the adventure epicenter of Queenstown. Don’t miss the lakeside mountain town of Wanaka, where you can book a suite at Lime Tree Lodge on a ten-acre estate outside of town with a helipad on-site for sightseeing tours and skiing outside your door. Rooms start at $285 per night.

Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is a particularly great place to take advantage of the currency disparity. (Courtesy Zazen Resort)

Thailand’s thatched-roof beach huts, island-resort getaways, and heaping bowls of flavorful curry always feel pretty affordable when compared to other exotic beach destinations. A strong dollar means they’re getting even less expensive for North Americans. “Thailand is very accessible, especially if you get outside Bangkok,” says Leff. “This is less of a currency play, but people who earn their incomes in U.S. dollars will do very well all over Southeast Asia.”

Head to Koh Samui, where you can book a beachfront bungalow or private garden villa at Zazen Boutique Resort on Bophut Beach, with rooms starting at $172. Take Thai cooking classes, enjoy massage and yoga on-site, or go snorkeling, jungle trekking, or sailing from the beach. Or head to Vietnam, where $20 a day will more than cover you for daily feasts of high-quality pho and banh mi, and nice hotel rooms (like La Siesta Hotel in Hanoi’s Old Quarter) can be found for under $100 a night.


For a romantic camping trip, ride in a helicopter to a mountaintop campsite. (Jenya Zandberg/Bulkley Adventure)

You don’t have to cross an ocean to get a good deal. Instead, try visiting the small, remote mountain town of Smithers, in northwestern British Columbia. There’s stellar mountain biking on Hudson Bay Mountain, salmon and steelhead fishing in the Bulkley River, and even a designated backcountry ski area (read: no chairlifts), with trail maps and a warming hut at Hankin-Evelyn Backcountry Recreation Area.

Bulkley Adventures offers heli-assisted hiking trips and waterfall sightseeing, plus overnight luxury tents, mountaintop dinners, and hammocks for stargazing, starting at $328 per night. Or stay ten minutes outside town at Logpile Lodge, a family-owned bed and breakfast overlooking the Bulkley Valley and local farmland, with rooms starting at $105.

Costa Rica

Live like royalty on a budget in Costa Rica. (Courtesy Hacienda AltaGracia)

You can live like a king in Costa Rica for prices that would get you just a hostel bunk in Europe. Stay in a casita at Hacienda AltaGracia, a luxury resort set on 865 acres of lush rainforest in the less-touristy zone of San Isidro del General, on Costa Rica’s southern side. Rooms start at $340. Take an aerial tour of waterfalls and pineapple plantations, visit a coffee plantation, mountain bike the surprisingly good trail network, or raft among monkeys and iguanas on the Rio Savegre.

Filed To: Travel / New Zealand / Slovenia / Costa Rica / Thailand / Asia / Italy
Nicolas Henderson/Creative Commons )

San Marcos, Texas

Billed as the world’s toughest canoe race, the Texas Water Safari, held each June, is a four-day, 260-mile jaunt from the headwaters of the San Marcos River northeast of San Antonio to the small shrimping town of Seadrift on the Gulf Coast. There’s no prize money—just bragging rights for the winner. Any boat without a motor is allowed, and you’ll have to carry your own equipment and overnight gear. Food and water are provided at aid stations along the way. Entry fees start at $175 and increase as race day approaches.

The Ring

(Courtesy Quatro Hubbard)

Strasburg, Virginia

The Ring is a 71-mile trail running race in early September along the entire length of Virginia’s rough and rocky Massanutten Trail loop. To qualify, you need to have run a 50- or 100-mile race before the event and win a spot through the lottery system. Entry is free. Complete the run and you’ll become part of the tight-knit Fellowship of the Ring and be eligible for the Reverse Ring, which entails running the trail backwards in the middle of winter.


(David Silver)

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Each spring, competitors gather in Santa Fe’s historic plaza with a simple goal: be the first to reach 12,308-foot Deception Peak, 17 miles and 5,000 feet of elevation gain away. Competitors run or bike the first 15 miles to the local ski area before transitioning to their waiting ski-touring setups for the final push to the top. Time stops only when they’ve skied back down to the tailgate in the resort’s parking lot, which is funded by the modest entry fee of around $25. To add to the sufferfest, some participants sign up for the Expedition category, in which they strap their skis, skins, boots, and poles to their bikes for the long ride up. Start dates vary depending on snow conditions, but look for the event page to be posted on Facebook in late March or early April.

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