Apr 4, 2022 - Economy

The summer of "revenge travel"

Illustration of Benjamin Franklin holding a tropical cocktail while wearing a sunhat and sunglasses.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

After two years of pandemic-related cancellations, Americans are splurging on "revenge travel" to make up for lost time, treating themselves to premium airfares, nicer accommodations and longer stays.

Why it matters: Even though inflation is making everything more expensive — and there's the risk of a widening conflict in Europe — travelers nevertheless are tired of putting their plans on hold and are seeking retribution against COVID-19 and its grip on their lives.

  • "People are saying, 'Let's pull the trigger and travel for real this time,'" says Brian Kelly, CEO of The Points Guy, a travel advisory site.

Driving the news: Nearly nine out of 10 Americans (85%) are expecting to travel this summer, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

People aren't just traveling more, they're spending more too. And why not? Many people are feeling flush after hunkering down for the past two years.

  • Some also have travel vouchers from previously canceled trips that they are eager to use.

Travel prices have risen sharply in 2022, driven in part by the soaring cost of jet fuel.

  • Domestic airfares are up 40% since the beginning of the year, to $330, according to Hopper, a travel app that tracks and predicts flight and hotel prices. That's about 7% above pre-pandemic prices.
  • Hopper predicts domestic fares will keep rising another 10%, to an average of $360, by May.
  • International fares are likely to rise about 15% between now and June, to about $940, the company predicts.

The rise of premium leisure travel is one of the biggest trends to come out of the pandemic.

  • Even though business travel remains weak, first-class cabins are filled with passengers willing to pay extra for a more luxurious experience.
  • Airlines are catering to this new class of traveler by investing in expanded cabins, more comfortable seats and fancier airport lounges.
  • Delta Air Lines, for example, plans to include lie-flat beds and a premium economy section on some of its newest planes, according to Skift's Airline Weekly.
  • United Airlines, meanwhile, introduced new vacation routes from New York to the European islands of the Azores in Portugal and Mallorca in Spain.

The big picture: With global COVID cases declining, many countries have eased their travel restrictions.

Be smart: Some countries still require visitors to complete a health form, provide proof of vaccination and present a recent negative COVID test result. The CDC has all the details here.

What to watch: With a glimmer of hope for peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, The Points Guy is seeing a spike in searches for travel to London and Paris.

  • "My gut says this will be a big summer for Americans who miss European capitals," says Kelly.
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