Summer 2011 and summer 2008 will have something in common: record gas prices. We’re still nearly two months away from the official start of the summer travel season, but if current gas prices are an indication, then pump prices will be even higher than just three years ago.
Despite higher gas prices, the summer travel season may offer some surprises. In 2008, high gas prices preceded an economic correction. This year, the economy is on the mend, despite a destabilized Middle East, Japan earthquake recovery and persistently high unemployment. Yes, some consumers are likely to do “staycations” and stay at or near home. However, pent up travel desires has others figuring out ways they’ll be able to leave home and not go broke in the process.
To be sure, airfares are on the rise and the value of your loyalty rewards program points are falling writes Peter Greenberg. He advises fliers to look closely at their programs as points are expiring at a faster clip than before. Southwest Airlines recently upgraded its program, rewarding customers based on how much they spent, rather than miles flown. Southwest points expire after two years.
Air specials can still be found, but only through diligent Internet research and patience. Vision Airlines, founded as tourist operator Vision Air, is offering flight specials from $59 one-way this summer. Travel from NW Florida Regional Airport to Orlando, Fort Myers, St. Petersburg and Fort Lauderdale in Florida or to Louisville, Ky. and you can garner that low rate.
Spirit Airlines, JetBlue and Southwest are among the other air carriers gunning for your business this summer, with very schemes being used to lure you in including packages with car rental, hotel stay and upgrades included to win your business. Search the price aggregators (Priceline, Expedia, Hotels.com, SayFunTravel.com and Travelocity) to find deals. Book early to lock in rates before they rise. Airport and security fees should be factored in as well.
Pay One Price
All-inclusive vacations may prove to be the best value especially if you want to avoid the shock many travelers face when they receive their bills at the end of vacation. Everything is covered: lodging, meals, sports activities, entertainments, taxes, tips and more. Some arrangements include airfare which may mean your only cost is for the ride to and from your home airport or the cost of leaving your car at the airport while you’re away. Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America remain popular places to visit with local prices making shopping a fun and cost effective diversion.
Cruises are a form of all-inclusive vacation that may present the best all around value for vacationers. Some flexibility is needed here: you can save money by booking an inner room and if you choose a less popular cruise, your rates should be lower. Some of the best deals can be had right before the departure date.
Renting a house at the shore can be expensive, but if you can rent for several weeks to a month and split that cost with other savings, your beach vacation may prove affordable. You’ll be staying at or near a place you want to be and can eat some meals at home and others out. Getting there may be one of your biggest costs, but once you’re in place you can determine what you’ll spend. Bring some food from home and shop locally for fresh meats including the catch of the day and farm fresh corn, strawberries and other delights.
Will you be able to get away this summer? Importantly, can you make it fit your budget? Successfully doing the latter ensures that the former happens. My thinking is that many Americans will find a way to getaway this year and within busting their budgets.