Students will take a surprise trip around the world. As they travel, they will use clues to discover where they are going. They will then figure out how much money they have spent in U.S. dollars, using exchange rates.


Exchange, Exchange Rate, Money


  • Identify the foreign countries that they will visit to determine the meaning of exchange rates.
  • Use exchange rates to figure out how much money they spent in each country and on the entire trip.


Tell your students that a family meeting is scheduled at 7:00 P.M. tonight. At the meeting, their parents have told them they are going on a surprise family vacation. Before they leave, however, they will be given clues about where they are going to visit. They will have to identify the countries they will visit, identify the capital of each country, and determine how much money in U.S. dollars they will spend in each country. They will need to use exchange rates to figure out their actual cost for each place they visit. Finally, they will add up the total cost of the trip.



You will need the following materials:

  • Laminated desktop world maps
  • Atlases, electronic or paper
  • Exchange rate information
  • Vacation log
  • Pencils or pens
  • Calculators 

Before beginning the lesson, ask the students the following questions: 

  1. How could a person buy items with cash if she or he went to another country? 
  2. How would a person get the currency from another country? 
  3. How would a person know how much foreign currency an American dollar is worth? 

Then introduce the concept of exchange rates. Have the students visit How Stuff Works to read an article on 'How Exchange Rates Work.' Ask the students for a definition of exchange rates. If they can't provide a definition, have them look up the meaning. An acceptable definition for exchange rate is: the method used to calculate the value of one currency compared to another currency. 

At this point you will need to decide if you want the students to use the exchange rate sheet which is in Appendix C or use the website, which automatically converts currency at today's rates.  If you use the website to convert currency, the answer key should be used only to identify the country, its capital, and its currency.  The amount spent in U.S. dollars will not be accurate since that amount will change based on the given exchange rate for the day the lesson is done in class.

Now you are ready to begin the activity. 


1. Place the students in groups of three or four. 

2. Hand out the materials to the groups. 

3. Give each group the sheets with the clues for identifying the places the family is going to visit. (See Appendix A for the clues and Appendix B for the family vacation log.  If you are using the exchange rate sheet, use Appendix C to get the exchange rates.)

4. Explain how to calculate exchange rates.  The formula is:

Or Refer the students to a currency converter  website which will calculate exchange rates for them; or use the exchange rate sheet in Appendix C.

5. The students will also identify the capital cities of the countries they are going to visit. Refer them to the Online Atlas , the paper atlases, or the capital city site

6. Let the students work through the clues and complete the Vacation Log worksheet. Groups should work independently.

7. Monitor the progress of the groups and provide assistance as needed. 

8. Have the groups share results for each clue, one at a time. You will provide the correct answers with the class for each clue, one at a time.


Students will complete the Family Vacation Log using the clues provided.


Tell the students that they have now completed their worldwide family vacation. They have used exchange rates to determine how many U.S. dollars they spent on this trip.  The trip cost a lot of money, but the memories will last a lifetime.

Ask the students to explain how different exchange rates affect the purchasing power of a person traveling abroad. (Favorable exchange rates increase our purchasing power).


Have the students practice converting U.S. dollars into the currency of at least five different countries, using the currency converter website. 

Ask the students why exchange rates vary between countries. [It is based on the supply of and demand for a country's currency.]

Related EconEdLink Lesson: Marketplace: Let's Go Euro!


  • “I believe this would be very helpful for the students. Not only will they learn about the exchange rates but also this will enrich their knowledge on geography by identifying the capitals of countries. This might also encourage the students to travel abroad and thus, promote tourism and international cooperation.”

    Alexis M., Manila, CA   POSTED ON August 6, 2009

  • “Excellent lesson plan to a first hand information on a very important concept of exchange.”

    Vinita V, bolingbrook Ill., IL   POSTED ON August 9, 2009

  • “Could definitely use this in my classes. Thanks!!”

    RJ S, Minotola, NJ   POSTED ON August 9, 2009

  • “The lesson sounds like a good one. Do you have an answer sheet for the activity? EconEdLink: The answer sheet is located under "Resources" and is linked as "Appendix B- Answer Sheet." If you click on the link you can download the answer key for the activity.”

    Joan Schneider, Williamsport, PA   POSTED ON August 10, 2009

  • “I thought I'd really like this activity and as I started preparing to use it I came across a few problems: it doesn't have a link for Appendix D. There is no answer key so this added to the prep time since I had to go ahead and actually do all the calculations ahead of time; not necessarily a BAD thing, but more work than I planned. Also, lessons should have an approximate time listed to complete the lesson for those using it their first time. I hope this helps improve the lesson because I think it is a great activity. [Note from econedlink; Appendix D was actually Appendix C so please note the change. As for the answer key the students are to determine the countries on their own, refer to this link for a list of countries and their capitals]”

    ptr, Marietta, GA   POSTED ON November 14, 2009

  • “Is there an answer key for the countries visited? [Note from econedlink; for the answer key the students are to determine the countries on their own, refer to this link for a list of countries and their capitals]”

    A.B., Oakley, CA   POSTED ON January 14, 2010

  • “Great activity! However, there are a couple of typos in your answer key. Clue 7 amount spent does not match the clue; therefore, US amount is off. Also, there is a transposition in the total. I believe it is 12892 not 12982. EconEdLink: We have fixed the numbers and the transposition error. Thank you”

    Beth H., Peabody, MA   POSTED ON November 16, 2011

  • “From your experience, how long did the whole lesson take to complete?

    Econedlink: We develop the lessons with the intent of them being 20-40 minutes in length. There are lessons that take longer because there is more content covered. We also have lessons that are designed to be three and four part lessons, those lessons are intended to be spaced out over a longer time period.”

    Yasmine L., Peoria, IL   POSTED ON May 23, 2012

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