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MORE FOR YOUR MONEY : THE DOLLAR

Destinations you can bank on

Let a favorable exchange rate be your guide by choosing a vacation getaway where the buck is sure to buy you more.

October 26, 2008|Catharine Hamm | Hamm is a Times staff writer.

"Travel," says Leon Logothetis, "is fuel for the soul."

But what happens when the price of fuel hits the stratosphere?

If you travel the way Logothetis does, that won't be an issue. He's the host of the reality show "Amazing Adventures of a Nobody," in which he travels on about $5 a day. Like Blanche DuBois, he depends on the kindness of strangers in his journeys in England, the Continent and the U.S. on only a few farthings.

How does he do it? He's resourceful and creative. And he uses his noggin.

"One of the most important things is to pick your destination," he said in an interview from Cannes, France, where he was watching the sunset on the beach. "If you don't have any money, going to Monte Carlo isn't very smart.

"Think about where your money is going to get you as far as possible."

For travelers today, those places are not London, Paris and Rome, where the U.S. government limits its business travelers to no more than $322, $316 and $365 per night, respectively, for lodging.

Here are some suggestions on where your dollar will go further. Using the per diem rate set by the U.S. government as a guide and showing the interbank exchange rates this year and last (culled from www.oanda.com), we looked at where the buck is back and we've given you some options that rival what the generally tight-fisted government would have you spend.

These deals, researched in mid-October, may be limited in availability and may be gone by the time you read this. But persevere; the deals could be even better by the time you read this.

Iceland

What do an Icelandic bank and an Icelandic streaker have in common?

Both have frozen assets.

This bit of financial humor is courtesy of the Daily Mail of London, except no one in Iceland is exactly guffawing. The country has a reputation among travelers as a money monster, but its recent descent into the financial bog has it gasping for air. Which means bargains for the savvy traveler.

State Department per diem: $196 lodging, plus $120 for meals and incidentals.

Dollar versus the krona: $1 brings about 113 krona this month; in October 2007, it was 60.7.

What's changed: Iceland is in the middle of its own severe banking meltdown.

What you can find: In early December, airfare from LAX to Reykjavik for $786 (combination of Delta and Iceland Air); the five-star Radisson SAS from $133. A round-trip ticket from LAX, plus six nights at the three-star CenterHotel Kopp starting at $988 (package on www.travelocity.com), about $165 per person per day.

Las Vegas

The constant chatter of slot machines has dulled to a low roar as gamblers watch their pennies, so you're starting to see better value for your hard-earned bucks.

General Services Administration per diem: $126 Jan. 1 to May 31, $105 the rest of the year; plus $64 for meals and incidentals.

The dollar versus itself: The Consumer Price Index tells us that a dollar in 2007 is worth 95 cents this year, thanks to inflation.

What's changed: With economic hard times, gross gaming revenue dropped 7.2% in August of this year over last year. Uh oh.

What you'll find: Midweek rooms at the Venetian for $119 and weekend rooms for $159 ( www.travel-ticker.com).

Dominican Republic

Haiti's neighbor drew a thumbs up from several travel experts. Although the Caribbean destination is not easy to reach, it's almost always rewarding, even if you're not a baseball fan.

State Department per diem: La Romana: $186 lodging plus $81 for meals and incidentals.

Dollar versus the peso: $1 equals 35.6 Dominican Republic pesos in 2008; in 2007, it was 33.93.

What's changed: The current downturn, experts say, has hit the Caribbean hard, so deals are the order of the day.

What you'll find: Airfare and six nights (between Dec. 13 and 20) at the PuntaCana Hotel from $874 per person, or $146 a night (found at www.orbitz.com by www.kayak.com). Same package for $1,049 per person for Nov. 22 to 29 (covers Thanksgiving), or about $175 a day (found at Orbitz through www.sidestep.com). For the Christmas holiday (Dec. 21 to 27) you can stay at the Riu Naiboa. Prices for this all-inclusive resort vacation (meals, hotel room and airfare) begin at $1,522 for five nights (through www.deltavacations.com), or $304 a person a day.

The Mediterranean

Yes, we know we just said penny pinchers should avoid most of Western Europe, but that applies only if you're staying on land.

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