The financial crisis has an upside for American travelers heading abroad: Your dollars will buy more than they have in a long while.
The U.S. dollar has strengthened against most world currencies amid falling oil prices and a widening worldwide credit crisis.
- With the euro at $1.36 compared with $1.60 earlier this year, a 100-euro hotel room in Italy will cost you $136 today compared with $160.
- Lunch at a pub in London priced at 10 British pounds is $17.60 with the exchange rate on the British pound at $1.76 vs. $2 last year.
- Going across the border to Vancouver soon? Don't settle for an even trade on your dollars. The greenback is now worth $1.10 Canadian, the most since May of last year.
Even though the dollar is getting stronger, don't look for a price break on tours scheduled for next year - at least not yet. Those prices were set earlier this year when the dollar was at record lows against the euro and other currencies. Tour companies, hoping to recoup losses from this year, will likely stick with their pricing at least in the short term.
Plenty of ski trips to take
The Tampa Bay Snow Skiers and Boarders have more than 20 trips scheduled for 2008-09 beginning with a weeklong trek to Park City, Utah, on Dec. 13.
That trip is $999, which includes airfare and lodging.
Other destinations include Lake Tahoe, Calif.; Taos, N.M., and various locations in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado. International destinations for 2009 include Canada, Japan, Australia and Argentina.
For more information about the trips or the organization, call toll-free 1-888-768-7774.Register or get more information online at www.tampabaysnowskiers.com.
Picnic on 'Celebrity Solstice'
The new Celebrity Solstice cruise ship witha half-acre lawn of real grass on the top deckis scheduled to launch Nov. 23 from FortLauderdale on a cruise to the Eastern Caribbean.
The seven-night itinerary includes port calls in San Juan, St. Maarten and St. Kitts. Rates start at $899 per person, double occupancy, and rooms were still available as of mid October. The Solstice will continue with Caribbean itineraries through spring 2009.
The ship will have the capacity to carry 2,850 people, including about 1,250 crew. Passengers have 1,426 staterooms to choose from and access to 13 guest decks.
The lawn isn't just for show. Guests will be able to play bocce and croquet, practice their putting and picnic on the grass with wine and cheese.
For additional details on the Solstice cruises, go to www.cruisecelebritysolstice.com.
See the stars from Georgia
The Tellus Northwest Georgia Science Museum plans to open its new $20-million, 120,000-square-foot facility in Cartersville, just north of Atlanta, on Jan. 12.
The museum will include a 120-seat planetarium and an observatory with a 20-inch telescope.
Exhibits will include an 80-foot-long Apatosaurus, a replica Wright flyer, a mineral gallery and a vintage car display. For additional information, go to www.tellusmuseum.org.
Stay here and get a gas card
Even though gas prices have dropped recently, a free gas card still has appeal. Travelers who stay at any of six Choice Hotel brands in the United States, Mexico or the Caribbean through Nov. 30 can earn one $50 gas card for every three separate stays, up to a maximum of five such cards.
Qualifying Choice Hotel brands are Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality, Sleep Inn, Clarion and Cambria Suites. The fine print specifies that customers must join the free Choice Privileges program and book their stays by calling toll-free 1-800-424-6423 or online at www.choicehotels.com.
Butterflies flying south
Snowbirds aren't the only creatures that migrate to Florida to escape cold weather. So do monarch butterflies.
Every October and November, millions of the orange-colored flutterers head south from Canada to North Florida, their mid-migration rest stop on their annual trek to their winter home in Mexico.
Many of the butterflies settle in for a spellat the St. Marks National Wildlife Refugeon the Gulf Coast, 20 miles south of Tallahassee. Here, for about three weeks beginning in mid October (depending on the weather),visitors flock to the refuge to glimpse the beautiful monarchs as they cluster in trees and bushes.
Some 4,000 to 5,000 visitors attend the refuge's annual Butterfly Festival (Saturday this year). More information at (850) 925-6121 or www.fws.gov/saintmarks/wildlife.html.
Butterfly gardens exist in many Florida locales, and Butterfly World, a commercial attraction in Coconut Creek, is the world's largest butterfly park. For more information, call (954) 977-4400 or go to www.butterflyworld.com.