The Tactical Traveler

FOR MAY 24, 2000


This week: Unprecedented Europe bargains thanks to a plunging Euro; Continental and American airlines add long-haul flights; off-season discounts in the Caribbean; Oberammergau “passion play” tour packages; and more.

COST-CUTTERS: The Dollar Is Almighty in Europe Again
The Euro has plunged to record lows against the U.S. dollar and that means unprecedented bargains for Americans traveling in the 11 nations where the local currency is tied to value of the Euro.

First introduced on January 1, 1999, the Euro once traded as high as US$1.17, but it has plummeted to about 90 cents in recent weeks. That 22 percent decline is mirrored in the Euro's related currencies: the French, Belgian and Luxembourg francs; German and Finnish marks; Italian lira; Spanish peseta; Irish pound; Portuguese escudo; Austrian shilling, and Dutch guilder. And that translates into a 22 percent increase in your buying power in Western Europe. Two examples: a 100,000-lira meal at a restaurant in Rome would have cost you $61.31 on January 1, 1999. Now the same meal costs just $47.61. A 300-mark room in Munich cost $181.81 then, but only $141.50 now.

How do you maximize your buying power? Generally speaking, pay in local currency whenever possible, since experts believe the dollar will continue to gain in value this spring and summer. Reserve hotels and transportation in local rates and don't buy restaurant vouchers, transit passes or anything else in advance in U.S. dollars.

BEST OF THE WEB: The ‘Passion Play’ Without Angst
Performances of the once-a-decade "Passion Play" in the Bavarian hamlet of Oberammergau were scheduled to begin again on May 21. Tickets are always hard to come by and accommodations in the tiny Alpine village are extremely scarce. But fear not: the Internet has come to the rescue again. Several tour operators--including DER Travel [] and Maupintour []--have posted special pages about and travel packages for the play, which traces the life of Christ and uses the entire village of Oberammergau as a stage. But you may not need to surf any further than the village's own website []. Oberammergau's English-language presentation isn't slick, but it is comprehensive, and it offers complete details on lodging, tickets, day trips and attractions. The Passion Play runs through October 6.

ROUTE WATCH: More Long-Haul Flight Options
Continental Airlines [] begins twice-daily nonstop flights between Oakland and its hub at New York/Newark on August 1. The airline will use narrow-body, single-aisle B-737s configured with 12 first class and 112 coach seats. … Effective June 1, Hawaiian Airlines [] will add a second daily DC-10 nonstop between San Francisco and Honolulu. … Speaking of Hawaii, American Airlines [] will begin daily nonstops between Maui and its Dallas/Fort Worth hub on November 22. The flights will be operated with widebody B-767s; departures to Maui are at 11:10 am, which will allow early-morning connections from East Coast and Midwest destinations.

VACATION STATION: ‘Off-Season’ Rates in the Caribbean
The off-season is now in full swing throughout the Caribbean and that means the lowest prices of the year and 30 to 50 percent discounts off retail rates throughout the islands, Coastal Florida and many Mexican resorts. Some examples: $155 a night through December 22 at the Aruba Sonesta, [] including guaranteed upgrade to a superior room and breakfast for two; $160 a night through December 22 for a family of four at the all-inclusive Melia Puerto Vallarta [] including accommodations, meals and beverages; and $125 a night through September 6 at the Sawgrass Marriott [] near Jacksonville, Florida. Make sure to ask for the summer rates before booking any property in the area. … The latest edition of the 176-page Caribbean Vacation Planner is available free from the Caribbean Coalition for Tourism [].

This column originally appeared at

Copyright © 1999-2010 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.