Holiday Travel Costs Have Never Been More Expensive

The Thanksgiving holiday will be here in a matter of days, and with it will come a modicum of, albeit expected, stress. This year the chaos will likely be exacerbated by significantly higher travel prices that will certainly complicate matters. Sure, the price of fuel, airfare, and hotel rooms may not be as high as they were earlier this year, but they are also not falling at a rate that will see pre-pandemic prices anytime soon.

As a matter of fact, rental cars are the only travel-related expense that is lower than the prices registered at the same time last year. That said, here is what those choosing to brave holiday travel could face this year.

For one, there are simply fewer flights. According to recent data from aviation analytics firm Cirium, the number of scheduled flights in November and December is down 15% over the same time period in 2019 (before the pandemic). While this is true at major international airports, the drop in routes has probably affected smaller regional carriers more than bigger airlines. Unfortunately, some of these smaller airports have shut down altogether; and fewer flights means less profit opportunity so that could explain why airfares are higher; though a 40% bump from last year’s average fare is a bit much.

Second—and perhaps more important—gas prices are still high. Fortunately, they have settled down a bit since their record average of $5.02 per gallon, in June. The average price, today, is down about 27%, to $4.67 a gallon (which is still up 8% year-over-year). This should please the 49 million folks who have opted to travel by car this holiday season (compared to the 4.5 million who, traditionally, fly).

Of course, whether you fly or drive you still need lodging. Unfortunately, hotel prices are probably the highest they have ever been, this year. Specifically, hotel accommodations cost 6% more than they did one year ago; 12% higher than October 2019. However, since rental car prices are down this year (3.5% from October of last year, 15% from their record in June 2021), this could make up for the premium in lodging; though rental car prices are still up 46% on pre-pandemic prices.