With the return of leisure travel to the European Union, many Americans are jumping at the chance to explore European cities that have been off limits for the past 15 months or so. Now, the question for many families planning summer travel is: What is this REALLY going to cost me?
Parents spoke to family travel specialist Jennifer Wood of Dune Lakes Travel in Destin, FL about what costs to expect for those itching to cross the pond this season.
This one is going to be tough for the foreseeable future. "There is an upward trend in airfare pricing as the surge in travel demand continues to rise. We expect this trend to continue for the foreseeable future as more travel restrictions are lifted and the vaccination rates increase," Wood said.
"A rise in bookings coupled with fewer flight schedules is driving up prices as airlines prepare for a very busy summer," Wood explains. "Now, more than ever, it's important to book your airline travel as much in advance [as possible], because prices will increase and inventory will disappear the closer you move to your travel dates."
One solution to stomach steep airfare is to search for partner airline frequent flier deals and book with points, if you can. There are still some deals to be had in terms of reward tickets, but flexibility is key here. Planning travel for off-days of the week can bring down the cost of a ticket in many cases.
"Seasonality [also] affects pricing," Wood adds, "so always ask your travel agent when the low and shoulder (the travel period between the peak/high and off/low) seasons are for your destination. Travelers can take advantage of significant benefits including better prices on everything from airfare, accommodations and excursions. It also means fewer crowds and mild weather."
Bottom line? Budget for more than usual for air travel, but there are still a few ways to save a buck.
Many families opt for vacation rentals via Airbnb or VRBO when traveling abroad, as these can be money-savers that also give your group more space to spread out than a typical (ahem, small) standard European hotel room.
Wood suggests considering a different option this year. "The other accommodations that go the extra mile are budget hotels. Don't let the word "budget" scare you—you can still get the complete vacation experience you want without breaking the bank. Most are located in the center of the city and are close to landmarks and attractions. Some budget hotels are also part of well-known chains which many travelers will recognize. Budget hotels deliver quality, cleanliness, value and comfort. You can find a charming hotel that has its own unique offerings and personality and save some serious Euros!"
Another upside? Many hotels have been closed for the better part of the last year, and are offering lots of extra perks like free breakfast, complimentary WiFi, welcome cocktails, and room upgrades to welcome back international travelers. A trusted travel agent can also secure a whole range of freebies when booking, too.
Bottom line? Room rates may be the same or slightly elevated from previous summers, but this is your chance to score a lot of upgrades and free perks to go along with your hotel accommodations.
This is the time to utilize the "When in Rome" mentality—i.e., go all-in on dining customs in your travel location. Italian aperitivo is one of the great foodie gifts for your pocketbook, because when you order a cocktail it usually comes with a slew of complimentary snacks to fill your belly before you even head to dinner. The same goes for tapas culture in Spain.
Exploring Paris? Grab a baguette with brie, some bubbles, and a blanket from a local market and enjoy a fresh picnic in one of the many gorgeous parks around the city while your kiddos play. Heading to Greece? Support local fishermen on the coast, who in many cases will cook their catch for you, rather than opting for a pricey restaurant dinner.
Bottom line? Lean in to the culture of the country where you are traveling and there are lots of ways to eat very well on a tighter budget. One caveat: Tip well, when culturally applicable. A little goes a long way for a service industry that has been out of commission for the past year.
Planning ahead and budgeting for private tours is essential right now due to increased demand and crowd-size restrictions still in place from the pandemic.
The upside? For many attractions, it's necessary to book a specific entry time, which means no waiting in lines and majorly reduced capacity (Hooray, no swarm of tourists when viewing the Mona Lisa!). Additionally, a great travel professional with a sense of your expectations for your vacation can help you zero in on exactly where to spend and where to save in terms of vacation activities.
"I cannot stress enough the importance of working with a travel agent," Wood emphasizes. "Budget-conscious travelers can appreciate the services and benefits of working with a trusted and vetted travel agency in assisting to avoid the pitfalls of purchasing travel products and services that in the end don't provide the vacation experience they were expecting."
Bottom line? Budget for a more private & tailored experience this year with the help of a trusted travel professional who can streamline costs and make sure you get the most bang for your buck.
Wood adds that this summer can be a magical time to travel with your family after a long year of uncertainty and quarantine. But make the most of your experience by treating your destination and the locals with respect.
"Embrace slow travel and stay longer in a destination so you can fully immerse yourself and connect with people, food and culture," she recommends. "Take a bike, ride the train, or use the Metro system to get around. We've all had time to self-reflect and realize how interconnected we are—and that human connection, our health and well-being, and safety are values shared by everyone. Travel with respect, empathy, and always try to remain patient and flexible. Remember to travel with kindness."