I'm all about spontaneous, spur of the moment, weekend getaways. However, I also love travel planning. It satiates my type A personality, unhealthy love for spreadsheets and aggressive deal-hunting tendencies.
When making travel plans, you should be first and foremost guided by what excites you. With that said, few of us have uncapped budgets or unlimited vacation days. As such, a bit of objective reasoning is required to make the best decisions and maximize your time off.
One critical factor to consider when travel planning is exchange rates. With the US dollar getting stronger everyday (to my expat dismay), now is the perfect time to take advantage of softening currencies around the world. Just make sure you bring along your no foreign transaction fee credit card.
Below are just a few places to consider for 2015!
Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town has been on our wish list for quite some time now. With Table Mountain as a gorgeous backdrop, the city is a vibrant cultural hub most recently named World Design Capital in 2014. The current exchange rate is 1 USD to 11.7 South African Rand. That's up from 1 to 6.7 as recent as 2011. As the dollar continues to strengthen, now is the time to book your trip to South Africa and perhaps include a luxury safari "on the cheap".
Saint Petersburg, Russia
While Moscow may be the capital, Saint Petersburg is the cultural and historic heart of Russia. With oil prices continuing to fall, the Russian ruble has plummeted in recent months and hit an all time low in December. The exchange rate currently sits at 1 USD to 63 RUB. Considering the exchange rate was 1:35 only a year ago, there is no better time to visit than now. Of course, that's assuming you don't mind a little bit of censorship and homophobia...
With the Euro weakening and down over 10% against the US dollar since last year, this is the perfect time for Americans to book their summer vacations in Europe. While most tourists will default to Madrid or Barcelona when visiting Spain, Seville has long been considered one of the country's most beautiful destinations. The city is blessed with mild, sunny weather year-round and a great mix new and old. We are heading there in April to catch their famous Easter processions, so I'll have more to report soon!
Like Spain, here's another great place to hit up while the Euro is week. Greece has a lot to offer when planning a vacation: ancient ruins, beaches, nightlife, crystal clear waters, sailing, amazing cuisine, all spread across 140,000 square kilometers and roughly 227 inhabited islands. That could take a lot of time to see, or you could do it all on Santorini. View the ancient ruins of Akrotiri, sail to the volcanic caldera and hot springs, tan on a red or black sand beach, enjoy the nightlife of Thira and sit on the cliffside enjoying locally caught seafood and the world's most famous sunset. Flights are daily or you can take the high speed ferry from Athens.
*This was written by Michael, who's clearly very passionate about his heritage :)
My love for Tokyo is well documented. Of all the cities on this list, this is the best one if you want to take full advantage of the exchange rate. Why? Because visiting Tokyo is all about splurging. From great food to amazing shopping, everything seems so much more affordable when you're looking at 125 Japanese yen to every US dollar.
With the world getting smaller every day, there are few places in the world that remain relatively untarnished and have yet to be overdeveloped. With the country slowly opening up in recent years to tourists, you might want to consider visiting soon before you're joined by throngs of tourists and reading off English menus.