After the shut-down of Covid of 2020 . . .
After the closures and work shortages of 2021 . . .
And after the multiple versions & cautions of new virus strains, climbing fuel prices, and racing inflation . . .
Are you traveling again?
If so, what should you expect?
Be prepared for a few givens in this new travel age:
- Gas prices are higher – substantially – in certain parts of the country,
- Gouging the travel consumer on gas prices is more obvious than in years past,
- Expect to pay higher prices for rooms (this applies whether your choice is a hotel room, a cabin by the lake or in the mountain, or camping/RV fees.),
- Since the start of the pandemic, cleaning fees have increased for companies such as: VRBO, AirBnB, VacationRentals. According to a Wall Street Journal article, as reported by Travel Noire, fees have increased as much as 17%,
- Meal prices, even the average lunch or dinner, have increased. According to the USDA’s summary report, the average meals-away-from-home costs have increased by 7.6% from July 2021 to July 2022.
So, do you stay home?
But pay attention to what you’re paying for.
Prices at gas stations right off the highway will inevitably be higher. Sometimes, as much as .80C per gallon higher. Gas/Service station owners know that the travel public wants to hop off, fuel up, empty out, and hop back on. The old adage location, location, location . . . is why they charge those higher prices. But that’s a steep price to pay when it’s possible to purchase a bit further in town.
Also, keep in mind, if you have a membership card with the big box stores (Sam’s, Costco, your favorite grocery chain) your points and discounts will be good across the country. Many of these larger chains are located near Interstates for the convenience of their local customers. Take advantage whenever possible. At the least, plan your refueling stops around a meal stop. Odds are you’ll pull a bit further off the main highway in search for tasty tidbits. I ask the host/hostess at the restaurant where they fill up. I’ve yet to meet one who wasn’t happy to give me a gas tip.
Be the savvy traveler and conduct a serious cost comparison on where to stay.
Perhaps, you love the more private settings available through a vacation rental company. Or being closer to the action: beach, hiking, trails, water sports – appeals to you. If you’re staying for multiple days, then vacation rentals may still be the best option – even with the higher cleaning fees. BUT if you’re a one-and-done traveler, these higher fees can increase your stay-per-night cost substantially. Consider one of the nicer hotel chains as an option. Especially, if you’re not traveling with children. Certain chains are more likely to offer higher quality breakfast options, real room service, heated pools that are truly heated & pools with towels that you can actually find, nicer & newer workout equipment, and a decent business center.
Things to consider when hotel booking:
- Cancellation policy – no one expects an emergency to change their travel itinerary, however, take the time to confirm the hotel’s cancellation policy. Some hotels are more lenient than through a 3rd party booking service. Know the details.
- Speaking of 3rd party booking services, and there are loads, some charge a fee for those services. Always double-check booking straight from the hotel chain as opposed to a 3rd party site. You may find a better deal going directly to the hotel. After a 3rd party fiasco on my last trip, I was told by two separate desk managers that they will always offer a discount when called directly to keep their patrons from booking through a 3rd party site. The hotels may utilize these services, but they don’t like them.
- Call the hotel – the actual front desk – and ask about those aspects of hotel stay that are crucial to you. If the right type of business center is a must, ask for specifics on their equipment and any possible utilization time-limits. A recent stay found me at a hotel (one from the Radisson chain) that showcase business center. Reality was a 15-inch monitor, a 20-minute time-limit, and a location on the outskirts of their communal area. If you’re a businessperson, I don’t need to say more. I failed to follow my own advice and didn’t ask pointed questions. If you’re a daily swimmer, then make sure the pool is open for use & be nosy – is it really heated? Comfortable for swimming? Maybe it’s a quiet hotel that you crave. Again, be nosy. Does the hotel have quiet hours? Are there any conventions or wedding bookings for your timeframe?
Meals – how to save:
- Book at a hotel with breakfast options. Yes, that’s another nosy question to ask.
- If you’re traveling by car or even rented a car for the duration, buy your snacks & bottled water at a grocery/box store.
- Check in with the state’s visitor center for a travel guide. Most will have coupons for eateries. Same with a visitors’ center for a popular tourist city. While at the center, ask for their favorite restaurants or who offers great deals.
Some folks take vacations where money is not an issue. Whatever it costs . . . well, that’s why it’s called vacation.
That’s never been a comfortable attitude for me. I want the best bang for my buck. I want to spend my extra dollars on the perfect souvenir or pay for a spa day.
I want to be able to tip heartily when I have a great server; to choose the longer tour; to buy one more gift to stuff in my carry-on – I can’t do those things if I overpay on standard travel services.
So, by all means pack the suitcases, dump the kids in the car, and hit the road again – just be a savvy & knowledgeable traveler when you go.