The Latest Trends in Travel Costs

Keeping an eye out for somewhere to escape to for spring break? Or are you looking forward to a summer getaway, or a vacation during the December holidays? Before you buy a plane ticket or pack your bags, there are a few travel-cost trends you may want to be aware of.

Airfares Ready for Takeoff

Trends in Travel Costs

Airfares rose seven times in 2012 and nine times in 2011, according to FareCompare’s Rick Seaney in USA Today. “I expect to see more than 2012’s half-dozen domestic hikes, as the scale of pricing power continues to tip to the airlines,” Seaney tells the newspaper. Speaking to NBC News, Seaney says he predicts ticket prices to rise some 7 percent.

One factor in particular seems to be driving the price hikes: “We’ve seen so many fare increases so far … but we haven’t seen a resulting drop-off in demand,” Kevin Schorr, vice president of aviation consultants Campbell-Hill Aviation Group, tells USA Today. “To the extent they can maximize revenue, they’re going to do it,” he says.

Keep in mind too that the airline industry has been in a period of mergers and acquisitions. This year, American Airlines and US Airways became one, while in recent years, United and Continental joined, as did Delta and Northwest. This means that the four largest domestic carriers – American, United, Delta and Southwest – will wind up controlling 87 percent of the U.S. market, notes USA Today. Dwindling competition can often wind up meaning higher prices for consumers.

If you do decide to fly, USA Today notes that you can save with the lowest fares in January (after the holidays), early February, late spring for travel to Europe and on the actual day of any major holiday.

More Fees for Flying

Travel experts expect airlines to continue adding fees this year. According to USA Today, airlines raked in $924 million in baggage fees in the third quarter of 2012, along with $652 million from reservation-change fees. “Every time we think that the airlines can’t think up a new fee, they surprise us,” Charlie Leocha, director of the Consumer Travel Alliance, tells NBC News.

The good news is that if you opt for enough extras, you may be eligible for a fee discount. Leocha tells NBC News that airlines have started offering fees in bundles, giving flyers the option of getting a package deal rather than paying more for buying them separately. (The Wall Street Journal offers a guide charting bundled packages by airline.)

Gas Prices to Level Off?

The year started with experts predicting gas prices to drop somewhat. “Some relief at the pumps is in sight in 2013,” USA Today said on January 1st. “After setting records each of the last two years, gasoline price hikes are predicted to subside a bit.”

Recent events, though, might derail that forecast. In late February, CNN reported a significant rise in gas prices. The TV news network quoted the Lundberg Survey, saying, “Prices at the pump have jumped 20 cents, adding to a total rise of nearly 54 cents over the past nine weeks.”

The good news is that the price rise has slowed, CNN says. Plus, survey publisher Trilby Lundberg tells the news network that prices may even start to drop.

Destinations Offering the Biggest Bang for Your Buck:

Sometimes the key to high-value travel is simply putting a bit of extra thought into where you’d like to go. Lonely Planet publishes an annual “Best Value Destinations” guide thatoffers a wide range of places where your dollar will go farthest.

For 2013, the travel guide includes:

  • Rio, Brazil: With the soccer World Cup coming in 2014 and the Olympics arriving in 2016, the guide says, “Come now to see a city in the process of gearing up to welcome the world, but before the costs of doing so rise.”
  • Namibia: The guide notes that the sandboarding and hiking here are “some of the best-value outdoor pursuits in Southern Africa.”
  • Bolivia: “South America’s best-value option continues to delight travelers,” the guide says. “This country is more than a bridge between the east and west coasts, it is an essential journey in itself.”
  • Spain: Lonely Planet notes, “Currency fluctuations and falling costs for many items have combined to make what was once Europe’s best bet for a cheap break a contender once again for many international travellers.”
  • Slovenia: “Slovenia is as picture-perfect as Switzerland or other Alpine areas to the north, but much smaller and easier on the wallet,” says Lonely Planet.
  • Portland, Oregon: With impressive restaurants and over 40 breweries, Lonely Planet says, “Budget-conscious but still fashionably minded travellers may have reached the promised land in Portland, Oregon.”

Online Villa- and Apartment-Rental Services Go Upscale, has graduated from a mere crash pad-finder to a service that offers curated collections of rentals, including high-end properties, according to Travel + Leisure. Meanwhile, a similar company, Inspirato, can help you find lodging at luxe private homes and hotel villas for below-market rates, according to Travel + Leisure. While you do have to pay fees to belong – a $15,000 membership fee and $2,500 annual fee for Inspirato – you can save as much as 45 percent below the hotels’ regular rates, according to Travel +Leisure.

What are your travel plans for this year? How will cost trends affect your travel?

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