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Inflation and high prices force families to scale back holiday travel

COVID-19 Outbreak Holiday Travel
Posted at 4:16 PM, Sep 29, 2022

The tightening economy is taking a toll on family budgets, and it may impact the holidays.

Almost 2 in 3 Americans said inflation is "somewhat" or "really" affecting their travel plans, according to research provided exclusively to Scripps by Attest.

"The nature of consumption is significantly changing," said Jeremy King, CEO of Attest, the consumer research firm which powered the recent research. "The biggest driver of all is cost inflation, gas prices, and flight prices. We’ve seen a huge change in how consumers are behaving and choosing to react to that."

Nearly a quarter of Americans said they would not travel this holiday season.

Most said simply, "I can't afford to travel."

Other families are choosing to cut costs, either by choosing a different destination, staying in cheaper accommodations, or shortening the length of their trip.

Experts said while those techniques have merit, a more extended trip is usually the more economical option.

"In travel, the quicker you go, the more you're going to spend," said travel expert Matthew Kepnes. "You're just going to ramp up your transportation costs, and you're probably going to move very quickly, which means you're more likely to fly. And flying costs more than ground transportation."

Kepnes, who maintains a blog about budget-friendly globetrotting, called flexibility one key to saving on travel.

"If you’re locked into a certain date and destination, the price is the price," Kepnes said. "But if you’re willing to go away a week later, maybe go somewhere else, maybe fly into a different airport, you’re going to find tons of deals around."

Kepnes keeps a cheat sheet on his website with information on where to look for flight and hotel discounts.

He said his other key to travel savings is to "live like a local."

That means shopping for groceries and using public transportation instead of renting a car and overspending at restaurants.

"[Locals] are Googling free things to do this weekend," said Kepnes. "They’re looking for happy hours. So if you do those exact same things, not only are you going to travel like a local, you’re going to find the deals."

Unfortunately, there won't be many deals left if you're looking for holiday airline travel.

Experts say a good rule of thumb is to buy three to six months before your travel date.

That window has closed for people booking Thanksgiving or Christmas vacations.

Travel website Hopper said people can still avoid the highest prices if they buy tickets before October 10.

Kepnes said people looking for a budget destination might want to consider an international holiday this year.

"There's a lot more domestic travel happening, and prices have gone up substantially because more people are looking in their backyard," said Kepnes. "You're actually seeing a really dramatic rise in the cost of domestic travel."

One other option would be a staycation.

Attest's research showed about three-quarters of Americans are considering a staycation of some sort for the holidays.

Many of the same budget-friendly advice for vacations applies to staycations: Look for free events, lean on less expensive transportation options, and be selective when spending on food.

"Every destination has something to offer," Kepnes said. "If you move just a little bit off the beaten path, there are tons of deals around."