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Summer travel and inflation

It’s official — summer vacations are back! After two years of fretting over, canceling and rebooking, we’re finally taking those long-awaited trips. 2022 might just be one of the biggest years for travel in recent memory.

While it might feel like we’re getting back to normal, this vacation renaissance is anything but ordinary. Before you grab your suitcase, let’s unpack the return of summer break and what it might mean for your getaway.

Getting ready to hit the road?

While inflation, gas prices and countless canceled flights have given rise to all kinds of questions in the U.S., one thing is clear: Americans are ready to travel. In fact, our recent survey found more than half of those who didn’t take any trips in 2021 are planning a getaway in 2022.

Despite record-setting gas prices, the great American road trip still reigns supreme. Almost three-quarters of people plan to travel by car at some point in 2022. If you’re getting your kicks on the road this season, be sure to leave plenty of room in your budget to fill up the tank.

While the automobile is in the lead, airports and airlines still expect to see a surge in demand this summer. Forty-nine percent plan to leave on a jet plane for their summer adventures. Those traveling within the U.S. should prepare for much higher ticket prices and possible disruptions.   The industry is still very much finding its footing after the extreme slowdown brought on by the pandemic, and many airlines are cutting flights to avoid significant cancellations. Brace yourselves for crowded terminals and more time in line and at the baggage carousel.  Be patient, be prepared, be flexible and stay hydrated.

Inflation may put a dent in some travel plans this summer, but smart budgeting and spending can still keep these long-awaited vacations on track.

Respect the classics

What’s driving travelers to get out this summer? Rest and reunions with immediate family are leading the way.

Unsurprisingly, almost half of those surveyed said relaxation was a main reason for their getaway. Half of those respondents said that includes a beach (sign me up). It would also seem that all the time spent outdoors over the past few years has inspired some pretty active hobbies. Sightseeing, hiking, camping and other adventure sports are also on the agenda for roughly half of travelers.

And in a truly heartwarming piece of data, families are the #1 seatmate (regardless of the destination). Just over 40% said they plan to travel to spend time with their immediate family. After two years of so much separation, coming together for summer vacation has got to feel good.

Reroute around inflation

Finally, we have to talk about the travel companion nobody asked for: inflation. Even before the extreme gas prices hit this spring, most travelers were already cutting back on vacation spending, and only a third planned to spend more on travel in 2022 than they did in 2021.

Fast forward to summer, inflation is spreading budgets even thinner. Even those spending more on travel have adjusted their plans because of inflation. For some, that means choosing less expensive accommodations, while others are keeping their travels closer to home.  Sadly, one in six said they might have to cancel their plans completely.

If inflation is putting a damper on your vacation plans, savings strategies can give you an extra boost. Try to use tools that automatically set aside part of your paycheck for your travel fund. Just remember, the price tag of the trip isn’t what makes it special, and no vacation is worth going into debt over . Set a budget, get creative and know that making memories doesn’t have to cost a thing.

Lindsey Bell is an award-winning investment professional with a passion for personal finance and more than 17 years of Wall Street experience. Bell’s unique ability to connect the dots between data and real life and craft bite-sized money ideas that people can use and apply stems from her deep background as an analyst, researcher and portfolio manager at organizations including J.P. Morgan and Deutsche Bank. She is known for demonstrating why and how an understanding of all things money improves a person’s finances and overall well-being. An ongoing CNBC contributor, Bell empowers consumers and investors across all walks of life and frequently shares her insights with the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Kiplinger’s, Forbes and Business Insider. She also serves on the board of Better Investing, a non-profit focused on investment education.

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