Flight prices dip amid COVID. Will it impact holiday travel?


The nation’s airlines are sweating over an unexpected drop in business travel in the last few weeks — and that’s welcome news if you’re a traveler looking to save money.

This month, domestic airfares are down 5% from September 2019 and international fares down about 8%, drops that industry experts attribute partly to the traditional price slump that happens at the end of the peak summer travel season plus the rise in coronavirus cases due to the Delta variant, according to the travel website Hopper.

Prices for flights to Europe are at a five-year low, down more than 30% compared with the same month in 2019, according to the travel website.

But the discounted prices are not expected to last long, with increases likely when travelers start booking holiday trips.

“Everything we are seeing says people are definitely going to be traveling,” said Adit Damodaran, an economist for Hopper.

The airfare roller coaster shows how the pandemic continues to affect the nation’s $1.5-trillion travel and hospitality industry. For the first time since COVID-19 took hold in spring 2020, travel demand this summer began to match and briefly surpass pre-pandemic levels, giving airline executives hope that the industry would soon rebound from more than a year of financial losses.

But in the last few weeks, airlines have reported a steep drop in demand and an increase in reservation cancellations. September typically marks the end of the peak summer travel season and the start of business travel for conferences, conventions and meetings. Industry experts say the uptick in business travel never materialized because of the surge in COVID-19 cases.

As a result, airlines are forced to drop prices to fill the seats left empty by business travelers.

“In a normal year, the fares would stay high because people would travel for business, but that is just not happening,” said Madhu Unnikrishnan, editor of the publication Airline Weekly.

The average domestic round-trip flight costs $260, down from $290 at the end of August, according to Hopper. International round-trip fares have dropped to an average of $700, down from $760 at the end of August.

The average round-trip price of a flight to Europe from the U.S. is $565, down from $665 at the end of August and the lowest price in five years, according to the website’s data. That price was an average of $940 at this time in 2019.

But flying to Europe could become more difficult soon. The European Union recommended this week that its 27 nations reinstate restrictions on tourists from the U.S. because of rising coronavirus infections. The guidance isn’t mandatory, and member countries have the option of allowing fully vaccinated U.S. travelers in.

The slump in business travel and rise in overall cancellations have airlines worried. Southwest, United, Delta and American airlines all revised their earnings outlook for the July-to-September quarter.

“The company continues to experience softness in bookings and elevated trip cancellations, especially close-in, as a result of the rise in the COVID-19 cases associated with the Delta variant,” Southwest Airlines said in a Sept. 9 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. “Close-in” cancellations are usually defined as being within 21 days of departure.

In its own Sept. 9 investor update, Delta Air Lines said “initial revenue expectations were predicated on an acceleration of business travel through the September quarter. The pace of business travel recovery has paused as companies delay or scale down initial office reopening.”

United Airlines said it expects the drop in demand to push total revenue down 33% in the July-to-September quarter.

Airlines are not the only businesses feeling the pain. The hotel industry is projected to lose more than $59 billion in business travel revenue in 2021 compared with 2019, according to a report by the American Hotel & Lodging Assn. and Kalibri Labs.

If the number of coronavirus cases drops or remains unchanged, travel experts say, Americans are likely to book air travel in high numbers for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season. And higher demand usually means higher prices.

“Most airlines have said Thanksgiving and Christmas and year-end holidays remain solid,” Unnikrishnan said. “So far, people are not canceling their holiday plans.”

Bookings and internet searches for holiday flights have started to rise.

“Right now, flight prices for the holiday travel season are up across the board compared to both 2019 and 2020,” said Giorgos Zacharia, president of the travel website Kayak.

Domestic round-trip airfares around Thanksgiving are priced at an average of $300, up 23% from 2020 ($245) but down 11% from the pre-pandemic 2019 fares ($335), according to Hopper. The average domestic round-trip airfares for travel around Christmas are $430, up 71% from 2020 ($250) and up 10% from 2019 ($390).

