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Missing Europe? Well, happily, this winter is a great time to get yourselves to the Continent – and here’s why:
1. The euro is low. Last month, the euro fell to $1.22 US, its lowest value in more than two years, and has held steady ever since; today it’s been valued at $1.23 US.
After a brief dip to $1.17 US in late 2005, the euro’s value hit a ten-year high of $1.57 US in April 2008, then fluctuated between about $1.30-$1.50 US until August 2012, when the beleaguered euro-zone economy‘s growth began a pattern of slow decline. Travel to Europe in winter 2014-15, especially to debt-ridden countries like Spain, Greece, Italy and Portugal, could mean more bang for your buck.
2. Off-peak and discounted flight awards. Some of my favorite economy-class awards are most plentiful in the off-peak winter season, such as American Airlines MileSAAver award tickets to destinations outside the U.S. and Canada, and US Airways’ reduced coach awards for only 35,000 miles roundtrip between North America and Europe from January 15-February 28, 2015. You can also take advantage of current discounted saver level partner awards on United in business class to Europe.
3. Europe is full of cool things to do in the winter. From Christmas markets to snow sports like skiing, Europe treats winter like one big celebration. And speaking of celebrations, I’ve spent some fantastic, fun New Year’s Eves in Madrid, Paris, London and Berlin, and can assure you that Europeans do the holiday right!
4. Great hotel availability. Especially after the holiday season passes, you can find a lot of available room awards – even at high-end hotels in big cities. For instance, throughout January, February and into March, the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme has availability starting at 30,000 Gold Passport points or $698 US per night. During the same period (and including late December, as well), the less fancy but very well-situated London’s Radisson Blu Edwardian Kenilworth Hotel – which is set in Bloomsbury, close to both Oxford Street and Convent Garden – has availability starting at 44,000 Club Carlson points or £193($302 US).
5. Once you’re there, getting around Europe is cheap. Once you’ve made it across the Pond, be aware that you can use British Airways’ Avios for short-haul awards on partners like Aer Lingus and Air Berlin, or be thrifty by flying low-cost carriers such as Air One and Easy Jet. You could also save a bundle by traveling around Europe by train, especially on major routes like those between Paris and London or Vienna and Prague.
If you need some inspiration for a winter trip to Europe, check out some of our destination pieces on emerging European travel spots, Barcelona, Amsterdam, London, Belfast, Frankfurt, Sevilla, Madrid, Milan, Munich, Rome, Venice, Vienna and Zurich!