Hooray: New Data Show Summer Travel Prices Are Finally Dropping

Hooray: New Data Show Summer Travel Prices Are Finally Dropping

Hooray: New Data Show Summer Travel Prices Are Finally Dropping

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Hooray: New Data Show Summer Travel Prices Are Finally Dropping

Even if you’ve never used Kayak.com, you’ve probably at least heard of it, as it’s one of the largest travel booking websites in the world. And because of that, it has access to literally billions of pieces of data on travel, from where people are searching to how much they’re paying for flights to how much prices on hotels and flights vary from day to day.

Kayak recently released an analysis of all that data just in time for summer travel, and there’s great news for people hoping to take a sojourn in the next few months: flight prices are likely to be significantly cheaper this summer compared to last year, especially for certain destinations.

Whether you’re hoping to take an exotic beach vacation or need to travel to your college buddy’s wedding just a few states away, you’ll be happy to know that some destinations have dropped significantly. The average domestic flight price in the US is expected to be 13 percent below last summer’s average, and flights to Central America and the South Pacific are 14 percent cheaper. You’ll save even more by flying to the Caribbean (about 15 percent cheaper than last summer) or Mexico, with an average price that’s 16 percent cheaper than last summer. The only flight pattern that’s gone up is flights from the US to Asia — but they’re only two percent pricier.

Dates do matter

summer travel costs - kayak holiday chart

Photo: Kayak.com

Much has been made about when the cheapest time is to book travel — some people say to book on Tuesdays, some people say six weeks out is the sweet spot. And while the jury is still out on those “rules,” one thing Kayak did determine is the cheapest window to fly.

If you’re traveling domestically (within the US), try to fly during May or early June for the best prices. Wait until mid-June and beyond, and prices for flights are likely to go back up. But if you’re traveling internationally, it’s the opposite: Flight prices will go down starting around July. But don’t forget that July and August are wildly popular times to vacation within Europe, so you may be better off waiting until September to visit one of the best small towns in Europe or alternative beaches to Lake Como in Italy.

If you must travel on holidays, it’s not all bad news. Long holiday weekends in the US will likely be pricier than non-holiday weekends, but hotel and flight costs are still down across the board compared to 2023.

Where people are going

beijing park and temple

Searches to Beijing, China, are way up over summer 2023. Photo: SchnepfDesign/Shutterstock

The Kayak data isn’t very surprising within the US. For summer travel, people are heading where you’d expect. Seattle (perhaps to beat the heat), Las Vegas, Orlando, Honolulu, and NYC all top the list of the most popular destinations in the US.

Internationally, Africa is becoming much more popular (a trend mirrored in cruising, too), and Asian destinations are trending, too, with searches for flights to Beijing and Shanghai up 144 and 87 percent, respectively. In terms of continents, Europe remains the most popular among billions of travel searches, with London, Rome, and Paris taking the top three spots for most-search cities globally. Tokyo, Japan; Cancun, Mexico; and Hyderabad, India, are the only three non-European cities to crack the top 10 list.

So where’s the cheapest place to go for summer travel?

summer travel - fort lauderdale beach

Getting to Florida this year will be more affordable than last year, per Kayak estimates. Photo: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

If all you care about is what destinations have gone down the most in price, Kayak has that data, too. Domestically, you’re in luck if you want a beach trip, because of the five cheapest US destinations to reach by plane, four are Florida. For round-trip flights within the US, the cheapest cities are Tampa ($307 avg. price), Orlando ($328), Fort Myers ($334), and Fort Lauderdale ($343). The only non-Florida destination to crack the list was Minneapolis, MN ($312 average flight cost).

Internationally, America’s neighbors to the north and south are cheapest, which makes sense; shorter flights usually cost less. You’ll likely be able to get yourself to Toronto, Canada, for about $371 this summer, and Guadalajara, Mexico, will set you back closer to $375 round-trip. Montreal and Calgary are $456 and $458 round-trip, respectively, and the lively gastronomic paradise of Mexico City is likely to cost closer to $479.

