Expect most expensive holiday travel in 5 years: Report

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(NewsNation) — While consumers’ pockets are often stretched thin come the holiday season, this year may cause an extra pinch as, according to travel booking group Hopper, Thanksgiving and Christmas airfare projections are at their highest in five years.

“After two years of depressed holiday season travel due to waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans are gearing up for a season of Thanksgiving and Christmas travel once again,” according to the group’s September report.

Along with pent-up demand from lockdown and travel restrictions over the past two years, the study cites jet fuel prices, supply chain woes and inflation as the causes of the five-year high.

“A lot of folks might feel comfortable traveling again, might want to travel again, but once they see the fares that are left at this point, (they) might have second thoughts about it,” Scott Keyes, founder, Scott’s Cheap Flights, said on NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” Wednesday.

A recent review from SmartAsset found the biggest increase in getting to Pensacola, Florida: A year ago, the average fare was around $300; now it is $462.

Hopper expects this year’s Thanksgiving travelers to pay $350 per ticket for a domestic Thanksgiving flight — 22% higher than in 2019 and 43% higher than last year. 

Similarly, getting to the West rounds out the Top Five: The Seattle-Tacoma average was under $300 last year — now it has jumped to $437.

National park trips to Yosemite and Yellowstone are also up over 40%, along with getting to Los Angeles, which now averages about $450.

Meanwhile, international fliers can expect to pay $795 per ticket this Thanksgiving — up 25% compared to 2019 and up 41% compared to last year.

For individuals looking to travel during Christmas, Hopper estimates fliers will average $463 per ticket as of mid-September — 31% higher than in 2019 and 39% higher than last year. 

International airfare during Christmastime has risen to $1,300 per ticket this year, an increase of 26% compared to 2019 and 20% compared to 2018.

One frequent flier between Detroit and LA even saw fares over $1400, but saved by being flexible.

“What happens if I just leave one extra day — like I’m just going on a Wednesday afternoon instead of Tuesday afternoon? And it went from $1438 to $828,” said Bryan, a frequent flier, on “Rush Hour” Wednesday.

Cheapest days to fly

As one could probably guess, Hopper lists the weekend ahead of Thanksgiving and the holiday weekend itself as the most expensive travel days for domestic fliers. As a solution, the site suggests booking the Monday (Nov. 21) of Thanksgiving and any weekday following (Nov. 28 -Dec. 2) instead.

For those flying internationally, Hopper says traveling the day before Thanksgiving (Nov. 23) can save upward of 12%, or $100 on average. And upon returning, the site says travelers can save 17%, or $162 on average, off airfare by returning Cyber Monday (Nov. 28).

Because Christmas falls on a weekend this year, Hopper recommends avoiding the days before and after (Thursday, Friday and Monday) if you plan on flying domestically. Instead, choose the Monday or Tuesday ahead and Tuesday or Wednesday after for returning.

As far as traveling internationally for Christmas, the key, according to Hopper, is to book the flight as close to Christmas Day as possible. The site recommended returning before New Year’s Eve,

Most accommodating destinations

Lodgings have gotten more expensive over the past two years as well, Hopper says. The average nightly rate over Thanksgiving is $189 per night — an increase of 13% from last year’s average nightly rate of $167 per night.

The average nightly rate for a hotel stay over the Christmas holiday is currently $218 per night — an increase of 32% from Christmas last year. 

Hopper recommends booking last-minute hotels, so long as travelers are willing to compromise quality for price. According to the report, consumers can save as much as 25% by booking at the last minute on the day of or the day before their stay. 

While the higher fares have added to the stress caused by Delta Air Lines pilots threatening to strike, observers say a holiday job action is unlikely, as is any repeat of the chaos that plagued travelers early this summer.

“What’s happened since then is that airlines have essentially trimmed their schedules to something that they can actually reliably operate now. They’ve gotten to a point where their eyes are no longer bigger than their stomach,” Keyes said.

Fuller flights mean higher odds of being bumped and offered travel vouchers. According to bankrate.com, inflation has about 80% of travelers changing their holiday plans.

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