May 28 2010 by Chris McGinnis
The week before Memorial Day weekend marks the time that summer travel plans are being made and "what I did this summer" reports are being outlined.
Four things to keep in mind when planning your summer travel include:
1. Road trip cost increases will remain moderate.
Despite the daily loss of thousands of barrels of crude oil in the Gulf of Mexico, gasoline prices are not expected to get out of control this summer. The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects gasoline retail prices will average about $2.94 per gallon this summer compared to $2.44 last summer. (Remember $4 per gallon two summers ago?)
2. Air travel is going to be expensive.
Bing Travel reports that Memorial Day prices are up 18 percent year-over-year. The average airfare to domestic destinations for this summer is up 22 percent from 2009 and four percent higher than 2008 fares, averaging $303 per ticket.
3. Air travel is going to be crowded.Airlines have cut the number of seats flying around in the sky by 10 to 20 percent in recent years, but this summer passenger counts are expected to increase one percent (compared to last summer when they fell by six percent.) What does that mean? More crowded flights...and difficulty redeeming frequent flyer miles for award tickets.
4. Hotel rates should remain flat. Unlike the airlines, hotels are not able to simply park excess capacity in the desert. While demand is up this summer compared to last yet, it still hasn't caught up with the supply of hotel rooms nationally --even during the busy summer months-- and most industry watchers predict few rate increases. That's great news for travelers, though booking early is the only way to make sure a room will be available during peak season.
5. Travel to Europe is a wild card.
The Euro hit a four-year low against the dollar this week ($1.21), which means that Europe could be cheaper for American travelers this year. However, those savings could be wiped out by high airfares across the pond --average transatlantic coach fares for summer are already exceeding $1,200 round trip. However, if demand for European travel falls due to fear over the ash cloud and political unrest, travel suppliers could cut prices in order to stimulate demand.