Frugal Living: What’s the state of travel in 2022?
One of our most popular podcast episodes focused on travel. We discussed how to find cheap hotels, how to book cheap flights, and how to use credit card points to travel the world. This week, we brought back the same expert. I asked Mark Jackson what to consider when booking travel in 2022. You can listen to Frugal Living with Jim Markus on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon, Anchor.fm, iHeartRadio, or anywhere you go to find podcasts.
What’s the state of travel in 2022?
In our conversation, Mark discussed the main challenges facing travelers this year. What are the current travel restrictions? How has travel changed since the start of the pandemic? Mark talked about a return to high-volume bookings (especially at popular destinations) and advises frugal travelers to target off-season destinations whenever possible.
We also talked about inflation. Gas prices already rocketed higher in the past few months, and Russia’s ongoing invasion promises to keep those prices high for the foreseeable future. If you’re traveling by air or by car, plan for high fuel prices.
Finally, we talked about finding a credit card to use to build travel points. This advice only applies when you’re able to pay your card off, in full, at the end of every month. For those travelers, check out the best credit cards for travel. Mark and the editorial team also post their best travel offers for 2022 at Brad’s Deals.
Read a Transcript of this Episode
This is Frugal Living. <music> One of our most popular episodes over the past few years is a chat with Mark Jackson. He knows more about travel than anyone I’ve ever met. I wanted to talk to him about what travel looks like this year. With everything going on, how do you find a deal? Here’s our conversation. <music>
I’m Mark Jackson. And I’m the travel editor at Brad’s Deals.
You have been on the podcast before. And you’re one of the most popular episodes we had. People wanna hear what Mark has to say. Like, they wanna know about your travel thoughts. And so thanks for making time to chat again.
Yeah, thanks for having me back on. I think everyone is sick of being at home and wants to get out there in the world a little bit. So not surprised that people want to listen in and find ways to save money on their next trip.
Yeah. And that’s specifically what I wanted to talk to you about today. We normally have quite a bit of a lead time with our interviews, but you and I are chatting on the last day of February, 2022. And this episode is gonna come out next week. What is the state of travel this year? What’s new?
Well, we are still in a pandemic as you know. So that’s always something that’s overhanging trips in 2022. And then most recently we had Russia invade Ukraine. So there’s definitely some travel disruptions there that is still a little early to know exactly how all that will shake out. But something I’m starting to look at a little bit and see what sort of impacts there might be for people traveling to, especially Europe, in the summer this year.
Two vital concerns I think to bring up. And I think both are worth diving into a little bit more. What is a traveler thinking about now that they might not have been thinking about last year?
So last was definitely the year of the variant. You know, we had the vaccines come out and everyone was super excited. And then Delta came out, which was a little scary. And then Omicron–large number of cases, but less lethal for people that are fully vaccinated. People started getting boosters and we’ve seen the cases come down. So in 2022, we’ve actually seen something interesting start to happen with travel restrictions. As you might be aware, a lot of international destinations require testing, and there’s a lot of hoops to jump through to get somewhere. But we’ve seen a lot of destinations drop the testing requirements. Just this month we saw the United Kingdom, which had pretty stringent testing. They dropped that completely. So if you’re fully vaccinated, you can go to the United Kingdom without having to take a test before, which is obviously very, very convenient.
Even though we’ve seen surges of, you know, new variants, especially domestic travel seems like it’s very popular right now. It’s been years. People are ready to go and see new things. What might people be overlooking that is available that is worth checking out if you wanna go on a vacation, assuming you don’t wanna travel internationally?
Well, you’re very right. There are a lot of destinations that are quite busy right now. I was just looking at Hawaii in May. And some of these hotels are charging exorbitant rates. I looked at a Courtyard Marriot in Maui that’s technically an airport hotel and it was going for over 650 dollars a night. And that’s, kind of, the normal price right now. Resorts that were normally expensive in normal times are just outta control, you know, has a comma in the price point. So I can understand a lot of people looking at alternative options if they still wanna travel domestically. I would recommend anyone look at off-peak travel as a way to save any amount of money. You know, the traveling off-peak has always been a good strategy because travels prices are demand based. So Hawaii, you’re seeing crazy prices because a lot of people want to go there. And if you’re not comfortable traveling internationally, but you still want that sort of international feel, Hawaii’s probably our best option as Americans. So I would definitely have people look at shoulder season or off peak if they really love a particular destination. That’s one strategy. Always looking at Airbnb and home rentals as well. But I will note that we’ve seen a real uptick in fees on Airbnb and home rentals, especially since the pandemic began. I’ve seen maybe a $200, $250 night price quoted, and then after fees, the prices doubled. Which at that point you might as well just stay at the hotel with all the amenities that come with that. So it’s dire out there for people that are trying to save money on vacations. And once you arrive at the destination, there’s still a lot of staffing issues as the entire country, in some cases the world, are dealing with. So, you know, that’s just the reality of travel at this point.
