It will be a busy summer travel season. And different.
Experts’ summer travel advice is also different.
According to Allianz Partners’ Top 10 Summer Destinations review, domestic travel volume will increase 16% from last year, with almost 75% of Americans planning to travel domestically for their summer vacations. And travel to Europe will increase by 600% compared to last year.
“The floodgates have been opened,” says Valentina O’Kane, owner of Incognito Global Travel, a subsidiary of Embark Beyond. “People are rushing to get there again. Popular tourist destinations are overbooked with almost no availability. It’s going to be overcrowded and overpriced this summer.”
I just interviewed 200 top travel experts about what lies ahead for travel. Here is the first part of my series outlining what to expect in the next three months.
I have two important implications. Covid is far from over, so you may need to get tested before you leave or when you return.
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” says Mahmood Khan, professor of hospitality and tourism at Virginia Tech. “Precautions and patience are still needed when planning a summer trip.
Travel experts like Patricia Schultz, author of 1000 Places to See Before You Die, say Covid may continue to be a factor this summer.
“What we hear for those who want to listen is the anxiety and frustration of those who find themselves in varying degrees of predicament upon arrival at their destination or hours before they return to the United States,” he says.
The second pack will be chaos for those brave enough to travel.
“This summer, flight cancellations are raging,” says Bill McGee, a senior researcher in aviation and travel at the American Economic Freedoms Project. “Most analysts predict passenger load factors will rise to levels we haven’t seen since WWII.”
I asked my panel of experts for the best summer travel advice they’ve yet to hear. What do the pros say?
- You don’t want to procrastinate this summer. From airlines to hotels, timing is more important than ever. In particular, the time of reservation now.
- How should you go there? If possible, drive. But if you must fly, be prepared to spend more and endure long delays and cancellations.
- When it comes to choosing a destination, stay close to home or go somewhere out of season to avoid the tourist crowds.
- Your flexibility and creativity will determine the success of your vacation.
When should I make a reservation for my 2022 summer vacation?
On this, experts agree on summer travel advice. If you haven’t booked a vacation yet, you need to do it now.
Timing is everything. A recent analysis by Kayak found that flying mid-week will make you the most money domestically. Flights are on average 13% cheaper on Wednesday. Most expensive day? Sunday, where flights are 15% more expensive.
Flying in the morning for international travel can help you save money. Flights between 5am and 10am are 22% cheaper than the rest of the day. However, the opposite is true for domestic flights. It is 12% cheaper to fly between 10:00 and 22:00 in the morning than to fly early in the morning.
Book your hotels early and consider paying a little more. “This will save your vacation and give you and your family the long-awaited vacation you’ve been dreaming of,” says Sangeeta Sadarangani, CEO of Crossing, a multinational travel agency headquartered in London. “Many hotel staff are understaffed and have new and inexperienced staff working in them.” By paying a little extra for a five-star experience, you are more likely to land in a luxury property where experienced staff will provide you with a relaxing time. “The best travel advisors visit hotels and interact closely with hoteliers and have insider information on what’s hot and what’s not,” he adds.
Make your other reservations now. That’s the advice of Cristiano Cabutti, general manager of JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa. “One thing we’ve noticed is that our guests are so eager to travel and return to classic European destinations that they don’t realize they need to plan ahead to have the best guaranteed experience this summer,” he says. Plan ahead for restaurant reservations, museum tickets, and private tours. They sell fast.
Check the expiration dates of your passport. “Many of them have not traveled internationally for a while and are unaware that if their passports expire or expire in six months, you will be denied entry to certain countries,” says Danny Finkel, commercial director of TripActions. Also, keep in mind that some destinations and international airlines still require masks. “Make sure to check before your flight,” he adds.
How to get to your destination in the summer of 2022?
Experts say you shouldn’t cut corners. And if possible, drive.
