'Expensive in every way': What travelers should expect this summer (2024)

Christopher Elliott| Special to USA TODAY

Summer travel in 2024 will be "expensive in every way," said Katharine Nohr. And she should know.

She's planning a two-week adventure to Europe in June, which starts with a marathon flight from Honolulu to Zurich, where she'll speak at a conference. Then, she's hopscotching across Europe – to Vienna, then on to the Olympics. Nohr made plans to be in Nantes, France, to watch a soccer game, in Lille for basketball, and in Paris for gymnastics, boxing, and swimming.

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All told, it'll set her back five figures despite her best efforts, which include flying economy class and staying in the lowest-priced hotels.

"The trip is pricey, even with my efforts to economize," said Nohr, an attorney from Honolulu. "But it's a once-in-my-life adventure."

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Summer travelers are pursuing exciting, expensive vacations

Nohr is part of a wave of travelers who are making big plans for this summer. The itineraries are exciting – and expensive.

Pretty much every barometer of travel intent is up for the summer travel season. Inflation and unemployment are low, and consumer sentiment and curiosity are high, fueling an unprecedented interest in travel during the summer of 2024.

"Bookings are rising," said Susan Sherren, who runs Couture Trips, a travel agency. "Unfortunately, hotel, tour, and air prices are not falling. So, if you plan on hitting the road this summer, make sure you are willing to splash some cash."

Travel companies say they're overwhelmed with summer reservations.

"The travel economy is booming," said Joe Ialacci, owner of Yacht Hampton Boating Club, a company that rents yachts in Sag Harbor, New York. He's seeing a 40% increase in rentals this summer compared to last year as Americans shift some of their vacation dollars to domestic destinations.

Prices aren't the only thing trending higher. People's expectations for their summer vacation are also higher than at any time since the pandemic, said Sangeeta Sadarangani, CEO of Crossing, a multinational travel agency headquartered in London.

"They're embracing the unknown," she said.

And one of the great unknowns is travel prices. How much higher will they be?

What will prices be like this summer?

It depends on where you're going. There's good news if you're traveling within the U.S.: flights and hotels are a little less expensive than last summer. But they're rising elsewhere. Here's the breakdown:

  • Airfares are mixed. Domestic roundtrip airfares for summer will peak at $315 per ticket, according to the travel platform Hopper. Flights to Europe are cheaper, too. They've fallen 10% from last year to $882. But flights to South America are up 2% and flights to Canada have risen 7%. You'll pay an average of $708 to fly south of the border and $419 to head north.
  • U.S. hotel rates are down. Domestically, they're about the same as last year at an average of $206 per night.
  • Car rental prices are rising. Average domestic car rental rates are only up 3% this summer to $42 per day on a four-day rental, according to Hopper.

But you can avoid the high prices with a little strategic planning, experts say.

What to avoid this summer

American travelers are becoming more predictable in their summer vacation choices, said John Lovell, president of Travel Leaders Group. Immediately after the pandemic, they embarked on "revenge" vacations to far-flung locations. Now they're returning to more conventional vacations.

"We continue to see U.S. travelers heading back to the more traditional locations across Europe this year, like London, Rome, Athens and Munich," he said.

There are places that will be exceptionally busy – and exceptionally pricey – this summer.

  • Paris during the Olympics. The Olympic Games are taking place in Paris this summer. Rooms are more than double the normal rates. which is typical of the Olympics. Paris is already crowded with tourists during the summer, so you can probably imagine what it will be like with the Olympics. Zut, alors!
  • Taylor Swift is touring Europe this summer. Prices will be higher and the crowds will be denser. "If you aren't planning to attend one of her concerts, I recommend planning around those European cities when she's there," said Betsy Ball, co-founder of Euro Travel Coach. (Want to know if your schedules overlap? Here's Taylor Swift's concert schedule.)
  • Other big summer events. Even if you steer clear of Taylor and the Olympics, you're still not out of the woods. There's the UEFA Euro 2024 football tournament in Germany in June. There's the Tour de France in July, which begins in Florence and finishes in Nice. France is also hosting the Paralympic Games in August and September, which will take place in Paris, Nice, Marseille and Bordeaux.

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When is the best time to book a 2024 summer vacation?

Since this is going to be a busy one, the sooner you book, the better. Hopper recommends buying your airfare two to three months before your departure for domestic flights, and for international – well, it's probably too late to get that rock-bottom fare. If you're reading this in April, you can still find something for late August or early September, according to its airfare experts.

As always, you can save money by booking a flight for midweek instead of on the weekend – and, of course, by keeping far, far away from the big travel holidays like Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day.

Also, if you're going overseas, remember their holiday calendar is different. For example, half of Europe shuts down during August for summer vacation. It's worth a look-up, otherwise, you could face some real disappointments.

Strategies for traveling better during the summer

One tactic that consistently works is splitting your getaway into two sections. Take that required summer vacation with your family somewhere less expensive during the high season. Then, wait until shoulder season for the big trip.

That's what Ross Copas, a retired electrician from Tweed, Canada, is doing during the summer of 2024. It's a road trip across the northern U.S. by motorcycle – New York to Washington State, and then back east through Canada.

Then he's heading to Amsterdam in September for a 23-day European river cruise. He said the late summer getaway will be costly, but he doubts fares will fall anytime soon. "So price be damned," he added.

Actually, that's pretty smart. I took the same cruise he's planning on Viking River Cruises many years ago, and it was worth every penny.

With hotel rates rising in some places this summer, this is the right time to consider alternatives. Monica Fish, a writer from Glen Rock, N.J., is headed to Ireland to catch one of Taylor Swift's performances. She said hotel rooms in Dublin are overpriced if they're even available. But Fish found an affordable vacation rental.

"We just had to book it farther in advance than we normally would," she said.

Go ahead, follow the crowds this summer

I think it's fine to follow the crowds this summer. I'll be doing it. I'm planning to rent an apartment for a month in Switzerland with Blueground, a long-term apartment rental company. Then I'm crashing on a friend's sofa in Spain, then heading to Sweden to see other friends and visiting my brother in Finland. Yes, travel writers know people everywhere.

But don't follow the crowds off a cliff. There are places even I won't go. I might take the four-hour train trip from Zurich to Paris in June to check out my favorite patisseries, but I wouldn't go anywhere near the City of Lights during the summer games in July unless I made a reservation a long time ago.

And Taylor Swift? Puh-leeze. I'm more of a jazz guy.

Christopher Elliottis an author, consumer advocate, and journalist. He foundedElliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps solve consumer problems. He publishesElliott Confidential, a travel newsletter, and theElliott Report, a news site about customer service. If you need help with a consumer problem, you canreach him hereor email him atchris@elliott.org.

'Expensive in every way': What travelers should expect this summer (2024)

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