U.S. News

Americans flock to Europe despite weak dollar

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Many Americans are opting for French foie gras instead of a traditional Turkey drumstick this Thanksgiving holiday, even if the dollar doesn’t go as far in Europe these days.

A general view of the Eiffel Tower, illuminated at night, in Paris, March 27, 2007. Many Americans are opting for French foie gras instead of a traditional Turkey drumstick this Thanksgiving holiday, even if the dollar doesn't go as far in Europe these days. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

Vacation-starved Americans, who have among the fewest days off work of any industrialized country, are using Thanksgiving as an opportunity to visit Europe and other international destinations.

“The fact that we’re seeing more people going to Europe despite the fact the dollar just isn’t strong there is really amazing,” said Amy Ziff, editor at large for No. 2 U.S. travel Web site Travelocity.

American wanderlust reflects the resiliency of U.S. consumers to shrug off a housing crisis, signs of a slowing economy, and the weak dollar, which is hovering near record lows against the euro and other currencies.

But many of the bookings were made months ago, before the dollar’s most recent swoon.

Ziff said travelers booked trips, on average, 85 days in advance for domestic travel and more than 100 days for international trips in order to lock in low prices and secure seats.

Terry Trippler, travel expert for, said, “People are working hard, and a lot of people don’t like their jobs. So when they get that vacation, they’re taking it.”

Thanksgiving, which this year is on Thursday, November 22, usually gives Americans a rare four-day weekend, as many businesses are closed the following Friday. By tacking on a few vacation days, they can stretch the holiday into a chance to take a longer trip.

Western Europe, which is the fourth most popular travel destination for Americans, has increased its share of Thanksgiving bookings this year by 9.5 percent, according to Travelocity data.

Eastern Europe, where the dollar goes a bit farther than in cities like Paris and London, saw a 24.6 percent surge in its share of bookings, Travelocity said.

U.S. airlines are seeing similar trends in international travel for the 12-day Thanksgiving holiday rush, which starts Friday and is typically the busiest travel period of the year.

The Air Transport Association expects international traffic on U.S. airlines to climb 8 percent from a year ago, compared to a 3.5 percent rise in domestic travel, said John Heimlich, the trade group’s chief economist.

Heimlich said the growth in international travel, which also gets a boost from Europeans and others traveling to the U.S., is fueled by traffic across the Atlantic and to Latin America, which is expected to grow more than 10 percent.

The heavy Thanksgiving travel could mean lower demand later. ATA’s Heimlich said that many Americans are taking trips during Thanksgiving this year rather than over the Christmas or New Year’s holidays.

Reporting by Chris Reiter; Editing by Brian Moss