To get more out of your travel dollar, experts point overseas

By Xiumei Dong

A family trip to Europe, an exploration of Canadian national parks, or a wildlife adventure in Australia: These were some of the trips Americans had in mind last weekend as the dollar is strong.

The Chicago Travel & Adventure Show returned to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in suburban Rosemont,  mixing travel lovers, experts, and vendors trading the latest tips for domestic and international travels.

“For the first time in 30 years, the dollar has great buying power,” said Peter Greenberg, CBS News travel editor, who spoke at the event.

The U.S. dollar has been strong since last summer and continues to gain momentum in 2016. Travel experts recommend exploiting the boosted purchasing power of the currency by traveling abroad.

Top 5 destinations to spend U.S. dollars

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Currency exchange rates from January 2012 to 2016 of the top five destinations recommended by Pauline Frommer, director of travel website (Xiumei Dong/MEDILL)

“We are going to spend our dollars abroad a little bit,” said David Ziegler, a retired librarian visiting the event. Ziegler and his wife were looking for overseas travel advice. Their tentative itineraries for 2016 already include Hawaii, Vancouver and Britain.

“For anybody, it is a really good deal,” Ziegler added.

According to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, international tourist visits grew by 4 percent in 2015 to reach a record 1.18 billion.

“I have never been busier,” said Sunnie Rossi, a travel specialist for Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. “I have been doing this for 25 years, and last year has been phenomenal.”

Although the results across individual destinations vary, due to the strong exchange rate and the drop in oil prices overall demand was strong in 2015, the UNWTO report stated. As people are planning ahead in 2016, safety and security play a major role in people’s considerations.

“After the events that happened in Paris, we saw a huge influx of interest to get to Australia, away from everything that might be considered as a possible target,” said Corinne Goodman, president of Down Under Endeavours.

In terms of how to protect your dollar while traveling in Europe, expert Rick Steves recommended: “wear a money belt!”

“Don’t be sloppy, have it bottomed up, zipped up, up here, in your money belt. You don’t want to be ripped off,” said Steves, travel writer and host of Rick Steves Europe and Travel with Rick Steves.

The travel show will return to Rosemont in January 2017.

Photo at Top: Corinne Goodman explains Australia travel itineraries to a visitor at the Chicago Travel & Adventure Show. (Xiumei Dong/MEDILL)