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This year has been a tough go for Canadian Travellers. Our buck has been feeling a slow squeeze and it's frustrating. Not only is travelling stateside more costly, a lot of destinations peg their currency exchange to the American dollar. (Cuba, you're killing us!) Worse yet, places you would think offer great value - like Cambodia and Ecuador - use USD for daily transactions. With our falling dollar, the premium on these countries has simply become too high to ignore...but it doesn't mean you have to stay at home. It doesn't even mean resisting the capitals of Europe. Here's what you can do to squeeze the most value out of your hard-saved travel funds. 

 

Hop the Atlantic

plane interior flying travel


Remember groaning over changing dollars to Euros? It seems but a distant memory now. Not only will Canadians find better value in Europe than America, but rock bottom pricing can be found on outbound flights. 

Stretch your loonie further: subscribe for flight alerts online or follow travel deal enthusiast Chris Myden for screaming deals to Europe, sometimes as low as $650 return. 

 

Changing currency? Skip the bank

euro moneyJennifer Larsen

By and large, using a private currency exchange will save you a few percentage points compared to bank rates. At the time of writing this article, a major Canadian bank advertised an exchange rate of $1.53 to 1 Euro, while a Vancouver bullion advertised $1.49. 

Stretch your loonie further: some currency exchanges have loyalty programs, enquire about a preferred customer discount. 

 

Surprise savings: guided travel

bus tour group


As the loonie lags, savvy travellers are looking to an unexpected place to find great value: guided travel. Surprised? 


Steadfast pricing

While independent travellers are feeling prices rise in all directions - hotels, local and regional transportation, dining, admission prices - guided travel prices have largely held their ground. The contracts between a reputable operator and their vendors are based on preferred relationships and volume buying. Take advantage of it!


There are benefits to paying for your holiday up front

Yes, most guided travel companies require payment in advance. However, some can be secured on an initial deposit while others offer generous savings to those who book early. With Trafalgar, 80% of travel expenses - things like land transportation, accommodations, sightseeing excursions, Insider Experiences, daily breakfast and many other meals - are covered in the trip price. (Check carefully, not all travel operators include those trip-worthy excursions!) Paying up front also means you'll be protected from further hits to the Canadian dollar. 


Shop the Sales

Fact: there are no promotions or discount codes for backpackers and independent travellers. However, those who take advantage of flash sales will stretch their loonie. When operators need to fill the last few spots on a trip, flexible customers and deal-seekers win. A convenient way to scour for promotions is to subscribe to an operator's newsletter or social platform (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc) and wait for the discount code to be delivered to you.

Stretch your loonie further: in off-season months, dates when the kids are in school, or around special calendar dates (think holidays or Black Friday) operators are more likely to offer flash travel incentives. Again, visit their website or social channel to see what's being offered. 

 

Skip the pricier Euro nations


We realize we're saying that Canadian Travellers can enjoy some of Europe's iconic cities, despite a falling currency. How? By doubling down on bargain destinations. The rule of thumb for those travelling Europe on the thrift, is to visit the southern peripheral and eastern countries. 

 

 

Savings in Spain

Alhambra granada spainAlhambra

Why you'll love it there

Spain is one of the most complex and multi-faceted countries in Europe. It's also one that’s often overlooked by travellers heading to Paris and London. The Moors conquered much of Spain in the 700s, constructing gorgeous mosques and palaces during the 700 or so years they ruled. One of the best preserved fortresses is the Alhambra, located in Granada.

Seville is another city with Moorish influences that can be seen in the numerous fountains and ponds, and landscaping.  It’s an excellent place for wandering around, with external architecture as enticing as the painted interiors of mansions.  The city is also the home of flamenco - an art form that is a glorious mix of singing, guitar, dance, vocalizations and clapping.  Many bars and dance clubs have flamenco in the evenings but the best performances sell out quickly.

Despite being a large city and the capital of Spain, Madrid is surprisingly affordable.  There are parks spread throughout the city filled with statues and soothing greenery. The Puerta del Sol is the official centre of all Spanish roads and was once one of the gates into the walled city (the Gate of the Sun).  Explore the surrounding streets to visit some incredible medieval architecture or grab a seat at a cafe and enjoy the hubbub of the city. 

Spain is filled with walled cities and Trafalgar visits many of them. Avila is one of the best preserved walled cities in Europe and only a few hours from Madrid.  Toledo is equally incredible to visit, with its distinct neighbourhoods and maze-like streets. 

Pinch pennies in Portugal

Why you'll love it there

Small but exceptionally beautiful, Portugal is an easy reach from Spain and just try to resist the allure of neighbouring Morocco. Once a world power, the cities of Portugal still display a wealth of centuries past in its baroque architecture, elaborate gardens and gracefully crowded streets. Wander the alleyways to find hidden treasures and find a cafe with a view to relax and watch the bustle.

 

 

Galivant with the gods in Greece

Why you'll love it there

Located at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and Asia, Greece has one of the longest histories of any country, holding its place as the birthplace of history, democracy, philosophy, political science, mathematics and drama.  Visiting the country feels both like coming home and stepping into the past. Travel to the places you’ve only read about at Uni - Corinth, Mycenae, Agamemnon’s Palace and ancient Olympia where Zeus and Hera were once the most revered gods of the century. Greece is especially well suited to guided coach travel and with a storied history, it's certainly one place where you want to take advantage of a local guide. 

 

Admire the arts in Austria

vienna coffee house

Why you'll love it there

It might feel like a slight splurge, but Vienna is well worth it. The Habsburgs amassed an amazing collection of art and other treasures which visitors are welcome to admire. One of the more unique things to see is the Cabinet of Curiosities, also known as the Kunstkammer.  Other can't-miss highlights include the Kunst Historisches Museum,  Vienna's State Opera House, the Imperial Boulevards and Hofburg Palace. Last but not least, don't miss a quintessential Viennese pastime: the infamous coffee house. Tuck into a sumptuous slice of cake while people watching from an ornate dining room. 

 

Hit the streets of Hungary

Why you'll love it there

Budapest is a big-bang-for-your-buck city with stunning views. It's also a lovely place to simply pass time while wandering.  The name of the city comes from the two original cities that were combined in 1873 to become one entity.  Sights are often described as being in one city or the other, making them easier to locate. Take a walking tour of old Buda and don’t miss the Castle in this half or the Synagogue. Pest feels a little more modern and if you missed having coffee in Vienna, step into a swanky hotel here to have nearly the same experience. Or better yet, if time allows swing through Prague, Vienna and Budapest

 


How are you stretching your Canadian dollar?
Leave your best tip below or tweet us!

 

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This article was brought to us by our friends at Trafalgar. If you've been inspired to stretch your dollar in Europe this summer, Trafalgar offers guided tours to all of the destinations we featured above. What's always included on their trips? 4 and 5-star accommodation, luxury coach transport (with wifi!), most meals, hand-picked Insider Experiences and so much more. Click here to read more about their European itineraries.

                   

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