Should you drive or fly for your next vacation? Do you even have the right ID to travel? Changes in travel trends, new technology, and a looming recession are making planning that 2023 trip all the more complicated, but we’ve got the tips and the in-depth info to help you make the right decisions whether you’re headed to Disney World or somewhere else.
Today, we’re stepping outside the Disney bubble a bit to talk about the MAJOR changes hitting the travel industry. From the rise of low-cost airlines, to hacking those airline and hotel points, shifts in travel trends, and the ever increasing surge pricing.
The Rise of the Low-Cost Airline
If you’ve been looking at booking flights lately I’m sure you’ve come across some seemingly too-good-to-be-true deals from airlines like Spirit, Frontier, & Breeze. With airline prices having increased 25% over the past year, those low-cost airlines are starting to look more appealing and that’s what they’re betting on! The low-cost airline model is basically built to handle recessions, economic downturns, and periods of significantly reduced travel demand.
All airlines felt the pinch during the initial waves of the COVID pandemic, but low-cost airlines were the first to rebound due to the lower operating costs and more enticing price points These low cost airlines tend to service secondary markets, airports that may only offer connecting flights with long layovers now have access to more direct flights thanks to the expansion of Spirit and Frontier and the introduction of new airlines like Breeze and Avelo.
This marriage of underserviced – and less expensive to operate out of – hubs, along with the low entry point price per seat, meant that these low-cost carriers were able to come back to full flights a lot faster than most. Larger airlines like United, American, and Delta weren’t quite able to catch that revenge travel rebound in the same way that lower cost airlines were because it was harder to fill seats at the prices they had to charge to recoup their pandemic losses.
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Low cost airlines are poised to come out of the pandemic better than many larger airlines, and with an impending recession, they are likely better equipped to handle another downturn in travel demand. And with the potential merger of Spirit and JetBlue, we could see an even stronger low-cost airline that can compete even more with the likes of those larger airline groups by offering more flights between more cities at larger discounts.
We know a lot of you are probably screaming right now about how you’ll NEVER fly Spirit and it’s the WORST airline imaginable, doesn’t matter how cheap they make those tickets…but, there are some upgrades that might have you changing your mind.
In 2023, the interiors of Spirits planes will be getting some seating upgrades with an extra half inch of space on the seat and an extra two inches of legroom in each row, plus new headrests and more cushioning. OK, a couple inches here and there isn’t going to make up for all that a la carte pricing we see you complain about in the comments – you’ll still need to pay for that seat, and your bags – but, it’s an improvement.
At the end of the day, price may become more important than the most comfortable seat, and there’s no denying that low-cost carriers can come out to be several hundred dollars cheaper when you’re booking seats for the whole family, even with those added bag fees.
But, more people could be ditching airline travel completely in 2023…
Car Travel Could Become More Popular Than Flying
According to a study in 2019 by Ford, 3 out of 4 Americans would rather drive to their vacation destination than fly. They would rather add up to 6 ½ hours to their travel time if they could avoid a plane. Depending how far you need to travel, driving may quickly become the much more attractive option, even with higher gas prices.
Many reports expect gas prices to go down in 2023, and if a recession does hit, gas prices are nearly guaranteed to go down as demand also starts to go down. Regardless of where gas prices will land in the next year, there are few factors that can tip the scale on your decision to drive or fly:
Gas prices aren’t the only financial factor when hopping in the car.
If you live further from your final destination, you may need to include hotel stays, more meals at restaurants, not to mention the extra time off work and school that might be needed to make the trip, plus the wear and tear on your car.
Flying is undoubtedly expensive, but add on bag fees, rental cars or rideshares at your destination, and potential airport delays that could make your trip take longer than expected.
With inflation impacting, well, everything, you may be wondering how much travel expenses are expected to increase if you’re planning a trip for later in 2023. According to the 2023 Annual Global Business Travel Forecast, we can expect to see airfare and hotel rates continue to increase by 8.2% and above, while ground transportation will increase by about 6.8%
So driving may still remain the cheaper option, so long as you don’t need to travel a very long distance that adds several days and hotel stays to your overall vacation.
Revenge Travel May Have Ended
The flying vs driving debate may move to the back burner as many people are deciding whether or not they’re traveling at all in the near future. In case you haven’t heard of this trend before, “revenge travel” is what experts called it when a lot of people went on big vacations after COVID-19 pandemic restrictions began to be lifted around the world. As travel restrictions and mask mandates disappeared, people took “revenge” on the pandemic for delaying their vacation plans by going on even bigger trips.
The Washington Post reported that revenge travel began to happen in the late summer of 2020, and it really took off in the summer of 2021. However, the biggest spike in revenge travel seemed to be in the summer of 2022. Since then, travel – outside of the normal holiday travel surges – has started to return to less historical levels.
