Why travel is a lot better than you think
Gas prices are coming down and so are airline delays. It's not too late to have a great summer
If you're about to go on vacation, you probably feel a sense of anticipation — and dread.
Anticipation, because maybe it's the first time you've traveled in two years. And dread, because you've read all the stories about mass cancellations and delays and total chaos.
OK, maybe this newsletter has fanned some of those flames with stories like this is going to be the worst week of the year for air travel and it's not safe to travel this summer.
Many travelers feel the worst is ahead. Here is the poll from this week’s Friday Forum.
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The truth is, travel is not so bad. Gas prices are coming down. So are airfares and vacation rental rates. Even those horrible delays you heard about — on closer review, they aren't that terrible.
It may be the most contrarian thing to say this summer, given all the crazy rhetoric about the state of travel. But here it goes: Travel is a lot better than you think. This might — and I stress might — be one of the best summers to travel in a while.
So much good news for travelers
I'm surprised by how much good news has been overlooked. Let's start with gas prices. The national average briefly pushed past $5 a gallon but is now falling. So if you're taking that long-overdue road trip, there's some relief in sight. Some analysts say prices may dip below $4 a gallon later this summer.
Why are prices down? Consumers are afraid of a recession, which is lowering demand. But a recession is by no means a sure thing, so let's not get too pessimistic.
And how about airlines? Look at the seven-day average for cancellations and delays.
Pay attention to the end of the graph around July 4. Just as my media colleagues were proclaiming the end of the world (at least for airline passengers), the number of delays and cancellations was falling.
That's remarkable. It means those breathless media reports about holiday travel chaos in the U.S. were a little misleading, maybe.
Bottom line: It was a pretty good weekend to travel, all things considered.
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There's even more good news
But wait! There's more. You know how everyone has been fretting about high prices? There's some relief in sight, too.
I asked AirDNA to pull a report on average daily vacation rental rates for July, August and September. It's true, prices are holding steady this month. But average daily rates are dropping 2 percent for August ($377 per night) and 5 percent for September ($356 per night) from a year ago.
If the trend holds, we could see some real vacation rental bargains in October and early November.
And how about airfares? More good news. They're down, too. They peaked at just over $400 for an average domestic round trip, but are now well below that, according to Hopper.
Demand for domestic travel is slowing, which normally happens at this time of year. In late August, September and October, it's going to fall off a cliff. And you know what that means, right? Bargains.
Hey, I'm starting to feel great about summer travel. How about you?
Maybe there's even more good news ahead
For the last few months, we've been in a seller's market for travel. Airlines, cruise lines and car rental companies have named their own price. And we had no choice but to pay if we wanted to travel.
But it looks like the perception of a softening economy and the end of the traditional summer travel season might shift the balance of power. In just a few weeks, we could be back to a buyer's market with inexpensive airfares, cheaper gas, and affordable accommodations — at least, until the holiday travel season.
That might not be the only good news. As travel companies hire and train more employees, I also expect the disruptions of the last few months to become less frequent. Those stories of long lines at the check-in counter and of all-around airport chaos could just be a memory from the early summer of 2022.
I talk to travel industry executives all the time, and they all tell me the same thing: They're deeply embarrassed by the service disruptions of the last year. When there's a crowd of guests waiting in the lobby to check in, it reflects poorly on them. So they are working hard to ensure someone is there to handle all the check-in requests during peak times. They won't stop until they've fixed the problem.
Even airlines with their "couldn't-care-less" facade, want you to like them. Hiring new pilots will take longer, but there's a good chance we won't have a repeat of the post-Memorial Day meltdown in 2022 this November and December.
But we'll see.
Where is travel good?
In the meantime, if you want a better travel experience, you might want to get in touch with your inner contrarian.
One of my readers just tipped me off to a Canadian site called SellOffVacations.com where they offered a week at an all-inclusive resort in Puerto Vallarta for $800, including airline tickets from Toronto.
So if by "good" you mean "cheap" then maybe you should head south of the border.
Even in places where there seems to be no room and prices are ridiculously high, there are still opportunities. I just spent a fun morning finding a monthly rental in London. Prices are outrageous for the rest of July. But in early August, rates begin to fall and availability opens up. If I didn't have to be in London, I would have found a nice place in Exeter or Portsmouth and enjoyed a month of peace and quiet — and lower prices.
I feel pretty optimistic about travel for the 74 remaining days of summer. But maybe that's just the contrarian in me.
How do you feel about the rest of summer?
Did you get burned by an early summer airline cancellation or a COVID infection? Are you staying home for the rest of your life? Or are you shocked by how smoothly things have gone so far? I'd love to get your feedback. The comments are open.
About the art
"For this work, I find myself relieved that gas and air travel prices are starting to look more reasonable once again," says artist Dustin Elliott. "A good thing, especially during a time when the gap between the middle class and the more fortunate has widely expanded." Dustin just returned from a one-month leave, and we're happy to have him back.
About our underwriters
Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small, since 1993. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have.
smarTours is a leading provider of guided group adventures at affordable prices. Since our founding in 1996, nearly a quarter of a million bucket list trips have been taken, and our goal has remained making experiencing incredible adventures around the globe easy, accessible and memorable for all, without compromising quality. Elliott.org readers can enjoy $100 off their first trip with smarTours.