Rising Prices See Travelers Changing Summer Travel Plans: Survey 

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Survey data for summer travel plans and bookings suggest the so-called revenge spending from savings during the pandemic might be waning, as consumers are less keen to indulge themselves with extravagant vacations.

More people plan to vacation than last summer, but affordability is cutting into their choice. 

A new Bankrate survey shows that American consumers are more mindful of their budgets, as climbing travel prices and interest rates force some 80 percent of travelers surveyed to change their plans for cheaper options.  

A further 58 percent of those unlikely to take a summer vacation say they can’t afford it, with Bankrate data showing a jump of 10 percent compared to the same period in 2022 when 48 percent of those unlikely to take a summer vacation said they couldn’t afford it.

Nearly 2 in 3 U.S. adults, or 63 percent, plan to take a summer vacation this year, according to the survey results. The figure is up two percent from 61 percent in 2022, but as inflation cuts into budgets people are preparing to adapt to rising costs. 

Some 29 percent of vacationers are saving money by selecting less expensive accommodations or destinations, closely followed by 28 percent who plan to engage in cheaper activities. 

Comparative data to last year shows that these percentages are higher, as 22 percent of vacationers chose less expensive accommodations or destinations, 23 percent engaged in cheaper activities, 19 percent traveled for fewer days, and 16 percent drove rather than flew to their destinations. 

“There’s a cumulative toll to both inflation and the higher interest rates that are meant to combat it,” said Bankrate senior industry analyst Ted Rossman.

“Prices were rising much faster last year at this time, but fewer travelers were adjusting their plans. Last year was also notable for the tremendous pent-up demand that was unleashed as COVID-19 restrictions and concerns began to ease.”

Flights Prices Exceed Pre-Pandemic Levels 

The latest 2023 second quarter consumer travel index data from Hopper shows domestic airfares are expected to rise steadily through June. 

Domestic airfares would see a 7 percent jump to $321 per round trip ticket in May, then rise 5 percent more, to peak at $328 in June. However, peak summer airfare in June is still expected to be 10 percent lower than the record peak of $400 per ticket in June 2022. 

These fare estimates remain 4 percent higher than pre-pandemic 2019 prices. Seasonal shoulder season drops in airfare can also be expected from July to August. Yet, Hopper data suggests late summer and early fall fares should see a return to pre-pandemic prices. 

Source: Hopper 2023 quarter-two consumer travel index 

Despite international travel is seeing high demand, lower supply is driving airfares to the highest levels in at least five years., according to Hopper. For example, airfare to Europe is 24 percent higher than pre-pandemic, while airfare to Asia has surged to 60 percent higher.

Add to this, Bankrate data shows that only 14 percent of people plan an international vacation or cruise this summer.

Premium Amenities Being Prioritized

Hopper data further indicates a 29 percent jump in hotel prices in the U.S. compared to April 2022. 

And despite Bankrate data showing a 9 percent jump, year-on-year, in travelers choosing more affordable accommodation, Hopper data shows travelers are prioritizing certain amenities, such as pools and pet-friendly accommodation, and are willing to pay a premium for it.  

Nearly two in five at 39 percent of vacationers opted for a beach break this summer, according to Bankrate, while 28 percent plan to go to a city, and a further 28 percent of U.S. travelers are planning a staycation or home-based vacation. 

Income and age are also key trend factors influencing travel choices, according to Bankrate. For example, households with an annual income of $100,000 or more are 81 percent most likely to be planning a summer vacation this year, compared to 65 percent of those who make between $50,000 and $99,999 and 54 percent earning less than $50,000. 

Gen Zers are most likely planning to take a summer vacation this year at 76 percent, compared to 70 percent of millennials and 62 percent of Gen Xers. Baby boomers were the only age group to see a decline, with 54 percent planning a vacation compared to 58 percent in 2022. 

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