Rick Seaney, chief innovations officer at 3 Victors, a travel data company, said making flight reservations for the holidays can be tricky. Booking early — up to six weeks before departure — usually ensures that travelers get the lowest prices. But Seaney said another coronavirus surge could keep prices down, allowing travelers to book flights much closer to the holiday season.

“The question is will the prices get better or worse if you wait,” he said. “It depends on what will happen with the pandemic.”





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How rising gas prices, travel changes are impacting independent car services


Gas prices can be an extra ten bucks a month for some, but for independent car services like Chey Cab, it’s a mortgage payment.

The holidays are a very busy time of year, and Chey Cab is on the road a lot right now. From airport runs during the day to bars and parties at night. And that’s all good, but when she goes to the gas pump, she’s not celebrating.

“It’s real for us, it’s real,” founder and owner Chey Eisenman said.

Chey and other drivers have been watching the numbers climb, and their business change. The pandemic means quick trips with corporate clients have dwindled, but retail has surged. That means they’re driving a lot more miles, and when you depend on gas to keep your business rolling along, the gas prices really hurt.

“Per car we’ve seen about a $1,200 a month rise in fuel per vehicle. That’s significant,” she said. “So when you’re a small business person, that money that’s not going to your bottom line is not coming home with you to pay your mortgage.”

Right now, Minnesota averages about $3.16 a gallon, lower than the national average. But a year ago, we were paying a $1.95 and two years ago, it was $2.66.

“It’s much more go go go in mileage and fuel,” Chey said.

Chey Eisenman is the owner and founder of Chey Car, a luxury car service in the Twin Cities area. (FOX 9)

Now it’s not just high gas prices that have changed for Chey and other drivers. Travel patterns have also changed. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving was typically the busiest travel day, but she’ll tell you, not anymore.

“Now with work from home people leave the Friday or Saturday or Sunday before or weekend before,” Chey said.

But on the return, one day will be extra busy with travelers who may not see Sunday as their fun day.

“We’ve had to close our books for a two-hour window on Sunday because we already have too many reservations,” she said.

Now there are some predictions that gas prices could come down with President Biden tapping into oil reserves. Chey is hopeful that could bring her business and others a little relief.





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UPDATE: dropping gas prices, impact on holiday travel


UPDATE 10:45 P.M. NOV. 23, 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Wednesday is typically the busiest travel day ahead of Thanksgiving and people are already dealing with higher inflation and rising prices ahead of holiday travel.

According to AAA, prices at the pump are about 50% higher than a year ago. For those hitting the road for the Thanksgiving holiday, it all adds up.

“They’re not going to impact me too much, fortunately,” says one holiday traveler, Becky Johnson. “We’re lucky to be able to afford higher prices and we’re only traveling to northern Kentucky so we’re not going too far.”

“I know it stinks, you know prices like this, but unfortunately there isn’t a thing we can do about it so just be safe and get where you can and be with your family,” says William Tucker, another holiday traveler at the pumps.

With President Biden’s announcement Tuesday, he’s fulfilling a promise he’s made to Americans by pushing down oil prices, and therefore, prices at the pump. However, the relief may only be temporary. According to AAA, until global oil production ramps back up to pre-pandemic levels, the recent dip in crude prices may be short lived.

ORIGINAL STORY NOV. 23, 2021

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden is ordering 50 million barrels of oil released from America’s strategic reserve to help bring down energy costs.

The White House says he’s acting in coordination with other major energy consuming nations, including China, India, and the United Kingdom. The action, announced Tuesday, is aimed at global energy markets, and also to help Americans who are coping with higher inflation and rising prices ahead of Thanksgiving and winter holiday travel.

Gasoline prices are at about $3.40 a gallon, more than 50% higher than a year ago, according to the American Automobile Association. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is an emergency stockpile to preserve access to oil in case of natural disasters, national security issues and other events.





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Gas prices up $1.30 over 2020 as travel rapidly increases prior to holidays


CHICAGO — As the holiday season approaches, national gas prices have surged to an average of $3.41 per gallon, an increase of $1.30 over the 2020 average at this time of year.

With many more Americans expected to hit the road for Thanksgiving, air travel is expected to increase 80 percent as well, according to AAA.

