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Euro rate makes trip a deal

* Travel agencies reporting Europe is a top destination, with bookings being made now

Travelers may have been dismayed by the thousands of canceled flights at Northeast airports on Monday ahead of the storm; however, there’s good news once the tempest passes. Travelers heading into Europe in warmer months will find their dollar will go a little further.

Last week, the European Central Bank said it would buy 1.1 trillion euros, or $ 1.3 trillion, worth of government and corporate bonds, pushing the euro down to the lowest it’s been in more than a decade. The euro climbed 0.5 percent to $ 1.1263 in New York on Monday after sliding to $ 1.1098, the lowest level since September 2003.

The drop in the currency means Americans can expect to see savings when traveling abroad in the 19 countries that use the euro — Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Greece, Spain, Estonia, France, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia and Finland.

“Travel to any country that is based on the euro rates has not been this low in years,” said Bert Rosenbluth, owner of Magnum Travel Inc. in Closter, in an email. “Bottom line – there are good deals and terrific value [in] planning travel to that part of the world now.”

In 2014, 11.1 million Americans traveled to Europe, according to the Washington-based Office of Travel and Tourism Industries.

Many local agencies said the falling currency is good for consumers, since the eurozone has not always been a place where the dollar has been robust. Because of the current savings, Europe is already becoming a top destination for summer travel.

At Trips Away Travel in Cresskill, more clients are booking trips to Europe in January than in previous years, said the agency’s president, Josette Carrizzo. Trips booked to Europe in the upcoming summer months usually aren’t made so early in the year suggesting a travel trend, she explained.

At Classic Travel in Wallington, the family-run business doesn’t usually sell many trips to eurozone areas. This year, however, an organized group trip to France and Italy “filled up pretty quickly,” said Peter Majcherczyk, the agency’s trip coordinator.

“It shows people are willing to go,” he said.

The increased interest in Europe lets agencies explore new opportunities, as well.

“The biggest destinations are usually Mexico or some other Caribbean island because the exchange rate is so low,” said Albert Paz, owner of Gabriel’s Travel Agency Inc in Paterson. “This gives us an opportunity to sell a different market and [to] sell to a different client.”

In past years, Paz said trips to Europe ranked around third or fourth in most-traveled-to destinations. This year, European travel ranks first as a hot spot for travel this season.

Though it may be more affordable to go to Europe than in recent years, agents warn that consumers shouldn’t expect any deals on getting there.

“The airlines have not dropped their fares to pass on the savings to the public,” Carol Alesso of Wayne-based Alesso Travel Consultants said in an email. “My clients will feel the difference once they are in Europe and their dollar has more spending power.”

According to data compiled by Expedia and Airlines Reporting Corp., North America and Europe likely will experience decreases in average ticket prices in 2015. The same data show that air-ticket pricing in Europe is the most uncertain in 2015 versus other regions. Still, experts expect the euro to continue falling and advise travelers to hold out on exchanging their dollars.

“Don’t buy euros now – wait for the trip. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the euro was even with the dollar by April,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said to the New York Times.

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