Summer 2024: Travel smarter with these clever vacation strategies!

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By Christopher Elliott

No, it’s not too soon to start thinking of your summer 2024 vacation — and the smart travel strategies that will get you there without losing all your money (or your mind).

That’s what Katharine Nohr is doing.

She’s booked a two-week adventure to Europe in July. It starts with a marathon flight from Honolulu to Zurich, where she’ll speak at a conference. Then she’s hopscotching across Europe — to Vienna, then on to the Olympics. She’s made plans to be in Nantes, France, to watch a soccer game, Lille for basketball and Paris for gymnastics, boxing and swimming.

All told, it’ll set her back five figures.

“It’s a once-in-my-life adventure,” says Nohr, an attorney from Kaneohe, Hawaii.

Summer travelers are booking exciting, expensive vacations

Nohr is part of a wave of travelers who are making big plans for this summer. The itineraries are exciting — and expensive. 

Pretty much every barometer of travel intent is up for the summer travel season. Inflation and unemployment are low, and consumer sentiment and curiosity are high, fueling an unprecedented interest in travel during the summer of 2024. 

“Bookings are rising,” says Susan Sherren, who runs Couture Trips, a travel agency. “Unfortunately, hotel, tour, and air prices are not falling. So, if you plan on hitting the road this summer, make sure you are willing to splash some cash.”

Travel companies say they’re overwhelmed with summer reservations.

The 65′ Princess from Yacht Hampton Boating Club. Boat rentals “are booming,” says owner Joe Ialacci.

“The travel economy is booming,” says Joe Ialacci, owner of Yacht Hampton Boating Club, a company that rents yachts in Sag Harbor, N.Y. He’s seeing a 40 percent increase in rentals this summer compared to last year as Americans shift some of their vacation dollars to domestic destinations.

Prices aren’t the only thing trending higher. People’s expectations for their summer vacation are also higher than at any time since the pandemic, says Sangeeta Sadarangani, CEO of Crossing, a multinational travel agency headquartered in London. (Related: The year ahead: Here’s what travelers should expect in 2024.)

“They’re embracing the unknown,” she says.

And one of the great unknowns is travel prices. How much higher will they be? (Here’s my ultimate guide to summer travel.)

What will prices be like this summer?

It depends on where you’re going. There’s good news if you’re traveling within the U.S.: flights and hotels are less expensive than last summer. But they’re rising elsewhere. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Airfares are up — and down. Domestic roundtrip airfare for summer is averaging $325 per ticket, which is down 5 percent from last year, according to the travel platform Hopper. Flights to Europe are cheaper, too. They’ve fallen 12 percent from last year to $1,012. But flights to South America are up 4 percent and flights to Canada have risen 5 percent. You’ll pay an average of $759 to fly south of the border and $430 to head north. (Related: Will flying cars change the way you travel?)
  • U.S. hotel rates are down. Domestically, they’re down 7 percent to an average of $304 per night. Internationally, they’re up 2 percent to $314 per night, according to Kayak.
  • Car rental prices are rising. Average domestic car rental rates are up 10 percent this summer to $113 per day, according to Kayak.  Last summer, rates dropped 14 percent after the car rental shortage ended. Internationally, rates are up 3 percent to an average of $88 per day.

But you can avoid the high prices with a little strategic planning, experts say.

Here are the top domestic summer destinations

These are the top domestic destinations of 2024, according to Allianz Travel Insurance —  in case you’re trying to avoid the crowds,

Orlando is the number one destination this summer, according to Allianz.

1. Orlando

The Magic City’s theme parks and nearby beaches are a favorite summer attraction. Inside tip: Early September is a nice to to visit Orlando. It’s a ghost town. (I used to live there.)

Seattle ranks second on the list of top summer travel destinations.

2. Seattle

Great weather and inexpensive airfares are drawing people to the Pacific Northwest. And those views! 

Cool New England summers are a draw for summer travelers.

3. Boston

History and New England summers — of course this is a top five destination.

New York is a year-round destination, but it’s particularly popular in the summer.

