Here's how to navigate pricey summer travel

·Senior Columnist
·6 min read

Summer travel is smoking hot. Airfares are high. Planes are packed, and hotels are pricey.

About 6 in 10 Americans are taking at least one summer trip, according to the latest data from the U.S. Travel Association. Of those planning vacations, 35% expect to travel more this summer than last.

But your 2022 summer vacation could cost between 25% and 50% more than last summer's vacation, Christopher Elliott, a consumer advocate and editor of the travel newsletter Elliott Confidential, told Yahoo Money.

“This is the summer for a staycation,” Elliott said. “Airlines are trying to make up for two bad years by raising fares to record levels. Passengers be damned.”

For those still set on globetrotting, travelers who can be flexible with schedules, take time to research, and wait for the best airfares and room rates can still find deals. To unpack ways to save money in the face of inflationary headwinds, Yahoo Money reached out to top travel experts for their advice.

Travelers walk through Midway Airport in Chicago on April 28, 2022. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Travelers walk through Midway Airport in Chicago on April 28, 2022. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Where you travel

Some of this summer’s cheapest domestic destinations to fly round-trip are Fort Lauderdale, Fla., (average price is $289), Minneapolis (average price is $297), New York (average price $316) and Nashville (average price is $324), according to KAYAK data.

And it may serve you well to look beyond the U.S. this summer for your getaway.

“If you're having trouble finding good deals this summer domestically, we’re seeing some better deals in Europe,” Summer Hull, a travel expert with the The Points Guy, a website devoted to maximizing credit card, airline and hotel loyalty points, told Yahoo Money. “But you have to be willing to deal with some of the reentry testing requirements and be flexible on where you go.”

With the exchange rate between a weakening euro and the more robust dollar at the lowest in five years, a European jaunt can be reasonably affordable. Amsterdam, Barcelona, Prague, for instance, are popular destinations right now, Christie Hudson, Expedia Group’s travel expert, told Yahoo Money.

Other top international destinations for U.S. travelers with cheap fares and benefitting from a strong dollar include Calgary, Mexico City, Panama City and Vancouver, according to KAYAK’s reporting.

As for lodging, expect the best hotel deals in cities such as Boston, Chicago, and New York, according to Hudson.

“Cities were slower to recover over the course of the pandemic because people sought out beach destinations, nature, outdoor stuff,” Hudson said.. “They aren't the beach, but they can be very cool places to go during the summer as well.”

One place to search for the best room rates is Hotels.com’s new Hot Price Index, which tracks average nightly hotel rates in hundreds of destinations worldwide to find the best deals.

When you travel

Santa Ana, CA - May 26: An airplane prepares to be loaded as passengers make their way to their gates during the Memorial Day weekend getaway at John Wayne Airport Orange County in John Wayne Airport, Santa Ana, CA on Thursday, May 26, 2022. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
An airplane prepares to be loaded as passengers make their way to their gates during the Memorial Day weekend getaway at John Wayne Airport Orange County in John Wayne Airport, Santa Ana, CA on Thursday, May 26, 2022. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Timing matters.

“Not all summer months are priced the same,” Hudson said.

August, for example, is by far the cheapest month to fly, according to Expedia data. The average ticket prices for August go down 10% compared to July. And they're 5% cheaper than June, especially the last two weeks of August, when some of the country has gone back to school and summer travels winding down.

“The first two weeks of September are looking awfully good,” Elliott said.

The day of the week you travel is key, too.

“For domestic flights, Sunday is the most expensive day of the week to fly,” Jake Bouvrie, vice president of data science and chief economist at KAYAK, told Yahoo Money. “Flights are 15% more expensive on average that day than other days of the week.”

It's about 15% cheaper to travel on a Tuesday versus a Friday in terms of airfare tickets, according to Expedia’s research.

“For international flights, Thursday is the cheapest day of the week to fly when flights are 4% cheaper on average that day compared to other days of the week,” Bouvrie said. “Flying in the morning may help you save money on these trips out of the country. Flights between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. are 22% cheaper than other times throughout the day.”

The priciest time to travel this summer? The 4th of July, which falls on a Monday, creating a convenient long weekend.

“It's going be about 25% more expensive than average to take that trip,” Hudson said.

When you book

The crystal ball question of whether prices will keep rising is tough to know. But based on Expedia data, “flight bookings two weeks to a month in advance of your travel date are kind of the sweet spot right now to get the best price,” Hudson said. “People who are planning more than 60 days in advance are actually paying higher fares on average.”

Free price tracking tools that alert you when prices drop or are about to go up such as travel search engine KAYAK’s price alerts, Google Flights, Hopper and Skyscanner can be your best friend. Expedia also has a new tracker on its app that tells you the exact day to expect the price to be best for your trip.

Meanwhile, “travelers might combine two one-way tickets on different airlines that we call a ‘hacker fare,’ which can save them money over a traditional round-trip,” Bouvrie said.

Other cost-saving tips

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 25: People stand at a Hertz car rental counter in the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on October 25, 2021 in Miami, Florida. Hertz announced that it ordered 100,000 Teslas as the company is emerging from bankruptcy. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
People stand at a Hertz car rental counter in the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on October 25, 2021 in Miami, Florida. Hertz announced that it ordered 100,000 Teslas as the company is emerging from bankruptcy. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

To dig out a car rental deal, turn to AutoSlash, Hull said.

“When you put in a request, the search engine scans a large database of car rental coupon and discount codes, then sends you the cheapest rate,” Hull said. ‘And it’s free to use.”

If you’re set on the beach for the summer sandcastle building, the all-inclusive packages that combine the cost of drinks and food with the price of your room may be the best way to budget and protect yourself from rising costs, Hudson said.

“You can budget for it in advance. And you don't have to worry about it once you get there,” Hudson said.

Bundling your flight, hotel, and/or rental car all in one booking can also cut down costs.

“It can save you hundreds of dollars,” Hudson said. “I've done it for many, many trips for my family. And you get a package rate just by doing that.”

Hull’s top dollar-saving recommendation: credit card reward points.

“This is the summer to use them,” she said. “Same goes for airline companion vouchers that you may have ignored in the past. For a family, that can immediately knock hundreds of dollars off what you pay.”

YF Plus
YF Plus

Kerry is a Senior Columnist and Senior Reporter at Yahoo Money. Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon

Read the latest personal finance trends and news from Yahoo Money.

Follow Yahoo Finance on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Flipboard, and LinkedIn.