For Disney World, the question won’t be whether or not people go because they’re definitely going, but will we continue to see the same crowds we’ve seen during the very busy Summer and Winter seasons of 2022?
We may see fewer people visiting Disney World in 2023 for a number of reasons:
- Disney Vacation Members who had stocked up points from 2020 during the park closures have likely used them all up, as the extension on using those points only went through 2021.
- People may be burnt out on Disney World with all the price increases – we see it in comments on our blog posts all the time, that many of you are waiting several years before you travel to Disney again because it’s just not as financial feasible as it was in recent years.
- Recession talk has people worried. We’re gonna keep coming back to this one because even TALK of a recession is dramatically affecting the travel industry. With a recession seeming more and more likely, many people are cutting expenses and one of the first things to go is big, extravagant, leisure vacations e.g. Disney World.
That doesn’t mean we’ll see empty parks though! During the 2008 recession, Disney World attendance did stall, but it was about the same level of crowds as 2007; typically Disney World sees an increase in crowds year over year so it was a marked difference for it to stay the same.
Disney World does have some new exciting things on the horizon, most notably the TRON coaster coming to Magic Kingdom, and if the 2012 economic downturn was any indicator, that new stuff will have people coming right back to the parks once things stabilize.
So, while we may see some periods of lower crowds, Disney World likely won’t have an extremely lengthy slow period.
Staycations Might Become More Popular
If some people are skipping the expensive Disney World vacation, what are they doing instead? People are definitely still going to vacation, but instead of a several thousand dollar trip to Disney World, that includes expensive flights for the whole family, they may opt for cheaper trips that are closer to home with lower travel expenses and shorter vacations overall.
- People will be looking for deals and that may mean traveling during traditional off-seasons or opting for destinations that offer discounts and promotions.
- Disney World is not likely to be one of those places offering major discounts — Disney CFO Christine McCarthy said that Disney “won’t use [discounts] to the extent [they] used during the last recession”, but they may explore “more flexibility” with Annual Passes – presumably because passholders will come to the parks, recession or not. BUT we have seen the introduction of a Disney Dining Card promotion this week.
- Cruise lines may see a boom in 2023 – cruises have already come back big time in 2022, and that trend may continue into the following year. With the generally all-inclusive model of a cruise, travelers are less likely to have sticker shock when they’re booking their trip. Cruises also offer robust deals and discounts to fill up any unbooked rooms; if you live near a cruise port you can score some amazing last minute deals.
- Disney Cruise Line may follow the parks model and keep those discounts few and far between, but for cruise lines, it’s a lot more crucial to keep as many cabins full as possible which is good incentive for offering large discounts. We’ll, of course, always let you know about ANY discounts in the Disney sphere so if you are hoping to catch any really good deals on cruises, hotels, or vacation packages, be sure to sign up for our newsletter because we’ll make sure you’re the first to know.
Staycations and vacations close to home may not be the only budget tactic travelers employ. The Exepdia group gathered data from travel bookings and surveys and discovered a new trend they’re dubbing the “no normal” vacation.
Expedia Brands president Jon Gieselman said, “we’re seeing a surge in trips to culture capitals, a new wave of interest in wellness retreats and a spike in demand for outdoor destinations beyond just beaches and mountains, not a new normal but people branching out to unexpected trends.” These destinations tend to NOT be in any top 10 vacation destinations list, they’re more out of the way, “unique” places, that also tend to be cheaper.
International Travel Predictions
Summer 2022 trends saw a LOT of international travel, whether that was the influx of international guests coming to visit Disney World – we’re pretty sure during August and September our reporters heard more British accents in the parks than ever – or Americans traveling abroad in droves.
With pandemic restrictions ending and borders opening back up, people were once again able to travel nearly anywhere. But, will Rome, Paris, and London continue to be top vacation destinations? Booking.com has some travel predictions based on global booking data:
- Places like Brazil, Montenegro, India, Mexico, Italy, Malaysia, and Greece top the list of trending destinations for 2023
- Some of those more far-flung locations back up that Expedia study on no-normal – has Montenegro been on your top vacations list before? No, probably not.
- One thing to note if you are planning to travel to Europe, by mid- to late-2023 a new electronic travel authorization will be needed to travel to countries within the Schengen Zone (includes France, Germany, Spain, among many others). Luckily it’s a quick online form that will cost about $7, and it’ll be good for three years
- That same Booking.com prediction also found that many people are looking for “nostalgic” vacations, with 61% of travelers planning to visit a theme park in 2023. We may continue to see more international visitors in Disney World, but maybe Disneyland Paris or Tokyo Disneyland will start to see more American visitors as well – some nostalgia WITH some culture…not a bad vacation, and a one-day ticket to Tokyo Disneyland is about $55-$65 as opposed to the cheapest one-day ticket at Disney World which is $109 – that flight might cost a whole lot more, but those park tickets are at least half the cost.
