2024 Summer Travel Report

Millions of Americans are getting out of town this summer, according to a new NerdWallet survey. But for some, inflation is keeping them grounded.
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Written by Erin El Issa
Senior Writer
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Edited by Meghan Coyle
Assistant Assigning Editor
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The days are getting longer and hotter, and millions of Americans are making plans for summer vacation. According to NerdWallet’s annual summer travel survey, nearly half of Americans (45%) plan to take a trip that requires a flight or hotel stay this summer, and they’ll spend $3,594, on average, on these expenses. That’s over 118 million Americans spending a total of more than $424 billion on airfare and hotel stays in summer 2024.

The survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults, conducted online by The Harris Poll and commissioned by NerdWallet, asked those traveling this summer how they plan to save on trip expenses and whether they plan to rack up credit card debt on their vacation costs. Of those surveyed, 931 say they plan to take a trip that requires a flight or hotel stay this summer; they’ll be referred to as “summer travelers” throughout this report.

Key findings

  • One-fifth of summer travelers plan to go into debt for vacation: 1 in 5 summer travelers (20%) say they’ll use a credit card to pay for their travel expenses, but won’t pay off the balance within the first billing statement. Instead, they’ll carry over the balance, possibly racking up costly interest charges.

  • Travelers are taking steps to save: The majority of summer travelers (91%) are taking action to save money on their travel expenses, like driving instead of flying to their destination (42%). This is up since 2023 when 35% of summer travelers said this, perhaps due to falling gas prices over the past couple of years.

  • Some nontravelers are opting out due to inflation: Of Americans who say they aren’t taking a summer vacation that requires a flight or hotel stay this year, more than 1 in 5 (22%) say it’s because inflation has made travel too expensive. Last year, 23% of non-summer travelers said this, suggesting that the high inflation of 2022 is still weighing on consumers.

  • Events are taking some out of town this summer: We asked Americans who are spending at least one night away from home this summer what they’re traveling for. Of them, 12% say they’ll travel for a concert, 8% for a wedding and 4% for a bachelor or bachelorette party.

“Millions of Americans are hitting the road this summer, with many opting to drive to their summer destinations, which may be a more affordable option than flying,” says Sally French, a NerdWallet travel expert and spokesperson. “But the high cost of travel due to inflation is still holding some back.”

Some going into debt to pay for summer travel

The majority of summer travelers (83%) plan to pay for at least part of their vacation expenses — airfare or hotel stays — with a credit card, but not all of them have plans to pay it off right away. According to the survey, 20% of summer travelers plan to use a credit card for these expenses but won’t pay off the expenses in full within the first billing statement.

The most recent data from the St. Louis Fed shows that average credit card interest on accounts assessing interest is 22.75%. To put that in perspective, for each $1,000 you carry on a credit card per year, that’s around $228 in interest.

Aim to reduce interest charges

There are still a few months before summer, so even if you’ve already charged some of your travel expenses, there’s still time to reduce those interest costs. Scour your budget to see where there’s room to cut back, and divert extra money toward paying off travel expenses already on your credit card or saving up the cash to pay those future credit card charges.

If it’s not possible to get interest down prior to your trip, and you aren’t considering changing your travel plans, figure out how you can pay the charges as quickly as possible. Credit card debt is some of the most expensive consumer debt you can carry, and the high interest rates can make it more challenging to pay off.

“To pay off debt faster and minimize interest charges, make a plan you can reasonably stick to,” French says. “If possible, bump up your monthly payments. Even a small increase, like rounding your payment up to the nearest hundred dollars, or taking money received as gifts or from side hustles and applying it to debt, can help.”

Travelers are taking action to save money on summer vacation

There are plenty of options for getting trip costs down, and most summer travelers (91%) are taking steps to do just that. The top two money-saving measures are driving instead of flying to their destination (42%) and choosing a hotel/motel/resort based on price instead of amenities (39%).

More than a third of summer travelers (35%) will use credit card points/miles to cover expenses. This can be a great option to save money and use up accumulated points that might otherwise lose value over time.

Assess points and make a plan to use them

It’s tempting to save up your travel rewards for your dream vacation. But if that’s not in the near future, it’s a good idea to look at the points and miles you have and use them sooner rather than later. Over time, rewards can become less valuable, so if you’re saving them for a nebulous future trip, you may get less bang for your point.

“NerdWallet recommends saving in most scenarios — but saving travel rewards points is not one of them,” French says. “Points inflation is very real. Unless you’re saving for a specific redemption, it’s generally best to spend them on travel you’d otherwise pay cash for now.”

If you’re looking to rack up points for next year’s summer vacation, you may want to look into travel rewards credit cards with sign-up bonuses. Credit cards can be a great tool to earn rewards that make travel cheaper, but only if you plan to pay them off by the due date. Carrying credit card debt for the points generally results in paying more in interest than you’re earning in rewards.

Some nontravelers cite inflation as a reason for staying home

2022 was a year of high inflation, and while the U.S. inflation rate is getting closer to the targeted 2%, the dramatic price increases are still having an impact on consumer spending. Among those who aren’t planning on taking a summer vacation that requires a flight or hotel stay, more than one-fifth (22%) say it’s because inflation has made travel too expensive. Nearly as many nontravelers (19%) say that inflation has made their other expenses too expensive, so they can’t afford to take a summer vacation.

Around 1 in 6 nontravelers (17%) are still planning on getting away this summer, just not in a way that requires a flight or hotel stay. We asked what sorts of events are taking Americans away from home for at least one night this summer.

Some are traveling for concerts, weddings this summer

The vast majority of Americans (88%) say they’ll spend at least one night away from home this summer, whether or not this trip requires a flight or hotel stay. For many, this means a vacation with others or solo, but some are also traveling to attend events, like a concert (12%) or wedding (8%).

A hefty 22% of Generation Zers (ages 18-27) plan to travel at least one night away from home this summer for a concert. Perhaps they’re making plans to attend a summer music festival, or maybe they’re jetting off to Europe for the ongoing Eras Tour.

Start saving for next year’s summer vacation plans

No matter what your travel plans are, it’s a good idea to save up in advance to avoid going into credit card debt. If you can estimate what next year’s travel expenses will cost you, you can use a savings goal calculator to determine how much you need to save each month. You can also earmark a windfall — like a tax refund — specifically for summer travel plans.


This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of NerdWallet from Jan. 30 - Feb. 1, 2024, among 2,092 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, among whom 931 will take a vacation that requires a flight or hotel stay this summer. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured using a Bayesian credible interval. For this study, the sample data is accurate to within +/- 2.5 percentage points using a 95% confidence level. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact [email protected].

Summer travel is defined as June, July and August 2024, for the purposes of this survey.


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