Whether visiting relatives or jetting off to some exotic locale, holiday season travel is a tradition for many families. Brushing aside peak season hassles like long lines, Americans normally flock to airports or jump behind the wheel of a car without hesitation.
Though this year, many are pumping the brakes on vacations during November, December, and January. Soaring inflation has thrown another curve ball into America's need for a winter break after two years of pandemic delays and cancellations.
The report said Americans could feel the effects of inflation in their paychecks until the first quarter of 2024.
Higher living costs combined with the towering price of transportation and accommodation have demolished many dreams of a holiday getaway. Inflated travel costs have changed holiday plans for 79 percent of U.S. residents, according to a Bankrate survey.
Even savvy travelers are feeling the pinch and making adjustments.
Peak Season Price TagSchmit runs the popular blog Uprooted Traveler, which offers helpful tips and tricks for aspiring wanderers.
Opting out of the peak season price tag, she says she and her husband are planning a "mini-holiday redo" in February. She says they intend to rent an Airbnb with family and cook up a traditional Thanksgiving-style feast with all the fixings.
"Mashed potatoes will taste just as good in February," she said.
Industry insiders and business owners have also noticed a change in sales and website traffic. Moreover, some have had to raise prices for tours and services due to higher operating costs.
"This might be the worst year for travel in the last 20 years. Our app has seen a 10 percent decline in bookings this year as flight prices have increased," Raj Mahal told The Epoch Times.
Mahal is the founder of PlanMoreTrips, a free app that saves people money when they book on any travel website. Beyond bookings, he admits his own personal plans have also been affected.
Holiday Drear, Not CheerA major factor in the scaled-back holiday travel trend is the cost of transportation. One analysis showed plane ticket prices in November are up 43 percent compared to the same time last year.
Rental car prices haven't fared much better. Despite having come down 3.5 percent from a record high in 2021, the cost is still 47 percent higher than in 2019.
"One of the most noticeable effects of inflation on travel is the skyrocketing price of airfares," Alison Meacham told The Epoch Times.
Meacham lives in California and specializes in Disney vacations, which she shares details of in her blog Everything Mouse. She's witnessed inflation take a heavy toll on the industry and, like many, adjusted her own travel plans.
Regarding airfare price hikes, she said the increase took holiday season vacations off the table entirely for some. For others, less expensive modes of transit or destinations have been a middle-ground solution.
"This is especially problematic for budget-minded travelers looking to save money," she said.
Predictably, middle and lower-income households have been hit the hardest.
One study showed almost 90 percent of Americans who earn less than $50,000 a year have to adjust or cancel their holiday travels due to inflated costs. That number is 70 percent for those earning more than $100,000 per year.
Some operators who enjoyed the post-pandemic lockdown wave of travelers say inflation has stalled the industry's recovery.
"I run a food tour company in New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. I've noticed that the tourism market post-pandemic was on the rise, but it seems to have slowed as inflation is hitting," Avital Ungar told The Epoch Times.
Ungar's business Avital takes fellow food lovers on excursions to sample culinary delights. She says enjoying good food is another facet of the travel industry that's taken a hit from inflation.
"Each of our food tours visits four restaurants, and we've seen increased costs passed along to us,' she said.
As of October 2022, the cost of dining out spiked more than 8 percent compared to the same time last year.