Interesting, Kayak also offered summer travel data on which cities have had flight prices drop the most, even if they’re over not the cheapest. Domestically, flights to Providence, RI; Knoxville, TN; and Cincinnati, OH, are all down more than 20 percent over last year. And Richmond, VA; and Reno, NV, are both 19 percent less expensive — Lake Tahoe summer trip, anyone?

If you’re set on using your passport, there’s quite a bit of variety in what destinations have dropped in price the most. Flights to Oaxaca, Mexico, are an average of 27 percent cheaper than last year, and Central America’s Belize City (Beliza) and Liberia (Costa Rica) are each down 23 to 24 percent. Sydney, Australia, is 22 percent cheaper, and a flight to Belfast in Northern Ireland is likely to cost about 20 percent less.

Hotel and rental car costs

summer travel women at hotel pool

Photo: Drazen Zigic/Shutterstock

Flights are one of the priciest parts of most summer travel, but hotels and rental cars can add up, too. During the COVID-19 pandemic, car rental prices went through the roof, and years later, they’ve still been slow to come back down. In the US, Kayak’s data show the cheapest cities for car rentals are Florida’s Fort Lauderdale and Miami, at an average of $58 each day in both destinations. The next cheapest are Orlando and Tampa, in the mid-$60s per day, and Los Angeles, CA, at an average of $79 per day. Ouch.

Fortunately, rental car prices abroad are a bit lower this summer. Kayak statisticians think you’ll pay about $33 a day in San José, Costa Rica, and about $41 a day in Cancun, Mexico. The next three least-expensive destinations are all in Spain, and a car will likely set you back less than $60 a day in Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca (on the Canary Islands), or Madrid.

When it comes to hotel rates, the changes aren’t huge. On average, hotels in the US will be about seven percent cheaper this summer, and international hotels are about two percent pricier. As the Kayak report report puts it, “Do you plan a staycation and use the money you saved on room service, or spread your wings and head abroad, but maybe skip them minibar?”

In the US, the least expensive cities for hotels for summer travel are likely to be New Orleans, LA; Fort Lauderdale, FL; San Francisco, CA; Orlando, FL; and Atlanta, GA. Of course, those cities have a lot of hotels, so there’s no guarantee that the hotel you want is going to be any cheaper — average rates in those cities are estimated to be between $227 and $225 per night. Internationally, Bangkok, Thailand, is likely to remain a budget-friendly place to stay (at an estimated average of about $118 per night), followed by Tirana, Albania ($122 per night); Seoul, South Korea ($164 per night); Bali, Indonesia ($185 per night); and Madrid, Spain ($206 per night).

But don’t let the hotel costs stop you from traveling. There are far more options for hotels than there are airline options or rental car companies in cities around the world, so it’s almost always possible to find cheap(ish) lodging, even if a city on the whole is considered expensive.

Budget-friendly summer travel ideas

You may find that summer travel is cheaper than you’d expect at these three always-popular destinations.

Bangkok, Thailand

summer travel - wat arun bangkok

Wat Arun, The Temple of Dawn, Bangkok. Photo: Luciano Mortula – LGM/Shutterstock

With some of the cheapest international hotels in the world this summer, you may want to make time to squeeze in a trip to the colorful, friendly, and action-packed capital of Thailand. Bangkok simmers in the summer sun, but a budget-minded trip doesn’t have to be a scorcher.

Start your day at dawn with a visit to Wat Pho, home to the awe-inspiring Reclining Buddha. Arrive early to avoid crowds and fuel up afterward with a steaming bowl of jok (rice porridge) from a street vendor; they’re usually under $2.

If it gets too hot, take the BTS Skytrain (Bangkok’s efficient elevated railway system) to the National Museum. The 200 baht entry fee offers a deep dive into Thai history. In the afternoon, head to Wat Arun, known as the Temple of Dawn, for panoramic views across the Chao Phraya River. Entry is just 50 baht, and the vendors lining the temple sell refreshing coconut water for under a dollar (as well as interesting sweets and other snacks).

