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Travel Checklist: Passport, Guidebook, a Lot More Dollars

Posted March 18, 2008
Updated March 19, 2008

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— There is one thing that U.S. citizens traveling abroad will take with them without having to pack anything – the lower buying power of their dollars.

The greenback is near an all-time low versus the euro and the Canadian dollar. Tuesday, a dollar would buy about 0.64 euros, a shade less than one Canadian dollar and about a half a British pound.

The effect of lower buying power is evident at the gas pump at home, too, where economists say the weaker dollar is helping to fuel higher prices.

One person the dollar’s power, or lack of it, affects is Jan McMullen, who loves to travel.

“I've been to Marseilles, Nice, most of the coastal regions” of France, she said. In a few weeks, McMullen and her husband are heading back to France to visit Lyon and Paris.

“The dollar has taken an enormous dive, so I'm used to a $4 coffee at Starbucks here in Raleigh, but I'm not quite sure I'll be used to a $12 cup of coffee in Paris,” she said Tuesday.

McMullen understands that a weaker dollar has less buying power overseas and that with the current exchange rate, everything will be much more expensive.

“We're just going to bite the bullet. I don't know what to expect,” she said. “The best way to describe it is sticker shock.”

Mike Savitt, with Beeline Travel in Raleigh, said the reduced dollar-power to the east is encouraging more people to take cruises and to head to places like South America.

“A lot of our agents have been discussing with people how to make their dollar stretch a little better,” Savitt said.

Of course, you need not go abroad to feel the pain. Economists say you're also having to pump out more money for a lot of stuff here at home.

You are seeing the effect “if you are buying anything that is imported – oil, but also French wine or Chinese clothing,” said North Carolina State University economist Mike Walden.

For Jan McMullen, she plans on coming back from her trip with a lighter bag than normal.

“I buy things when I go, so I don't think I'll be buying any bling, any jewelry. I'll have to come back to the U.S. and do my shopping, ‘cause it's not going to be a very favorable situation. My husband will be happy!” McMullen said with a laugh.

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