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Now’s the Time to Book Your European Vacation

* Lower airfares and rentals are leading to great travel deals
* Strong dollar means you have more buying power once you arrive
* Book soon before the best deals are gone

“Hey look kids; there’s Big Ben and there’s Parliament!” Your European vacation may never compare to the Griswold family, but you won’t have to win a game show to pay for it. At least that’s what the New York Times is reporting.

According to the newspaper, a recent search on shows airfares are down between 20 and 30 percent for round-trip travel to cities such as Paris, Rome, Barcelona, Madrid and Prague. The Times cites increased competition from budget carriers as driving the downward price trend. Norwegian, WOW Air and Zurich-based Edelweiss are just some of the discount airlines now expanding their European routes to include round trips to and from U.S. airports.

A strong dollar is also enticing travelers The dollar has been trading in near parity with the Euro, which means you have more buying power once you arrive.

“Europe is the bargain of the decade,” says travel agent Karen Malone. “I am encouraging all customers who are thinking about Europe or are on the fence to go now.”

If you go now, you can also enjoy cheaper lodging, as prices on, for example, are down between 10 and 20 percent for rentals in Ibiza, Mykonos and Tuscany. While Italy and England also continue to be top destinations, travel agents say interest is growing in Germany, Ireland, Norway and Portugal as well.

Despite a string of terrorist attacks over the last 16 months, the bargain prices are tempting. If you’re still trying to decide, tour operators say it’s best to book now, before the best deals are gobbled up. With prices at the lowest they’ve been all year, those deals could be gobbled up very soon.