Republicans are placing blame on the Biden administration for the increases, urging him to tap into more oil reserves and adapt more friendly policies toward fossil fuel companies.

Democrats are accusing oil companies of price-gouging with the increased demand, pointing to the decreased cost of refining oil in the past year.

Local travel experts advise against traveling on the roads in the Chicago area between noon and 8 p.m. on Wednesday and after 1 p.m. on Sunday due to increased congestion on area expressways.



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Schumer calls for feds to ease gas prices ahead of holiday travel


STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — With gas prices continuing to climb across the United States, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) is calling for the federal government to tap into the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to reduce prices at the pump ahead of holiday travel.

Schumer called on the Biden administration to move forward with sales from this reserve, noting consumers need immediate relief from rising gas prices caused, in part, by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic’s shock to the global supply chain.

“COVID has wreaked havoc on all of our supply chains, no industry spared, with fuel supply and prices at the top of the list,” said Schumer in a news release. “Consumers need immediate relief at the gas pump, and so I am urging the administration to approve fuel sales from the nation’s strategic petroleum reserve. The plan is not a cure-all, because we also need a real solution to this problem of price shocks from wildly fluctuating fossil fuels, but it can help ease prices ahead of holiday travel.”

He pointed to AAA, which reported that the national average gas price currently is $3.41, up from $2.12 a year ago at this time.

The senator explained there needs to be a real solution to the issue, and that implementing Build Back Better would help all Americans move off the dependence on fossil fuels to cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable electric cars and appliances. In the meantime, he said, tapping some of the reserves’ 600 million barrels can help pump relief at current prices.

“Bottom line, we must implement Build Back Better to help all Americans move off our dependence on fossil fuels to cleaner, cheaper and more reliable electric cars and appliances. The Build Back Better Act includes my ‘Clean Cars for America’ program, which would make electric cars cheaper than gas cars, and would allow consumers to worry less and less about rising gas prices,” Schumer added.

The SPR is the world’s largest supply of emergency crude oil, according to the SPR website. It was established to reduce the impact of disruptions in supplies of petroleum products and to out obligations of the United States under the international energy program. The oil is stored underground at different sites along the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico.

The SPR can hold 714 million barrels of oil. Currently, it’s holding approximately 600 million barrels.

An emergency withdrawal from the SPR has only occurred three times in its history. The first was in 1991 during President George H. W. Bush’s administration’s Operation Desert Storm and the second was in 2005 as part of President George W. Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina.

The third and most recent withdrawal was in 2011, as part of a response to a loss of crude oil due to supply disruptions in various countries.

Schumer said the COVID-19 pandemic’s supply chain disruptions should warrant an SPR withdrawal.

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Wheels Up Raises Prices, Minimum Requirements for Members


Private aviation supplier Wheels Up reported a 55 percent year-over-year increase in third-quarter revenue amid a private-aviation industrywide demand surge beyond what it can deliver with current supply constraints.

Total third-quarter revenue for Wheels Up, which went public earlier this year, was $302 million, up from $195 million in the third quarter of 2020. Total active Wheels Up users increased 29 percent to more than 12,000, and live flight legs increased 52 percent to 19,714.

While a favorable comparison to the Covid-19 impacts in 2020 accounted for some of the demand increase, the company also reported “strong flight demand across all cabin classes” as well as new business due to its acquisition of Mountain Aviation. The company also “is seeing success selling to Delta [Air Lines’] large base of corporate customers” via its new Up for Business offering, in which corporate customers can manage pre-funded accounts for use in both private jet travel with Wheels Up and commercial air travel with Delta, Wheels Up chairman and CEO Kenny Dichter said in an earnings call.

Dichter acknowledged that Wheels Up is facing supply challenges amid “unprecedented demand” that “will take some time and patience to address.” Reuters in recent weeks reported global delays in shipping and other supply chain disruptions have made it more difficult and expensive to procure parts for aircraft, for example. The biggest limiting factor for Wheels Up, however, is the ability to hire enough pilots, Dichter said. 

