Rising gas and flight prices are forcing travelers to rethink summer vacations

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Sara Jensen had hoped to travel to Germany to visit family in August, her first trip there since 2019, but she canceled the international excursion as flight prices rose.

Also off the list this summer is a trip from Sacramento to the Midwest to visit friends. With average gas prices hovering below $6 a gallon in California, a few other road trips could also be on the chopping block.

“Two of the trips we had planned, we won’t be doing,” Jensen said. “We were talking about going on a road trip with our kids, and I don’t even know if it will pay off.”

After the delta variant cooled off the “vax hot summer” last year and the omicron surge froze vacation travel, many Americans clung to the idea of ​​returning to a season of normal vacation – or so-called “revenge trip”. Instead, pent-up travel demand, high gas prices and inflation created the perfect storm.

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This has led many travelers to re-evaluate their itineraries, whether that means canceling that overseas trip (again) or swapping it for smaller domestic tours.

Michelle Shainess, who runs outdoor travel blog Almost There Adventures, was planning to return overseas this summer. When she looked at flights to Europe from her home in Minneapolis, they ranged from $1,000 to $1,500 each, an untenable price for her family of five. Now the Shainesses are swapping their European vacations for domestic flights and road trips to national parks. To save on gas, they will rent hybrid cars using the peer-to-peer car rental app Turo.

This summer, the family is hosting tours to several Washington state parks, including Olympic, Mount Rainier, North Cascades and San Juan Island. Parks lend themselves to trips that can be done more economically, Shainess said.

“It’s more about getting back to values ​​and really trying to value family time,” she said. “We are just trying to review the situation and travel in any way we can. So with covid it was road trips only, no theft. Now it’s more flying and driving, but how can we do this profitably? »

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Much of this calculation is based on downsizing housing. For Shainess, that means mixing Airbnb stays with a few nights of glamping. Depending on location and amenities, she found glamping stays ranging from $150 to $200 per night. This can be a significant saving compared to Airbnb, where she also has to consider fees.

Travel prices have increased in all areas. Thefts rose nearly 13% in February from the same period a year earlier, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and costs are expected to continue to rise. Accommodation prices have also increased, with hotel rates up nearly 40% from last March and home rentals up 13% from February 2021.

Labor shortages are also part of the problem. Hotels have fewer staff and less inventory, which translates into higher prices for consumers, according to Peter Vlitas, executive vice president of partner relations at Internova Travel Group. Beachfront hotels in destinations such as Miami and Fort Lauderdale have doubled in price, he said.

“I don’t want to use the word profiteer, but [for] two years, some suppliers had no income,” he said. “Now that there is pent-up demand, they are taking advantage of the situation and trying to get the best price.”

Among the travelers hardest hit by inflation are procrastinators, Vlitas said.

Everything you need for the return trip

This includes Justin Sims, an insurance adjuster in Birmingham, Alabama, who usually books international flights 48 hours before his trip due to his unpredictable schedule. A few months ago, he saw a $600 flight to Jordan; now they are $1,100, he said. He’s considering a trip there this summer, or maybe Rome, but if prices don’t drop, he’ll stick to the Caribbean. Meanwhile, his other dream destinations may linger into the distant future.

“The Maldives and Dubai have the highest prices. It’s kind of like ‘Ooh, I’ll be waiting,’” Sims said with a sigh and a laugh. “Definitely a waiting-type situation.”

For Jensen, a single mom whose daughter is on a competitive cheering team, trips for those extracurricular activities this spring have eaten into the summer budget. Soaring gas prices meant the cost of driving from Sacramento to Los Angeles, which Jensen said normally costs around $200 round trip, doubled. That makes their summer trip all the less likely, especially since Jensen said hotels she’s visited in Utah and Arizona have gone up by $100 or $150 a night.

“As a single parent, you jump from saving for something to another,” she said, noting that she often doesn’t have the luxury of finding travel deals month to month. advance. “We pay more for last-minute things than families who have a lot of cushion, so we pay higher prices anyway.”

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Rising prices haven’t deterred comedian and avid adventurer Amber Klear, who is hitting the road more than ever.

“If anything, I travel more because I think our current circumstances in life just make people realize that life is short,” said Klear, who says she has had a different perspective on life since. that she survived a blood clot in her brain a decade ago. “People I’ve spoken to and even I have held back for the past few years. And even comedy shows are growing exponentially and [I’m] find that people just go out more. They go further. They don’t skip their vacations.

Klear, who is based in O’Fallon, Illinois, said she travels to more remote locations because she loves the juxtaposition of performing at crowded shows and being alone outdoors. She used to set up hikes around her comedy gigs, but now she creates a spreadsheet with her wish list of hikes before setting up her tour. An August trip to Mammoth Cave National Park will include shows in Bowling Green, Ky., while an exploration of Stephen’s Gap will stop in Huntsville, Ala.

In the past, Klear often found hotel deals the day before he arrived. With the price of accommodation rising, she said she was more likely to stay at a campsite or sleep in her Jeep.

“I almost pulled the trigger to buy a pull-along motorhome,” she said, “but with gas prices, I figure I don’t really need one. sink.”

In addition to traveling for shows, Klear also hires comedians from around the country for a southern Illinois resort. Tickets normally cost between $10 and $20, but she raised them to $15 to $45 to account for travel costs for the comedians. An up-and-coming Los Angeles comedian canceled because he can no longer afford the flight, she said. And in a Seinfeldian twist, some comedians ride in cars together to split the cost.

“They’re carpooling a lot more, and it’s really funny,” Klear said. “I think their material is growing because of that.”

Although gas prices have shocked many Americans, the price at the pump does not worry the two owners of Tesla, Bridgette and David Kelch. The St. Louis couple saved nearly $200 on fuel costs in the past month alone. This summer they will embark on further trips to national parks, as well as a flight to Canada for a journey through the Canadian Rockies.

“This is the trip where we’ve been most concerned about travel prices when it comes to airfares,” David Kelch said.

While the Kelches watch prices, they aren’t letting higher fares stop them from traveling. In addition to stamping each national park site in their park passports, they look forward to a Minneapolis Twins baseball game with David’s dad and a trip to Glacier National Park to see the glaciers “before they melt.” said Bridgette.

“I think the pandemic and Ukraine has brought that to the fore: don’t take it for granted,” Bridgette Kelch said. “Get out and explore, see these cool things and eat this amazing food and enjoy what we have here.”


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