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It’s not too early to start booking your summer travel. Americans appear ready and eager to get out of town and start spending their vacation dollars (and vacation days) as COVID-19 restrictions ease across the country.
In a Vrbo survey, 60 percent of respondents said they planned to book their vacations earlier than usual this year; 43 percent said they planned to book three to five months in advance. JetBlue Vacations' bookings for its summer packages seem to confirm the trend, with the airline saying that bookings are already double what they were this same time last year.
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“People are realizing after all we’ve been through that it’s time to get out and make every minute count,” says Marion McDonald, a Memphis-based travel adviser with Brownell Travel.
This increased demand is driving up lodging costs, so you may pay more if you wait too long to book. “Rates are continuing to increase, with U.S. hotel rates upwards of 80 percent over 2019 pricing,” says Misty Belles, vice president of public relations for the Virtuoso travel conglomerate.
Rates for short-term vacation rentals are rising, too. “A four-bedroom, two-bath unit that rented for $200 to $300 a night pretty much anywhere in the country in 2019 is now going for $500 a night or more,” says Jenn Greene, a travel adviser with MEI-Travel in Baltimore.
Expedia is seeing some interest in international travel — especially to Bali, London, Mexican coastal resorts, Paris and Rome — but domestic travel remains more popular, as it was last year, when the pandemic kept many people closer to home.
Destinations in the Eastern U.S. are particularly hot: Resort cities in Florida and Tennessee top Expedia users’ hotel searches for summer 2022 getaways, while Vrbo clients are booking up and down the East Coast — in places like Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and Ocean City, Maryland, as well as along the coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Alabama — and inland in Tennessee.
Travel advisers and other industry experts say the pandemic has played a big role in the growing popularity of Southeastern states. Their warmer climates increase the opportunities for outdoor fun, and their proximity to large population centers pairs well with the increased interest in road trips, given that some people are still uneasy about flying during the pandemic. “The majority of the U.S. population lives within a day’s drive of the Southeast, making those destinations attractive to travelers who prefer to drive rather than fly,” says Carrie Hurst, an adviser with Destinations to Explore in Columbus, Ohio.
Here’s a look at two of the most popular destinations for 2022.