As more and more Americans are getting vaccinated, they are traveling in droves. According to the travel app Hopper.com, searches for hotels are up a whopping 130% since the beginning of 2021, and AAA is predicting that the travel volume for the upcoming the Fourth of July holiday could be the second-highest on record. But here’s the rub: Cheap travel and cheap flights are a thing of the past and there aren’t many travel deals out there right now, since high demand comes with high prices.
“America is overpriced, oversold and understaffed. People are paying five to ten times the price of a vacation for a compromised experience,” says Jack Ezon, founder and managing partner of Embark, a luxury lifestyle and travel planning business. “Rental cars are sometimes more than rooms in places like Montana or Wyoming. Rooms that would ordinarily go for $400 a night are selling at $2,000 a night with less than half the staff at the hotel to service them.”
Hopper says that prices will keep going up and has even launched a new tool, Price Freeze for Hotels, to help users get the best hotel deals by allowing them to lock in a rate for as long as 60 days. “We’re expecting prices to continue to rise into the summer months on the back of both seasonal demand and growing domestic leisure travel demand,” says Anwesha Bhattacharjee, Hopper’s head of hotel fintech. “Hopper’s Price Freeze is the perfect tool to lock in low hotel rates now, before they rise with demand this summer.”
So what are the cheapest places to travel right now and where should you go this summer to save money? The experts at Hopper and Embark shared their best summer money-saving travel destinations, from the cheapest places across the U.S. to some surprisingly affordable spots in Europe.
Cheapest Places to Travel: U.S.
Want to get travel deals in the U.S.? According to Hopper, you should set your sights on the beaches of Florida, which dominated the list with the most affordable domestic destinations this summer as a result of “low cost [airline] carriers increasing service and adding routes to leisure destinations,” says Bhattacharjee. Add in the cost of hotels, and the Sunshine State is still a winner. “Florida still reigns cheapest even if you look at both hotel prices and airfare,” says Bhattacharjee.
Hopper analyzed the cheapest domestic destinations based on airfare and hotel rates, and coming in at the top of the list is Orlando, followed by Ft. Myers (#2) and Tampa (#3). Houston and Dallas also break into the top 10, thanks to average nightly hotel rates under $115. Here are the top 10 most affordable places across the U.S.
- Orlando, Florida
- Ft. Myers, Florida
- Tampa, Florida
- Detroit, Michigan
- Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
- Atlanta, Georgia
- Houston, Texas
- Cincinnati, Ohio
- Chicago, Illinois
- Dallas, Texas
Cheapest Places to Travel: North America
Want to travel abroad? According to Hopper, international airfare tends to be cheapest from the U.S. to other North America destinations like Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and Canada. “Longer haul flights trans-Atlantic or trans-Pacific incur higher jet fuel costs,” says Bhattacharjee. “Hence it’s no surprise to us to see all of the cheapest international destinations this summer are on this side of the pond.”
If you look at airfare alone, Hopper reports that San Juan, Puerto Rico is the cheapest place to fly this summer, followed by St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Travelers will also be pleased to find that airfare to the cheapest international destinations is down an average of 11% from summer 2019 prices. But layer in hotel rates and it’s a different story. Here are the places that topped Hopper’s list for the cheapest international summer 2021 destinations, based on the cost of airfare and hotels. Note that some of these destinations might currently be off-limits to U.S. travelers, but rules are changing by the minute.
- San Salvador, El Salvador
- Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
- Medellin, Colombia
- Cali, Colombia
- Bogota, Colombia
- San Jose, Costa Rica
- Toronto, Canada
- Calgary, Canada
- Guatemala City, Guatemala
- Mexico City, Mexico
Cheapest Places to Travel: Europe
As Europe opens up, Embark is seeing travelers jump at the opportunity to either reconsider requests for travel within the U.S. or cancel their original American summer travel plans for alternatives across the pond. According to Embark’s founder Jack Ezon, 22% of the company’s clients are canceling their June, July and August U.S. travel plans and rebooking into Europe for a savings of 20 to 45%. On top of that, they’re seeing more value and an elevated product in Europe. As far as new summer bookings, 68% are choosing to go to Europe—“a number that increases every day as entry requirements ease or become lucid,” says Ezon.
Here are Ezon’s picks for the best value destinations in Europe, in no specific order.
- The Dolomites, Italy: These Italian peaks provide a surprisingly affordable alternative to U.S. mountain resorts. “I personally just got back from the Dolomites, where I took my 13-year-old, Steven, on an epic father-son-experience,” says Ezon. “There were more activities and spectacular hiking experiences that we knew what to do with—all at a fraction of what they would be in the USA.” Ezon says he had looked at Jackson Hole, where deluxe room rates at a luxury property started at over $2,000 a night (if you can even find a space). For a third of that price, he snagged a junior suite at the Rosa Alpina, an Aman resort, that included breakfast and even a spa treatment. “What’s best—the food. Most National Parks in the U.S. have paltry food. Here we had a picnic in the mountains by Norbert Niederkofler, a three-star Michelin chef.”
- Iceland: “Prices have come back down to humble earth and geothermal experiences rivaling Yellowstone,” says Ezon.
- Amalfi Coast, Italy: This seaside getaway is a stunning alternative to the California coast. “Everyone still has space, and you can get a suite at the amazing new Borgo Santandrea (or the classic Hotel Santa Caterina) for the price of a junior suite at the Montage Laguna Beach,” says Ezon.
- Forte dei Marmi, Italy: Forget the Hamptons and head to this beach town on the coast of Tuscany. “Rates for a junior suite at the beachfront Hotel Byron are the same price as a small standard room at Gurney’s in the Hamptons,” says Ezon.
- The French Riviera: Forget Miami Beach and make your way to the original Riviera. “Even Hotel du Cap is less expensive than peak nights at the Faena Hotel,” says Ezon.
- Santorini, Greece: “It rivals Big Sur with its spellbinding vistas and fabulous Greek cuisine,” says Ezon.
- Douro Valley, Portugal: This wine region in Portugal is a sleeper hit—and a great Napa Valley replacement. Ezon’s pick for where to stay? Six Senses Douro Valley, set high in the hills overlooking the countryside.
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