Views from a tower in Portugal, gondolas in Venice, beaches in the Bahamas — as you scroll through your social media feeds, it seems like everyone you’ve ever met is on a picturesque vacation this summer. Compared to the last two years, 2022 is seeing a steep increase in travel, especially international, and it may feel impossible to keep up.
The number of outbound international U.S. flights increased about 97% year-over-year from April 2021 to April 2022, according to U.S. International Air Travel Statistics. Airbnb data from May 2022 also showed an all-time high in long-term stay bookings, with U.S. travelers gravitating toward Italy, Mexico, Costa Rica and the Bahamas as well as domestic beach destinations.
If you’re not planning to travel this year, hearing about other peoples’ vacations might give you a twinge of FOMO: fear of missing out. But don’t let comparisons pressure you into panic-booking a trip that could upend your finances. Even with time and budget constraints, it’s possible to have a fun-filled summer.
How are people affording this?
For many travelers, this summer is an opportunity to travel for the first time in two years, and the anticipation makes it worth the cost. Some are likely even willing to overextend their budgets or go into debt to be able to take their dream vacation.
“It’s pent-up demand,” says George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog.com. “People saved up a lot of money over the past two years and can afford the price increases.”
For many, the shift to remote work has also made travel more accessible. Yaslynn Rivera, a Los Angeles-based executive assistant at a video-streaming company, makes the most of working remotely by taking opportunities she would have otherwise been unable to pre-COVID-19.
“I have friends from childhood and college who live all over the country now,” she said. “If I’m going somewhere, it’s because I know someone there,” she added, explaining her near-constant location changes. She stays with friends instead of booking hotel rooms and Airbnbs, and when she does book a room, she sticks to a tight budget.
“I don’t mind being inconvenienced to have the experience,” she says, citing motel rooms, red-eye flights and working from the road.
Though some travelers are in a position this summer to afford luxurious trips, travelers like Rivera make the most of the opportunities and connections they have, even if it means sacrificing convenience. If you work remotely and have a flexible schedule, trying Rivera’s approach could be a good way to add more travel to your summer.
The social media influence
Despite the realities, social media can still make travel look like a Pinterest-worthy paradise.
“There’s definitely a fear of missing out,” says Giacomo Moriondo, a Chicago-based client services manager at an aviation services company, referring to seeing friends post from scenic destinations. “I’m jealous; I would love to have the freedom to visit my family in Italy and Argentina, but it’s not financially possible for me this summer.”
Moriondo has felt the pressure to travel this summer, but with an in-office job, limited time off and out-of-budget airfares, his options are restricted.
“When you see some people posting lavish vacations, you can’t compare yourself,” Rivera notes. “They might be from a wealthy family, or taking a sponsored trip; they’re not on the same playing field.”
Consider limiting your social media intake if such posts are bumming you out. Or if you’re curious, ask consistent travelers how they make their trips happen. People can be refreshingly honest about their circumstances, and the answers might surprise you.
The perks of staying home
U.S. travelers are flocking to vacation destinations in record numbers, but this summer may not be the best time to take the trip you’ve been waiting for.
“I personally think this is a bad year to travel,” Hobica says. With rising airfares, strikes in the travel sector and price increases in every category, an international trip — especially with kids — may be more trouble than it’s worth.
Resisting the temptation to join the travel rush this summer can help you take advantage of milder weather and crowds in the fall or even next year.
“I would wait until things settle down,” Hobica says. “Too many people are traveling, and there aren’t enough workers to support them; it’s not reliable right now to get where you want to go.”
Meanwhile, if you don’t have a trip planned this summer, plan adventures closer to home.
“I turn myself into a tourist in my own city,” says Moriondo. “It doesn’t feel like you’re missing out when you’re doing something yourself.”
Exploring your own city or state, visiting family and friends domestically and seeking low-cost outdoor experiences can enrich your summer and satisfy your travel cravings without overextending your budget.
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Dalia Ramirez writes for NerdWallet. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.