As more Americans are being vaccinated, they are traveling in droves. According to travel app Hopper.com, hotel searches are up 130% since the start of 2021, and AAA expects travel volume for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday to be the second-highest on record. But here’s the problem: cheap travel and cheap flights are a thing of the past and there aren’t many travel deals right now, since high demand comes with high prices.
“America is overrated, oversold and understaffed. People pay five to ten times the price of a vacation for a risky experience,” says Jack Eason, founder and managing partner of Embark, a luxury lifestyle and travel planning company. “Sometimes car rentals are more than just rooms in places like Montana or Wyoming. Rooms that typically cost $400 a night sell for $2,000 a night with less than half of the hotel staff serving them.”
Huber says prices will continue to rise and has launched a new tool, price freezes for hotels, to help users get the best hotel deals by allowing them to lock in a price for up to 60 days. “We expect prices to continue to rise into the summer months on the back of seasonal and increased domestic demand for leisure travel,” said Anoisha Bhattacharjee, Head of Hotel FinTech at Huber. “Hopper’s price freeze is the perfect tool to lock in hotel rates lower now, before they spike with demand this summer.”
So what are the cheapest places to travel right now and where should you go this summer to save money? The experts at Hopper and Embark shared their top money-saving summer travel destinations, from the cheapest places across the US to some surprisingly affordable places in Europe.
Cheapest places to travel: United States
Want to get travel deals in the US? According to Hopper, you should consider the beaches of Florida, which dominated the list of the most expensive local destinations this summer as a result of “low cost” [airline] Carriers are increasing service and adding routes to leisure destinations,” says Bhattacharjee. Add the cost of hotels, and Sunshine State is still the winner. “Florida is still the cheapest even if you look at hotel rates and airfare prices,” says Bhattacharjee.
Hopper analyzed the cheapest domestic destinations based on airfare and hotel prices, with Orlando at the top of the list, followed by Ft. Myers (No. 2) and Tampa (No. 3). Houston and Dallas also entered the top ten, thanks to average overnight hotel rates of under $115. Here are the 10 best affordable places across the United States
- Orlando Florida
- Foot. Myers, Florida
- Tampa, Florida
- Detroit, Michigan
- Foot. Lauderdale, Florida
- Atlanta, Georgia
- Houston, Texas
- Cincinnati, Ohio
- Chicago, Illinois
- Dallas, Texas
Cheapest places to travel: North America
Do you want to travel abroad? According to Hopper, international airfares tend to be cheaper from the US to other North American destinations such as Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and Canada. “Longer flights across the Atlantic or across the Pacific incur higher jet fuel costs,” says Bhattacharjee. “So it’s not surprising for us to see all the cheaper international destinations this summer on this side of the pond.”
If you look at air travel alone, Huber reports that San Juan, Puerto Rico is the cheapest place to fly this summer, followed by St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. Travelers will also be happy to find that airfares to the cheapest international destinations are down an average of 11% from summer 2019 prices. But layer on hotel rates and it’s a different story. Here are the places that topped Hopper’s list of cheapest international destinations in Summer 2021, based on the cost of airfare and hotels. Note that some of these destinations may currently be off-limits to US travelers, but the rules change every minute.
- San Salvador, El Salvador
- Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
- Medellin Colombia
- Cali, Colombia
- Bogota Colombia
- San Jose Costa Rica
- Toronto Canada
- Calgary, Canada
- Guatemala City, Guatemala
- Mexico City, Mexico
Cheapest places to travel: Europe
With Europe opening, Embark sees travelers jump at the chance to either reconsider travel requests within the United States or cancel original American summer travel plans for alternatives across the pond. According to Embark founder Jack Ezon, 22% of the company’s customers canceled their US travel plans in June, July and August and rebooked in Europe for savings of between 20 and 45%. Moreover, they see more value and higher product in Europe. In terms of new summer bookings, 68% choose to go to Europe – “a number that increases every day with ease or greater clarity of entry requirements,” says Eazone.
Here are Ezon’s picks for the best value destinations in Europe, in no specific order.
- Dolomites, Italy: These Italian peaks offer a surprisingly affordable alternative to the mountain resorts of the United States. “I just got back from the Dolomites, where I took my 13-year-old son, Stephen, on an epic father-son experience,” Ezon says. “There were more activities and great hiking experiences that we knew what to do – all at a fraction of what it would be like in the USA.” Eazon says he looked at Jackson Hole, where prices for luxury rooms on a luxury property started at more than $2,000 a night (if you can even find a space). For a third of that price, buy a bungalow at Rosa Alpina, an Aman resort, which included breakfast and even a spa treatment. “What’s even better – the food. Most national parks in the United States have junk food. Here we had a walk in the mountains by Norbert Niederkofler, a three-star Michelin chef.”
- Iceland: “The prices are back on the humble ground and geothermal experiences that rival Yellowstone,” Ezon says.
- Amalfi Coast, Italy: This coastal getaway is a stunning alternative to the California coast. “Everyone still has room, and you can get a suite in the amazing new Borgo Santandrea (or the classic Santa Caterina) for the price of a junior suite at Montage Laguna Beach,” says Ezon.
- Forte dei Marmi, Italy: Forget the Hamptons and head to this beach town on the Tuscan coast. “The rates for the bungalows at the beachfront Byron Hotel are the same as the standard junior room at the Journeys in the Hamptons,” says Eazon.
- French Riviera: Forget about Miami Beach and make your way to the original Riviera. “Even Hôtel du Cap is less expensive than peak nights at the Faena,” says Eazon.
- Santorini, Greece: “It rivals Big Sur with its charming scenery and great Greek food,” says Eazone.
- Douro Valley, Portugal: This wine region in Portugal is a sleepy one – and a great replacement for the Napa Valley. Choosing Ezone for accommodation? Six Senses d’Oro Valley, high in the hills overlooking the countryside.
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