For travelers preparing to take their first vacation trip before the pandemic: prepare for sticker shock.
Air tickets have become more expensive. Gas prices in the US are at an all-time high this time of year. In 2019, the prices of hotel rooms and rental cars increased by 12% and 46%, respectively.
The good news is that prices for airline tickets, gas and hotel rooms are all below record highs set in early 2022, but they are still among record highs for this time of year. Car rental-only prices, while still well above pre-pandemic levels, are lower than what travelers paid at the end of last year.
Here’s what it will cost travelers this holiday season:
When air travel nearly ground to a halt in 2020 due to the pandemic, US airlines cut workers through early retirement and buyout packages. Staffing on most carriers is now approaching pre-pandemic levels, but the number of available flights and seats has not returned to these levels.
Data from aviation analytics firm Cirium shows that the number of flights scheduled for November and December decreased by 15% compared to the same months of 2019. Many of these missing flights were previously operated by smaller regional carriers serving smaller airports, and some of these airports have since operated flights. completely lost service. But even with a higher percentage of flights on larger aircraft, the number of available seats fell by 3.5% compared to the same period in 2019.
A spike in Covid cases in late 2021 dampened demand for leisure travel, but this year is positively strong, according to airlines and industry experts.
“Holiday travel is as strong as ever, and leisure travel is driving that recovery,” said Scott Keyes, founder of travel website Scott’s Cheap Flights. “A lot of people wanted to travel on Labor Day and the 4th of July and, as we’ll soon see, Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
And that combination—strong demand and tight seat supply—means high fares.
According to an airfare tracker compiled by Wall Street analysts at Cowan, the average airfare is up nearly 40% from 2021, with leisure travelers paying an average of $289 one way.
But higher fares aren’t just compared to pandemic prices.
“Hopper” travel site reports that the price of air tickets has increased 7% compared to the same period in 2019, and 17% when comparing prices for those who waited until the week before Thanksgiving to book a flight.
“Vacation travel is more expensive than we’ve seen in previous years,” said Hayley Berg, chief economist at Hopper.
Of course, most vacation travelers never get on a plane— they drive AAA estimates that 49 million people will travel by car over the holidays, and 4.5 million will fly. And for these drivers, gas prices are far from over a bigger concern than plane tickets.
The good news is that the price of a gallon of regular gas nationwide is well below the record $5.02 set in June. AAA reported that the average price on Sunday was down 27% to $4.67. And prices continue to fall—the average price has dropped 11 cents per gallon in the last week alone.
But the prices are still 8% higher compared to this period last year. Gas prices are usually at seasonal lows at the end of the year, often before Christmas.
Even with the annual increase in holiday travel, the amount of driving in November and December usually well below the summer driving season. And many factors are pushing oil and gasoline prices to historic highs around the world this year. Chief among them is Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, which has led to sanctions against Russian oil. The US processing power that fell during the pandemic has not yet recovered.
Sunday average price of a gallon of gas According to OPIS, which tracks gas prices for AAA, it is 46% higher than the average price as of Nov. 20 over the past 20 years.
Hotel prices are also more expensive than this time of year. The government’s main measure of inflation, the Consumer Price Index, showed that spending away from home hit a record high in May, and was just 2% below that peak for the most recent October average.
Prices are up 6% from a year ago and 12% higher than October 2019. Although the CPI doesn’t provide a dollar average for the prices it tracks, Hopper puts the average hotel room price at $189 for the Thanksgiving weekend and $218. Christmas week.
Still, strong demand and tighter supply — some hotels didn’t survive the pandemic, others are still struggling to find the workers they need to fully reopen — are pushing up prices.
Car rental companies cut back their fleets in the early months of the pandemic and sold cars they needed to raise cash. Because automakers have yet to return to full production due to shortages of parts needed to make cars, including computer chips, it has taken some time for rental car companies to fill their fleets to meet demand.
The good news is that October CPI data shows that car rental prices are 3.5% lower than last October and 15% lower than the record set in June 2021. However, rental cars are 46% more expensive than them. It was in October 2019.