▶ Watch Video: Vacation inflation leads to higher prices for travel this summer

As the summer vacation season approaches, airports across the nation are bracing for a flood of flyers.  

According to recently released numbers from AAA, the Memorial Day weekend is projected to be one of the busiest ever, with more than 42 million Americans expected to take to the skies, marking an 11% increase from last year. 

However, the dream of a budget-friendly pre-Memorial Day vacation has turned into a costly trip for Kelsey Elizondo and Isaiah Wright after the couple, heading home to Atlanta from Salt Lake City, Utah, discovered that air travel expenses have skyrocketed. 

“It’s outrageous how expensive it is to fly now. It’s crazy. We’ve traveled a lot prior to kids and we felt like we could go anywhere even on a budget,” said Elizondo. 

This year, traveling with their two young children has caused their flight costs to double.  

In April, airfare saw a significant jump of 2.7% from March. Although it remains slightly lower than last summer, it is nearly 10% higher than before the pandemic, according to an Air Travel Consumer Report released by the U.S. Department of Transportation. 

Not only are flights pricier, but hotels have also seen a surge in prices, up 3.5% from last year and a staggering 15% increase since 2019.  

However, there is a silver lining for travelers opting for road trips, as car rentals are expected to be cheaper this summer, down 11% from last year, but still 51% higher than four years ago.

According to Sally French, a vacation inflation tracker for NerdWallet, a personal finance website, the increase in travel demand has led to higher prices. 

“So people should expect to pay more for their travel than they have in even the past couple of years,” French cautioned. 

In an attempt to save money, 35% of travelers surveyed by NerdWallet have chosen to drive instead of flying, taking advantage of gas prices that are over a dollar lower on average than last year.  

“I didn’t think gas was going to be that much of an issue, but I almost spent like a thousand bucks, and we didn’t go more than 2,000 miles. It’s crazy,” said Jacob Rash, who filled up his RV at a Buc-ee’s in Georgia for $2.85 a gallon.  

The cost of various vacation activities has also witnessed a surge. Food away from home jumped to nearly 9% from last year and a staggering 24% since 2019. Additionally, movies and concerts now cost approximately 7% more than last year, further straining vacation budgets. 

With all these rising expenses, travelers find themselves spending far more than they initially anticipated. Kelsey Elizondo shared her experience, saying, “What we went in thinking we are going to spend versus what we actually spent is crazy.” 

As the summer vacation season kicks off, travelers should prepare for heavier-than-usual rush hours, especially starting Thursday afternoon. Other peak times are expected on Monday afternoon and Tuesday early evening, according to AAA.