Summer vacation plans may change: Travelers say inflation is impacting 'absolutely everything'

Brandie Pizzute, right, and her three kids -- Kayleigh, Kaden and Isabella -- during a "staycation" in Alaska in November of 2020. Hawaii will be the first "real" vacation Pizzute will have with her three kids that doesn't include a visit to friends or family.

Brandie Pizzute is just weeks away from her first Hawaiian vacation. While she should be daydreaming of her upcoming snorkel tour or a day of zip lining above tropical landscapes, the 42-year-old from Fairbanks, Alaska, can’t keep inflation off her mind. 

Pizzute and her three kids will be flying to Oahu this month – a trip spurred by Pizzute’s spring tax return. But costs are adding up fast; she's about $3,000 over her $10,000 budget and is trying to find cut expenses by limiting excursions.   

The 40-year-high inflation, Pizzute said, has put too much pressure on expenses for them to live out the trip they originally planned. She considered canceling, but wants to make it work for her kids, especially after seeing them miss out on milestones like graduation ceremonies over the past two years. 

“We're up in the state of Alaska, where it's nine months of darkness and we're just depressed," Pizzute said. "We have to go.” But she adds that inflation is “going to be at the forefront of my mind. I think it's going to impact absolutely everything that we do.”

While financial concerns are prompting some travelers to stay home this year, various studies show many Americans like Pizzute would rather alter their vacation plans to offset rising expenses.

"(Pent-up) demand still exists. Inflation is not stopping that," said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. Higher prices aren't preventing people from traveling, she said, noting: "They're just doing it smarter. They're planning ahead."

Travel to Europe:A weakened euro is good news for US travelers. For the large crowds in Europe, not so much.

How does inflation affect travel?

Finances have overcome health as travelers’ key concern this summer, according to a March survey of more than 2,500 American travelers from consulting firm Deloitte. Nearly 30% plan to spend more on travel this year than they did in 2019, mainly because of higher airfares and room rates. 

“Inflation has become more of a factor (in travel planning), especially in what we would define as lower household income travelers,” said Eileen Crowley, who leads Deloitte’s transportation, hospitality and services practice.  

Research from business consultancy KPMG has found a similar sentiment among travelers.

A mid-May survey among more than 1,000 U.S. consumers found 13% more plan to travel this summer compared with last year. Nearly 3 in 5 say inflation has affected their travel plans, "leading them to try to save more on travel this year." 

Travelers are “more measured” in their vacation spending, said Braden Mark, deal advisory partner at KPMG. That could mean choosing a vacation destination within driving distance instead of shelling out money for a plane ticket, he said.

For Pizzute and her family, that meant choosing to visit the island of Oahu since it seemed more welcoming to pedestrians, allowing them to forgo a rental car. Instead of booking a hotel, they'll stay at an Airbnb with a kitchen to cut back on dining out. And while Pizzute originally planned seven activities, including submarine scooters and a luau, she's canceled all but three of them.  

Sandy Beach, on Oahu's south shore, is popular with locals and tourists. It's not too far from Waikiki Beach.

"I was just like, no, we're going to find a way to make this work, even if we go there and do nothing but sit on the beach," she said. 

Others, like Lucy Del Rio of Omaha Nebraska, are cutting back the number of trips.   

Del Rio typically goes on at least four trips every year: two domestic and two international. She usually spends time visiting family in Mexico or traveling to bodybuilding competitions.  

This year, she's had to cut her travel itinerary in half.

"I have the two most expensive hobbies: fitness and traveling," she joked. "Honestly, I don't know how other people can travel so easily. Maybe they have a second income, but I don't have a second income."

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