Navigating Today’s Tumultuous Travel Scene

By Steve Dinnen

Record flight cancellations. Piled atop record high airfares. Piled atop massive rises in hotel room rates, and tripled car rent rates, and record high costs to fuel those cars.

“This is not the prettiest picture we’ve ever had,” said Betty Sullivan, who has been in the travel business, at Budget Travel in Windsor Heights, for three-plus decades.

Summer travel has rebounded from pandemic days, plus some. Prices have bounced back accordingly, verging on what some might see as gouging. How better to label a $1,194 economy fare round trip to Portland, Oregon, later this month, a ticket that in calmer times would have cost perhaps half as much.

Avoiding these sky-high prices is tough to do, and impossible if you have kids and are time constrained to travel before school resumes in August. So maybe you’ll have to consider a lesser level of lodging, or maybe a lunch outing through the drive-through lane at McDonald’s (the kids won’t care, anyway). On driving trips, my wife and I would always try to stop at a local grocery and load up on deli meats, then find a picnic spot. (In Europe, this often meant a cemetery. Honest. They’re quiet, well kept, and parking is easy.)

Sullivan said she has seen some clients book trips further in advance than might be normal, the thought being that buying now will lock in prices that could rise even further if reservations are pushed back. But, without those kids and locked-in schedule, even a little flexibility might help. The Drake Hotel in Chicago costs no less than $257 for any Friday night through the end of July, and on July 29, it and many other downtown hotels are simply sold out. Lodgers will encounter a reasonable $166 on Friday, Aug. 26. The cheapest stay at the Waldorf Chicago on any of those July Fridays is $693, while it fades to $585 on Aug. 26.

Airfare on that four-day trip to Portland drops to $522 if you can wait until Sept. 9 to take it.

Or what about foreign? I spotted a fare to Boston, economy plus on United, for a hurtful $964 traveling Aug. 2 to Aug. 8. But think about this: Des Moines to Athens, with United and partner SAS, Aug. 2 to Aug. 13, doesn’t cost much more: $1,307. And the beaches in Greece are way better. Oopah!

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