Follow The Money

Here are five places you can bank on for travel bargains

November 02, 2008|By Catharine Hamm | Catharine Hamm,Los Angeles Times

Travel," says Leon Logothetis, "is fuel for the soul."

But what happens when the price of fuel hits the stratosphere?

If you travel the way Logothetis does, that won't be an issue. He's the host of the reality show Amazing Adventures of a Nobody, in which he travels on about $5 a day. Like Blanche DuBois, he depends on the kindness of strangers in his journeys in England, Europe and the U.S. on only a few farthings.

How does he do it? He's resourceful and creative. And he uses his noggin.

"One of the most important things is to pick your destination," he said in an interview from Cannes, France, where he was watching the sunset on the beach. "If you don't have any money, going to Monte Carlo isn't very smart.

"Think about where your money is going to get you as far as possible."

For travelers today, those places are not London, Paris and Rome, where the U.S. government limits its business travelers to no more than $322, $316 and $365 per night, respectively, for lodging.

Here are some suggestions of five places where your dollar will go further. Using the per diem rate set by the U.S. government as a guide and showing the exchange rates this year and last (culled from oanda.com), we looked at where the buck is back, and we've given you some options that rival what the generally tight-fisted government would have you spend.

These deals, researched in late October, may be limited in availability and may be gone by the time you read this. But persevere; the deals could also be even better by now.

1

Iceland

What do an Icelandic bank and an Icelandic streaker have in common?

Both have frozen assets.

This bit of financial humor is courtesy of the Daily Mail of London, except that no one in Iceland is exactly guffawing. The country has a reputation among travelers as a money monster, but its recent descent into the financial bog has it gasping for air. That means bargains for the savvy traveler.

State Department per diem : $196 lodging, plus $120 for meals and incidentals.

Dollar versus the krona : $1 brings in more than 110 krona; in October 2007, it was about 60.

What's changed : Iceland is in the middle of its own severe banking meltdown.

What you can find : In early December, airfare from New York to Reykjavik for $475 on Icelandair; the five-star Radisson SAS from $133. A round-trip ticket from Baltimore, plus five nights at the three-star CenterHotel Klopp starting at about $925 (package on travelocity.com), about $185 per person per day.

2

Las Vegas

The constant chatter of slot machines has dulled to a low roar as gamblers watch their pennies, so you're starting to see better value for your hard-earned bucks.

General Services Administration per diem : $126 Jan. 1 to May 31, $105 the rest of the year; plus $64 for meals and incidentals.

The dollar versus itself : The Consumer Price Index tells us that a dollar in 2007 is worth 95 cents this year, thanks to inflation.

What's changed : With economic hard times, gross gaming revenue dropped 7.2 percent in August of this year over last year. Uh-oh.

What you'll find : Midweek rooms at the Venetian for $119 and weekend rooms for $159 (travel-ticker.com).

3

Dominican Republic

Haiti's neighbor drew a thumbs-up from several travel experts. This Caribbean destination is almost always rewarding, even if you're not a baseball fan.

State Department per diem : The rate in La Romana is $186 lodging plus $81 for meals and incidentals.

Dollar versus the peso : $1 equals about 35 Dominican Republic pesos this year; in 2007, it was 33.93.

What's changed : The downturn, experts say, has hit the Caribbean hard, so deals are the order of the day.

What you'll find : Airfare and six nights in December at the PuntaCana Hotel from $875 per person, or $146 a night (found at orbitz.com by kayak.com). Same package for $1,049 per person for Nov. 22 to 29 (covers Thanksgiving), or about $175 a day (found at Orbitz through sidestep.com). For the Christmas holiday (Dec. 21 to 27), you can stay at the Riu Naiboa. Prices for this all-inclusive resort vacation (meals, hotel room and airfare) begin at $1,174 for six nights (also through orbitz.com), or $195 a person a day.

4

The Mediterranean

Yes, we just said penny-pinchers should avoid most of Western Europe, but that applies only if you're staying on land.

What you'll find : Mediterranean cruise deals mean you can stay onboard while visiting such ports as Barcelona or Mallorca, Spain; Rome; Monte Carlo; or the Canary Islands, depending on the itinerary you choose.

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