Surge Pricing is HERE
We’ve been covering the major price jumps with Disney Genie+ – when those parks are super crowded expect to pay $29 for a single day, per person, to skip some ride standby lines. But, Disney World isn’t the only place experiencing surge pricing.
If you use rideshares – like Uber & Lyft – frequently enough we’re sure you’ve gotten the little pop up message telling you surge pricing is activated because there’s currently higher demand and fewer drivers. This is actually something you’ll likely encounter at Disney World if you’re attempting to use rideshares to get to and from the airport or to get picked up and dropped off at the parks.
If you have a set time you need to be somewhere, you can schedule your trip in advance in Uber & Lyft apps, which might help you avoid some of that surge pricing since you’ll lock in your price when you book. But, if it’s a busy time for drivers, you may still need to wait a bit for a pickup. And if you’re planning on getting a car from a park right at park close, when everyone else is also leaving the park and trying to get a car, expect longer waits and higher prices.
Airlines use a term called dynamic pricing, which is basically the same thing as surge pricing in that prices will rise during times of greater demand. Airlines have always had variable and changing pricing for seats, but this newer model means that two people could see two different prices based on the data that airline has collected about you from frequent flier programs and previous flight search data.
This form of surge pricing is a lot more specific and individualized and it’s aimed to determine how much YOU will spend on an airline ticket, along with adjusting for market conditions. This may work in your favor however, since it’s less expensive for airlines to keep a current customer than create new ones you may be more likely to see lower pricing if you are a frequent flier with a specific airline. But also consider using an incognito window or private browser to check out those flight prices ahead of logging into your account to be sure you are getting the lowest price.
Surge pricing has kind of always been happening, but new technologies are making it easier to implement price changes faster, which makes it a lot more noticeable. Airlines, hotels, rideshares, vacation rentals, and Disney Genie+, all see price fluctuations based on supply and demand
Now, those companies are able to track crowd levels, booking data, and purchase trends in real time and update prices accordingly. Higher prices help to balance out the demand, while lower prices are more enticing to those looking to buy – it all helps to spread out the crowds.
Take Disney Genie+ for instance. That $29 price is what you’ll pay on some of the absolute busiest days in the parks, like Thanksgiving or Christmas weeks. The high price will dissuade a lot of people from buying it, and while those who do purchase it will probably be a higher number than some random weekday in the middle of January, it still won’t be unmanageable, and they’ll still find a benefit in the purchase.
If Genie+ was still $15 on those super busy days, a LOT more people would buy it, making for much longer Genie+ lines and a potential sell-out for the day. While no one really likes surge pricing, it can help you to decide when to travel, as higher prices will likely correlate with more crowds, busier airports, and thus more delays and waiting.
If you’re flexible, changing your trip by even a day or two can help you make the most of surge pricing.
Orlando Airport is Getting Some MAJOR Updates
If you’re lucky enough to fly into the brand new Terminal C at Orlando International – servicing mostly JetBlue and international arrivals – then you might want to save some time to just hang out there. 24 new restaurants have opened in the new terminal, including a Wine Bar George outpost and Cask & Larder Public House (operated by the folks at Polite Pig) – so you can try out two Disney World restaurants before you even leave the airport!
If you are looking to fly into Orlando, there are new airlines and new routes that might help you save some money or get a direct flight when you’re used to only connecting flights:
- Starting in February 2023, Breeze Airlines will begin operating non-stop flights from Orange County, CA to Orlando, FL
- There are also direct Breeze flights from Charleston, SC and Tulsa, OK
- Other low-cost airlines have beefed up their routes in recent months with Frontier and Spirit both adding new cities to their lineup.
If you’ve always taken the same airline when flying somewhere, it might pay to check out what else is available by doing a broader search. Our team likes using Google Flights, Kayak, or SkyScanner to quickly check multiple airlines and even multiple days of potential travel, you know if you want to beat those surge prices.
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Your ID Might Not Be the RIGHT ID
If you use your driver’s license as your ID at the airport, we want you to take a look at that real quick; is there a star in the top right corner? If not, you’re gonna want to get yourself to a DMV for an updated license and sometime in the next few months, too. Many DMVs are still operating with appointments rather than the old show up and take a number situation, so it may be a little less painful to get that new ID, but if you want to fly domestically after May 7, 2025, you will need that Real ID update.
Real ID is basically an added security and identity verification that was passed by Congress way back in 2005 as part of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the Federal Government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.” Many states have already shifted to only Real IDs, but if you’re in one of those holdout states that pushed the deadline back several times, you may find yourself coming up to that deadline.
