Europe's on Sale

                                                Europe's on sale

         The euro fell to a four-year low this week, and all signs are that it will keep falling. At $1.19, it means that a hotel priced at 100 euros per night now costs $119 compared to $140 last year. The rise in airfares, unfortunately, will likely more than offset any savings for most travelers, but here's a tip: If you booked a tour for this year, and haven't already paid, ask for a discount. Chances are it was priced last year to anticipate expenses based on an exchange rate at least $1.50, likely more to hedge against any increases that might have come about if the dollar fell in value against the euro. Most tour operators will likely keep prices high to make up for losses last year when business was so bad, but I notice Rick Steves has discounted some of his fall tours.  
Taking RyanAir? Pack light

   We've all grown used to finding good deals on the discount airlines for getting around Europe, but watch those extra fees. 
   Anyone considering summer travel on Europe's Ryanair might want to consider packing light, or be prepared to pay a hefty surcharge for checking bags.
     Ryanair will charge 20 euros ($24.40) each way for the first checked bag in July and August, up from 15 euros ($18.30) during other times of the year. A second bag will cost 40 euros ($49) compared to 35 euros ($43) other times. The weight limit is 33 pounds per bag (less than U.S. airlines allow on international flights to and from Europe), and you can take just one carry-on, no heavier than 22 pounds. 

Chip and Pin: Problems with U.S. credit cards in Europe

   A Seattle Times reader asks: "We have heard that U.S. credit cards with the magnetic stripe on the back are being rejected by retailers in Europe, who are using a new microchip-based reader. Our bank doesn't issue such a card. What can we do when the little cafe in Venice says we can't use our Visa?  Click here for the answer in today's Seattle Times travel section

Refunds on checked bag fees?
   What happens if you pay $25-$30 to check a bag and it doesn't show up at your destination when you do? When it comes to refunding the checked-bag fees airlines began charging last year, policies are surprisingly vague. Bottom line: Refunds for bag fees are rare, even when the "service" provided turns out to be less than you'd expect.
  That could change as early as this fall under a new set of consumer regulations proposed by the Department of Transportation. DOT is considering requiring carriers to reimburse passengers for baggage fees if bags are lost or not delivered within two hours of arrival. It does seem like a written rule is needed, given the airlines' failure to come up with concrete policies on their own. Let's hope the DOT prevails. Click here to read more.

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