To help alleviate that, Wheels Up has increased compensation and benefits for its pilots to attract more talent, he said. It also is investing in maintenance and technology, which is causing “some short-term margin pressure” to gain and retain customer confidence and satisfaction, according to Dichter.

In addition, Wheels Up next month will raise membership requirements for new customers, including requiring more advance notice ahead of travel, raising pricing and requiring larger block commitments for peak-day guarantees. “These program changes will allow us to prioritize our current resources and support our existing customers while continuing to sell programs that we can confidently deliver to our new customers,” Dichter said.

Such demand management strategies have become more common across the industry. Forbes in recent weeks reported that both Flexjet and NetJets raised hourly rates for jet cards and ultimately stopped sales completely to deal with rising demand.

For Wheels Up, CFO Eric Jacobs said he expected such measures would be “short-term” as the company invests in its ability to respond to growing demand.

Wheels Up reported a net loss of $58.5 million for the quarter, compared with net income of $20.5 million in the third quarter of 2020. Beside the additional cost pressures from supply constraints and compensation expenses for pilots this year, the 2020 results also included $51.6 million in federal funding from the CARES Act.



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Holiday Travel Scams Expected to Spike Amid Surging Prices, BBB Warns – NBC Chicago


The Better Business Bureau is warning Wednesday of an expected spike in holiday travel scams as prices see a surge.

Similar to the summer months, the BBB said people may think they are receiving a holiday “deal” with the price of flights, rental cars and lodging increasing. However, officials said it could be a sign of a scam.

“Being a bargain hunter is wise, but being careful is smarter when there could be thousands of dollars on the line,” said Steve Bernas, president and CEO of the BBB serving Chicago and Northern Illinois.

People could receive a call, text message, flyer in the mail or online ad promising free or low-cost vacations, the BBB warned.

These so-called “deals” could result in hidden fees or an entirely fake experience, according to officials.

“There are several common travel scams,” Bernas added. “Travelers should be leery of free vacation offers, robocalls offering vacation deals at discounted prices, vacation home scams – where the scammer hijacks real rental listings and advertises them as their own, or they make up listings that don’t exist, and fake charter flights that may include lodging and sightseeing. After you pay for the package, you find it’s all a scam.”

Here are some warning signs to recognize the scams:

  • An offer for a “free” vacation for which you have to pay
  • Organizers are not giving you specific details on the travel order, but using terms like “five-star” and “luxury” to describe the trip
  • The only way to pay for your “vacation” is by a wire transfer, gift card or cryptocurrency
  • Pressure to make a rushed decision about a vacation package or rental
  • Premium vacation properties are advertised to you for super cheap prices

The BBB warns people to not sign or pay until fully aware of the terms of the deal and get a copy of the cancelation and refund policies. Officials also advised that people do their research before booking and never pay using wire transfers, gift cards or cryptocurrency.



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High gas prices, crowded airports could impact holiday travel plans – Boston 25 News


BOSTON — Packed airports and pricey gas are two current trends that could impact holiday travel plans.

Last year at this time, many people wondered if they could safely gather with their extended family as the coronavirus raged unchecked.

This year, they’re trying to figure out if they can even afford to get there.

Just look at what’s been happening with the price of gas. “We’re actually about $1.20 higher than we were last year in Massachusetts, and the average driver is now paying about $17 more per fill-up per tank,” explained Mary Maguire, Director of Public and Legislative Affairs for AAA-Northeast.

That spike in gas prices comes just as Americans are thinking about their plans for the holidays.

According to the PwC Holiday Outlook 2021, 72% say they plan to drive to their destination.

40% say they will fly, while 13% will board a bus.

The numbers exceed 100% because many trips use multiple forms of transportation.

Higher gas prices, at least at their current levels, aren’t expected to keep people home this year.

“I think people will grin and bear it and go,” Maguire said. “I mean, frankly, I think there’s a lot of pent-up demand for people who want to travel.”

Maguire added that drivers can help themselves save money at the pump with some simple measures, like making sure to buy regular gas.

