Nothing — not higher gas prices, not soaring airfares, not climbing hotel rates — seems to be keeping travelers off the road this summer.
Offering them useful travel advice? That’s something of a roadblock, it turns out.
Close to 35 million Americans traveled over the Memorial Day weekend, mostly by car, according to the AAA. That’s about 100,000 travelers more than last year, which to many suggests a fairly busy summer season ahead.
The airline industry is upbeat, too. The Air Transport Association predicts that U.S. airlines will carry a total of 206.2 million passengers from June through August — about 3 million more passengers than during the same period last year, an increase of 1.5 percent.
Readers like Tom Thomas, a retired federal employee from Takoma Park, Md, are making big plans. He’s flying to Washington state for his high school reunion and then on to Alaska for a tour of the Inside Passage from Vancouver. “I’ve never been to either,” he says.
After several years of staycations, it’s clear that a good number of American travelers are planning a long-overdue getaway. Higher prices don’t seem to be standing in their way.
Hotel rates are up between 5 and 10 percent, depending on the amenities, says AAA. Airfares are up 14 percent from 2010, with the lowest average round-trip fare at $201. Meanwhile, a gallon of gas costs an average of around $3.80, more than $1 higher than this time last year.
While that’s good news for the travel industry, it’s not so great if you’re in the travel advice business. Dispensing tips is easy during a recession, when the deals are everywhere, but it’s not as simple during a recovery.
I’ve been collecting some of this year’s best and worst advice over the past few weeks. The travel site Cheapflights.com just sent out a warning about hidden travel fees, which are among my top annoyances. The worst are the so-called “peak travel day fees,” which increase the price of your flight because of higher demand. Problem is, almost every day during June, July and August is considered a “peak” day, so the only way to avoid it, according to the company, is to postpone your vacation until the end of the summer. If you have kids in school, that may not be an option. (Full disclosure: Cheapflights is a supporter of my blog.)
Another Web site, LowFares.com, recommends that bargain-hunters look to the Caribbean, Cancun and Las Vegas for relief from high prices. Sure, you can find deals in those places. That’s because summertime is low season in the Caribbean (hurricanes and rainy weather), Cancun (it’s Mexico, say no more) and Las Vegas (hot enough for you?).
Not to single out LowFares.com. The experts on the Bing Travel Fareology Team like the idea of sending summer travelers to Sin City, too, where the average high temperature in July is a blistering 106 degrees. “Vegas, baby,” they crow in a news alert, calling it a “good option” for travelers who want a deal. Bing says that another fine choice is my home town of Orlando, where the average temperature in August is a sweltering 91 degrees with an oppressive 60 percent humidity. Oh, wait. Did they forget to mention that’s when the locals like to get out of town?