Revenge travel is over, but guess what happens next?

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By Christopher Elliott

Kathy Lopez got her sweet travel revenge with ambitious trips to Europe, Asia and Central America in the last year. But like many Americans, she’s not done.

“Some of my friends are calling it quits or taking long breaks from international travel,” says Lopez, an author from Prescott, Ariz. “Not me.”

The latest Allianz Vacation Confidence Index suggests there are more travelers like her. Consumers spent $214 billion on summer travel, a new record. Turns out they were just getting warmed up.

“We expect that 2024 will set a new record,” says Daniel Durazo, a spokesman for Allianz.

Revenge travel, or taking a vacation to “get back” at COVID for keeping you trapped during a lockdown, was a phenomenon last year. And you’d assume that this fall, people would want to take a break. But they aren’t. 

Many Americans are doubling down on travel. These post-revenge travelers are planning even more exotic trips, going to unexpected places — and potentially getting themselves into all kinds of trouble. I’ll explain in a moment.

Revenge travel was sweet — and now we can’t stop!

Everyone could see the post-pandemic travel surge coming. The travel industry needed the business, and travelers needed to get out of town. I hate to use the term win-win, but really, if this wasn’t one, I don’t know what is.

Travel advisors say that while the idea of “revenge” has faded, the appetite for travel is as strong as ever.

“Demand is far exceeding supply in many cases,” says John Lovell, President of Travel Leaders Group. “We’re seeing tremendous sales volume across all categories of cruise and land products. Even when you factor in higher capacity, this far exceeds our expectations.”

Matt Schuyler, Hilton’s chief brand officer, puts it more bluntly.

“Travel,” he says, “is an unstoppable force.”

Post-revenge travelers are cheap

In an uneven economy, high travel costs could put a damper on travel demand, according to experts.

Chris Cave, CEO, FlightHub Group, says post-revenge travelers are far more budget-conscious than revenge travelers. A recent survey by FlightHub found that 37% of respondents who had to make budget cuts needed to reduce their travel spending. 

“This indicates that while travel enthusiasm may remain high, financial constraints are playing a substantial role in shaping travel choices,” he says.

So where’s everyone going in the post-revenge travel era? I asked Peter Strebel, RateGain’s president of the Americas. He says some areas are seeing strong post-revenge interest from travelers, including Florida’s Space Coast, Charlotte, Austin, and Washington, D.C. And holiday airline bookings for Thanksgiving and Christmas are already filling up for destinations like Orlando, Miami, and Nashville. In New York, holiday bookings are up 55% from 2019 levels.

But the truth is, we don’t know how post-revenge travel will play out. If the economy perks up, Americans could spend like there’s no tomorrow and head overseas. If not, we’ll always have Orlando. But that’s not the biggest problem.

Post-revenge travelers are throwing caution to the wind

Here’s what revenge travel looked like for Lopez, the Prescott author. Before all the lockdowns even ended, Lopez flew to Europe for a three-week tour of micronations, including Andorra, Liechtenstein and Monaco. 

After that, she visited Tunisia and Malta, and then she made another trip to the Yucatan with her family. She followed that with a trip to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos.

Next on the wishlist: Myanmar.

Interestingly, I also tried to get into Myanmar this summer. I was staying within a stone’s throw of the border in Thailand at the Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort. You can wade into the Ruak River and be in Myanmar. I asked a hotel employee how to get there, and he said it wasn’t a good idea. Then I read the State Department warning about civil war and armed conflict, and I thought, “Maybe next time.”

Lopez says she’s going to avoid Myanmar for now, too.

“I heard their prison food isn’t very good,” she jokes.

But post-revenge travel is no joke. What comes next could drain your bank account, and if you’re unlucky, it could even kill you.

Post-revenge travel may be dangerous

So here’s a fact most travel experts won’t tell you: Post-revenge travel could be dangerous in several ways.

The first danger is that if you push forward with a trip without enough money, you’ll probably regret it. Taking on debt to feed your travel habit is a terrible idea. Americans already owe a record $1 trillion in credit card debt, and no amount of points or miles can justify adding to it.

But the second danger is that your desire to explore new places will end badly. Actually, Lopez and I are both classic post-revenge travelers — we’re looking for a new experience after knocking almost everything off our bucket lists following the pandemic. And that could land us on the wrong side of the Ruak and in some serious trouble.

“People get in security trouble when they are complacent or pay no attention to things that elevate traveler vulnerabilities,” Harding Bush, a former Navy SEAL and the senior manager of Global Rescue’s Security Operations, told me. 

Global Rescue fielded more than 100,000 calls and conducted nearly 2,000 rescue operations for travelers from all kinds of messes last year, and the number of missions is up 36% in 2023. They expect to be even busier post-revenge travel, as their members go farther.

Revenge travel was sweet for many Americans, but post-revenge travel could quickly turn your vacation sour. Be careful out there.

Elliott’s tips for post-revenge travel

Planning a trip in late 2023 or 2024? Here’s how to avoid the mistakes of other post-revenge travelers.

Safety first

Bookmark the State Department site and refer to it before you plan your next trip. I also have some expert tips on travel and safety on this site. (Related: I travel nonstop. Here are 12 places you have to see in 2024.)

Assume nothing

In a post-revenge travel environment, some of the rules may not apply. For example, many travel experts told me there’s not much of a shoulder season at popular destinations anymore, at least when it comes to cost savings. Don’t assume you’ll get a deal.

Hire a professional

Find a travel advisor who can help you plan a safe trip and create a realistic budget. You can find a qualified advisor at the American Society of Travel Advisors site.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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