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Traveling Is More Expensive Than Ever. Here’s How to Do It Anyway.

Prices for hotels, flights, and Airbnbs are sky-high. But have you considered albergo diffuso—or a luxury bus?

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Traveling, for a lucky few, is a chance to max out on extravagance and adventure. For most, it's about cobbling together the most affordable transportation and lodging—hello roadside motels!—to fuel rest and connection. But considering the industry's recent, dramatic price hikes, all trips suddenly feel like luxury travel—no, make that cost like luxury travel. The lumpy motel beds still feel the same.

Hotel prices were up 54% in January 2023 compared to January 2022. Average daily rates for Airbnb properties have increased 35% since the start of the pandemic. And on top of rising prices, travelers are dealing with increased inconveniences, from rule books to chore charts in their vacation rentals, and shrinkflation in their hotel experience.

And don't get us started on airline prices—from January to June of last year, prices went up 47%, and are predicted to continue to rise over the spring and summer months of this year. When you factor in food, on-the-ground transportation, and then, you know, fun, even shorter, more modest trips feel out of reach.

And yet, not all hope is lost. The financial strain can often be offset with creative solutions, a focus on intention, and budget hacks that maintain—or even enhance—your experience. Gather your airline points, call up a travel agent (really), and let's go. -Samantha Leal

Image by Jupiterimages / Getty Images

Just book the flight


Samantha Leal: “There’s a lot of discourse on TikTok about the difference between vacationing vs. traveling. Vacationing is seen as a respite—something you do for enjoyment, whereas traveling is for exploration. And when prices are higher than ever, it’s worth putting a lot of thought into which type—or what ratio—you’re after when planning a trip.”

‘This or That’: Booking With Points vs. Cash

Smart Money

SL: “I love a loyalty program. But with booking travel, there’s a fun little dance of knowing whether to book with points or book with cash and hoard—er, save—your points. As the NerdWallet expert notes here, you’re usually better off booking with points if you have them, as point values (like all things) tend to lose value the longer you hold them—meaning it takes more points for the same trip as time goes on.”

Say Goodbye to Daily Hotel Room Cleaning

Danielle Braff
The New York Times

SL: “This isn’t a tip, but an interesting piece about the state of an industry staple that always seemed immutable. Post-pandemic, hotels are arguing that guests prefer fewer cleanings, whether it’s for sustainability, privacy, or other reasons. It makes you wonder—will cleaning become an a la carte option? And if so, what’s next?”

Yes travel agents still exist!


SL: “I’m not going to lie, I really didn’t understand travel agents until recently—and it seems like I’m not the only one of the Millennial and Gen Z set who didn’t. But depending on your circumstances, it may be easier or more cost-effective to work with one—especially as most are free for travelers.”

Regional Air Travel Sucks. Why Aren’t There More Luxury Buses?

Benjamin Hunting
Inside Hook

SL: “Luxury buses are an often overlooked option for travel, and one that often gives you a lot of bang for your buck. As the author notes, you can often get more sleep than you would on a red eye, plus, you might arrive straight in the city center, saving you transportation costs and time.”

Samantha Leal

Samantha Leal is a travel and lifestyle writer and editor, currently based in Los Angeles. Formerly the deputy editor at Well+Good, she’s also held editorial stints at Marie Claire, Latina magazine, and The Knot. You can find her writing about—well, lots of things—at places like Travel+Leisure, VinePair, Parade.com, Byrdie, Elle.com, SELF.com, and more. You can find her pretty much everywhere @samanthajoleal.