The Tactical Traveler



This week: Plummeting Euro equals immediate 17 percent discount; new travel Web sites; airlines add flights to warm-weather destinations; Tahoe Air, Taesa and Access Air are grounded; and more.

COST CUTTERS: Europe's Currency Discount Reaches 17 Percent
Want an immediate, no-strings-attached 17 percent discount on anything you eat, any item you buy, or any hotel you stay in a dozen European countries? Just travel--and take advantage of the precipitous plummet in the value of the "Euro," the proto-currency to which 12 major European currencies are legally and inextricably bound.

When the "Euro" debuted on January 1, it quickly jumped up to the U.S. equivalent of $1.17. But 11 months later, it has fallen to virtual parity with the U.S. dollar and dragged the franc, mark, lira and other linked currencies along with it. At the close of trading on Monday, the Euro sank to just a fraction over US$1.00, meaning U.S. travelers now enjoy an automatic 17 percent discount on all goods and services purchased in German marks, French or Belgian francs, Italian lira, and eight other currencies.

Want some practical examples? A 40,000-lira lunch at L'Sagrista on the Piazza Navonna in Rome translated to $24.53 in January, but costs only $20.87 today. A 1,500-franc room at the Millennium Commodore Hotel in Paris' Ninth Arrondissement cost $271.73 in January, but converts to just $231.12 now. And a 100-mark rental car cost $60.97 a day in Munich in January, but now you could putter around in that same vehicle for $51.81.

Better yet, the current parity between the dollar and the Euro, where one Euro is worth one dollar, may not last too long. Experts expect the Euro to drop to 95 cents within the next few months, meaning another 5 percent discount for U.S. travelers.

BEST OF THE WEB: Another Day, Another Travel Website
Not a day goes by without someone launching another travel-related website. Add these to your burgeoning list of bookmarks:

+ London Traveller [] is sponsored by British Airways and British Airways Holidays, the carrier's travel-package division. It is authoritative and comprehensive, with good archival material about London and its attractions. It also offers hotel bargains in the British capital.

+ ENewsHawaii [], created by a Hawaiian Internet firm, offers a daily electronic newspaper about the state and nearby Pacific Islands. Not all the news is relevant to travelers, of course, but a quick surf will convince you that the price of living in Paradise is often quite high.

+ BizTraveler [] is produced by the National Business Travel Association, a trade group. The site offers travel tips, an overview of passenger rights, a online complaint form, and a compilation of potentially dangerous travel and weather conditions.

+ HereHuGo [] claims to be a search engine that specializes in travel topics. So how come it lists sites related to Branson, Missouri, under "Northwest United States?" Geographically challenged though it may be, HereHuGo nevertheless offers a useful approach to organizing the explosion of travel websites.

GOING, GOING GONE: Three Airlines Grounded
Tahoe Air [], which was building jet service from Lake Tahoe, has suspended service until the beginning of next year. Access Air [], the 10-month-old carrier flying to New York and Los Angeles from Des Moines, grounded its fleet Monday night and canceled scheduled service for at least 30 days. The Mexican government last week issued an "indefinite" suspension of Taesa [], the low-cost independent Mexican airline. The government acted after 18 passengers and crew died in a Taesa crash last month near Mexico City.

ROUTE WATCH: South to Some Warmer Places
Just in time for the winter crush, TWA [] is adding 46 flights to Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Hawaii from its hubs in St. Louis and New York. (At the same time, however, the airline is dropping flights to Rome, Barcelona and Madrid.) Cancun and Cozumel, the resorts near Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, are getting new flights next month. Continental [] is launching Saturday flights between Newark and Cozumel. The service will operate from January 8 through June. And Delta [] will operate daily nonstop flights between Atlanta and Cancun between January 31 and April 30.

This column originally appeared at

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