If you’ve been putting off an international vacation because of its cost, now is probably a good time to go. A strong U.S. dollar means that overseas travel to many popular trip destinations — including Europe, South America and Mexico — is more affordable than it was last year. Plus, if you get a great travel rewards credit card, you could score some serious points on your spending abroad. (More advice on that below.)
Ride the Trans-Siberian Railway, drink vodka and explore famous Red Square on a vacation to the world’s largest country, Russia. As the value of the ruble drops and the value of a dollar climbs, travelers stricken with wanderlust can get a great deal on a Russian vacation this year.
The numbers: As of May 1, 2015, 1 dollar was worth 51.393 Russian rubles. Compared to a year before, when 1 dollar was 35.651 rubles, the dollar has increased by more than 44%.
Perhaps you love the minimalistic style of Scandinavian design, or maybe your family can’t get enough of the popular movie “Frozen.” Either way, if you’re itching to go to Scandinavia, then Norway and Sweden are great places to visit right now. Both the Norwegian krone and Swedish krona have weakened compared to the dollar over the past year, making these typically expensive locales more affordable for American tourists.
The numbers: As of May 1, 2015, 1 dollar was worth 7.525 Norwegian kroner. Compared to a year before, when 1 dollar was worth 5.98 kroner, the value of a dollar has increased by roughly 26%.
As of May 1, 2015, 1 dollar was worth 8.331 Swedish kronor. Compared to a year before, when 1 dollar was 6.542 kronor, the dollar’s value has increased by about 27%.
3. Much of the rest of Europe
Whether you want to eat gelato in Italy, shop designers in France or run with the bulls in Spain, now is a great time for a European excursion. The euro is the official currency of many European countries, including Germany and the Netherlands. Its value against the dollar has decreased significantly since last year, which likely means your dream European trip will be more budget-friendly than in years past.
The numbers: As of May 1, 2015, 1 dollar was worth 0.896 euros. Compared to a year before, when 1 dollar was worth 0.723 euros, the value of the dollar has increased by around 24%.
4. South America
Although it’s fairly easy to visit South America on a budget anyway, it’s even more affordable now. You might consider heading to Brazil, Colombia or Argentina if you want to get away for less, since the dollar has strengthened against each of those countries’ currencies. And between the gorgeous beaches, delicious eats and colorful cultures, it will be hard not to fall in love with our neighbors far to the south.
The numbers: As of May 1, 2015, 1 dollar was worth 2.97 Brazilian reals. Compared to a year before, when 1 dollar was 2.233 reals, the value of the dollar has increased by 33%.
As of May 1, 2015, 1 dollar was worth 2,353.95 Colombian pesos. Compared to a year before, when 1 dollar was 1,929.75 pesos, the dollar has increased by just under 22%.
As of May 1, 2015, 1 dollar was worth 8.9 Argentine pesos. Compared to a year before, when 1 dollar was 7.998 pesos, the dollar has increased by more than 11%.
Like South America, Mexico doesn’t generally top the list of expensive vacation destinations. But a strong dollar makes this trip even more affordable. So if your bucket list includes partying in Cancun, scuba diving off Cozumel or exploring the ruins of Chichen Itza, now is the time to cross it off your list.
The numbers: As of May 1, 2015, 1 dollar was worth 15.279 Mexican pesos. Compared to a year before, when 1 dollar was 13.094 pesos, the dollar has increased by nearly 17%.
Our favorite travel credit cards for overseas travel
No matter how strong the dollar is, the ideal credit card for international trips includes travel rewards, an EMV chip and no foreign transaction fees. Here are two of our favorites that fit the bill:
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Extra rewards on eats and expeditions
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers 2X points on travel and dining, and 1 point per dollar spent on everything else. You’ll also Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Points are worth 1.25 cents each when used to book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards site.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has an $0 for the first year, then $95 — and no foreign transaction fees. The card is EMV chipped for safer transactions worldwide.
BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card: No annual fee, no problem
The BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card rewards cardholders with 1.5 points on every dollar spent, plus a sign-up bonus: 20,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days - that can be a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases. With an annual fee of $0, this card is great for fee haters or small spenders.
The BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card doesn’t have foreign transaction fees, and it comes equipped with an EMV chip. And if that isn’t enough, it has an introductory APR of 0% on Purchases for 12 billing cycles, and then the ongoing APR of 15.49% - 23.49% Variable APR, giving you more time to pay off your initial purchases.
Photo of Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral via iStock.