Fromto meteoric air fares, the cost of travel in the US is skyrocketing — compounded by huge reductions in capacity. Airlines are cutting more flights from their schedules because they have been over-scheduled and understaffed. As a result, virtually every flight is full, and .
Many hotels — also challenged by staffing problems — have capped occupancy at 60% because they do not have the staff to support the other 40% of their room inventory, which they could easily sell. They’re still charging what they did in 2019 — or in some cases, more — but many hotels have cut back on restaurants, room service, laundry and housekeeping, simply because they don’t have the staff to support those services.
It’s not going to be a fun summer for US travelers. Any deals to be had are very few and far between.
If you have a lot of frequent flyer miles lying around, it might seem like a good time to redeem them is when ticket prices are high, but not this summer. Airlines have been increasing the number of eligible miles needed to redeem frequent flyer award tickets.
During the height of the pandemic, when airplanes were flying at 20% of capacity, some frequent flyer tickets could be had for as little as 7,500 miles. A flight from Los Angeles to New York was often as low as 12,500 miles. Not anymore. With planes full, the airlines are reluctant to displace revenue passengers with award tickets. And even if a frequent flyer award is available, the number of miles needed to redeem has also skyrocketed. 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 Sept. 15 and another 270 days after that. Preliminary demand projections show a huge drop after Sept. 10, when booking patterns change. With a huge number of open seats, that’s when award availability suddenly becomes noticeable — not only with available award tickets, but with more reasonable redemption levels.
But there are still some Plan B approaches to travel deals.
When booking tickets, don’t necessarily think round-trip. Price your trip out as individual one way tickets, often on different airlines. You might be surprised by the fare differential.
Instead of booking a round trip, check out the price of a one-way ticket on Airline A and a return ticket on Airline B. In many cases, demand for individual flights on individual days results in a noticeable swing in prices. An $1,100 round trip ticket between Los Angeles and New York on one airline suddenly becomes a $480 one way ticket from Los Angeles to New York on Airline A and a $370 return ticket on Airline B from New York back to Los Angeles — a $250 savings.
It’s also which US airports have the lowest fares. And in many cases, they’re also less expensive taxi rides or parking. Consider Long Beach instead of LAX, Providence instead of Boston, Baltimore instead of Washington, Oakland instead of San Francisco, Milwaukee — which is thought of by many as Chicago’s third airport — and my favorite, Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip, New York, a great alternative to either JFK or LaGuardia.
And Amtrak is still a relative bargain. If you plan properly, Amtrak still has some unlimited travel passes you can buy, in 15-day or 30-day packages that include hop-on, hop-off privileges within the entire Amtrak system — starting at just $500 for adults and $250 for kids under 12.
If you want to travel outside the US, it is now cheaper to fly from New York to Dublin than New York to St. Louis. And 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 this summer in Europe as well. The best deal? Buy a Eurail Pass before you leave the US The Eurail Pass network is larger than ever: 33 countries currently are served by Eurail. Plan it right and you can do some of your sleeping on the train, saving on hotel costs. And you can buy train passes: $280 for four days of travel in any one month, up to 15 days unlimited pass starting at $505 — a great deal. And for digital nomads working abroad, there’s a three-month unlimited train pass for $1,028.