I really like the idea of book off peak. Decide where you wanna go, figure out what the peak season is, and, you know, book that. Can we think of this in an inverted way? Instead of, “Hey, I wanna go to Hawaii. I should book off peak in Hawaii.” Let’s say you wanna travel in the early summer. What’s off-peak in the early summer? Like, is it better to go to Alaska in the early summer?
Specific to Alaska, I’d say their off peak is the winter. You definitely visit Alaska and, and have a great time if you don’t mind some of the cold weather. They have ski resorts, they have outdoor activities. Some of the national parks are, are open during that time. Obviously summer is gonna be a lot more popular in Alaska. I’ve traveled, I’d say shoulder season to Alaska before in mid-May when all the touristy activities actually have started to open up. You know, as soon as the snow thaw is really… It’s around mid-May that all of the excursions that a lot of cruise ship passengers do, or, you know, land-based people, they all open up. And so I’ve, I’ve been that weekend and it was really great ’cause it’s empty. The weather was particularly nice when I was there and yeah, you have the place to yourself now. I haven’t been since the pandemic began, but I imagine that that would still hold true. And certainly the hotel prices would be a little less pricey than during the middle of the summer when everyone’s coming to Alaska.
That’s great advice. And one way, I mean you, you just kind of hit on it. One type of travel we haven’t really talked about is cruises. So we’ve talked about how it can be difficult to go to Hawaii or to get a good campsite well in advance in the summer. But I am seeing really discounted rates on last-minute cruise travel. Is that something that we can expect to see throughout the summer? Or is that just, kind of, a fleeting thing, better book it while you see it?
Cruises are incredibly well-priced right now. So of course they were the pariah of the early pandemic with all of the outbreaks onboard and you know, for good reason. There was not a lot known about the virus at that time. And they’ve always been airborne virus Petri dishes for lack of a better word. That’s always gonna be a risk on a cruise. I’ve been on a cruise this year. I went in early January. I felt very safe. The cleaning onboard was fantastic and all the cruise ships are running at a slightly reduced capacity right now. You’re seeing it reflected in the prices. The demand has not fully recovered for them quite yet. I imagine that will change. So if you are seeing a cruise, if you’re eyeing a cruise and you love the price, I would pull the trigger on that one and go ahead and secure your stateroom there. Because cruises have always been a reasonably priced vacation for families. That will continue. The way that cruises monetize their customers onboard has evolved to where the price that you used to pay to get onboard was pretty much all in minus maybe some alcoholic beverages. But now you see the really fancy ships that, perhaps Royal Caribbean sails, a lot of nickel and diming going on onboard. So I do think that the all-in price will go up for families as 2022 continues. But we may see the get-onboard price–the, you know, initial stateroom payment–still remain relatively low and definitely low compared to some other domestic travel options. Keep in mind, every cruise fare that you see is gonna include, you know, food options in that price. They might have some fancier options that you can opt in for but definitely not required. So if you’re looking to get away and visit some of those international destinations, but maybe you don’t have a passport. Some people don’t know this, but if you’re sailing from a US port, you don’t have to have a passport to sail. You can bring your birth certificate and a state ID and the cruise ship will, will let you sail. Double-check with your cruise operator, of course. Things can change. But overall I think that cruises for people that are comfortable onboard in this environment can be a really, really nice travel option in 2022. <music>
This episode, as always, was brought to you by Brad’s Deals. There’s a community of people here scouring the web for the best deals on everything. The site is BradsDeals.com. One trick for deal hunters: You can sign up for the Brad’s Deals newsletter. That way, you’ll have a better chance of snagging something stellar before it sells out. Thanks for listening. <music> We haven’t really talked about airfare. What are we seeing in terms of airfare prices right now? Are more people flying again? Did that actually start last year?