Skip the budget airlines. That’s summer travel advice from Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst at DealNews.com. “Yes, they offer ridiculously low prices on domestic and international flights,” she says. “But you’ll eventually pay in other ways.” At a time when holiday budgets are being consumed by inflation, the last thing you want is a surprise charge for your flight. “Instead, choose a major airline and travel during a good time, such as a weekday, when prices are naturally cheaper,” adds she. “This way, the cost of things like snacks and cabin baggage is built-in and you don’t have to worry about allocating more money for these items on your flight.” Budget airlines often have rather thin schedules and smaller fleets. So if your flight is canceled due to weather conditions or a mechanical problem, you may have to wait days for the next flight on that airline.
Drive, don’t fly. “Pilot shortages are real and impact travel dramatically,” says travel expert Peggy Cleveland. 100 Things To Do In Tacoma Before You Die. “For example, summer storms cause travel delays at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport each year. Add in a shortage of pilots and full planes, and that’s a recipe for a delay that can last several days.”
Beware of extra insurance requirements. “Despite the current recovery, some international destinations continue to require tourists to provide proof of travel insurance upon arrival as part of their Covid policies,” says Beth Godlin, head of Aon Affinity Travel Practice. Check before you leave and make sure you have the right insurance.
Where should you go this summer?
This summer, you need to zig-zag while everyone else is zagging. At least that’s the consensus of travel experts on summer travel.
Consider an off-season destination. Jessica Bradford did this while planning her summer vacation. “I’m going to Morocco this summer,” says Bradford, who runs a communications firm specializing in lifestyle products and services. “At first I thought it might be too hot, but when I looked at the temperatures in Marrakech in July, they weren’t too far off from what they would probably be in Los Angeles, where I live. Plus, there will be less crowds in the arcades and museums.”
Find an alternative destination. “Rather than trying to get to the Amalfi Coast or the French Riviera this summer, head to Greece or Southern Spain, where there’s still room and great deals,” says Jack Ezon, who runs luxury travel consulting firm Embark Beyond. “And now that Australia is open, consider exploring Australia this summer, or head to French Polynesia or even the Galapagos or Peru. There’s still room at reasonable prices and there’s never been a better time to explore.”
Have your stay. They became popular during the pandemic period. But according to Warren Jaferian, dean of international education at Endicott College, a vacation close to home can save you money and headaches as Americans begin to travel more. “So my advice is to visit your local attractions, support local businesses, and save your money,” he says.
Summer travel advice: Here are a few key strategies
Experts say you need to take a different approach to planning a summer vacation this year. Again, flexibility is crucial.
Keep things in perspective. This is especially true for fuel prices, which seem to get a lot of media attention. “Don’t stress too much about gas prices,” says Tom Kaiden, business manager at Visit Alexandria. “As long as you don’t drive internationally, it’s still only a small fraction of your total vacation cost.” Instead, focus on more expensive items like accommodation, meals, and activities. If the numbers don’t make sense, you can always downsize your getaway and travel closer.
Always have a Plan B. “With flights being so full, there’s a chance that a canceled flight will seriously disrupt your travel plans in the coming days,” says Bob Winter, owner of Lake Country Travel. “Always know about backup flights. Take the time to check online the morning of your departure and pull some additional flight options to your destination, preferably with the same airline or an airline within the same alliance.” A site like Google Flights lets you sort by hours, fares, and airline alliance.
Take a shortcut. Some airports have implemented programs that allow you to reserve your next place to save time. For example, you can use a program called PHX RESERVE to keep a spot in line in Phoenix Sky Harbor. “This is a free service that allows passengers to take time to get into the security checkpoint line,” says airport spokesperson Heather Shelbrack. “They can book up to three days before their flight and go to a designated checkpoint lane for screening when they arrive.”
And finally, the most contradictory summer travel advice…
Do not travel this summer. “Wait until you drop,” says Kimberly Davis, founder of travel agency Trouvaille Travel. “Prices are too high, availability is low, airline staff are still not at the required levels for demand, and we’re in a new wave of Covid. And frankly, the crowds at most tourist destinations won’t just visit them. It’s unpleasant, but over-tourism harms both sites and communities.” His advice? Wait until later to embark on this dream journey and stay close to home this summer.
Bottom line: This could be summer for a different type of vacation. But if you’re going to go, go without fear. Plan for the worst-case scenario. Hopefully, you will never need to use most of the travel advice this summer.