TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Steve Chiotakis: AAA says more than 32 million Americans are hitting the road this weekend. That’s a slight increase over last year. More travel snacks sold. Perhaps more umbrellas on the beach. More kids screaming “are we there yet?” from the back seat. And that’s just this weekend.
How’s travel shaping up for the summer? Let’s get some answers from Anne Banas. She’s executive editor of the website SmarterTravel.com. Welcome to the program.
Anne Banas: Thanks for having me!
Chiotakis: It may not be one officially, but it still certainly feels like a recession. Are people still holding off on big travel spending?
Banas: You know, I think this summer is going to be quite a bit different. A lot of reports I’ve seen are predicting that it’s going to be busier certainly than last year and the year before. So, I think those people that are still holding off the past two years from taking a big trip might actually consider it this summer.
Chiotakis: You know, a lot of airlines have cut capacity, Anne, to save money. How is that trickling down, do you think, to consumers?
Banas: Oh, it’s trickling down to consumers in not a great way. Whenever an airline cuts capacity what that basically means is there’s fewer seats available. And when there’s fewer seats, there’s more demand, and when there’s more demand, there’s higher prices. So you have a lot of people competing for a small amount of seats and that’s what’s really driving the price up. Europe, in particular, has been very high. It’s going to be very difficult to find anything under $1,000 round-trip for travel in July and August this year. If you’re a very savvy consumer, you can find some really great bargains if you go mid-week. Be flexible with your travel dates, and even consider destinations that you might not have though of before, but that are offering great last-minute deals.
Chiotakis: You know, we hear a lot about Europe, Anne, but what about the other continents? What about Asia? What about Australia and other places likes that?
Banas: Well, as far as deals, I say head south if you want to go somewhere international. Latin America, and South America in particular, has been fantastic. There’s low-cost carriers like Spirit Airlines, Jet Blue, and the prices are really great. A lot of round-trip airfares for under $500. And once you get on the ground, the hotels and food are often cheaper than you would find in Europe.
Chiotakis: What about people hitting the road? You know, Memorial Day weekend, you think about a lot of people traveling on the highways. Is that the case this year?
Banas: I think it’s going to be a busy summer for people hitting the road. A lot of people love doing road trips. And, you know, you get to see more of the country. If you’re driving in a car, you can change your plans, you can make plans at the last minute. If you book an airline ticket, that’s going to be non-refundable, and if you want to change it, it’s going to cost you well over $100 per ticket. Times that by a family of four, that’s $400.
Chiotakis: This is typically the time of year, Anne, when gasoline prices start to go up. But I’ve got to say I haven’t seen that happen yet. Are we headed for some sort of surprise?
Banas: Not that I can tell so far. Prices are slightly higher — about 30 cents higher than this time last year — but things seem to be doing pretty well. And I think it’s not going to — at least right now — affect people from taking their road trips.
Chiotakis: Let’s talk a little bit about the “staycation.” I remember when gas prices were really high, there was the advent of this promotion — you know, you don’t have to travel far from home to take a nice vacation. But I haven’t seen a whole lot of that lately. If staycations are sort of waning, what’s the new staycation, then?
Banas: If I had my way it would be the “haycation.”
Chiotakis: Did you say haycation?
Banas: I did say haycation. It’s a play off the staycation. Agritourism is getting popular, and it’s a trend that’s been popular in Europe and Australia for many years. And it’s starting to really catch on in the U.S. People are considering going out into the country, going and staying on farms. You know, trying to just really connect with kind of the local food scene, and I think you’re going to see a lot more of that in the coming years.
Chiotakis: Anne Banas is executive editor of the SmarterTravel.com. Anne, thank you.
Banas: Thanks for having me.
Chiotakis: And while you’re on the go, you can take Marketplace Money along with you. We’re podcasting! Just head to our website, Marketplace.org.
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