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COMINGANDGOING

Sunday, December 12, 2004; Page P01

WALLET WATCH

Plunging Dollars

The U.S. dollar continues its plunge compared with other major currencies and has hit an all-time low compared with the euro.

Last summer it took about $1.17 to buy a euro, compared with about $1.32 this month, calculates David Montgomery, a vice president of Travelex Currency Services. Then it took $1.66 to buy a British pound; now it's about $1.93. The dollar has also taken a beating against the Japanese yen. A U.S. buck still gets you about $1.22 Canadian dollars, so making that exchange won't hurt unless you remember how much it used to get you. Experts do not expect to see a stronger dollar anytime soon.

Assuming you're not in a position to improve the U.S. economy and reduce the national debt, there is really nothing you can do about all this. But here are a few suggestions that could improve the bottom line when traveling:

Shop for tours and cruises whose prices were negotiated before the most recent tanking of the dollar.

• Be careful where you exchange money, since rates can vary significantly. The worst rates are generally, but not always, found at hotel reception desks and airport exchange booths.

• Credit cards usually give good exchange rates, but charge commissions of 1 to 3 percent, so check details for your cards before leaving home.

• Consider visiting a developing country. South and Central America are good options.

Good Sports

Bowl Time

'Tis the season of college bowl games. If you're not content to watch Navy, University of Virginia or Virginia Tech from the comfort of your home, there's still time to plan your own trip or buy a package.


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