After a summer hiatus, I return to see that the value of the loonie (US$0.80 in June) against the U.S. dollar has plunged even further—to below US$0.76. And it looks as if its fade will continue. (Throughout, we quote official exchange rates. Actual rates differ, since the banks take their few pennies before you get yours.)
Coming at the run-up to snowbird season, the drop is not good news. But predictions that Canadian snowbirds as well as even shorter-term travellers will abandon the U.S. this winter are probably exaggerated. Wait until the first cold winds rush down from Siberia, and then we’ll see…
Even at a 30% currency premium, the U.S. is still one of the least expensive countries easily accessible to Canadians. It’s familiar. The language is generally similar in most regions of both countries. And by making just a few alterations to your spending habits, you can still have a good time, and maybe even bring a few items back through customs you couldn’t resist buying at Target (the U.S. version), Bed Bath and Beyond, or ABC Liquor Stores. In southeast Florida you can still buy a bottle of Crown Royal Canadian rye for US$19.99 (on sale).
Our advice: Don’t obsess about the notion that every time you enter an American store or hotel or hit the golf course you will be paying a 35¢ premium for every “dollar” you see on the price tag. Banish that thought, and look only at the value of what you are buying—is it good value, or isn’t it? Many long-term Canadian snowbirds have adjusted to that reality, and they are better off for it.
Still, you don’t want to give away money you can hold on to.
- Snowbirds have learned the value of maintaining U.S. dollar accounts in their Canadian banks for long-term travel planning. When the loonie is strong (as it will be again) you can transfer some of those Canadian dollars into U.S funds so you can “lock in” your value even when the loonie deteriorates. It’s nice to know that even today there are many Canadians visiting the U.S. with US$0.95—some even with funds they salted away in their accounts in 2013 when the loonie was soaring at US$1.05.
- Well before leaving for any trip out of the country—to the U.S. or elsewhere—you need to research, evaluate, and, only then, buy travel insurance. Travel insurance is not a transaction you can afford to leave to the last minute. Those days are gone. Don’t make the mistake of dealing with travel insurance as an afterthought, like packing an extra bathing suit. But know also that substantial reductions in the cost of travel insurance are available. You just need to know what to look for. We’ll be telling you about that in detail in coming weeks. Stay with us. We’ll tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly.
- Transferring money via ATMs is also an issue most of us deal with often. If you don’t like paying the $3–$5 ATM charges (who does?), check with your Canadian bank for a list of associated banks in the U.S. that offer you free reciprocal ATM use. Of course, they will still charge the foreign exchange rate differential. However, if your bank doesn’t have reciprocal arrangements, use ATMs at the big supermarkets. Almost all of them have the same international ATM networks as the banks use—and they are cheaper. Try Walmart stores throughout the U.S., Publix or Albertson’s in Florida, or Safeway or Fry’s in Arizona. (Incidentally, Fry’s in Mesa has a special sale this week—two gallons of milk for $3. Now that’s value).
Oh yes, gas prices for October 5. Central Florida: Lowest price in Winter Haven (Sunoco) at $1.97 a gallon— equates to $0.52 (U.S.) per litre. Southeast Florida: Lowest price in Fort Lauderdale (Sunoco) at $2.08 a gallon, or $0.59 cents (U.S.) per litre. Thanks to Frugal-rv-travel.com for the calculator Canadians can use to determine the price of gas in the U.S. in the litre equivalents used in Canada. Multiply the U.S. price by .264 to get the per-litre cost in U.S. dollars.
More cost-cutters coming for Thanksgiving weekend.
For more travel tips or for information on travel insurance products, visit IngleInternational.com.