State requirements may vary, but at a minimum, you must provide documentation showing:
- Full Legal Name
- Date of Birth
- Social Security Number
- Two Proofs of Address of Principal Residence
- Lawful Status
If you don’t have a Real ID yet, but you do have a passport, you can use that at airports with no problem. You can expect to see some other changes in TSA security over the next year or so, including some updated security screenings. New x-ray scanners are being introduced at airports across the country that do not require travelers to remove liquids or electronics from their carry-on bags during screening.You will still have to take your shoes & belts off if you don’t have TSA pre-check, even if you do encounter these new scanners.
Pre-check vs. Global Entry: What Should You Apply For Before Your Next Vacation?
Prepare for the Return of Airline Change Fees
Pandemic changes meant you didn’t need to be so concerned about booking a flight you might need to change or cancel later, but now airlines are starting to roll back some of those concessions, and you might be in for some hefty fees if you need to alter your trip.
Things are going to vary airline to airline, but if you’re hoping for a flexible ticket beware of “Basic Economy”:
- These tickets cannot be changed or canceled for free on any airline; only book this ticket type if you know you won’t need to change your trip.
- Even if you can change or cancel your trip for free, that likely doesn’t mean you’ll see a refund in your bank account. Typically, you’ll get a credit to use for a future flight, which may be good or bad depending on your situation, just make note of expiration dates on those credits or vouchers.
- If you’re changing a flight, you may need to pay more to make up the difference in price between your original flight and the new one – though sometimes you might end up saving money by switching.
- Since airlines are trying to fill every single seat, airlines are often oversold and that might mean you could actually cash in big time by changing your flight last minute. This won’t work for most people, it’s a lot easier to deal with if you’re traveling solo, but a lot of airlines offer major credits (like $400+) to change your flight when they’ve overbooked. You will still need to show up to the gate at the time of your original flight, and you may not get your price request met, but if you’re really flexible with your schedule you might get some nice credits for a future flight just by waiting a few more hours at the airport.
The Way You Earn Airline and Hotel Points is Changing
If you’re someone who likes to rack up travel points for airlines and hotels to earn free travel, and especially if you’re someone who likes using credit cards to do that, several companies just made it a little easier to get those points! The last few years, hotels and airlines have made it a bit easier to earn elite status, but things are starting to move back to pre-pandemic point requirements, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make your way to free hotel breakfasts, flight upgrades, and more.
United Airlines is updating its MileagePlus program
The threshold number of qualifying miles and requirements to get status with United Airlines has gone up, in some categories as much as 60%, but they’ve made it a lot easier to rack up points with United credit card holders getting double the number of points per transaction.
Delta Air Lines Medallion Program
While many of the higher tiers will be harder to reach staring in 2023, the lowest tier – Silver – won’t see requirements shift until 2024.
Other travel points updates:
- American Airlines AAdvantage has switched things up so credit card holders are able to rack up more points without even booking flights by offering higher redemption among other categories like restaurants and hotel booking.
- Southwest is increasing the threshold to qualify for their Companion Pass – an elite status that lets a designated traveler fly with you every time you purchase or use award points for a flight. Starting in January 2023, you’ll need 10,000 more points to earn this perk
- IHG – Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott – have all increased the number of points to reach elite status, but if you’ve earned the points when they were easier to attain, these hotels are making it easier to keep that status by offering special promotions and extending status windows.
- The fastest way to get and keep elite status for airlines and hotel groups is to use their credit cards, or credit cards that partner with those companies. This is not a good strategy for everyone, but if you are interested or already a cardholder, be sure to look up these new changes to how you earn points because it seems to be a trend sweeping the industry
- If you’re looking for something really unique that will lock in a whole bunch of travel for 2023, check out Frontier’s All You Can Fly Pass. This pass will get you unlimited flights 300+ days out of the year for a full 12 months starting in May 2023. Prices vary right now, they started at just $599, but as of writing & recording they’re up to $799 with a full retail value of $1,999. This is definitely an interesting marketing strategy to help lock in flight purchases and to keep seats filled ahead of a potential recession.
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We’ll be looking for more dramatic deals and opportunities so stick with us here at DFB!
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Are you expecting travel problems this year? Tell us in the comments!
No more flying for us. At least until things calm down. We booked the train for our next trip to Florida, which for the first time in 50 years, will not be at WDW. We’ll be staying at a Universal hotel and plan on spending just one day of our nine day trip at a Disney park.
Over the past few years, we’ve become disgruntled airplane travelers, as well as fed-up-to-here Disney guests. So now we have a new adventure to look forward to. As loyal Disney guests, we voiced our opinions many times, but no one listened. And so we take our vacation money elsewhere and hope it works out for us. Time will tell.