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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.