Are you ready for a sold-out summer of travel? Ready or not, here it is.
“A lot of premium destinations are either sold out or overpriced,” says Limor Dekter, travel advisor at Embark Beyond.
Travel demand is extremely high in the summer of 2023. A new survey from the American Society of Travel Advisors says 30% of Americans plan to travel abroad this summer. And 47 percent of survey respondents ranked a vacation as their number one discretionary expense — twice as much as the second choice, home improvement or renovation (23 percent) or a new computer (10 percent).
What is sold out? I asked HotelPlanner about places that have been operating with higher than usual occupancy this summer. Among the first places in the country are Orlando, Las Vegas, New York and Honolulu. Internationally, London, Tokyo, Dubai and Amsterdam are crowded.
Strategies for overcoming a sold-out summer vary. A study by Global Rescue found that travelers use these tips to get a room and a flight:
- Most travelers (41%) booked travel in advance to lock in their reservations.
- Another 18% said they plan to travel during off-peak seasons to avoid high prices.
- About 13% said they would seek out undiscovered destinations or places that are off the beaten path.
- And 11% say they would avoid weekends and holidays to avoid the crowds.
So what are the most effective ways to avoid a sold-out summer?
Look for alternatives for a sold-out summer
Travel consultants are busy sending their clients to alternative destinations that may still have vacancies.
“For example, for those who crave Amalfi or Capri, places like Sardinia, Corsica, Croatia or even Portugal can offer similar sun and sea vibes,” says Decter. “For all lovers of the white lotus, other regions of Italy – Puglia or Forte dei Marmi or Cinque Terre – can offer a Sicilian experience.”
- If you want a place like Mykonos or Santorini, try other Greek islands like Paros, Crete or Zakynthos, Dekter says.
- Want a European mountain but Switzerland is busy? Try Slovenia or Austria instead.
- Looking for a European city but priced out of Paris or London? See Ljubljana or Budapest.
- If South Africa’s Kruger Park is sold out, consider Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana or Namibia.
Travel earlier or later
A favorite contrarian summer vacation strategy is to aim for the beginning or end of the season (technically, summer doesn’t start until June 21st).
“Be flexible,” advises Ed Granville, chief operating officer at Red Savannah. “You can take advantage of much better prices and popular destinations are less busy.”
This strategy works, but you have to be careful with your choice of destination. For example, an early season cruise in Alaska can be uncomfortably cold. If you go to the picturesque Turkish Riviera too late in the summer, it may feel more like autumn and swimming in the Mediterranean may not be an option.
Choose an activity, not a place
That’s the advice of Daniel Green, co-founder of Faye Travel Insurance. He watches the ebb and flow of summer travel bookings and says people are booking a type of vacation rather than a specific location.
“Be flexible with the destination rather than set your heart on a specific one,” he advises. “That way, you can choose what fits your budget and explore that locale, making sure you’re not understaffed.”
Faye says that this summer 60% of his US sales are to Europe, 21% to North America, 7% to Asia, 6% to Africa, 2% to Central America, 2% to the Caribbean and South America and Oceania get 1% each. Which brings us to our next summer vacation tip.
Remember that if one destination is full, another is probably empty. Consider scenic Olympic National Park in Washington state, where reservations are less this year. Stephen Fofanoff, general manager of the Domaine Madeleine boutique hotel in Port Angeles, Wash., says visits are down about 30 percent from last summer.
“It’s a great alternative to one of the busiest national parks like Yosemite, Yellowstone or Glacier,” he says. “Also, these parks are easier to get to, with more accommodation options near or within the park that are still very affordable.”
Olympic isn’t exactly chopped liver. You can explore millions of acres of protected wilderness, see alpine mountains with glaciers, glacial lakes and wild Pacific beaches all in the same day. This is easily one of my favorite destinations on the planet.
“Be prepared to change your vacation dates to avoid weekends when occupancy tends to be highest,” says Tim Hentschel, co-founder and CEO of HotelPlanner.
That means checking in on Sunday night and staying until Thursday, which sounds a lot harder than it is. Most American summer vacations are shorter than a week, so aiming for a weekday is pretty easy.
“Your favorite hotel or resort is much more likely to have availability during the work week,” says Hentschel.
Hire a professional
If you need to go to a hot destination in the middle of summer, don’t try to do it alone. Hire an expert.
“Fortunately, as a travel consultant, I have relationships with local suppliers who have access to hotel inventory and are connected to hotel management,” says Susan Sheron, founder of Couture Trips, a travel agency.
You’ll have to pay full price plus your agent’s fee, but you’ll get that dream vacation in Sicily or that magical Orlando theme park experience this summer.
So which of these summer vacation strategies is right for you? All of them – or maybe none. It really depends on where you’re going.
“Overall, there are many alternative destinations and strategies that can help travelers experience the summer vacation they want without overpaying,” said Shelley Ewing, president of TierOne Travel.
Of course, they are all worth trying.
Elliott’s tips for a sell-out summer
I have traveled non-stop for most of my career as a travel journalist. Sometimes I get to travel to popular destinations during peak season, like last June when I spent a month in Paris on assignment. Here are my favorite strategies:
Head for the suburbs. You don’t have to stay in the city center. Many cities have excellent public transport and you can find an affordable apartment outside the city. You might even have a more authentic experience. I definitely did.
Look beyond the same old booking sites. One of my favorite places to stay is Blueground, which offers fully furnished medium and long term apartments at reasonable prices. Although they are not marketed to tourists, anyone can use them.
Take a break. Of course, the most important advice is not to travel anywhere. Take a summer vacation like you did in 2020 – go to your favorite state park and let everyone else fight the crowds.
Take a look my website.