The Hedge Against Inflation: A European Vacation
With increasing inflation, our dollars buy less and less these days. But there’s one place where your greenbacks will go further — and that’s in Europe. In the past few months, the dollar has reached its strongest point in over 20 years, approaching parity with the euro. A trip to Europe a year ago would have cost me around 14 percent more. That’s how much the dollar to euro rate has improved in favor of Americans. The rate of euros to dollars traded at an average of $1.18 over the past decade. As of this fourth of July week, the rate is around $1.02.
In years past, even without a strong dollar, I’ve found the overall cost of travel in Europe to be significantly less than the US when comparing similar hotels and Airbnb accommodations, train fares, restaurants and museum admissions. Last month I took a five-night trip south to La Rochelle with two stops along the way. I stayed at bed and breakfast establishments where I had a private room and bathroom, often with a private entry. The average price per night was 67 Euros or around $70. Every B&B included a continental breakfast with a minimum of baguette and croissant with jam and butter, yogurt, orange juice and coffee or tea. My current long-stay accommodations in Brittany have averaged a little over $28 a night.
If you stay in a large city or right on the coast, you’ll typically pay more. However, I just checked Airbnb prices for a studio apartment with a kitchen for two in central Paris with an elevator (or lower floor) and there are beautiful, highly-rated places for as little as $565 a week. Yes, they are small, hotel-sized apartments, but beautifully appointed with everything you need for a week’s stay. So where would you rather stay for a week — at the local Motel 6 or in a Paris apartment?
And then there is the food. I had lunch with a friend the other day in a traditional French restaurant in the village of Langon. They only serve one set menu each day, the menu du jour. It included a help-yourself buffet of various cold cuts and salads including artichoke, couscous, beet and potato. The owner brought a dish of delicious olives. The main course was a delicate sausage in a caramelized shallot sauce, accompanied by pureed sweet potatoes. After the main course came the cheese platter with four different varieties of cheeses to enjoy with our baguette. Then we topped it off with a traditional dessert. A crème brûlé for my friend and a “floating island” for me, which is a pillowy soft white meringue floating in a puddle of rich, creamy custard, topped with caramel sauce. The total price of the meal: 13 euros or $13.25. The price included all taxes, and you’re not expected to tip in France because servers are paid a living wage. Oh, did I fail to mention the meal included a full craft of wine (equal to a full bottle)? In Portland, Oregon I pay more than that for a pulled pork sandwich to go, not including the 18 percent tip.
Europe can be affordable if you avoid the tourist traps and find the places where the locals eat. You’ll not only enjoy a better bang for your buck, you’ll be eating better quality food.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking, “but I have to fly there and that costs money.” When you combine more affordable options for hotels and meals with a favorable exchange rate, you’ll more than offset the price of more expensive airfare. And if you use frequent flyer miles, you’ll pay little to nothing. Additionally, fares for air travel and train travel within Europe are ridiculously inexpensive compared to flying within the US or riding on Amtrak.
Have I convinced you that the best way to beat inflation is to make Europe your next vacation destination? If you follow my five tips for funding your next slow travel European adventure, you may even be able to Slow Travel for Free. Wherever you decide to go this year, enjoy the journey.