The American dollar closed out 2006 in a bad spot, requiring $1.30 to buy one Euro and close to $2 to purchase a British pound sterling.
This was, and is, great news for Europeans traveling to the United States or Canada.
But for visitors heading in the other direction, it's quite a different, and expensive story.
Americans and Canadians visiting Europe, or some other a country that ties its currency to the Euro, are going to experience even worse sticker shock than they have over the past couple of years.
However, by using the right strategies and the expertise of travel professionals to help them make good decisions, travelers can minimize, or avoid altogether, the inflated prices caused by currency shifts.
Consider visiting Latin America
For the most part, countries south of the border are a safe currency bet for U.S. and Canadian travelers.
Most Latin American countries tie their currency to the dollar officially, or in practice, and some actually use the U.S. dollar as their own.
In this region, there has been little to no loss of dollar value and many countries in Central and South America can offer an excellent value at all budget levels.
Costa Rica is a good example and a wonderful destination as American tourists are welcomed year round.
Pick European destinations carefully
Going to the most popular destinations in Europe can feel like a shopping trip to Tiffany's, with $100-taxi rides, $500- hotels and routine restaurant lunches that can top $150.
Traveling on escorted tours with reputable tour operators can help you avoid those unpleasant surprises, because you will benefit from wholesale and group rates.
For those looking forward to traveling to Europe, expand your horizons and visit areas where demand has not driven prices to such lofty levels.
Eastern Europe and Turkey are perfect choices for European aficionados, as those countries are still significantly cheaper than Western Europe.
To reap even greater discounts, stay away from big cities.
Also, prices in Portugal and rural Spain have stayed relatively stable, and these destinations can represent a savings of 30 to 40 percent over nations to the north.
Visit the U.S. for some great surprises and values
Too few travelers either think or talk the great destinations our country has to offer.
With last-minute affordable airfares so prevalent, and the great highway system, it makes sense to be flexible and look at what is available right here at home.
There are many places worth visiting across the U.S. and most of these destinations are doing everything in their power to make your stay memorable, offering everything from new museums and performance halls to free seasonal outdoor concerts.
Also, if you go to such places as Kansas City, Austin, Texas or Cheyenne, Wyo., you can find accommodations at half price or cheaper than they are in larger cities.
The local amenities are truly exceptional in overall value.
In fact, most Americans and Canadians are actually within a few hours drive of a great destination they have never visited.
Maybe this summer or fall would be the perfect time to discover the excellent travel value in the U.S. and North America.
Of course, if you have been planning for a special vacation and have a long distance in mind, consider the islands of the Pacific.
They may offer an excellent combination of amenities and value for dollar.
Hawaii, Tahiti, Fiji, Australia and New Zealand are excellent vacation destinations that represent good value for the U.S. dollar.
Looking for a true adventure? Consider Africa.
There are excellent values and locations that you can visit in Africa that are safe, exciting and still represent great value.
However, these long-distance vacations usually require more than a week to make the journey worthwhile and take in the sights properly.
Finally, a vacation represents an investment of your time and money.
Whenever possible consider using the resources and expertise of a travel professional who will give you the best travel advice and the highest return for your vacation travel dollar.
Until the actual trip, happy travel dreams
Geraldine Blanchard is vice president of Global Tours and Travel, at 559 W. Eau Gallie Blvd., Melbourne. She can be reached at (321) 676-6040 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information visit, www.globaltours.com.