To avoid trip trouble this summer, travelers need to adapt and be flexible on the road
If balky supply chains, roaring inflation and a persistent pandemic aren’t enough to contend with, Americans have another headache – lousy travel experiences.
According to a brand-new study from Bankrate, 79% of U.S. travelers who’ve taken an overnight trip outside their local areas this year experienced at least one negative travel-related issue.
The report cites high prices (57%), long waits (29%), poor customer service (27%), hard-to-find availability (26%), lost money due to canceled or disrupted plans (14%), or something else (4%) as the most prominent problems tied to summer travel in 2022.
Underlying issues are driving poor consumer travel experiences, the report noted.
For instance, a majority of survey participants said transportation, dining and lodging cost more than usual. That’s no surprise when gasoline prices are up 49% over the past year, airline fares are up 38%, lodging away from home is up 22% and dining out costs 7% more, according to the latest CPI data.
“While many Americans are excited to travel again after being cooped up for the past couple of years due to the pandemic, they’re encountering substantially higher costs and lengthy waits,” said Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at Bankrate.
“The situation may get worse before it gets better as pent-up demand is unleashed this summer. High demand is combining with the hottest inflation readings in four decades and ongoing staffing shortages.”
The good news? You don’t have to sit back and take many travel-related problems – not if you have a game plan first.
“Americans are going to need to be more flexible and creative than ever when it comes to traveling this summer,” said Colleen Carswell, hotel-solutions strategist at Carswell Enterprise, in Waynesville, N.C. “The No. 1 thing travelers should pack with them are the right expectations.”
This is especially true when it comes to reframing their belief that “if I pay more, I should get more,” Carswell noted.
“This has now become the exception as opposed to the rule it once was,” she said. “Bottom line, in all aspects of travel, it’s important to adjust thinking and expectations before hitting the road.”
Take Direct Action to Cut Costs, Avoid Snafus
Taking direct action can cut costs and untangle travel snafus.
“Start by looking for what you can get for free,” said Keri Baugh, a longtime traveler and founder of the blog Bon Voyage With Kids. “For example, look at your credit card reward points and see if they can be cashed in for either gift cards to use toward travel (like restaurant gift cards, Hotels.com gift cards, or gas station gift cards)“
Additionally, if you have any loyalty programs tied to a hotel or airline, check to see if you can use those for hotel stays. “On a recent road trip from Boston to Florida, we used my husband’s Marriott (MAR) – Get Marriott International Report rewards points for two hotel nights en route, and didn’t use any of our money,” Baugh said.
Airlines can be a good opportunity to use your points. “My mother-in-law recently cashed in her airline points for a first-class ticket to visit us, and it only cost her $7 — for the whole ticket,” Baugh said.
It’s also a good idea to leverage helpful apps like Gas Buddy for road trips.
“This app can help you find the cheapest gas station near you, which can save you money on the road,” Baugh noted.
“Also, use your own car, instead of renting one for a road trip or drive to a destination instead of fly. Though gas is expensive, it will be less than the cost of the flight, especially if the destination is within a five-to-six-hour drive. You may get to your destination faster given the massive flight delays and cancellations we’re seeing.”
Travelers can also save money by readjusting their overnight landing spots.
“We recommend staying in Airbnbs or hotels with kitchens/kitchenettes (like at Marriott Residence Inns),” Baugh said. “That way you can at least have breakfast in the room and cook other meals, as well.
If you plan to visit a city, get a City Pass.
“Most big cities have such passes, which can give you multiple entries to a variety of attractions at a significant discount (sometimes 40%) than purchasing tickets for these entrance fees individually,” Baugh said.
Additionally, if you plan to visit more than one national park this summer, look into the U.S. Parks Pass, which gives you a year of entrances at most national parks and numerous historical sites throughout the U.S. for $80.
“Plus, families of fourth-grade students can actually get into national parks for free, with a special program run by the National Park Service.”
Ask the Experts
Lastly, look at local tourist bureaus for planning help.
“While travel agents can in some places get you great deals, upgrades, VIP treatment, and even some bonuses, families can also check local tourism bureaus to help save money,” Baugh said.
Baugh’s in the middle of planning her family’s summer trip to Europe, and she finds working with local travel bureaus a “big help.”
“By reaching out to the country or city’s touirism bureau, the tourism bureau can actually help plan an itinerary, connect you with local tour companies and activities, tell you what is free, and provide recommended accommodations that can help you build the vacation you want for much less than the cost of a group tour,” she said.