4. New York

The Big Apple is always on this list. You can’t visit the United States without coming here.

Hawaii is getting more popular as a summer destination.

5. Honolulu

Surprise! It’s not just a winter destination.

What to avoid this summer

American travelers are becoming more predictable in their summer vacation choices, says John Lovell, president of Travel Leaders Group. Immediately after the pandemic, they embarked on “revenge” vacations to far-flung locations. Now they’re returning to more conventional vacations.

“We continue to see U.S. travelers heading back to the more traditional locations across Europe this year, like London, Rome, Athens and Munich,” he says.

There are places that will be exceptionally busy — and exceptionally pricey — this summer.

Paris during the Olympics

The Olympic Games are taking place in Paris this summer. Rooms are more than double the normal rates. which is typical of the Olympics. Paris is already crowded with tourists during the summer, so you can probably imagine what it will be like with the Olympics. Zut, alors! (Related: What to expect when you travel this spring break.)

Taylor Swift is touring Europe this summer

Prices will be higher and the crowds will be denser. “If you aren’t planning to attend one of her concerts, I recommend planning around those European cities when she’s there,” says Betsy Ball, co-founder of Euro Travel Coach. (Want to know if your schedules overlap? Here’s Taylor Swift’s concert schedule.)

Other big summer events

Even if you steer clear of Taylor and the Olympics, you’re still not out of the woods. There’s the UEFA Euro 2024 football tournament in Germany in June. There’s the Tour de France in July, which begins in Florence and finishes in Nice. France is also hosting the Paralympic Games in August and September, which will take place in Paris, Nice, Marseille and Bordeaux.

When is the best time to book a 2024 summer vacation?

Since this is going to be a busy one, the sooner you book, the better. Hopper recommends buying your airfare two to three months before your departure for domestic flights, and for international — well, it’s probably too late to get that rock-bottom fare. If you’re reading this in April, you can still find something for late August or early September, according to its airfare experts.

As always, you can save money by booking a flight for midweek instead of on the weekend — and, of course, by keeping far, far away from the big travel holidays like Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day. 

Also, if you’re going overseas, remember their holiday calendar is different. For example, half of Europe shuts down during August for summer vacation. It’s worth a look-up, otherwise, you could face some real disappointments.

Strategies for traveling better during the summer

One strategy that consistently works is splitting your getaway into two sections. Take that required summer vacation with your family somewhere less expensive during the high season. Then, wait until shoulder season for the big trip. 

That’s what Ross Copas, a retired electrician from Tweed, Canada, is doing during the summer of 2024. It’s a road trip across the northern U.S. by motorcycle — New York to Washington State, and then back east through Canada. 

Then he’s heading to Amsterdam in September for a 23-day European river cruise. He says the late summer getaway will be costly, but he doubts fares will fall anytime soon. “So price be damned,” he adds.

Actually, that’s pretty smart. I took the same cruise he’s planning on Viking River Cruises many years ago, and it was worth every penny.

With hotel rates rising in some places this summer, this is the right time to consider alternatives. Monica Fish, a writer from Glen Rock, N.J., is headed to Ireland to catch one of Taylor Swift’s performances. She says hotel rooms in Dublin are overpriced if they’re even available. But Fish found an affordable vacation rental. 

“We just had to book it farther in advance than we normally would,” she says. 

Go ahead, follow the crowds this summer, but …

I think it’s fine to follow the crowds this summer. I’ll be doing it. I’m planning to rent an apartment for a month in Switzerland with Blueground, a long-term apartment rental company. Then I’m crashing on a friend’s sofa in Spain, then heading to Sweden to see other friends and visiting my brother in Finland. Yes, travel writers know people everywhere

But don’t follow the crowds off a cliff. There are places even I won’t go. I might take the four-hour train trip from Zurich to Paris in June to check out my favorite pattiseries, but I wouldn’t go anywhere near the City of Lights during the summer games in July unless I made a reservation a long time ago. 

And Taylor Swift? Puh-leeze. I’m more of a jazz guy.

Where are you going this summer?

I’d love to hear about your summer travel plans. Our comments are open.

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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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