Definitely. I definitely have recognized a large uptick in people in the airport in the last year or so. I don’t think it’s necessarily a new phenomenon in terms of the pandemic. I think this all started last year after the vaccine came out and people feel more comfortable flying. Airfare prices are higher than I’ve seen in quite some time, not necessarily for every single route. But airlines are dealing with staffing issues, of course. Some airlines have had to adjust schedules or cancel flights. We see, you know, every few months or so, sort of, a big weekend meltdown of certain airlines. And there’s nothing much that a traveler can do because of that. So I think we’re seeing fewer flights operating, which means that the supply of seats has gone down. Which means that for the existing demand, you’re gonna pay a higher price for that flight. So I was talking to a friend and actually he’s flying to Houston from Phoenix this week. Normal domestic flight, paid $600 roundtrip for a direct flight on United this week, which is, you know, a little last-minute pricing. So I mean, there, there’s definitely that. But I’ve flown to Japan for less money before, so it can be rough out there for certain routes, for sure. And I’ve been able to save money on airfare during the pandemic. I’ve found, just back to that off-peak advice, flying in the middle of the week versus a weekend, and then trying to use some award points, of course. The points or miles can definitely save you some money as well when you’re trying to book that flight for your next trip.
We’ll get more in detail in that a little later in this conversation, but just to, kind of, recap what we’ve talked about so far, it seems like the answer for a frugal-minded person to find the best deal on travel right now is probably pretty similar to what it always is. Be flexible. Look at multiple options. If you’re going somewhere domestically, is there a train ticket? Is it cheaper? Is it gonna make sense in your life to maybe drive instead of fly? You know, like look at that. And obviously if you’re doing that, consider gas prices, consider inflation hitting gas prices specifically this year. And, you know, mark that into your calculation, and then determine whether that’s gonna make more sense for you. Am I getting all that right so far?
Definitely. And I’m glad you did mention car travel because yes, gas prices are high and they will likely rise higher. You know, we’re at the end of February here, but any sort of skirmish involving a big energy producer is going to spike gas prices and just in time for summer travel season. I will say too, if you’re traveling in your own car, yeah, you just have to deal with the gas prices. If you’re renting a car, rental car prices are still sky high. I mean, we’ve seen the used-car market and the new car-market, you know, people paying over sticker price for new cars and used cars increasing in value, which is just insane. So that’s going over to the Hertzs of the world that sold all of their cars at the beginning of the pandemic because they were in such financial straits. And it’s really bad. So I’ve never seen higher rental car prices in my day. So keep that in mind. If you can drive your own car on your vacation for a big road trip, probably gonna save you a lot of money.
So road trip with friends, community travel’s good. These are all good things for 2022.
Yeah. If you could travel by wind power, that’s probably most, uh, most ideal. Maybe get into your sailboat. Might be the cheapest vacation here.
I like that idea. Sidetrack: Are you familiar with, like, sailing at all?
A little bit, yeah.
Okay. So this an interesting idea, right? Like, I’d always heard that buying a boat is pretty inexpensive. Like, if you wanna buy a sailboat, it’s not that expensive. It’s the storage of the sailboat that’s gonna be expensive. Is that a fair assessment?
I think so. Without doing a ton of research on my side, I’ve always seen, you know, docking fees and, you know, long, long waits to get into premier harbors. When I lived in Southern California, I know that was a big issue ’cause a lot of people actually live on the boat. It’s a good solution for people in places like Southern California, where the rent is insane. You can live on the ocean in your boat and as long as you can find a place to park it.
Love it. All right, this is Frugal Living now. Boat travel, wind power. We got this. That’s what we wanna see more of in 2022.
Oh yeah, for sure. Starting to feel a little bit more like Mad Max.
For every day, to go back to one of my favorite conversation topics with you specifically, credit card points. Why is this a good deal for travel?
For sure. Well, I’ll start with people that are not necessarily comfortable with the notion of a credit card at all at this point. So maybe you’re using your debit card or cash. The debit card has some purchase protections for you. But a credit card is gonna offer those same protections or even slightly better protections as well as not using your hard-earned cash upfront for those transactions. So you have a little bit of an added benefit there because if, say, someone took $2,000 from your account with your debit card and it’s a $2,000 purchase. You know, you’re not on the hook for that in either instance because of fraud protections. But it’s a little bit more inconvenient when there’s $2000 missing from your checking account versus $2,000 charged to a credit card account that you don’t have to pay until the end of the month. So that’s one instance that I, I always stress to people. And then especially cash. If you pay cash, then, you know, good luck getting your money back on something that, you know, maybe breaks. There’s no protections really there. You’re at the will of the merchant that you bought from. So definitely keep that in mind with credit cards. The other thing with credit cards that’s gonna be better than debit cards and cash is that you’re gonna earn a percent back on every purchase if you’re choosing the right credit card, which is why I’m here. You know, you’re… At a minimum, you want your credit card earning you 2% cash back. There’s a lot of no-fee credit cards that, that offer that in the market. As someone who likes to travel, you can increase that payback on your everyday purchases by using a travel credit card. And the reason why is because you’re earning credit card points that you can use to book travel at a higher rate than maybe a 2% cash back card.
