Will Summer Travel Be Cheaper Than Fall Travel?

Travelocity is suggesting that it may be cheaper to travel this summer than to wait for fall, a reversal of the usual pattern.

“Those who want to take advantage of the abundance of travel deals should do so this summer,” the company says in a press release. It cites a 17 percent drop in domestic air fares from last summer, and 14 percent declines in international air fares and in hotel rates both international and domestic.

But what”s to say those declines won’t continue into the fall, when prices are normally even lower? The press release predicts that airline capacity cuts scheduled for the fall could push fares upward.

Maybe. But so far the airlines have not mananged to cut capacity as quickly as demand has fallen. And demand normally softens in the fall, when students head back to school.

There are other factors at work.

As airline capacity falls, fares may go up. But hotel rates may continue to slide as airlines deliver fewer travelers.

Economic recovery and/or higher fuel prices could also push prices upward. But that might affect business travel more than leisure travel. The normal autumn decline in vacation travel could suppress price increases for tourist destinations. Note that under competitive pressure, cruise lines are holding off on the fuel surcharges they had promised to reinstate when crude oil went back over $70 a barrel.

The Airfare Watchdog has  already listed that some summer fare sales that have been extended into September, October and beyond. Arthur Frommer has recently posted news of startlingly low package prices for England, France and Ireland this fall.

Traveling during the shoulder seasons of spring and fall has long been a sound budget strategy, and I’m not yet convinced that this has changed. Still, many people can’t do it because they have children in school or because they work in education. For those folks especially, this summer does indeed seem to be offering some terrific bargains.

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