Going a little bit slower increases fuel efficiency. Making sure tires are properly inflated will “improve fuel efficiency by 3-4%,” according to Maguire.

She also says it’s worth comparing prices as it’s not hard to find a service station that might be a little less expensive. She suggests using free apps.

Taking to the sky to avoid the roads could raise its own issues this year.

The Southwest Airlines meltdown early last month stranded thousands as hundreds of flights were abruptly canceled.

Some airports, like Denver, have been overwhelmed with crowds this fall.

All this is having a chilling effect on some travelers at Logan Airport.

One woman said she was concerned about flying because of what happened with Southwest.

Another woman said, “We don’t plan on traveling over the holidays, we’re taking that into account.”

Patrick Gourley, Ph.D., a professor of economics at the University of New Haven who follows the aviation industry, said he sees ticket costs going up.

Gourley has a strategy to make sure he gets the date he wants at the best price. “One thing you can always do is, depending on the terms and conditions, is book a refundable ticket now, and then once it gets closer to the flight, just cancel the refundable ticket and book the cheaper non-refundable one.”

Overall, Gourley says it’s a good sign that Southwest’s problems didn’t spread to other carriers. “I don’t think it’s going to be widespread. I think the airlines have plans in place. They know travel is going to pick up over the holidays and they’ve been doing this for years.

One man traveling at Logan told us he’s most concerned about the way passengers are behaving these days. He hopes they remember the spirit of the holidays and don’t make a bad situation worse.

“They need to be tolerant. They shouldn’t throw coffee into somebody’s face.”

Gourley pointed out the holidays aren’t actually the busiest time of year for the airlines. That occurs in the summer.

He says it can seem more hectic now because a lot of families are flying with children and there are more people who don’t tend to fly as often. These groups don’t move as efficiently as business travelers.

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With US International Travel Reopening, Expect Higher Prices and Longer Lines


We’re fast approaching November 8, the date the United States’ new system for international travel goes into effect, and fully vaccinated foreign visitors can enter the country under a simpler and more inclusive set of COVID-19 regulations.

Under the new rules, international air arrivals coming from more than 30 countries must be fully vaccinated and provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of boarding their U.S.-bound flight.

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The relaxation of U.S. border restrictions means that foreigners from more than 30 countries, whose citizens have been blanketly banned from entering the U.S. for the past 19 months, may visit for non-essential purposes—perhaps to reunite with friends or family or simply to vacation. That comes as most welcome news to the U.S. travel industry, which was categorically brought to its knees by fallout from the pandemic.

In its announcement earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also stipulated that airlines are to be responsible for collecting passengers’ information and passing it on to the agency for contact-tracing purposes. That’s expected to put additional strain on airport operations, since many carriers are still struggling to keep up in terms of adequate staffing levels and re-training.

Daniel Burnham, senior member operations specialist at Scott’s Cheap Flights, predicted that, with airline personnel being burdened with collecting contact information, and verifying each passenger’s vaccination status and test results, “this will likely cause crowding in the early days of implementing these new rules at many European airports,” as he told NBC News.

So, international travelers trying to fly to the U.S. are likely to encounter significant back-ups, long lines and wait times at the airport. They’re also likely to find fewer bargains on flights and accommodations, especially for hotels in popular U.S. cities, such as New York, Los Angeles and Orlando.


American Airlines gate agents at the counter
American Airlines gate agents at the counter. (photo courtesy of American Airlines)

According to Nicholas Calio, president and CEO of the trade association Airlines for America (A4A), searches and sales for flights to the U.S. are already spiking. “We have seen an increase in ticket sales for international travel over the past weeks,” he said in a statement, “and are eager to begin safely reuniting the countless families, friends and colleagues who have not seen each other in nearly two years, if not longer.”

Of course, as demand increases, so does pricing. The cost of an international flight has risen by an average of 12 percent since last month, Adit Damodaran, an economist for the travel app Hopper, told NBC. “We expect international prices to rise another 15 percent from now until the holidays,” he added.

