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Crowds, high prices and the ‘White Lotus’ effect: Worst places to travel this summer

(NEXSTAR) – Summer vacation is supposed to be about rest and relaxation. But in reality, it sometimes ends up being about overpriced tourist traps, crowded streets or delayed flights.

How can you avoid that fate? We asked Clint Henderson, frequent traveler and managing editor at The Points Guy, for some guidance.

First off, make sure you pick the right location to jet off to. If you’re looking for peace and tranquility, there are some destinations you may want to avoid in 2023.

“The ‘White Lotus’ effect is real,” Henderson said, referring to the popular HBO series that portrays luxury travel in Hawaii and Sicily, Italy.

“Pretty much anytime you put a location in a film or a popular TV series, it’s going to become really popular,” he explained. “In fact, it’s tough to even get a hotel room sometimes now in Sicily.”

It’s not just Sicily — The Points Guy is seeing huge demand for pretty much all European destination this year, Henderson said. Some spots have made moves to restrict overtourism, like the Amalfi Coast’s new driving restrictions and the reservation system implemented at the idyllic Calanques trails and beaches in the south of France.

Elsewhere on France’s coastline, near Normandy’s Etretat, an abundance of tourists is believed to be contributing to erosion and strain on wastewater treatment infrastructure.

Back here in the U.S., Hawaii’s leaders are also looking at ways to limit or pace out tourist access to popular sites, like the Hana Highway, Waimea Bay and Shark’s Cove. Also victim to the “White Lotus” effect, hotel prices are especially high on the Hawaiian islands this summer, Henderson said.

Japan is also in demand this year, Henderson said, because it recently reopened to tourism after a prolonged COVID shutdown. But because airlines haven’t picked up all the Japan routes in 2020, flight prices remain exorbitantly high.

Similarly, it’s difficult to find flights from the U.S. to China for under $3,000, Henderson said.

Basically the only deals to be had, Henderson explained, are from low-cost airlines that are launching new routes, like TAP Air Portugal adding more flights to Lisbon, Aer Lingus to Dublin, and Norse Atlantic Airways to Oslo. Flying mid-week can also help shave off some dollars from the ticket price.

If your heart is set on one of the aforementioned hot spots, a tweak in timing could save your trip.

“I’m planning trips to Europe, but I’m waiting till September and October. Shoulder season is my favorite time to travel. You get better deals, there’s more availability of hotel rooms and places are less crowded,” said Henderson.

That’s not very helpful for people who are bound by kids’ school schedules or otherwise have to travel during the peak June-to-August summer timeframe, Henderson acknowledged. For those families, he suggested it’s a good time to cash in any credit card points or airlines miles you might have to help save money.

In any case, prepare for sticker shock when planning your vacation this summer.

“I priced flights, just anecdotally, between New York and Rome, and a flight that could should cost $600 is $1,000, $2,000, even $3,000 in coach,” Henderson said.

He attributed the huge jump in prices to several factors, including inflation and supercharged demand. Many people who put their travel plans on hold in 2020 and 2021 and getting back out there.

“Last summer, we called it ‘sold-out summer.’ This season, we’re calling it ‘sold-out summer,’ plus ‘sold-out fall’, plus ‘sold-out spring,'” Henderson said. “We are seeing continuing insane demand for travel.”

A small silver lining when it comes to travel costs in 2023: rental cars are cheaper than they’ve been in several years, Henderson said. Demand has softened and rental companies have been able to restore their fleets.

National parks around the U.S., while still popular, also aren’t as overcrowded as they were during the pandemic, he said.

On top of that, gas prices are also cheaper than they were this time last year — so maybe it’s time for a road trip instead?

U.S.

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