Avoiding last summer’s congested, expensive, and fully booked vacation season in the hopes of finding better deals and less hassle this year may be a wasted effort.
According to a recent survey by Bankrate, a consumer-finance data source, 63% of American adults intend to travel this summer, up from 61% at the same time last year. Aviation regulators have warned of another season of flight disruptions, and airlines are preparing for peak demand.
With inflation down to 4.9% in April from a high of 9.1% in June, and with the end of the pandemic emergency declared by the Biden administration, the age of Covid-related travel restrictions officially coming to an end, the forecasts make sense.
Industry analysts and travel experts agree that this summer, the wealthy are more likely to spend lavishly on vacations than the middle and working classes.
“Clients are just willing to pay whatever it costs to do what they have been waiting for for three years,” said Sandy Staples, owner of luxury travel service Artistico Travel in Granite Bay, California.
According to her, “we have clients doing a massive cruise,” and “the round-trip business class airfare to Iceland was over $11,000 per person.” They coughed up the dough.”
Bankrate showed that the percentage of households earning over $100,000 that plan to travel during the summer increased to 81% from 75% in 2017. On the opposite end of the income scale, only 54% of households with an annual income of less than $50,000 agreed.
According to Sally French, a travel expert at the personal finance business NerdWallet, many travel prices are still increasing at a greater rate than headline inflation. “Because inflation is already high as it is,” she said, “people trying to travel affordably this summer are going to have a hard time.”
Eighty percent of travellers told Bankrate they are searching for methods to save money rather than cancel their summer vacation plans altogether.
Inflation data reveal that while airline ticket costs have decreased by 0.9% from a year ago, petrol prices have decreased by more than 12%. Hopper, a website that monitors flight prices, projects that domestic round-trip fares will reach $328 in June, which is $72 less than last summer’s record top but still 4% higher than pre-pandemic levels. Travellers like Ocala, Florida’s Terri Johnson are opting for road excursions instead of flights.
According to Johnson, “I’m going to a wedding in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and then to Raleigh to visit cousins I’ve never met” who he discovered through an online genealogical service.
“Flying costs more with multiple destinations, so I’m driving,” she said, adding that she is minimising her use of hotels and bringing her own car to save money on rental car fees.
She won’t be alone on the roadways.
Bankrate reports that 26% of summer travellers, up from 16% last year, will opt to drive to their destinations rather than fly. AAA reports that the national average price for a gallon of ordinary petrol has dropped to $3.54 from $4.42 a year ago, and that rental car rates have dropped by more than 11% annually in the past month.
Bankrate also discovered that 29% of summer travellers, up from 22% last year, will choose for less expensive lodgings or vacation spots. And 26%, an increase from 19%, said they’ll be cutting back on the number of days they spend on the road.
NerdWallet reports that an overwhelming 85 percent of vacationers will use credit cards to pay for their summer excursions, with over 75 percent of those people paying off their balances in full as soon as they receive their monthly statement.
Rising interest rates mean that the remaining 26% of respondents who anticipate carrying travel-related liabilities will likely pay significantly more than they budgeted.
According to Ted Rossman, a senior industry analyst for Bankrate, the most recent quarter-point increase in interest rates by the Federal Reserve “won’t move the needle much” on credit card rates, but after 10 consecutive hikes, “the cumulative effect is significant.”
Rossman predicted that “the ordinary credit card customer would soon experience a rate that is 5 percentage points higher than in early 2022). If you’re making minimum payments on your debt, it can have a significant impact over time.
Destinations Analysts, a market research agency, found that 55% of American tourists reported in March that travel would be a high priority in their spending over the next three months, down 6% from the same period previous year. The percentage of people who think now is a favourable time to travel has dropped by eight percentage points, the study showed, to only 30 percent.
Some tourists seem unfazed by the high cost of their trip.
“It’s more of an adjustment mentally,” said Marcy Schackne, of Hollywood, Florida. To keep up with the quantity and quality of my travel experiences, I am willing to spend a little more of my hard-earned cash.
Even while affluent clients were more likely to cancel their trips than those with lower incomes, Staples reported high demand: “Summer travel requests have been coming in to the point that my team and I have had to make the decision to not take any additional requests.”
“We are definitely seeing the continuation of the’revenge travel’ post-pandemic,” she said.