Priced out of summer vacation? Here’s how to book ‘budget-conscious’ travel

Inflation and fears about the direction of the economy are putting a chill in most Canadians’ summer travel plans, according to new polling.

But experts tell Global News “budget-conscious” vacations are still in the cards for many looking to get away.

Roughly six in 10 Canadians are scaling back their vacation plans due to inflation or the uncertain economic content, according to an Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Global News.

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The results of the survey released Sunday show that almost a quarter of Canadians feel there is no way a summer vacation would be affordable.

“Just as inflation was the ‘Grinch that stole Christmas’, so too it’s rearing its ugly head again and it’s impacting the summer vacation plans for a lot of Canadians,” says Sean Simpson, senior vice-president of Ipsos Global Affairs.

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While overall inflation has eased from highs seen last summer, price pressures have been particularly sticky on the services side of the equation, affecting how much Canadians pay for hotels, dining out and other travel-related expenses.

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And after a year that saw rising interest rates push up costs Canadians are paying on their debt, roughly six in 10 respondents say they’re prioritizing other expenses over vacations this year.

But for many Canadians, vacations are out of reach when they matter most.

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Some 71 per cent of respondents to the poll say they really need a vacation this summer, rising to 83 per cent of households with kids. But among those who say they’re in dire need of a getaway, almost a third say they’ll be unable to afford one.

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Simpson theorizes that Canadians who need a break from the daily grind this summer will look closer to home rather than heading too far out of the country or overseas.

“They’re going to need to find something to do. And I think those things … are readily available in our backyard,” he says. “I think we’ll see some of the local spots being quite, quite popular this year.”

‘Budget-conscious’ travel still possible

Omar Kaywan, co-founder of travel app Goose Insurance, says Canadians are likely to be more “cognizant” of their vacation budgets this year.

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He agrees that popular destinations like Europe might be off the table in lieu of domestic or cross-border travel in the United States this summer. But he also tells Global News that travellers are able to find more affordable deals in destinations where the Canadian dollar is stretching a bit further, such as the Caribbean or South Asia.

Kaywan recommends that any Canadians who have built up travel reward points with hotels or airlines make use of them when they can. Loyalty programs are changing more often these days with acquisitions and mergers, and there’s always a chance that today’s points aren’t as valuable tomorrow.

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“A great example would be if you were with Starwood before, now it’s Marriott Bonvoy and the redemption points and the levels have changed,” Kaywan points out.

“So it is a good idea for you to be using your points whenever you can before the value on them changes significantly.”

Kaywan also recommends taking a holistic look at your travel budget, rather than dividing your expenses into buckets. For example, staying at a short-term rental might affect your food budget as well if you’re able to meal plan and cook for yourself while abroad, rather than dining out.

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For some vacation-starved Canadians, getting in a summer escape seems to be worth sacrifices.

Some 27 per cent of respondents to the Ipsos poll said that with some more saving, they should be able to afford a vacation; the same proportion said that though it will be a challenge, they should be able to fit in a vacation this year if they cut spending elsewhere.

Simpson suggests that with the Bank of Canada maintaining its pause on rate hikes in its recent announcement and inflation showing signs of declining, some Canadians might be feeling secure enough today to plan something for the summer.

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“With interest rates tapering, with inflation rates starting to decline, some may see a rosier picture in the summer months than they did in the winter months. And they’re going to travel anyways,” he says.

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Kaywan agrees that while it might not be the typical summer vacation many Canadians are used to — it could be closer to home or shorter in length — customers he’s hearing from are finding a vacation is possible with a bit of extra planning.

“We are seeing a different type of travel season,” he says. “Canadians are still continuing to travel from what we’re seeing … but they’re just a little bit more budget conscious.”

— with files from Global News’ Anne Gaviola

These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between March 20 to 22, 2023, on behalf of Global News. For this survey, a sample of 1,001 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed. Quotas and weighting were employed to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the Canadian population according to census parameters. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ± 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians aged 18+ been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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