Here's why summer travel vacations will cost more this year

Summer vacations, a big-ticket purchase for most Americans, will be even costlier this year despite airfares, rental car costs and other travel-related expenses dropping. The reason? Elevated prices on things like checked bags, restaurants and recreational experiences. 

While hotel prices are down 4%, airfares down 6% and rental car costs have dipped 10%, according to a NerdWallet survey, vacationing this summer will cost 15% more than it did before the pandemic. That’s because airline extras like seat selection fees, as well as dining out and entertainment costs, are making a bigger dent on Americans’ wallets. 

“Inflation is no joke. Americans are feeling the impact,” said CBS News senior transportation correspondent Kris Van Cleave. “What they’re going to find when that bill comes, it’s going to look a lot like it did last year, but there are some real pain points,” he added. 

One of those pain points is airline baggage fees. That could be $5 and then multiply that times two for your roundtrip, multiply that by four for your family of four, and you’re seeing that the cost of travel does feel like it’s going up even if individual prices are going down,” Sally French, who tracks vacation inflation for NerdWallet, told CBS News. 

Vacation activity costs, such as visiting amusement parks or other sites, have risen 3.4% since 2019, according to NerdWallet. 

As far as eating out goes, restaurant dining is up nearly 30% compared with 2019. That could amount to a significant expense for vacationers, many of whom don’t include food in their budget. “A lot of people won’t budget restaurant prices when they’re making that initial vacation plan,” French said. “They’re budgeting out the price of their hotel and airfare.”

Indeed airfares can appear artificially low when only the base fare is advertised which doesn’t take into account the cost of extras like choosing a seat. 

Ways to save on summer travel

Despite inflation and concerns about the state of the economy weighing on Americans’ psyches and wallets, roughly 70% still say they will take a trip this summer. 

Van Cleave offers these tips for consumers looking to cut costs when taking trips. 

  • It always pays to travel at off-peak times, when airfares tend to be cheaper. Over Memorial Day Weekend, for example, Saturday is a slower travel day compared with Thursday and Friday, which folks look to so they can get a head start on their long weekends. 
  • Being flexible on where you travel can also help your wallet. Avoiding particularly popular or congested areas can lead to significant savings. “If you just want a beach, you maybe go to a less popular, less in-demand destination,”  Van Cleave suggests. “You get the sun, you get the sand, you get the surf and maybe you get a smaller bill.”
  • Lastly, spend your travel rewards and credit card points as you accumulate them, as opposed to stockpiling them for some point in the future, when they may be worth less. “Use them as you get them to cut travel costs. The only guarantee with those points is they become less valuable as time goes on,” Van Cleave said. 

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