Once upon a time, traveling wasn’t a question of “if”, but simply a question of “where?”.
When COVID-19 descended on the world in early 2020, however, international travel itself took a long vacation. Borders went on lockdown, civilians stayed home, and 43 commercial airlines went bankrupt.
Thankfully, those days are (hopefully) in the past, as travel — both international and domestic — has seen a major surge in recent months. Flight bookings and travel spending are closely mirroring the pre-pandemic levels of 2019. That’s great news.
However, the world has changed a lot since you last traveled, and some countries remain off-limits to foreign visitors. Many destinations are completely overbooked, while others are more affordable than ever.
It’s a brave new world out there. So, if you’re planning a new trip — whether across the country or to the far side of the world — here’s what to expect on your journey (and how to travel on a budget):
Here’s a quick word of advice: ignore the dramatic headlines on travel news and columns.
Most pieces use fear and shock value to generate clicks. They’re also frequently generalizing to an extreme degree. It’s important that you take all articles with a grain of salt and do your research.
We offer this advice because it’s so easy to read one pessimistic article and get discouraged by the state of things. The fact is, there are a lot of contradictions in the global travel market.
The average hotel daily room rate (ADR) hovers around 5% higher than it did in 2019. In the fall, for example, the average rate of New York City hotels jumped a whopping 28% from the previous year. That’s not great.
But hang on! Based on this information, you might assume that hotels — especially in urban centers — are all prohibitively expensive.
Not so! The New York Times recently found that most accommodations in cities around the world are 10 to 35 percent cheaper than they were pre-pandemic.
In general, the entire hotel industry is in a state of relative disarray, thanks to staffing shortages and a backlog of reservations. When you research your accommodations, be sure to read the fine print. Many hotels have closed their in-house restaurants, bars, cafes, and gyms, so make sure you get exactly what you pay for.
Pro Tip: If your top destinations have extraordinarily high prices (and if you’re comfortable rolling the dice), consider waiting to book accommodations until the 11th hour. Why? Recent studies show that hotels booked within two weeks of arrival were nearly 13% cheaper than reservations made months in advance.
During the height of the pandemic, most rental car companies were forced to sell off a majority of their fleet.
When travel restrictions were lifted, consumer demand for rental cars skyrocketed, and companies like Hertz and Enterprise were left unprepared. According to Ivan Drury, senior manager of insight at Edmunds, “The rental agencies weren’t moving units, no one was moving cars, they were holding on to these depreciating assets.”
The few cars available became more valuable than gold.
As a result, daily rental car costs can easily eclipse the cost of a domestic one-way flight. As one frustrated consumer remarked, “I did this same trip two years ago, it was $27 a day. I just got banged for $307.57 for two days?!”
Rising gas costs only add insult to injury.
So while you may hold off on booking a hotel ’til the last minute, get a jump on reserving a car.
How far in advance should you aim? Kayak advises a six-month lead time to maximize savings (and to guarantee yourself some wheels).
While cities may be atypically affordable right now, outdoor venues remain far from cheap.
Ski destinations and resorts are particularly busy right now. That’s as true in Colorado as it is in Turkish mountain ranges, where early reports suggest maximum occupancy throughout the winter season.
Vrbo, the vacation rental company and a direct competitor of Airbnb, recently reported a 40% increase in demand over 2019 for ski destination homes.
As for warmer climates, places nearer the equator are selling out for the holiday season and beyond. According to Megan Moncrief, CMO for Squaremouth, “The Dominican Republic, Turks & Caicos and the U.S. Virgin Islands had never been top destinations during the holiday season — but they are this year.”
Again, this is just one interpretation of the ever-changing travel landscape. Don’t be discouraged. If nature-heavy travel is what you need, you’ll be able to find a relaxing trip within your budget with just a careful bit of research.
While we’re living in a “post-pandemic world,” the effects of COVID-19 remain
That’s especially true for Americans embarking on international travel. These days, the United States government constantly updates the requirements before embarking on any border crossing flight. It’s become more important than ever to check your pre-travel requirements.
Though the protocol can change in the future, it’s not a bad idea to set aside time for COVID tests on both ends of your trip, so you don’t have to scramble to in the days leading up to flying.
Secondly, if you’re traveling abroad, make sure you check the local requirements for travel insurance. Some countries, like Singapore and Thailand, require a “COVID-19 inclusive” medical insurance cover for international visitors. Such policies ensure extra costs at the personal expense of travelers.
Ultimately, air travel is complicated during any time of the year. Add in a pandemic, inflation, plus a population hungry to experience the world, and those age-old complications become even more complex. Nevertheless, with a bit of research and planning, you can travel on a budget, and still enjoy the trip of your dreams.
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Ng, Abigail. “Over 40 Airlines Have Failed so Far This Year – and More Are Set to Come.” CNBC. CNBC, October 8, 2020. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/10/08/over-40-airlines-have-failed-in-2020-so-far-and-more-are-set-to-come.html.
Kkiesnoski, Kenneth. “Americans Are Looking Forward to Holiday Travel This Winter but Overspending and Uncertainty Could Spoil the Fun.” CNBC. CNBC, November 14, 2021. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/11/14/holiday-travel-may-rebound-but-overspending-uncertainty-can-spoil-fun.html.
Schulz, Bailey. “Yes, Room Prices Are Higher. Hotel Rates Hit Record High the Week of July 4.” USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network, July 15, 2021. https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/hotels/2021/07/15/hotel-room-prices-rates-average-record-daily/7984385002/.
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Kkiesnoski, Kenneth. “If You’re Looking for a Hotel Deal, It Might Pay to Wait until the Last Minute.” CNBC. CNBC, September 26, 2021. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/09/26/if-looking-for-a-hotel-deal-it-might-pay-to-wait-until-the-last-minute.html
Fonrouge, Gabrielle. “Car Rental Prices Skyrocket Ahead of Thanksgiving amid Supply Chain Issues.” New York Post. New York Post, November 23, 2021. https://nypost.com/2021/11/23/car-rental-prices-increase-75-percent-ahead-of-thanksgiving/.
Coşan, Burak. “Ski Resorts Preparing for Busy Season – Turkey News.” Hürriyet Daily News, December 11, 2021. https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/ski-resorts-preparing-for-busy-season-169985.
“New Vrbo Data Shows Surge in Early Demand for Ski Destinations.” Vrbo.com. Vrbo, October 13, 2021. Vrbo. https://www.vrbo.com/media-center/press-releases/2021/new-vrbo-data-shows-surge-in-early-demand-for-ski-destinations.