For some Americans, Europe is the best budget-friendly place to visit this year


Some cities in Europe, like Copenhagen, can be explored and enjoyed even when on a small budget.— Photos: Pixabay

Flying to Europe this year might sound as absurd as opting for premium fuel. With prices this high, is it really the right time to splurge?

“As a result of labour shortages and all these things going on, travel is more expensive than it’s been in a while,” says travel journalist Oneika Raymond.

“Flights are really expensive. Accommodation is really expensive. And revenge travel is a thing.”

Although travel prices continue to soar overall due to constrained supply and mounting demand, pockets of affordability remain for Americans.

Europe represents one of these pockets, where weakening currency exchange rates against the dollar and tepid demand have left prices relatively unscathed.

In fact, flights within the United States have become so expensive this year that some international destinations, including many in Europe, offer a relative bargain.

“If you are willing to pay to fly domestically, check out international destinations,” suggests Hayley Berg, lead economist at Hopper, a travel booking app. “Because there is a good chance that there is a flight to somewhere else in the world for about the same price.”

Airfare in Europe

Domestic airfare in the US was 30% higher at the end of May 2022 compared with May 2019, according to data from Hopper.

“Airfare this summer within the US costs US$600 (RM2,672) to US$800 (RM3,562),” says Berg.

“At those prices you can get to Reykjavik in Iceland, or Dublin, Ireland.”

Indeed, flights from the US to Europe were only up 13% at the end of May 2022 compared with the same period in 2019, according to Hopper. That trend squares with tourist demand, which remains below pre-pandemic levels: About 19% fewer US travellers left for Europe in May 2022 compared with May 2019, before the pandemic, according to data from the International Trade Administration.

Put simply, prices and demand for flights to Europe are increasing, but not as quickly as they are elsewhere.

Flights from the US to cities like Reykjavik in Iceland are surprisingly affordable.Flights from the US to cities like Reykjavik in Iceland are surprisingly affordable.

“Given how high domestic airfare is, you can get more bang for your buck with longer-haul destinations,” explains Berg.

Although 2022 may go down as a bear market for everything from stocks to cryptocurrency, the US dollar has gained ground on many foreign currencies. The dollar was 15% stronger against the euro in May 2022 compared with May 2021, according to data from the US Federal Reserve.

“Today what we’re seeing is that a dollar can buy more euros than it has been able to essentially since the euro launched,” says Berg.

This means that anything purchased while travelling in countries that use the euro will be at a 15% discount, if currency exchange rates remain stable.

US travellers will enjoy this benefit on everything from food and lodging to events and transportation.

Of course, global inflationary pressures continue to drive up prices everywhere, including Europe. Annual consumer prices in Germany were up 7.9% in May, according to the Financial Times, just shy of the 8.6% increase in the US.

Yet, while prices may remain elevated nearly everywhere, the relative strength of the dollar can help soften the blow.

Use public transportation

Inflation has hit no aspect of travel more directly and dramatically than the cost of renting and operating a vehicle.

Rental cars prices were up a budget-busting 69% in May 2022 compared with May 2019, according to US Bureau of Labour Statistics data. And everybody knows how high fuel prices have jumped.

These factors should make this the summer of public transportation for money-conscious travellers. Yet the US offers few tourist destinations that can be explored by train.

Not so in Europe, where most popular cities offer safe, affordable and dependable transit.

Cities such as Amsterdam (the Netherlands), London and Copenhagen (Denmark) can be explored for only a few euros, which is equivalent to only a few US dollars with favourable exchange rates.

Visiting national parks in the US made sense in 2020 and 2021 for a host of reasons. But saving money in 2022 means skipping cars outright when possible.

Get off the trail

We are in strange times indeed when travelling to Europe represents an off-the-beaten-path, budget-friendly choice. Yet the facts speak for themselves. Airfare to Europe is rising less quickly than domestic tickets, and fewer travellers are visiting the continent.

The dollar is strong, and the US has dropped its testing requirement for arriving travellers, which made leaving the country a pain.

All this has combined to make Europe a good choice for travellers in an upside-down year. Riding the rails in Zurich, Switzerland could prove cheaper than renting a car in Cleveland, Ohio in the US. – AP

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