What to expect on this Thanksgiving and holiday season travel: Cheap flights, expensive hotels

This year’s post-pandemic travel boom continues into the holidays.

Nearly half (48%) of Americans plan to travel between Thanksgiving and mid-January, up from 31% last winter. Deloitte survey detected. AAA Expected 55.4 million passengers Traveled at least 50 miles from home during Thanksgiving alone, up 2.3% from last year.

That means if you’re hitting the roads or the slopes this season, you’ll have plenty of company. Here’s what to expect when packing your bags for a winter vacation or visiting loved ones.

And cheap airfare

Airline ticket prices are falling even as more Americans prefer to fly.

Deloitte 33% of holiday travelers plan to fly domestically, up from 29% last year. Despite strong demand, airfares remained More than 13% cheaper Last month, federal inflation data showed more than a year earlier.

Domestic tickets are expected to be significantly cheaper this season. Round-trip flights within the U.S. averaged $268 during Thanksgiving (down 14% year-over-year) and $400 during Christmas (down 12%). Booking site hopper.

It’s a mixed picture for overseas travel, for which Deloitte expects soft demand.

Hopper expects international airfares to ease over the Thanksgiving holiday compared to last year, but popular destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean will be 5% to 11% higher than before the pandemic. And global flights are expected to generally increase around Christmas time, according to Hopper, with “fares higher than 2019 and 2022 prices to all destinations outside the Caribbean and Oceania.”

(Circle) smoothly operating airports

Airlines and aviation officials are optimistic about handling the holiday season crisis. Major US carriers – incl American, Delta And United – Expect record numbers of travelers this Thanksgiving, with many talking about their preparations for the season.

“We are now much better prepared for these extreme weather events,” said Andrew Watterson, Southwest’s chief operating officer. told investors In a recent earnings call, it referenced the carrier’s holiday meltdown last December.

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American Airlines Assures customers It has “run the most reliable operation of any US network carrier over the last 14 months.” and United It rolled out a new onboarding process last month It says it wants to speed up the process.

The entire industry has been snake-bitten since last year’s debacle, and airlines have adjusted their operations accordingly.

Scott Keyes, Founder of Going

Improved track records for flight cancellations and missing luggage before vacations. About 1.7% of flights were canceled in the first eight months of the year, up from a rate of 3.0% for the same eight-month period last year and 2.3% in the comparable stretch of 2019. Department of Transport reported. In August, with available data, the mishandled baggage rate fell to 0.61% from 0.75% in the previous month.

A broader push to streamline and automate operations “will continue to help prevent mishandling as we approach the holiday season,” said Nicole Hogg, head of baggage at aviation IT firm SITA. But travel experts recommend adding an AirTag or other digital tracking device to your luggage, especially during busy travel periods.

“Mother nature will cause some cancellations, guaranteed,” said Scott Keys, founder of airline fare tracking site Going. But he noted that “cancellations by airlines — the most frightening for passengers — are at multi-year lows,” and added that many carriers have laid off pilots, planes and staff altogether.

“The entire industry has been rattled since last year’s debacle, and airlines have adjusted their operations accordingly,” Keyes said.

Expensive hotel rooms

More vacation travelers are likely to book cabins this year than stay exclusively with friends or family. Deloitte found 56% plan to stay in hotels, up from 35% in 2022.

This may increase existing room rates Prices were 0.8% higher in October than a year earlier. John Freitag, director of hospitality analytics at commercial real estate research firm Costar, said this season’s strong travel numbers will keep Christmastime room rates above last year’s levels. For the full week through November, the average nightly stay in the U.S. was $156, up 4% from the same week a year ago, Costar said.

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Price-conscious Christmas travelers “may want to book early to lock in lower fares, shorten their trips or trade up to a different type of service,” or take their chances with last-minute bookings, Freitag said. At the eleventh hour inventories are thin, but hotels may lower prices on rooms that are still unsold.

More middle-aged and older seatmates

Deloitte projects that baby boomers, who accounted for just 21% of holiday travelers in 2022, will make up 29% of travelers this year.

“Last year, older Americans were more likely to cite potential travel disruption and health as reasons for avoiding travel,” said Steve Rogers, managing director of Deloitte’s Consumer Industry Center. “But this year, inflation, health and travel disruption concerns may have eased, and boomers are making up for lost trips.”

Inflation, health and travel disruption concerns may have subsided, and boomers are making up for lost trips.

Steve Rogers is managing director of Deloitte’s Consumer Industry Center

Gen X travelers will make up the largest share of holiday travelers, Deloitte said, rising from 26% last year to 29% this season. In contrast, millennials and Gen Z travelers are expected to hold back slightly – from 36% of holiday travelers last year to 31% this year, and Gen Xers to just 8% from 14%.

It remains to be seen how much each age group goes out during the holidays. Market research firm Future Partners found that in a survey last month Boomers tend to have larger full-year travel budgets – About $4,408, $3,785 above the national average. However, PwC expects older travelers to cut their holiday travel spending by 22% from last year, partly because they may be taking more trips throughout the year.

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“On the other hand,” said Jonathan Kletzel, head of PwC’s airline and travel practice, “Gen Z’s biggest increase is [holiday] The cost of travel is about 23% higher than last year.

Growing Reasons to Tap Loyalty Points

This year 75% of vacation travelers plan to use credit cards According to a recent NerdWallet/Harris Poll survey, about 8% of those who accrued vacation travel expenses last year are still paying them.

Americans have piled up credit card debt this year despite rising rates. But steep interest charges appear to have made some vacationers a little more wary than last year, with 85% putting at least some of their vacation travel expenses in plastic, NerdWallet found.

“One way for travelers to find a balance between the experiences they want and the cost increases is through points and customer loyalty programs,” Kletzel said.

A morning diplomatic report this month backs that up, shows Rising across consumers who plan to use rewards To make bookings in hotels, travel agencies and airlines this season. The share of points-based travel bookings through credit card programs increased 13% this Thanksgiving and 9% over the winter holidays over last year.

“Many people are sitting on more credit card rewards and/or hotel points than they realize, and over a quarter haven’t redeemed anything in the past year,” said Ted Roseman, senior industry analyst at Bankrate. Since travel points typically don’t have a one-time net value, he said, “it makes sense to earn and burn rewards efficiently.”

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