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A tourist takes photos of an Aurora Borealis
Reuters/Yannis Behrakis
Don’t forget to pack a selfie stick.
GETAWAY PLAN

How to play the strong pound to get the most out of holiday travel this year

By Cassie Werber

Propelled by a strengthening economy, the British pound has risen smartly against a wide range of currencies. That means that a number of popular holiday destinations—and others off the beaten track—just got more affordable.

Northern highlights

Norway’s prices can be a shock even to a Londoner used to expensive nights out. One site that compares the cost of a beer (one British metric of choice) puts Norway in second place for the priciest pint, at £7 ($10.85), after Greenland and ahead of Qatar. But as sterling has gained 17% against the Norwegian krone over the past year, that round of drinks in Oslo has started to look (a little) more reasonable.

Now may be the time to check out some of Norway’s spectacular scenery, and its extraordinary light shows. Late autumn to early spring is the season for aurora-watching and northern Norway or Svalbard, an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, are the places to do it. On the way up the coastline laced with fjords, you could make a pilgrimage to the site of Wittgenstein’s hut (where, be warned, only “a couple of old bricks” remain). Bask in solitude, without it gobbling (all) of your cash.

Nordic loop

Prices have also dropped relative to the pound in Sweden and Denmark, with the Swedish krona down just over 20% and the Danish krone falling by 12% against sterling since this time last year. Stockholm, perched on the edge of the Baltic sea, is often described as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Further south, Copenhagen is no longer prohibitively pricey. Both cities are easily accessible by bike, completing the package for the frugal wanderer. It’s still cold outside, so a cinnamon roll in one of the Danish capital’s cafes, or a sauna with friendly, naked locals in either country, could form part of the plan.

To boldly go

For the more intrepid, it’s the best and worst of times to visit… Russia. Thanks to falling oil prices and international sanctions battering the ruble, the pound has gained more than 60% against the Russian currency over the past year. The UK is one of the most hawkish countries pushing for sanctions and other penalties against Russia to punish it for its role in destabilizing eastern Ukraine, which might make things uncomfortable for British travellers. But Russia remains a place with some of the most extraordinary travel possibilities around, from the Trans-Siberian Express train to the rococo splendor of St Petersburg.

A place in the sun

Meanwhile, for those who want more than a short visit, the combination of falling property prices and a weaker euro has put holiday homes in southern Europe on sale. Spanish property prices are down nearly 30% over the past five years, while the average Italian home has dropped by more than 10% in cost in the same period.

The British sometimes don’t have the best reputation abroad—the stereotypical loud, sunburnt tourists clogging the Costa del Sol, or stag parties wreaking havoc on the streets of Prague–but tourists suddenly feeling flush will be welcome in many places where the economy is in desperate need of a boost.

And for Brits, it beats a deckchair in Worthing.

People walk their dog, in light rain, on the empty beach of the south coast holiday resort town of Worthing August 23, 2007
Reuters/Russell Boyce