The pandemic has reshaped how many travellers make plans. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Many are looking to travel this summer. Most hope to find a good deal. Unfortunately, that's not how the law of supply and demand usually works. Air travel has nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels. Hotels are filling up and vacation rentals are booming.

“Global demand across the board for summer 2022 travel is up 20 per cent to 25 per cent relative to 2019,” said Jamie Lane, vice president of research at AirDNA, a vacation rental data platform that tracks trends on short-term rental accommodations.

Volatile oil prices could also impact summer travel costs. The price of kerosene-type jet fuel hit its highest level in March, compared to when it was priced marginally at its low point in May 2020, regulatory data showed.

With so many factors pushing travel prices upward, where are the deals? And what destinations should budget-conscious travellers avoid altogether?

Many are looking to travel this summer and most hope to find a good deal.

Zig while others zag

The rise of inflation has reminded consumers of a simple economic truth: When everybody wants something and there isn't enough of it, prices go up. This is true for real estate and airfare.

So when planning a trip for this summer, it's helpful to know where demand remains high.

“Destination resort areas are up 40 per cent over 2019, when comparing vacation rental occupancy rates,” said Lane. “Demand has nearly doubled over 2019.”

Instead, Lane suggested targeting destinations that rely heavily on foreign visitors and have been slower to recover tourists.

“Places like Croatia, Italy and Greece have been very slow to recover and are down anywhere from 40 per cent to 60 per cent in demand. They haven't seen the price increases that we've seen elsewhere.”

Flight bookings to Europe dropped since the start of March, according to data from Hopper, an international travel booking app, suggesting that travel to the continent could remain sluggish through the summer. That means deals could (and should) follow.

“A last-minute booking in Croatia? You're going to find a great deal,” Lane added.

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Air travel has nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels. Hotels are filling up and vacation rentals are booming.

Book (some things) late

The pandemic has reshaped how many travellers make plans. Instead of cementing dates months in advance, many began booking trips mere weeks away. And despite much conventional travel wisdom, this approach is actually a good way to secure deals.

“Generally, if you book far in advance, you're going to pay more,” said Lane, pointing to how the pricing algorithm of short-term rental applications drop prices at the last minute to fill remaining availability. “As you get closer to the stay date, if it's not booked, you're going to get a discount.”

The same is true of hotels, which are often cheaper to book within a few weeks or days of your stay rather than a few months. Similarly, deals on rental cars are generally easier to find at the last minute.

This advice comes with two big caveats. First, if demand does outstrip supply at a particular destination, prices could actually go up in the few weeks before a trip rather than down. Worse, availability could dry up altogether, leaving few cars or vacation rentals available.

Second, last-minute airfare is usually costlier. This is not an ironclad rule – last-minute deals can pop up, but they're more common a month or more out.

As a traveller, flexibility is a must for finding deals.

Stay flexible

As a traveller, flexibility is a must for finding deals. Rather than making a firm plan to visit a particular destination, follow the deals.

See what airfare and accommodation deals are available on target dates, and build a trip around them. Flexibility has always been important for budget travel. Now it's necessary.

Make sure to only book travel that can be easily changed or cancelled. A great deal on airfare with a low-cost airline could carry high change and cancellation fees. The same goes for basic economy fares, which usually can't be changed or cancelled at all.

If postponing travel, book cheaper tickets during ‘shoulder season’
A good way to skirt most of the travel related challenges: Travel during ‘shoulder season’. The definition of shoulder season varies by destination and country, but it typically means the period of time between a region's peak season and offseason.

This timespan can last months or just weeks. For instance, if a place's peak season is summer and its offseason is winter, then the ‘shoulder season’ would be the period just before or soon after those seasons. Alternatively, a place may experience peak travel during a holiday weekend, but demand will drop off the weekend before or after – these times can also be considered shoulder season.

Airfares averaged 23 per cent cheaper when booked for shoulder season versus peak season travel. That's according to an analysis conducted in December 2021 of more than 100 airfares taken from the most popular routes across eight major airlines.