In Europe, still less bang for your buck

Jose Ramon Garcia of Rio Rico, Ariz., says he booked his tickets to Spain in March to snag the best fare and bought $1,500 worth of euros to lock in a favorable rate and avoid ATMs in Europe.

"I figure that it will be very expensive to live for two weeks, but this is not a compelling reason to cancel a trip to Europe," he says.

But even knowing the best money-saving strategies isn't persuading everyone to go abroad.

Of 200 Carlson Wagonlit agents polled, 46% expect international bookings to fall this summer vs. last summer. Just 19% of agents say they expect bookings to surpass last year's levels.

Whitley's group, the U.S. Tour Operators Association, which has about 350 members that sell international travel, expects international trips to be down by as much as 10%, he says. And 66% of 6,678 adults contacted in February for an AOL Travel-Zogby International poll said they plan to stay in the USA this summer.

Lupe de la Torre of Chicago, a city worker, had dreamed of celebrating her 40th birthday in Italy with a 10-day trip to Venice, Florence and Rome. But a price of about $4,500 per person — coupled with unfavorable exchange rates for souvenirs and incidentals — made the cost for her and her son "outrageous."

Now, she's leaning toward a trip to Albuquerque centered on a hot-air-balloon ride she's also wanted to take. She'll save money partly by going away for a long weekend instead of 10 days.

"I like to do something different every year," she says. "It will still be special."

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