So say you earn 10,000 cash back points on your cash back credit card. That’s about a hundred dollars. I’m just using generalities here. A hundred dollars cash back off your bill, not bad. Those same 10,000 points on a travel credit card could be transferred to one of their travel partners. Say you can transfer them to United Airlines. And that 10,000 points could maybe help you purchase a $200 flight. So you’ve doubled the amount of your quote cash back or your rewards on your everyday spending just by moving those points into something that you would’ve bought anyway. So if you are a traveler, you know, this is a very simple example, but the way that I like to think about things when putting my purchases on a card that earns travel points that I can transfer later and use on my trips.
I mean, this goes right back to the theme of this episode. Do the research. If you’re going to use a credit card, obviously the first thing’s, you know, always make sure you pay it off every month. That is the bare minimum. Don’t use a credit card if you can’t. That’s a terrible idea. But assuming you’re gonna make this purchase in cash, assuming you can afford to make this purchase today, if you make it on a credit card and then pay that credit card today, you still get the points on that credit card. And those credit card points, what you were saying–just again, to, to repeat, to make sure I’m getting this and to make sure our, our listeners are understanding this as well–one percent’s the minimum. Like, if you can get 1% cash back as points, that’s a good standard. That’s pretty normal. But if you can find one with better returns or more suited, you know, maybe you get a better rate of return on specific categories, then you can leverage that for your purchases. You can leverage that again into different reward and loyalty programs outside of that card. If you do the research and you find out, “Hey, like, you know, your Chase points can be transferred over to a number of different loyalty partners.” Those can have a better rate of return for you than just the normal cash back option.
Exactly. I definitely recommend going for a credit card that has perhaps an annual fee because a lot of the annual fee cards, if you use the benefits correctly will be more rewarding to someone than a no-fee card. But there are some nice no-fee cards out there. I don’t wanna totally discredit those. But especially in the travel world, even, you know, your favorite airline… You know, American Airlines having a 60,000-point bonus for one of their credit cards, there might be a $99 annual fee. But that initial bonus that you get is worth, you know, tenfold, the annual fee or more so it’s worth crunching the numbers and seeing what makes sense for your family. But that’s generally my recommendation.
I like that a lot. I know it’s a little uncomfortable to say, “Hey, go do this homework.” But as with most frugal things, that’s the answer. What’s the best credit card for you? You’re gonna have to find that out. You’re gonna have to evaluate what’s the current offers available to you. Where do you spend your money and what do you value in terms of rewards?
Exactly. And we try our best at Brad’s Deals to write a whole bunch of articles that speak exactly to those questions and try and answer them for you and give you your best advice. Everyone’s credit score is gonna be different. If you have bad credit or even fair credit, a lot of credit cards won’t approve you. So best advice to work on your credit score as much as possible that you’re at least in the 650 range. Credit scores go up to 825. So if you’re in that excellent to right-on-the-edge-of-excellent credit range is usually gonna be your best bet in terms of getting approved for one of these premium credit cards or credit cards that are most rewarding.
Perfect. And we’ll also be doing an episode coming this year about credit scores, the history of credit scores, and how to build your credit. So all of that will apply to all of this. But for this episode, thank you very much for coming and talking about how to find a deal on travel in this weird year of travel. And if people want to find you, they can go to Brad’s Deals. Is that right?
Yep, BradsDeals.com. All the travel and personal finance advice you can find on there.
And as always, our show notes will have links to all this stuff. So wherever you’re listening to this, you know, go, you can find links to Brad’s Deals. You can find links to the transcript of this episode and potentially to credit card offers if there are some available that are eye-catching right now. And we’ll keep those updated for you. <music> If you have a travel tip that you wanna share with us, you can leave us a voice recording at Anchor.fm/frugal-living-podcast. Or leave us a comment on any of our blog posts at Frugal.fm. Thanks again to this week’s guest Mark Jackson. Our audio editor intern is Genny Blauvelt, and I’m Jim Markus.
More about Frugal Living with Jim Markus
To hear more episodes with Mark Jackson, check out the latest episode of Frugal Living. Frugal Living is a podcast for smart consumers. How do you spend less and get more? The show, sponsored by Brad’s Deals, features interviews, stories, tips, and tricks. Jim Markus hosts season four, out now.