Crowds, high prices and the ‘white lotus’ effect: The worst places to travel this summer

(NEXSTAR) – Summer vacation should be about rest and relaxation. But in reality, sometimes it’s about expensive tourist traps, crowded streets or delayed flights.

How can you avoid this fate? We asked Clint Henderson, frequent traveler and managing editor at The Points Guy, for some guidance.

First, make sure you choose the right location to fly to. If you’re looking for peace and quiet, there are some destinations you might want to avoid in 2023.

“The ‘White Lotus’ effect is real,” Henderson said, referring to the popular HBO series that chronicles a luxury trip to Hawaii and Sicily, Italy.

“Basically, any time you put a spot in a movie or a popular TV series, it’s going to become really popular,” he explained. “In fact, sometimes it’s hard to even get a hotel room in Sicily.”

It’s not just Sicily – The Points Guy is seeing huge demand for almost all European destinations this year, Henderson said. Some places have taken steps to curb over-tourism, such as new driving restrictions on the Amalfi Coast and a reservation system introduced on the idyllic Calanques trails and beaches in the south of France.

Elsewhere on France’s coast, near Etretat in Normandy, an abundance of tourists is thought to be contributing to erosion and strain on sewage treatment infrastructure.

Here in the U.S., Hawaii’s leaders are also looking for ways to limit or delay tourist access to popular spots like the Hana Highway, Waimea Bay and Shark Bay. Also a victim of the “white lotus” effect, hotel prices are particularly high in Hawaii this summer, Henderson said.

Japan is also in demand this year, Henderson said, because it recently reopened to tourism after a long shutdown due to COVID. But since airlines have not taken over all Japanese routes in 2020, flight prices remain extremely high.

Similarly, it’s hard to find flights from the U.S. to China for less than $3,000, Henderson said.

Basically, the only deals that can be made, Henderson explained, are from low-cost airlines launching new routes, such as TAP Air Portugal adding more flights to Lisbon, Aer Lingus to Dublin and Norse Atlantic Airways to Oslo. A midweek flight can also help save some dollars on the ticket price.

If you have your heart set on one of the aforementioned hotspots, a change in weather can save you the trip.

“I’m planning trips to Europe, but I’m waiting until September and October. Shoulder season is my favorite time to travel. You get better deals, there are more hotel rooms available and places are less crowded,” Henderson said.

That’s not very helpful for people who are tied to children’s school schedules or otherwise need to travel during the peak summer period of June through August, Henderson acknowledged. For those families, he suggested it’s a good time to cash in any credit card points or airline miles you may have to save money.

Either way, prepare for sticker shock when planning your vacation this summer.

“Quite anecdotally, I’ve priced flights between New York and Rome, and a flight that should cost $600 is $1,000, $2,000, even $3,000 in coach,” Henderson said.

He attributed the huge jump in prices to several factors, including inflation and increased demand. Many people who postponed their travel plans in 2020 and 2021 are returning there.

“Last summer we called it a ‘sold out summer.’ This season, we’re calling it ‘Sold Out Summer,’ plus ‘Sold Out Fall,’ plus ‘Sold Out Spring,”’ Henderson said. “We’re seeing continued insane demand for travel.”

A small plus when it comes to travel costs in 2023: rental cars are cheaper than they have been in several years, Henderson said. Demand decreased and rental companies were able to rebuild their fleets.

National parks around the U.S., while still popular, also aren’t as crowded as they were during the pandemic, he said.

Plus, gas prices are also cheaper than they were this time last year – so maybe it’s time to travel instead?

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