Outrageous travel prices are here! How to be smart about your vacation and save money

With post-COVID-19 leisure travel roaring back, high prices, including plane tickets, hotel rooms and rental cars are here to say, travel industry experts told WHIO’s Molly Koweek.

“Prices are through the roof, and they probably will continue to be that way for a year or more,” Huffman Travel adviser, and former WHIO reporter, Lauren Kroger said.

“All of a sudden, I think now that a lot of the population is vaccinated, and restrictions are lifting, particularly here in the U.S., we’re seeing an enormous amount of demand,” Kroger said.

In the past few months she has been able to explore new places for work. However, most of the business travelers have not come back.

“There’s a problem. These are all basically leisure travelers,” aviation analyst Jay Ratliff said.

He explained, pre-pandemic business travelers made up 70 percent of the airlines’ revenue.

“So if they’re not showing up, then the money that they were counting on is going to translate into higher domestic fares for us on the leisure side, and that’s what we’ve been seeing throughout the summer,” Ratliff said.

He expects this to continue after he said the world’s airline industry lost about $128 billion in 2020. In 2021, he expects that industry to continue to lose about $48 billion.

“The high prices are going to stick around as long as the demand for travel continues to increase,” Ratliff said.

Once people land, Kroger said people should not expect steep discounts at their destinations.

“The demand is unprecedented. So we have hoteliers who don’t necessarily need to do those markdowns,” Kroger said.

Throughout the pandemic, hotels had to lay off staff or limit resources.

“So they’re still trying to build themselves back up,” Kroger said.

COVID-19 cuts are not only impacting the hotel industry. Kroger said rental car companies had to sell cars during the pandemic to make up for losses and now they’re not prepared for the increased demand.

“There’s a massive rental car shortage across the U.S.,” Kroger said.

This means people are sometimes paying two to three times what they would normally pay and, Kroger said, they are still running into problems.

“And then show up to start their vacation and find out that there’s actually nothing available,” Kroger said.

She expects high travel prices to continue for the next year to year and a half.

However, both she and Ratliff agree, planning and booking ahead can help travelers save.

“Sometimes eight, nine, 10 months. Find the cheaper fares. Lock them in. Grab the trip cancelation insurance for a couple of dollars, and then you’re set. If the airline industry raises the fares three times, you’re covered. You don’t have to worry about it,” Ratliff said.

He also said one of the cheapest times to travel is September. That is when people will find better airfare, hotel prices, and car rentals because that is one of the slowest travel months of the year.

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