In the evenings, head to one of the cities outdoor food markets for pad thai, grilled meats, or pad see ew, almost always available with a beer for under $4 or $5.

Check out Matador’s Bangkok lodging recommendations:

  • The 7 Finest Hotels in Bangkok Close To the Must-See Sights
  • This Bangkok Hotel Has Stunning River, Temple, and City Views
  • Soak in Bangkok’s Epic Skyline From These Airbnbs Across the City
  • 7 Luxury Thailand Airbnbs to Live Out Your Digital Nomad Dreams

Mexico City

Mexico city summer travel - palace of fine arts

Photo: eskystudio/Shutterstock

Mexico City bursts with life in the summer, with plenty of budget-friendly ways to spend your days. Start your day at the Zócalo, Mexico City’s main square, where free cultural events are a daily occurrence. During the summer, there are open-air concerts, traditional dance performances, street performers, and historical reenactments almost every day. Refreshing paleta (a Mexican popsicle) from street vendors are usually around $1. The pyramids and archeological site of Teotihuacán outside the city are also worth a visit, but just remember it can get quite hot in the summer, so go early.

If you’re there on a weekend, head to Chapultepec Park, a sprawling oasis and the largest park in Central America. Paddleboat rentals are usually around $5 an hour, and there are plenty of museums for when you need to beat the heat. On Saturdays, the park hosts a massive second-hand market, El Bazar del Sábado, where you can find everything from vintage clothing to handcrafted souvenirs at bargain prices. The park alone is enough to plan your summer travel to Mexico City if you’re into markets or museums.

As the heat subsides, venture into the Roma Norte neighborhood, a haven for art and design. Many galleries host free exhibitions during the summer, while the street art scene explodes with vibrant murals. At a local taqueria, you’ll usually be able to grab several tacos for a buck or two. In the evenings, stroll along Avenida Insurgentes, a pedestrian-only street bustling with street performers and lively bars (many with happy hour deals during the summer).

Check out Matador’s Mexico City lodging recommendations:

  • 8 Stunning Mexico City Hotels With Rooftop Pools, World-Class Taquerias, and Prime Access to the City
  • 9 Unique and Stylish Boutique Hotels in Mexico City
  • 8 La Condesa Airbnbs to Settle Into Mexico City’s Coolest Neighborhood
  • The Most Stunning Airbnbs in Polanco, Mexico City’s Most International Neighborhood
  • 8 Gorgeous Roma Norte Airbnbs in Mexico City’s Artsiest Neighborhood
  • 15 Beautiful Airbnbs in Mexico City’s Trendiest Neighborhoods

Fort Myers, Florida

summer travel - fort myers street

Photo: lunamarina/Shutterstock

Many Florida destinations are among the cheapest to fly to this summer, which means you can book a cheap flight, rent a car, and have the Sunshine State at your disposal. If you head to Fort Myers for your summer travel, the obvious thing to do is relax at one of the amazing beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. If you like paddling, there are plenty of places to access the waterways of the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Kayak rentals are available for around $20, and a self-guided tour allows you to paddle through mangrove tunnels and spot native wildlife like manatees and roseate spoonbills.

Close to Fort Myers is Sanibel Island, one of the prettiest islands in the Gulf and home to plenty of laid-back restaurants and hotels, plus beaches known for some of the best shelling in the world. If you’re a history buff, head to one of the fascinating and quirky nearby museums like the Edison Estate or the downright sprawling Ringling Circus Museum and homestead (about an hour north in Sarasota). Of course, there is no shortage of beaches if you’d rather arrive and work on your tan, rather than sightseeing.

Check out Matador’s Gulf Coast lodging recommendations:

  • 15 Beautiful Florida Airbnbs for Every Type of Traveler
  • Florida’s Manasota Key Resort Is a Family-Friendly Retreat That Even Solo Travelers Will Love
  • These Tampa Airbnbs Put You Near Downtown, Busch Gardens, and the Waterfront

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Hi, I’m Steven, a Florida native, who left my career in corporate wealth management six years ago to embark on a summer of soul searching that would change the course of my life forever.

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