For travelers getting ready to make their first holiday trips since before the pandemic: prepare for sticker shock.
The good news is that the prices for airfares, gas and hotel rooms are down from the record highs hit earlier in 2022, but they’re still among the highest on record for this time of year. Only rental car prices are lower than what travelers were paying at the end of last year, although they’re still far above pre-pandemic levels.
Airfare: Data from aviation analytics firm Cirium shows the number of flights scheduled for November and December is down 15% from the same months in 2019. Many of those missing flights previously were flown by smaller regional carriers serving smaller airports, and some of those airports have since lost service altogether. But even with a greater percentage of flights on larger planes, the number of seats available is down 3.5% compared to that same period in 2019.
A surge in Covid-19 cases at the end of 2021 depressed demand for leisure travel, but this year it’s positively robust, according to the airlines and industry experts.
“Holiday travel has come back as strong as ever, and leisure travel is why that recovered,” said Scott Keyes, founder of travel site Scott’s Cheap Flights. “So many people wanted to travel over Labor Day and July 4, and as we’re going to see pretty soon, over Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
And that combination — strong demand and a tight supply of seats — means high fares.
Gas prices: The good news is that price of a gallon of regular gas nationwide is well below the $5.02 record hit in June. AAA reports that the average as of Sunday stood at $4.67, down 27%. And prices continue to fall — the average price is down 11 cents a gallon in just the last week.
But prices are still 8% higher than this time last year. The price of gas is typically at its seasonal low at the end of the year, frequently just before Christmas.
Hotels: Hotel prices also are more expensive than they’ve ever been this time of year. The Consumer Price Index, the government’s key inflation gauge, shows the cost of lodging away from home hit a record in May, and the October average, the most recent available, is down just 2% from that peak.
Rental cars: Rental car companies slashed their fleets during the early months of the pandemic, selling the cars they had to raise cash. With automakers still not back to full production due to a shortage of parts needed to build cars, including computer chips, it’s taken a while for the rental car companies to replenish their fleets to meet demand. The good news is that October CPI data shows car rental prices are down 3.5% from where they stood in October of last year, and down 15% from the record set in June 2021. Still, rental cars are 46% more expensive than they were in October 2019.