Survey: 77% of travelers plagued by travel problems amid booming season; more than half saw higher prices

18 July 2023

Lane Gillespie | Bankrate (TNS)

Nearly two in three U.S. adults have traveled or plan to travel for leisure this year, according to a new Bankrate survey. Of the 32% of U.S. adults who already have traveled for either leisure or business this year, something went wrong for many of them: 77% have run into a travel-related problem.

Those issues range from higher prices than they’re accustomed to (53%), long waits (25%), poor customer service (24%), canceled or disrupted plans (23%) and hard-to-find availability (23%).

After surging last year when COVID-19 travel restrictions eased, pent-up demand for travel still hasn’t slowed. But with that demand, travelers may have to combat higher prices, in part due to inflation and tighter availability when booking plane tickets, hotels and other travel essentials.

About two-thirds of Americans planning travel

Whether it’s renting a car for a quick road trip in-state or booking a flight for a luxury international getaway, 63% of U.S. adults plan to travel for leisure this year — 32% have already taken a trip by early June 2023 and 46% plan to travel before the end of the year (with some overlap between those two groups).

The pent-up urge to travel after COVID-19 has gotten even stronger over the last year: 58% of U.S. adults had traveled or planned to travel in July 2022, according to Bankrate.

“Travelers should brace for another busy summer travel season. I thought a lot of people got the travel bug out of their system last year, as the pandemic receded, and I expected high inflation to contribute to a decline in travelers this year. But that doesn’t seem to be the case,” Bankrate Senior Industry Analyst Ted Rossman said.

Source: Bankrate survey, June 6-9

Additionally, 23% of people have or plan to take a business trip this year, including 12 percent who already have gone on one and 14% who plan to do so later in the year.

Leisure travelers in 2023 sway younger and wealthier. Gen Zers and millennials are the most likely of any generation to travel for leisure this year:

—Millennials (ages 27-42): 69%

—Gen Z (ages 18-26): 68%

—Gen Xers (ages 43-58): 60%

—Baby boomers (ages 59-77): 58%

Similarly, households with a six-figure income or more are 34 percentage points more likely to have gone on or be planning a vacation than households who earn below $50,000 a year:

—$100,000 a year or more: 85%

—$80,000-$99,999 a year: 77%

—$50,000-$79,999 a year: 67%

—Less than $50,000 a year: 51%

Higher-than-usual prices this year

More people traveling since 2022 may be good for a rebounding travel economy, but for consumers, it means more bottlenecks in airports, train stations, freeways — and plenty of headaches.

More than three in four (77%) U.S. adults who have already traveled this year experienced a travel-related problem. Most commonly, 53% of people experienced higher prices than they’re accustomed to:

Source: Bankrate survey, June 6-9, of U.S. adults who have already traveled in 2023

Other travel woes include long waits at airport security, restaurants, hotels, tourist attractions and other services (25%); poor customer service (24%); difficulty finding availability for lodging, rental cars, airlines and others services (23%); and canceled and disrupted plans for flights, delays, lost luggage and more (23%). Only 23% of people say they haven’t experienced any travel-related problems.

Business travelers are even more likely to have run into issues: 87% of business travelers say they experienced a problem — 10 percentage points more than leisure travelers.

Worried about running into a problem

More than four in five (82%) U.S. adults who plan to travel in 2023 are worried about travel-related problems. Most commonly, 55% of travelers are concerned about higher prices:

Source: Bankrate survey, June 6-9, of U.S. adults who are planning on traveling in 2023

Other concerns for upcoming travelers include long waits (35%), canceled or disrupted plans (29%), difficulty finding availability (28%) and poor customer service (23%). A little less than one in five (18%) upcoming travelers aren’t worried about potential travel problems.

Spending more in 2023

Perhaps in anticipation of higher prices, 28% of leisure travelers plan to spend more in 2023 than they did last year — 44 of American leisure travelers plan on spending at least $1,000. Some (16%) plan to spend at least $5,000 on leisure travel.

The percentage of Americans willing to spend at least $1,000 on travel comes after a January 2023 Bankrate survey found that 57 percent of U.S. adults wouldn’t pay for an unplanned $1,000 emergency expense from their savings. Also, more than two in three (68 percent) said inflation was causing them to save less.

In contrast, 21 percent of leisure travelers said they plan to spend less on leisure travel in 2023 due to economic concerns:

Source: Bankrate survey, June 6-9, of U.S. adults who are leisure travelers in 2023

Amid eagerness to travel, one in five (20%) leisure travelers say they may be willing to use savings to fund their trip this year, 22% are more excited to travel this year than they were prior to the pandemic, and 7% say they are willing to take on debt to travel.

Additionally, one in five (20%) leisure travelers plan to use rewards points or miles more frequently in the future, a tactic Rossman recommends.

“The best way to fight back against high travel costs is to redeem your credit card rewards, frequent flier miles and hotel points,” Rossman said.

3 travel tips to save this summer

With some travelers planning to spend $1,000 or more this summer, families may consider dipping into savings or saving for their summer vacation in advance. But you don’t need to spend a lot in order to get some well-deserved rest and relaxation. Consider these tips when you make your itinerary this summer:

—Flexibility is key. For those travelers who have the option, Rossman recommends being flexible as they make plans this summer. “If you can choose from a wider variety of dates and destinations, you’ll have more opportunities to save versus being locked into a certain place at a certain time,” he said.

—Make use of your travel rewards. One in five travelers plan to use more reward points or miles from airline credit cards in the future. Travel credit cards can be an easy way to save money on flights and receive perks like free checked bags and priority boarding, which can ease some of the stress when flying during the summer. “Keep in mind that many credit cards offer valuable travel insurance protections that can help you if your trip is canceled or delayed,” Rossman said.

—Utilize deal websites. Online aggregators can help you shop between pricey airlines, hotels, rental cars and more to help you find the best deal. Trying to find last minute tickets? Some aggregators specialize in low-cost tickets for flights leaving as soon as that weekend.


©2023 Bankrate online. Visit Bankrate online at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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