Friday, February 3, 2023

Cheap travel is finally arriving after an expensive summer

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With record gas prices and soaring airfares, the traditionally busy summer travel season was a season on a budget.

However, relief is on the way with the arrival of the slower travel season – known as the shoulder season – as kids head back to school. But travelers should still expect to pay more than they have in recent years.

Although the biggest price drops await in autumn, overheated summer prices are already starting to cool.

The national average for a gallon of gas on Monday was $4.21, down 14 cents from a week ago and down 63 cents from a month ago, according to AAA. That’s still more than $1 per gallon higher than a year ago.

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After months of increases, consumer price data showed that airfares fell 1.8 percent in June from a month earlier and lodging rates fell 3.3 percent, according to the US Travel Association’s travel price index.

In a price forecast released Monday, travel booking app Hopper said domestic flights will drop to an average of $286 round-trip this month, down 25 percent from the peak cost in May.

A drop from summer to fall is normal, but this big drop is not, said Hopper chief economist Hayley Berg.

“Typically, we would see maybe a 10 to 15 percent drop in price,” she said. “And it’s really more about high prices this summer and less about what’s going on this fall.”

Airline ticket prices peaked higher than expected in May and June, she said, thanks to high jet fuel prices, high demand and limited capacity.

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Hopper said Monday there’s some good news for hotel guests, too: The average cost of a night’s stay has dropped slightly from $199 in mid-June to $185 now. The company expects hotel rates to continue falling this month before rising in September and October.

Travel analyst Henry Harteveldt, president of Atmosphere Research Group, said a slowdown in the economy would typically prompt travel companies — cruise lines, hotels, airlines, rental car companies — to cut prices if demand falls. . But he warned that travelers should not expect pre-pandemic prices.

“Unless the bottom falls out of the economy, which it doesn’t look like it will now, I don’t think we’ll see travel prices fall below levels seen in 2019 or earlier, at least within the U.S.,” he said. he.

He said that if the dollar remains strong against the euro, leisure travelers to Europe could pay relatively less than in 2019 for hotels, food and entertainment.

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Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, recommends traveling in late summer or early fall for reasons beyond the lowest prices. The travel chaos earlier this summer, for example, is likely to be less of a problem with fewer crowds.

“That’s just because there’s a lot less strain on the system in the fall,” he said.

Keyes said the weather is still generally good in the Northern Hemisphere in September and October (although hurricane season can throw a wrench into the planet) and the experience of exploring new places, or revisiting favorites, can be more enjoyable. .

“The number of other tourists drops to a fraction because of the academic calendar, so you’ll have a lot more breathing room, a lot less competition when it comes to not only airline tickets, but hotels, cars rent, activities,” he said. .

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