For your mental health, it’s never too early to plan a summer vacation. But should memories of the summer of 2022 — with its overcrowded airports, understaffed airlines and flight-grounding weather — deter you from moving forward with 2023 plans?
No. Experts predict a smoother travel experience this summer. But they also recommend you act now, especially if you have your sights set on popular destinations (such as Italy) or specific accommodations (say, an ocean-view room at a Hawaiian resort) or even an affordable rental car. “We are anticipating record-breaking numbers for travel this year that are likely going to exceed pre-pandemic levels,” says Michael Johnson, president of Ensemble, a travel agency association where business has already more than doubled the pace of 2022.
So when should you book? “The sooner the better,” Johnson says. “Fares and rates are only going to go up, and many travelers are already finding that their preferred dates are sold out or much more expensive than they anticipated as a result of the high demand.”
As travel normalizes in the first largely restriction-free post-COVID summer, here’s what to expect in terms of travel prices, congestion and trending destinations.
Busy airports, cheaper airfares
Nearly four in 10 American leisure travelers say they would travel more if the flight experience were better, according to a recent survey from the U.S. Travel Association, which also found that nearly half of respondents ranked the air travel experience as average or below average.
The federal government announced nearly $1 billion to fund airport improvements in February, but results may be distant. “We aren’t going to see better travel experiences this summer as a result of infrastructure spending,” says Gary Leff, a travel specialist and author of the aviation blog View From the Wing. Leff says the lack of funding for air traffic control technology and the need for more runways are among the issues that will take years to resolve. On the bright side, he adds, both airlines and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) should be better staffed than last summer.