(CNN) – The wait-and-see approach to travel at this time is prudent from a health perspective. From a reserve perspective, maybe not so much.
US airfares are on the rise, rental cars are in short supply, and treasure hunting at vacation home rental sites in popular destinations is the new nightmare for some Americans desperate for a getaway within the United States.
Carrie Shevlin owns three rental properties in Cape San Blas, along Florida’s “Forgotten Coast,” an hour southeast of Panama City. One of them is under construction and already has reservations for next summer. The others are reserved until this summer. The low-density area has been very popular with pandemic-era vacationers looking to stay away from the crowds.
“Usually in the past, people could always find something, but now the demand for houses far exceeds the supply,” he said.
Last week, the number of vacation rental property reservations made in Florida was 40% higher than during the same week in 2019, according to figures from Transparent, a data analysis firm for the short-term rental industry.
Shevlin says that about 20 people a day have recently been added to a Facebook group he runs with nearly 8,000 members where prospective Cape San Blas renters describe the types of properties they are looking for and property owners and management companies in rent try to accommodate your requests. At this time, tenant inquiries are unanswered. There is no inventory, she says.
But while some of America’s most sought-after beach destinations, lakes, and national parks may be saved for the summer, hope is not lost for the growing group of vaccinated travelers who are ready to break out of their bubbles. They may just require a little strategy and a little more of that well-practiced pandemic flexibility.
Keep in mind that the CDC recommends that Americans delay travel until they are fully vaccinated.
Do you need a rental car? Look it up before booking anything else
If you’re planning a flight-hotel-car rental trip, turn it around and look for the rental car first, advises Jonathan Weinberg, founder and CEO of AutoSlash, a company that helps renters find better prices by applying all Possible coupons and applicable membership discounts (Costco, AARP, frequent flyer programs, etc.) and monitoring price drops.
“What we’re seeing is people booking trips, basically booking their airfare, booking their hotel and then waiting until they get there to book their rental car and they realize there are no cars available,” Weinberg said.
The sharp drop in demand last year and the ensuing financial problems led car rental companies to sell a significant portion of their fleets, and that supply has not been restored.
Weinberg is seeing people cancel trips because they can’t find a car or the price of the ones that are available ruins their budget.
On average, rental cars cost about twice what you would normally pay, Weinberg says. But it can be 3 to 10 times higher in some places, and in Hawaii and Alaska, there are almost no cars available this summer.
So please check the cars first and reserve as soon as possible.
But you don’t need a car to take epic trips across the US.
Car rentals are extremely tight, but there is enough supply on Amtrak trains.
“The number of passengers is slowly decreasing, and it will take a long time to get back to normal,” Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods said by email. The number of passengers in the entire system is approximately 34% of the fiscal year 2019, with reservations of approximately 45%.
Amtrak is recovering daily service on 12 staggered long-distance routes to begin between May 24 and June 7.
The California Zephyr from Chicago to San Francisco passes through the Rocky Mountains and Snowy Sierras on a scheduled 51-hour trip.
It is not the cheapest or fastest way to travel across the country; Finding a June round trip for two with meals cost $ 2,432, but could be a relaxing way for fully vaccinated travelers to see some spectacular, open scenery after a year many Americans spent. locked in their homes.
Popular places mean crowds. Look beyond them
This year has therefore been very unusual. Maybe it’s a good year to put that trip to the same crowded beach or more popular national park aside, and avoid the scramble for vacation rentals.
In Oregon, Cannon Beach and Seaside draw crowds from nearby Portland about an hour and a half away, but the coastline in southern Oregon, from Florence down, is also spectacular.
“Yes, it’s a little more complicated, but there are many, many fewer people,” says Allison Keeney, a spokeswoman for Travel Oregon.
“Incredibly picturesque” Port Orford is a functioning fishing port with a thriving arts community. Bandon to the north and Gold Beach to the south are also hot spots for summer visitors.
On the other side of the country in Maine, Acadia National Park is a huge tourist draw, but the rest of the state is also full of outdoor activities.
Ski resorts like Sugarloaf and Sunday River have beautiful golf courses and are in the river valleys with great kayaking activities. The state is also home to dozens of sports camps, hunting and fishing stalls that in many cases have been converted into family recreation facilities, says Steve Lyons, director of the Maine Office of Tourism.
Children stay free in July and August at Weatherby’s, a historic campground at Grand Lake Stream, where families can learn to fish from a licensed guide.
While many of the most popular state and national park cabins and campgrounds are likely reserved for the summer, travelers going midweek to more secluded parks will likely find camping options. On southcarolinaparks.com and other state sites, you can filter by what you are looking for in all state parks.
The city break may be making a comeback
Last year, when people were even more focused on staying outdoors and away from other people, beaches were among the safest bets. But with the skyrocketing vaccination rates in the United States and the easing of CDC guidance, cities are opening up in a big way.
New York City plans to fully reopen on July 1, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, and many of the state’s restrictions will be lifted on May 19. Both the state and the city report low rates of positivity in the covid-19 test.
There are plenty of alfresco dining options for those not ready to sit indoors and Governors Island, accessible for the first time by ferry from Brooklyn, offers public art, bike rentals, a Slide Hill for kids, and more.
Hotels in the central United States have been hit especially hard by the pandemic, as business travel has seen nothing like the rebound in leisure travel. While some New York hotels have yet to reopen, occupancy has been around 53% in recent weeks for those that are open, according to data from STR, a global hospitality data and analytics company.
That number is forecast to rise to 61% this summer.
Hotel room rates in the US fell 20% in 2020, according to STR accommodation analyst Jan Freitag, and are only expected to rise a fraction of that this year.
In San Francisco, the occupancy of the hotels that are open has been around 41%, with a summer forecast of 55%.
Christine Cox, her husband, and their two children, ages 12 and 13, have been looking to rent an Airbnb in the Bay Area. With the children on track to be fully vaccinated, the Decatur, Georgia family is looking forward to the end of June. The offers are scarce for what they are looking for, she says.
Cox was surprised to find that few properties fit their needs and the few that looked great cost a lot more than they wanted to spend.
Instead, they plan to split their trip: a few days outside of San Francisco at an Airbnb in Marin County and then a few nights downtown.
“We’ll probably end up getting a couple of hotel rooms for just a couple of nights,” he said. The hotel rates Cox has seen are lower than I expected. “It will be something less expensive and easier.”
Anything that makes things easier this year seems like a good plan.