Travel season is in full swing, but travelers are experiencing a slew of problems, from surging transportation costs to flight cancellations. Among those who have already traveled in 2022, 79 percent have experienced at least one travel-related problem, Bankrate’s summer travel survey found.
Does this mean you should put off your journey? Not necessarily, says Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at Bankrate. If you’re among the 58 percent of people who anticipate traveling for leisure at some point in 2022, know that there are methods to mitigate travel woes with the credit card in your pocket — or one you may want to apply for before takeoff.
Most common inconveniences
“While many Americans are excited to travel again after being cooped up for the past couple of years due to the pandemic, they’re encountering substantially higher costs and lengthy waits,” says Rossman. “The situation may get worse before it gets better as pent-up demand is unleashed this summer.”
Of the 33 percent of U.S. adults who have already traveled for leisure and 12 percent for business this year, 79 percent said they experienced at least one problem.
Elevated travel costs topped the list of issues, with 57 percent of these travelers reporting higher prices than they’d previously experienced. This tracks with results from an April 2022 survey from Bankrate, which found that 7 in 10 Americans with summer vacation plans were changing their itineraries because of inflation.
After price surges, top inconveniences include long waits (29 percent), poor customer service (27 percent) and hard-to-find availability (26 percent).
Forfeiting funds along the way was another unfortunate experience. Of these travelers, 14 percent said they lost money due to canceled or disrupted plans.
Generations experience differences
Travel disruptions affected age groups differently:
- Gen Zers most inconvenienced: 88 percent of Gen Zers who have traveled this year experienced at least one travel-related problem. After that, 82 percent of millennials, 77 percent of Gen Xers and 75 percent of boomers hit at least one travel snag.
- Gen X and boomers experiencing the most sticker shock: 61 percent of Gen Xers and 60 percent of baby boomers who have traveled this year said prices were higher than they’re accustomed to. Fifty-two percent of millennials and 51 percent of Gen Zers reported the same issues with pricing.
People of different ages travel differently, so it’s no surprise that they experience different challenges. Despite the different problems, all age groups are being negatively impacted—in each generation, at least 3 in 4 travelers have experienced a travel-related problem this year.
Who’s seeing higher prices
As people from all income groups and geographic areas are itching to explore the country and beyond, gearing up for larger associated expenses will be essential. The survey found that:
- High-income households report higher prices: 60 percent of the highest-income households (at least $100,000) who traveled in 2022 reported higher prices than they’re accustomed to. Only 52 percent of the lowest-income households (under $50,000) that have traveled had the same sticker shock experiences.
- Price surges noticed more among Midwesterners and Southerners: 61 percent of Midwesterners and 60 percent of Southerners found higher prices to be the most intense, while 54 percent of Westerners and 47 percent of Northeasterners who traveled in 2022 found prices to be higher than they were used to.
So what, exactly, is costing so much more? Among those who noted higher prices in 2022 travel thus far, increased transportation cost, cited by 85 percent of these travelers, is the most egregious. After that, 63 percent said lodging costs more than usual and 54 percent claimed that common travel activities such as dining out and visiting tourist attractions were more than anticipated.
Those answers are backed up by Bureau of Labor Statistics data: According to the latest Consumer Price Index, gas prices are up 49 percent over the past year, airline fares are up 38 percent, “lodging away from home” is up 22 percent and dining out costs 7 percent more.
Elevated costs aren’t putting everyone off travel, though. The survey showed that 52 percent of travelers are prepared to spend more than they’re normally comfortable with on travel this year. Thirty-two percent said they are willing to spend the same as they did in the past, and only 15 percent said they are willing to spend less on travel.
“High demand is combining with the hottest inflation readings in four decades and ongoing staffing shortages,” says Rossman. “If you’re still thinking about planning a trip, I’d suggest acting quickly since prices are expected to remain high.”
How credit cards can help
The good news is that you can offset travel delays and higher costs with the right payment tools.
“Consider using credit card rewards, airline miles or hotel points to defray the cost of your trip,” says Rossman. “And if you can be flexible, let the deals dictate when and where you travel as opposed to getting your heart set on a specific place at a specific time.”
Review the credit cards that you have now. Check your rewards balance to see if you have enough to cover airfare. If not, consider ways you can quickly add more points or miles and get more value for your travel rewards. Charging any large, necessary expenses and then paying the bill in full before interest kicks in can add enough to qualify for a free flight. Also, if you have a travel credit card, brush up on your card’s benefits. You might not be aware of all the money-saving travel perks you’re entited to.
If you don’t have a good rewards credit card now, this may be the perfect time to get one. The best travel credit cards can save you hundreds or more on travel. Here are a few features to look out for:
- A large sign-up bonus: After meeting the minimum spend, you may be able to walk away with enough points or miles for two round-trip domestic flights or one international flight. You may even be able to fund your vacation.
- Free hotel stays and credits: Hotel credit cards can save you a small fortune on accommodations, with some offering free night stays, annual credits and complimentary room upgrades.
- Global Entry and TSA PreCheck: Many premium travel cards offer credits to cover the cost of Global Entry and TSA PreCheck, which can cut down on stress and long wait times.
- Airport lounge access: Also a more premium card perk, airport lounge access can make your experience more enjoyable. Most lounges offer comfortable, spacious seating and free food and drinks.
- Travel insurance coverage: This perk can ease the costs associated with many inconveniences like flight delays and cancellations, lost baggage and even medical needs. Some cards have car rental insurance, so you don’t have to pay for the rental company’s plan. Travel insurance can ensure that you have more money available for your trip.
Bankrate commissioned YouGov Plc to conduct this survey of 3,378 U.S. adults on June 15-17, 2022.