“Travel searches on Expedia and Hotels.com have been simmering in anticipation of the borders reopening and came to a full boil the moment the U.S. pinpointed November 8,” Melanie Fish of Expedia Brands told the outlet. “Increased demand in 2022 is likely going to mean fewer travel bargains are out there.”

“It’s expected that city hotels in the U.S. will be in high demand—a reverse in trend over the past 18 months,” explained Misty Belles, vice president at the Virtuoso travel network. “So, say goodbye to low rates and flexible cancellation policies.”





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Americans finally ready to travel as airfare prices peak — 7 tricks to score deals


After a long and at times stressful year, Ilyse Rykus and her husband David are eagerly looking forward to their trip to the Pacific Northwest this August.

The couple are traveling with David’s parents, who take an annual trip to Oregon to visit family in the area — everyone has been vaccinated, offering them all peace of mind. One of David’s uncles died of COVID-19, making the trip even more meaningful.

“We have never joined them, but considering all that has happened this past year we thought being with family was a good move,” Rykus, who lives in West Palm Beach, Fla., said.

But the vacation also represents an opportunity to cut loose — Rykus is turning 30 this summer, and during the trip she will be visiting places she’s never been to before. “My husband and I don’t get to go on many trips together, so when we do we try to make the best out of it,” she said. “It will be exciting to explore with the people I love.”

‘It will be exciting to explore with the people I love.’


— Ilyse Rykus, who lives in West Palm Beach, Fla. with her husband David.

Like many other Americans, Rykus and her husband have been able to save up for their travels, and the couple is planning to use credit-card points they had saved for almost two years to pay for their flights. Family in the hospitality business also helped the couple score deals on hotels.

Tourists from outside the European Union who have been fully vaccinated should be allowed in, ambassadors from the 27-member bloc countries agreed Wednesday. The EU’s European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control will advise on the list of countries and the requirements.

Research indicates that this will be the summer of “revenge travel.” A recent survey from Charles Schwab
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+1.59%

found that traveling was the top item on people’s spending lists, with 40% of people citing it as something they want to dole out cash on. Another 24% of people said they want to go on an extended vacation.

Those findings echo other research showing how eager Americans are to hit the road — or skies. A study released in late April by travel website Skyscanner found that more travelers were booking trips in May and June of this year than in 2019.

Another poll from research firm Ipsos
IPS,
+4.66%

found that half of Americans planning to travel are looking to go on a road trip, while 40% were planning getaways involving flights.

‘Summer is always the most expensive time of year to travel.’


— Scott Keyes, founder of travel website Scott’s Cheap Flights

Even in a normal year, it’s not always the cheapest to travel during the warmer months. “Summer is always the most expensive time of year to travel because you’ve got nice weather and you’ve got students, teachers and parents with kids in school who can only travel during these times,” said Scott Keyes, founder of travel website Scott’s Cheap Flights.

But this isn’t a normal year. Many people were forced to cancel trips over the past year because of the pandemic, and plenty of them are sitting on travel credits they are itching to use.

Airlines and other travel operators are working to ramp up operations in response to the higher demand, but that takes time. And air carriers will be cautious to bring more planes back into service to offer more flights, just in case the pandemic takes another turn for the worse and travel demand subsides again.

As a result, experts have warned that it could quickly become expensive to travel this summer. The most recent report on consumer prices from the U.S. government showed a record increase in the price of airfare, for instance.

That long-awaited summer vacation doesn’t need to break the bank. Here are tips from financial and travel experts on how to save money on your post-pandemic getaways:

Book sooner rather than later

This may seem obvious, but summer is right around the corner. And while last-minute deals can arise, they aren’t guaranteed. The more time you give yourself to research the prices of hotels, airfare and activities, the more likely you are to snatch up the best possible deal.

“If you wait until Memorial Day to book your summer flights, the odds of being able to get something cheap still then aren’t good at all,” Keyes said. He noted that there are still cheap fares available, such as round-trip flights between the U.S. and Athens, Greece, for $560.

But waiting too long can cost you. If you know where and when you want to go, start to monitor the cost of airfare to that destination so that you can recognize a good deal and scoop it up quickly.

