Why your upcoming winter break vacation could cost you more in 2023

By Erick Espinosa

February and March are famously known as popular travel months for many Canadians and Americans that reside in cities with frigid temperatures.

If you’re one of the thousands of travellers looking to get away for reading week, March break or are in desperate need of the sun, you’ve probably noticed airfare prices have gone up, not just by a little.

According to Hopper’s 2023 travel outlook report, domestic travellers should expect to pay at least 13 per cent more for flights in February, March and April compared to 2022 — a time when COVID-19 restrictions were still in place in some countries, and many travellers were cautious, opting to discover new destinations closer to home instead.

But the most significant increase we can expect will be to sunny destinations like Mexico and Central America, with prices averaging 40 per cent more compared to 2022, according to the travel app.

Surging demand, inflation, and high-interest rates are all factors in 2023 

Personal finance and travel expert Barry Choi says that while various factors contribute to the boost in prices, the key driver comes down to simple economics.

“Let’s be real. Inflation is at a record high. So airlines have extra costs such as fuel, maintenance and operational staff, but in the end, it comes down to supply and demand,” Choi tells CityNews.

“For three years, a lot of people weren’t travelling. Now many people are very comfortable about travelling and willing to pay a premium for it. So airlines are taking advantage of that.”

The itch to travel following the pandemic, now coined as “revenge travel,” ignited a demand not seen in recent years. And according to Hopper’s data, a willingness to spend the same or more on travel this year.

For months, we’ve seen the cost of inflation reflected in our food bills, with grocery stores passing along their increased expense to the consumer, and we should expect airlines and hotels to do the same.

“Inflation has driven up the cost of goods and services across the industry, making each hotel night or flight more costly to provide to customers,” reads the report.

“Staffing shortages, though improving, and higher wages in many parts of the industry are also driving up costs, adding that jet fuel, accounting anywhere from 15 per cent to 30 per cent of an airline’s operating cost, has also gone up.”

Choi suggests searching for accommodations before flights

Choi indicates that to save, you must be proactive and flexible when booking your next vacation.

“There are always deals to be had. Right now, Air Canada vacations have up to 40 per cent off vacation packages. If you wait for sales, there are always ones to be had to save money,” Choi says.

“It’s always been about supply and demand, and airlines are getting smart. As we search airfare, hotels, and destinations, we get more data every time. They know exactly when people are booking and when they are actually paying for these things.”

Outside of the obvious to not book during peak season, Choi suggests travelling Tuesday through Thursday during the evening as prices are typically lower as many people tend to book morning flights to maximize their day.

Choi notes that this is a feasible option for many who continue to work from home, and that could potentially save you from utilizing a vacation day. He also advises reviewing hotel accommodations before searching for airfares to the destinations you’re interested in visiting.

“If you look at your overall vacation costs, generally speaking, accommodations usually cost more than your airfare. And the funny thing about accommodations is that you have more flexibility because there are more hotels,” he said.

“So quite often, it is easier to save on hotels than airfare, so focus on your accommodations first.”


The largest increase we can expect will be to sunny destinations like Mexico and Central America, with prices averaging 40% more compared to 2022. Photo: Unsplash.

RELATED: Grocery prices expected to remain high for first half of 2023

Choi adds that while Airbnb has been a popular and at one time considered affordable accommodation option, there has been a spike in cleaning costs or nightly rates, driving today’s eager travellers back to hotels.

“These days, I recommend hotels because they have fully refundable hotel policies, which makes it a lot easier for you to cancel or adjust your dates,” Choi added.

“Hotels offer more amenities than Airbnb. You can get a late checkout, daily room service or daily cleaning. Stuff like that.”

Finally, if you are still eager to fly during the costly season, Choi recommends valuing your time and looking at budgeting at home instead.

“A lot of people will obsess over the cost of airfare. They’ll spend 10 hours trying to save $100,” Choi said.

“One hundred dollars is no small amount. You value your time at $10 an hour. You can find better uses for your time and easier ways to save at home during your daily life.”

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