It’s going to be a busy summer travel season. And different.
The summer travel advice from experts is different, too.
Domestic travel volume will rise 16% over last year, with almost 75% of Americans planning to travel domestically for summer vacations, according to Allianz Partners’ Top 10 Summer Destinations review. And travel to Europe will soar 600% over last year.
“The floodgates have opened,” says Valentina O’Kane, owner of Incognito Global Travel, an affiliate of Embark Beyond. “People are rushing to get out there again. The popular tourist destinations are overbooked, with little if any availability. They are going to be overcrowded and overpriced this summer.”
I just interviewed 200 top travel experts about what lies ahead for travel. Here’s part one of my series, which outlines what to expect in the next three months.
There are two important takeaways. Covid is far from over, so you may have to get tested before you leave or when you return.
“We are not yet out of the woods,” says Virginia Tech hospitality and tourism professor Mahmood Khan. “Precaution and patience are still needed while planning for summer travel.
Travel experts like Patricia Schultz, author of 1000 Places To See Before You Die, says Covid could continue to be a factor this summer.
“What we are hearing — for those who want to listen — is the concern and frustration of those finding themselves in various degrees of difficult situations upon arrival in their destinations — or hours before their return to the U.S.,” she says.
The second takeaway is that for those brave enough to travel, it’s going to be chaos.
“This summer, flight cancellations are creating havoc,” says Bill McGee, a senior fellow for aviation and travel at the American Economic Liberties Project. “Most analysts predict passenger load factors are going to soar to levels we haven’t seen since World War II.”
I asked my panel of experts for the best summer travel advice they haven’t heard yet. What are the professionals not saying?
- You don’t want to procrastinate this summer. From airlines to hotels, timing is more important than ever. Specifically, the time to book is now.
- How should you get there? If possible, drive. But if you have to 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 off-season to avoid the throngs of tourists.
- Your flexibility and creativity will determine the success of your vacation.
When should I book my 2022 summer vacation?
On this issue, the experts are unanimous on the summer travel advice. If you haven’t booked your vacation yet, you need to do it now.
Timing is everything. A recent analysis by Kayak found that flying midweek will save you the most money domestically. Flights average 13% cheaper on Wednesday. The most expensive day? Sunday, where flights are 15% more expensive.
For international travel, flying in the morning may help you save money. Flights between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. are 22% cheaper than the rest of the day. But the opposite is true for domestic flights. Flying between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. is 12% cheaper than flying earlier in the morning.
Book your hotels early — and consider paying a little extra. “This will save your holiday and give you and your family the long-awaited holiday you are dreaming of,” says Sangeeta Sadarangani, CEO of Crossing, a multinational travel agency headquartered in London. “A lot of hotels are short-staffed and have new and inexperienced staff working in them.” By paying a little extra for a five-star experience, you’re more likely to land in a luxury property where the experienced staff will ensure you have a relaxing time. “The best travel advisors have been visiting hotels and interacting closely with hoteliers, and they have the inside information on what’s hot and what’s not,” he adds.
Make your other reservations now, too. That’s the advice of Cristiano Cabutti, general manager at JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa. “One thing we’ve noticed is that our guests are so eager to travel and get back to classic European destinations that they don’t realize that in order to have the best experience guaranteed this summer, they must get ahead with pre-planning,” he says. Plan ahead for restaurant reservations, museum tickets and private tours. They sell out quickly.
Check your passport expiration dates. “Many haven’t traveled internationally for a while and don’t realize that if their passport has expired or is within six months of expiring, you will be denied entry into certain countries,” says Danny Finkel, chief commercial officer at TripActions. Also, remember that some destinations and international airlines still require masks. “Make sure to check before your flight,” he adds.
How to get to your summer 2022 destination
Experts say you shouldn’t cut corners. And if possible, drive.
