Travel prices are rising: how to save on flights, hotels and gas

More than two years into the pandemic, vacationers are making travel plans with renewed enthusiasm. But due to a host of economic, logistical, and geopolitical issues, a summer getaway will come with a painfully high price this year.

Crowds are increasing demand as travel companies continue to grapple with labor shortages. Fuel prices hit record highs and have only fallen slightly. The shortage of rental cars persists. And inflation is affecting every part of a traveler’s budget.

“You’re going to be in for a surprise,” warned travel analyst Henry Harteveldt, president of Atmosphere Research Group.

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Sally French, travel rewards expert at NerdWallethas been looking at the impact of inflation on common travel expenses, including car rentals, hotels, food, and entertainment such as movies and concerts.

“Definitely every category is more expensive now than it was last year,” he said.

Here’s a breakdown of the travel spending picture, what people should expect when planning summer trips, and how they can save a few bucks.

Flights: an increase of 12.7 percent from February 2021

According to the consumer price index data As published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, airfares were up 12.7 percent in February compared to a year earlier, but down more than 14 percent compared to 2019.

“People have short-term memory,” French said. “They just remember ‘Last year, I got this amazing flight deal.'”

In early April, travel booking app Hopper said domestic airfare averaged $330 round-trip, up 40 percent from the start of the year. For international travel, the average was $810, up from $650 at the beginning of the year.

The company expects those prices to continue to rise, forecasting domestic airfare to hit $360 for a round trip through May. International airfare is expected to peak at $940 in June.

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Hayley Berg, head of pricing intelligence at Hopper, which uses different data than the Bureau of Labor Statistics, said her calculations show domestic airfares are even higher than pre-pandemic figures: 7 percent. more than in 2019.

Harteveldt said several factors are driving prices up this year, including strong demand, higher jet fuel prices and reduced capacity.

“Airlines have made it very clear that they intend not only to raise prices, but also to take other steps to help them recoup most of the higher energy prices they are paying,” he said.

Budget advice: Harteveldt said new low-cost carriers like Breeze Airways or Avelo Airlines could offer lower fares than their competitors if their routes match the traveler’s needs. He suggested looking for deals that combine airfare and lodging in a package, which can lower the overall price of a trip. For those with travel flexibility, there is the option to postpone a summer trip to the less expensive season of early fall.

Berg said travelers might also want to opt for lower-priced international travel, choosing Mexico or Central America over Europe to save several hundred dollars.

“If travelers are willing to reconsider their destinations, they can spend less than in previous summers, even if prices are higher,” he said.

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Hotels: 40 percent more than in March 2021

Travel research firm STR said the average daily hotel price in the United States between March 1 and March 26 was $147.15. That’s significantly higher than the same period last year, when average rates were nearly $105, and higher than 2019, when the average nightly stay was $132.56.

Carter Wilson, senior vice president of consulting for STR, said last summer had already broken records. He said labor shortages and higher wages are also pushing rates up this year.

“Any type of destination that normally caters to leisure demand performed phenomenally last summer,” he said. “That has continued unabated.”

Budget advice: Wilson said higher prices won’t be evenly distributed, especially as business travel takes longer to recover.

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“If you’re looking to stay in a major urban market at a convention center hotel, it’s going to be more reasonable to find a room than a resort,” he said. “Those urban cores that depend on international demand and major convention and commercial demand are still trying to break through.”

Harteveldt said travelers are better off buying directly from hotel-brand websites rather than price-comparison sites because that’s where they’ll find discounts for things like AAA membership.

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Airbnb and Vrbo: up to 13 percent from February 2021

Short-term rentals are also charging higher rates, according to DNA of air, which tracks the performance of millions of properties on Airbnb and Vrbo. The company said average daily rates in the United States in February were nearly $273, up 13 percent from last year and 32 percent higher than in 2019. As of the end of March, AirDNA saying summer rates so far were about 5.5 percent higher than last year.

Budget advice: French recommends that people take advantage of a kitchen or kitchenette so they can buy food at a grocery store and avoid eating at a restaurant for every meal.

Rental cars: up to 19 percent from March 2021

In mid-March, Hopper said rental cars had been averaging about $83 a day, up 19 percent from the same period in 2021. Industry watchers expect to see a surge in demand, and prices will continue, this summer.

“The current situation is that car rental companies will continue to charge higher prices simply because supply has not met demand,” Mike Taylor, head of JD Power’s travel and hospitality practice, told The Washington Post last month. last.

Budget advice: Factoring in the cost of car rentals and gasoline, French said he might be able to avoid a road trip this year. He suggested flying to a destination with good public transportation. But if someone must have a rental car, she and other experts recommend looking it up first to avoid any unpleasant surprises about price or availability.

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“Book the rental car first because that’s going to be the most amazing part of your trip,” he said.

How to save money on road trips as gas prices soar

Gas: up to 45 percent from April 2021

According to AAA, the national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was just over $4.16 on Wednesday, compared with $2.87 a year ago. Prices have come down in recent weeks after hitting record highs in March, but gasoline remains potentially a big item in summer road trip budgets.

Budget advice: Road travelers should take advantage of apps like GasBuddy or tools like Waze and Google Maps that can locate cheaper gas. Costco members can also purchase the chain’s discounted fuel.

The Washington Post broke down other ways travelers can save on road trips despite high gas prices here.

Cruises: Not sailing at this time last year

The world’s largest cruise operators have said they are seeing strong prices, in some cases higher than 2019, in the second half of 2022. US cruises weren’t even sailing at this point a year ago; they began to return last summer after suspending operations for more than a year due to the pandemic.

David Crooks, senior vice president of products and operations at cruise seller World Travel Holdings, said in an email that cruise prices this year and next still look good due to “significant increases in land-based alternatives.”

“With the CDC lifting its Travel Health Advisory for cruise ships, strong pent-up demand and strict cruise line health protocols combined with low prices, consumers are recognizing the value of cruises and demand is coming on strong.” , said.

Budget advice: Booking in the fall instead of peak Caribbean summer dates will save money (but it will also mean taking a cruise during the historically busiest part of hurricane season). A seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruise on a new Carnival ship, for example, costs $1,169 per person for a balcony room when it sails July 10. When the ship departs for the same itinerary on September 24, a room with a balcony is priced at $839 per person.