Credit-card points and airline miles could soon lose value

Another reason not to wait: Airline miles and credit-card points could soon lose value. With so many people sitting on unused points and miles from last year, airlines have incentive to reduce how much those are worth, said Matt Schulz, chief industry analyst at LendingTree
TREE,
-2.29%
.

“It’ll likely happen slowly and gradually, but I do think it is likely to happen, so consumers’ best move is to use those points they have sooner rather than later,” Schulz said.

Do your trip planning in reverse

When booking a trip, most people start off by thinking about where they want to go and when, and only begin to consider the price at the end of the decision-making process. Instead, Keyes suggests a reverse approach.

“By setting price as the last priority, it’s not surprising that we end up with some pretty expensive flights,” he said. Instead, he recommends seeing which flights are cheapest out of your local airport, and then figuring out which destination seems the most appealing and then figuring out when you’ll travel.

Websites like Skyscanner
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-2.44%

and Google
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-3.04%

offer ways of exploring the vast range of options in this manner. Of course, for that strategy to work, people will need to be flexible about when they want to travel.

Take advantage of $0 change fees

Don’t be afraid to change your travel plans if a better deal comes along. In the wake of the pandemic, the vast majority of airlines began waiving flight-change fees so people could amend their travel plans because of the pandemic. Those policies still remain in place with many airlines, so if you see a better price come along, look into whether it will be free to switch. Any savings will be returned to you in a voucher for future travel, Keyes said.

Make the most out of flight vouchers

Nadine Marie Burns, CEO and president of advisory firm A New Path Financial, and her husband had three trips cancelled due to the pandemic. Like many people, they received vouchers for their unused flights. With travel opening up again, Burns began to work on putting together some trips herself.

Eventually she called her airline, Delta
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-1.63%
,
and the customer service agent helped her book a first-class trip to Reno, Nevada, for her and her husband using their e-vouchers and points. “Sometimes there is a mastery about putting the puzzle together when we all seem to have so many different pieces such as e-tickets, points, companion fares and more,” Burns said.

Of course, people need to keep the fine print of any remaining flight vouchers in mind. Many of the vouchers come with an expiration date, said Jordan Staab, president of SmarterTravel Media and Airfarewatchdog. In most cases, travelers need to book their trips by that date, but can travel after it.

Flight vouchers from cancelled trips often carry expiration dates.

“A cool trick we have used successfully is to book a flexible ticket with the voucher and you can change at a future date if needed, so you can maintain control past the expiration date,” Staab said.

Use rewards credit cards wisely

Many people were able to save money throughout the pandemic and pay down their credit-card debt, boosting their credit scores along the way. That could make now a prime time to take advantage of a rewards credit-card.

“The credit card space is incredibly competitive at the moment, and that’s good for consumers looking for deals,” Schulz said. “Issuers know that an explosion of pent-up spending is coming, and they’re offering good deals on new cards in hopes of capturing as much of that spend as possible.”

It’s easy to find big sign-up bonuses for new credit cards, but there’s a risk: Credit cards can cause people to spend beyond their means. Given the high interest rates credit cards carry compared to other loans, it wouldn’t be worth it to try to save money with one if you end up accruing a large amount of debt. Shoppers should aim to pay their balance in full every payment cycle to avoid paying high amounts of interest.

Spending more could actually save you money

Spending a little bit more money on a trip can give you peace of mind should plans change. Remember how airlines are letting people change their flights free of charge? In many cases, that policy doesn’t apply to so-called “basic economy” fares, which are the cheapest tickets you can purchase.

“If you’re booking a couple months out and then traveling internationally, it can often be worth the extra $30 or $40 because that gives you flexibility to be able to change your dates,” Keyes said.

In that same vein, travelers may want to consider investing in travel insurance, particularly for international trips, given that border-entry policies are very much subject to change as the pandemic continues.

“Plenty of credit cards offer at least some form of travel insurance, and that can be helpful,” Schulz said. “However, if you want maximum protection, you should consider paying a little extra for it.”



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