Inflation to curb US holiday travel plans

Higher costs are already disrupting Americans’ holiday travel plans just 50 days before Thanksgiving. 

A new survey by Bankrate found about eight in 10, or 79%, of people polled are changing their plans due to inflation and rising prices. The consumer financial services company said 43% of US adults who answered are planning to travel this holiday season.

About 26% of respondents said they would travel for fewer days, followed by engaging in less expensive activities or opting for cheaper accommodations and destinations (25% each), taking fewer trips (24%) or traveling shorter distances (23%).

Rising airfare and gas prices were among the major factors for the change in holiday plans. 

Roughly 23% of respondents said they would drive instead of fly to their holiday destinations, while 12% said they would fly instead of driving. 

Around 22% of respondents said they would use accumulated credit card rewards points, miles and other loyalty programs to fund their holiday travel. 

According to the latest consumer price index published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, airline fares rose 33.4% and gasoline prices climbed 25.6% from August 2021 to August 2022. Lodging away from home, including hotels and motels, was up 4.5% during the period. 

Another key factor in decision-making was household income.

Bankrate’s survey found that 86% of holiday travelers with annual household incomes under $50,000 will change their plans due to inflation and rising prices, compared to 79% of holiday travelers making between $50,000 and $79,999, 77% making between $80,000 and $99,999 and 70% earning $100,000 or more. 

Gen Zers and millennials were more likely to say inflation was driving their holiday travel plan changes, with 82% of each group saying so. Meanwhile, 78% of Gen Xers and 73% of boomers cited inflation for tweaking their holiday travel plans.

When to book?

In order to get the best possible deals this holiday season, many Americans are booking their travel in advance. According to AAA, the best time to book travel for Thanksgiving is less than a month before the holiday. 

Inflation to curb US holiday travel plans
According to a Bankrate survey, more families are driving for the holidays instead of flying.
AFP via Getty Images/ Stefani Reynolds

“The exception is waiting until Thanksgiving week itself to buy, when the average ticket price creeps back up,” AAA spokesperson Aixa Diaz said in a blog post.

Diaz says Tuesday appears to be overtaking Wednesday as the busiest day to travel, while Sunday is the most expensive.

“Monday flights tend to be cheaper, but if you want to save the most money — and avoid the travel rush — book a flight for Thanksgiving Day itself,” she added.

Among surveyed holiday travelers requiring travel reservations, 16% booked before September and 15% had planned to book in September, according to Bankrate. About 22% of respondents will make their reservations in October, followed by 21% in November and 11% in December. About 16% of respondents said they didn’t know what they would do.

The survey included 2,455 adults, including 1,055 who anticipate traveling for the holidays and 829 who require travel reservations.

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