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Pricey travel keeping Americans home: How to save on summer travel

Airfare, gas and lodging prices are shortening vacations this year, data finds.
Memorial Day Travel
Posted at 5:33 AM, May 24, 2024

If you've been booking your summer travel, you may have noticed airfares are down slightly compared to last year, though other travel costs are pricier.

Bunny Sandvig provides optimism for the 2024 summer travel season, describing her recent flight across the country as "super cheap."

"I had to take a middle seat because I didn't get to choose, and no checked bags. So, there are bargains out there," she said.

J.P. McClain was slightly less optimistic.

"I live in Seattle with five people over 2 years old, and it's expensive," he said.

New research from Deloitte shows Americans are traveling less this summer: an average of 2.3 trips versus 3.1 trips last year, mostly due to the impact of continued inflation. The average vacation budget is up about 10%, the report says.

For airfare deals, Nerdwallet travel expert Sally French recommends tracking prices using aggregators like Google Flights and jumping on deals when you see them. She says the good news for this summer is that more trips should be available than in the last three years, lowering prices due to a less constricted supply of seats.

"Those more robust flight schedules are really what puts airfares in consumers' favor," French said.

Save on lodging

But saving money on travel doesn't have to end at the airport. Where you stay can also help you stick to a budget.

Smart shopping expert Trae Bodge says home and condo rentals offer more space and are likelier to have a kitchen than a hotel room.

"I typically find that a vacation rental property versus a hotel is the way to go," she said.

Bodge says every meal made at "home" can save $50 to $100 on restaurant expenses.

"Of course, I like to experience local foods and the local atmosphere," she said, "but not all three meals every single day because that can really add up."

Save on driving trips

If you're on a road trip, Bodge suggests packing a cooler instead of picking up snacks from gas stations and drive-thrus, especially with a family.

Bodge also says:

  • Consider public transportation over rental cars
  • Join free loyalty programs
  • Use a travel-friendly credit card that builds up points or miles, especially if you're going overseas
  • Use an app like Gas Buddy to find the lowest gas prices near you

Jaden Steeley was flying to England and found the best way to save.
"We're staying with family," he said, saving about $300 per night.

If you can do that, you are way ahead of the game, and that way you don't waste your money.

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