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The Scary Cost of Travel

If you’ve traveled recently, or considered it, you know inflation has hit the travel industry. Hard. Air travel leads the pack in high prices, but no corner of the travel industry has been immune. Inflation is a factor for sure, but demand is probably the bigger factor. That and the need for companies to recover the staggering losses they experienced during the two plus years of pandemic related travel restrictions. You would think the appetite for COVID revenge travel would be sated after this past summer’s peak travel, but from what we are seeing so far for 2023 demand remains high, which means prices aren’t going down anytime soon. Even the usual practices of traveling during off-peak seasons and visiting less popular destinations haven’t helped travelers save money like it has in the past. Let’s take a look at what that means for your 2023 travel plans.

1. Forget about travel bargains. Sure, suppliers continue to aggressively advertise travel bargains, BOGO sales, and limited offers, but those are nothing more than marketing come-ons to get you to hit “Buy Now” and think about how much you are actually spending later. After they have your money. If you want to travel anytime in the next few years, you’ll pay more than you have in the past. Probably a lot more if this year is any measure.

2. Be intentional about your travel. Travel is too expensive right now to be impulsive. Trips booked on impulse will eat into your household budget, and more often than not, you won’t get as much out of it as you wish. Out of all the travel Janet and I have enjoyed, some of the most memorable trips were the ones we spent the most time planning. Like our first trip to Colonial Williamsburg with our kids, and our first cruise with them. We still talk about them decades later. Though I’m pretty sure the cruise isn’t what inspired Rob to go into the Navy. If it was, boy did he have a rude awakening after spending eight months at sea on the USS Eisenhower without a single port call!

3. This is the time for bucket list travel. As long as you are going to have to pay more for travel, you should make it count. You might have to save up for a year or two to be able to afford it, but you can put that time to good use planning the trip.

4. Consider the UK or Europe. The exchange rate in the UK and Europe is better now than at any time in my life, which means even allowing for the increased cost to travel, it is more of a bargain than it has been, or than it will likely be a year or two from now.

5. You still get what you pay for. Ignore social media claims of cost saving “hacks.” Those hacks aren’t universal recipes for saving money on travel, they represent trade-offs that are available to everyone. Trade-offs are good…I had an entire graduate school semester on trade-off analysis at the Johns Hopkins University. The trouble with taking travel advice from people on social media is that you are taking advice about someone else’s vacation, not yours. Their “hacks” are their trade-offs. That doesn’t make them right for you, and they could end up ruining your vacation.

6. People lie. That sounds harsh but it’s true, and it’s especially true on social media. We’ve found most people claiming to score travel bargains…didn’t. Not really. What they did was fall victim to clever marketing schemes. Suppliers, and more often internet booking sites, have invested a great deal of energy studying what makes people tick, and in particular how they can hijack your cognitive processes to get the emotional side of your brain to give you permission to spend more on travel than you plan to. Or can afford to. Early on as travel agents Janet and I took a few classes on marketing, and I gotta tell you some of what we learned is downright scary. We decided we wouldn’t play those mind games with our clients, and you shouldn’t play them with yourself. Do your homework, know what a trip is going to cost, and when someone tells you they got the same trip for less, ignore them. They may not be lying, but they probably are. If not intentionally to you, then at least to themselves.

7. Get family and friends to help. I’m not talking about setting up a “go fund me” page, but for your next birthday, holiday or special occasion why not give friends and family an opportunity to contribute to a special trip you want to take instead of buying a gift that you don’t want/need/won’t use? Let them spend money on something you will truly enjoy, something that will build lifelong memories rather than leave you standing in a department store return line. There are clever ways to do it that won’t leave you feel like you’re trying to crowd source your next vacation, and we can talk you though them.

8. Travel less but stay longer. The most significant cost contributor to vacation travel is air. Rather than taking two short trips and spending twice for air, take one longer trip. The money you save on one set of plane tickets instead of two may be more than enough to buy you an extra week in paradise, or exploring Europe, or whatever and wherever your next bucket list trip will be. You might even be able to spring for some upgrades to make the experience more comfortable and more special.

I wish I could tell you the cost of travel will be going down soon, or that I have magic ways to help you save money. I can’t, and I don’t. The truth is, travel is more expensive now and any bargains that were out there during the height of the pandemic travel restrictions disappeared once the restrictions were lifted. What I can do, and hope I’ve done to some extent with this post, is help you make the most of the money you spend on travel. People still want to travel, and you should. Travel is the best way to gain an appreciation for how good we have it in this country, and in spite of the political divisiveness we are bombarded with daily that would have you think otherwise, that hasn’t changed. It hasn’t. If you are privileged to be able to afford to travel, make the most of it. Make your next trip one that leaves you with lifelong vacation memories.

(Originally posted on 29 Oct 2022)

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