Skip the budget airlines. That’s the summer travel advice of Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst with DealNews.com. “Yes, they offer ridiculously low rates on domestic and international flights,” she says. “But you’ll end up paying in other ways.” At a time when vacation budgets are getting eaten up by inflation, the last thing you want is a surprise fee for your flight. “Instead, opt for a major airline and just travel at a good time, like during the week, when fares are naturally cheaper,” she adds. “This way, costs for things like snacks and carry-ons are built-in, and you don’t have to worry about forking over more cash for these items on your flight.” Budget airlines often have pretty thin schedules and smaller fleets. So if your flight is canceled by weather or a mechanical problem, you may have to wait days for the next flight on that airline.
Drive, don’t fly. “The pilot shortage is real and affecting travel dramatically,” says travel expert Peggy Cleveland, author of 100 Things to Do in Tacoma Before You Die. “For example, summer storms cause travel delays each year at Dallas-Fort Worth airport. Add the pilot shortage and full planes, and it is a recipe for what could be a multiday delay.”
Beware of extra insurance requirements. “Despite the current recovery, as part of their Covid policies, some international destinations continue to require tourists to provide proof of travel insurance upon entrance,” says Beth Godlin, president of Aon Affinity Travel Practice. Check before your departure and make sure you have the right insurance.
Where should you go this summer?
This summer, you need to zig when everyone else zags. At least that’s the travel experts’ consensus for summer travel.
Consider an off-season destination. That’s what Jessica Bradford did when she was planning her summer vacation. “I am heading to Morocco this summer,” says Bradford, who runs a communications firm that specializes 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 were not far off from what they will likely be here in Los Angeles, where I live. Plus, there will be fewer crowds at the souks and museums.”
Find an alternate destination. “Instead of trying to squeeze your way into the Amalfi Coast or French Riviera this summer, go to Greece or Southern Spain where there is still space and reasonable pricing,” advises Jack Ezon, who runs the luxury travel advisory company Embark Beyond. “And now that Australia is open, consider this summer to explore Australia, or head to French Polynesia, or even the Galapagos or Peru. There is still space at reasonable prices and no better time to explore.”
Have a staycation. They became popular during the pandemic. But as Americans start to travel more, a vacation near home may save you money and headaches, according to Warren Jaferian, dean of international education at Endicott College. “So, my advice is to visit your local attractions, support local businesses — and save your pennies,” he says.
Summer travel advice: Here are a few essential strategies
Experts say you’ll have to take a different approach to plan a summer vacation this year. Again, flexibility is critical.
Keep things in perspective. That’s particularly true of fuel prices, which seem to get a lot of media attention. “Don’t overstress about gas prices,” says Tom Kaiden, chief operating officer at Visit Alexandria. “As long as you’re not driving cross-country, it’s still only a fraction of your total vacation cost.” Instead, focus on the costlier items, like lodging, meals and activities. And if the numbers don’t make sense, you can always downsize your getaway and travel somewhere closer.
Always have a Plan B. “With flights being so full, there is a chance that a canceled flight could severely disrupt your travel plans for days to come,” says Bob Winter, owner of Lake Country Travel. “Always know the 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 one within the same alliance.” A site like Google Flights lets you sort by times, fares and airline alliance.
Take a shortcut. Some airports have introduced programs that let you reserve a place in line to save time. For example, at Phoenix Sky Harbor, you can use a program called PHX RESERVE to hold a place in line. “This is a free service that allows travelers to reserve a time to get into the security checkpoint line,” says airport spokeswoman Heather Shelbrack. “They can make the reservation up to three days before their flight and when they arrive, go to a designated checkpoint lane for screening.”
And finally, the most contrarian summer travel advice of all …
Don’t travel this summer. “Wait until the fall,” says Kimberly Davis, founder of Trouvaille Travel, a travel agency. “Prices are sky-high, availability is low, air carriers still do not have their staffing at the levels needed for the demand, and we are in another Covid surge. And frankly, the crowds in most tourist destinations will not only make visiting them unpleasant, but over-tourism causes damage to both the sites and the communities.” Her advice? Wait until later to take that dream trip and stick close to home this summer.
Bottom line: this may be the summer for a different kind of vacation. But if you go, then go fearlessly. Plan for a worst-case scenario. Hopefully, you’ll never need to use most of this summer travel advice.