FromFor meteoric airline ticket prices, the cost of travel in the US is skyrocketing – exacerbated by massive reductions in capacity. Airlines are cutting more flights from their schedules because they were overscheduled and understaffed. As a result, nearly every flight is full and .
Many hotels – which also had staffing issues – set an occupancy rate of 60% due to staff not having to support the other 40% of their room inventory, which they could easily sell off. They are still charging for what they did in 2019 – or in some cases, more – but many hotels have scaled back restaurants, room service, laundry and housekeeping, simply because there are no staff available to support those services.
It wouldn’t be a pleasant summer for American travelers. Any trades made are very few and far between.
If you have a lot of frequent flyer miles, it may seem like a good time to redeem them is when ticket prices are high, but not this summer. Airlines are increasing the number of eligible miles needed to redeem frequent flyer reward tickets.
During the height of the pandemic, when planes were flying at 20% of capacity, some frequent flyer tickets could have been obtained for as little as 7,500 miles. The trip from Los Angeles to New York was often as low as 12,500 miles. Not anymore. With planes full, airlines are reluctant to take away passengers returning with award tickets. And even if the frequent flyer reward is available, the number of miles needed to redeem it has also gone up. That frequent flyer ticket to New York? Now about 40,000 miles – or more.
The best strategy for your unredeemed miles is to look beyond September 15th and another 270 days after that. Initial demand forecasts show a significant drop after September 10, when booking patterns change. With so many seats open, that’s when prize availability suddenly became noticeable – not just with award tickets available, but at reasonable redemption levels.
But there are still some Plan B approaches to travel deals.
When booking tickets, you don’t necessarily think of a round trip. Price your flight as single, one-way tickets, often on different airlines. You may be surprised by the difference in fare.
Instead of booking a round trip, check the price of a round-trip ticket on Airlines A and a return ticket on Airlines B. In many cases, the demand for single flights on single days leads to a noticeable price swing. A $1,100 return ticket between Los Angeles and New York on an airline suddenly became a $480 one-way ticket from Los Angeles to New York on Airlines A and a $370 return ticket on Airlines B from New York to LA—$250 savings .
It is also the US airports that have the lowest prices. And in many cases, it’s also less expensive to take taxis or to park. Think Long Beach instead of LAX, Providence instead of Boston, Baltimore instead of Washington, Auckland instead of San Francisco, Milwaukee – which many think is Chicago’s third airport – and my favorite Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip, NY, a great alternative to JFK or LaGuardia.
Amtrak is still a relative bargain. If you plan right, Amtrak still has some unlimited travel passes that you can buy, in 15-day or 30-day packages that include the perks of jumping on board and hopping on the entire Amtrak system – starting at just $500 for adults and $250 for Children under 12 years old.
If you want to travel outside the United States, it is now cheaper to fly from New York to Dublin than from New York to St. Louis. Flying within Europe is still inexpensive. London to Rome, $180 round-trip; Paris to Venice, $159 round-trip; Lisbon to Barcelona, $130 round trip – all still bargains.
And don’t forget the trains in Europe this summer, too. The best deal? Buy a Eurail pass before you leave the United States. The Eurail Pass network is larger than ever: 33 countries are currently served by Eurail. Plan it properly and you can do some of your sleep on the train, saving hotel costs. And you can buy train tickets: $280 for four days of travel in any one month, and up to 15 days unlimited starting at $505—a great deal. And for nomads working abroad, there’s a three-month unlimited train ticket for $1,028.