Travel Inflation Report: May 2023

Travel prices are rising again.
Sam Kemmis
Sally French
By Sally French and  Sam Kemmis 
Edited by Meghan Coyle

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Are travel prices more or less than they were this time last year? It turns out, it’s a mixed bag. Airfares are more expensive this month than last, but they’re actually cheaper than what they were this time last year. Meanwhile, hotel prices are lower this month versus last, but they’re higher than what they were last year.

But no matter how you slice it, all travel prices are up from what they were pre-pandemic. According to NerdWallet's Travel Price Index, the overall cost of travel is up 18% compared with April 2019 and up 2% versus the same month in 2022. NerdWallet's Travel Price Index combines data from individual travel categories tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index data, such as airfares and lodging.

More specifically, hotel room rates are down 0.9% from their record highs set last month, but still up 3.5%year-over-year. Restaurant prices are up 8.6% year-over-year. Admission to movies, theaters, and concerts is up 6.9%.

Inflation continues to cool

Overall prices for the past 12 months through April rose 4.9% before seasonal adjustment (down from 5% in March). That may seem like a small decline, but 4.9% marks the lowest 12-month increase since April 2021.

Still, not every individual line item experiences inflation at the same rate — especially when it comes to travel prices. Some types of trips might actually be more or less expensive than in the past, depending on if your trip involves airfare versus driving, if you’re staying in a hotel and whether it involves a rental car.

To help you better understand how travel prices have changed, NerdWallet honed in on five categories:

  • Airfare.

  • Car rentals.

  • Food away from home.

  • Hotels.

  • Movies, theaters and concerts.

NerdWallet then compared those costs to their same prices a month ago and a year ago. And given how significantly COVID-19 altered the state of travel, the data also compares today’s prices to the same cost of those things pre-pandemic. For example, April 2023 is compared to April 2019 as the last corresponding pre-pandemic month.

Here’s what today’s travel prices look like:


In May 2022, airfares hit a record high. But airfares are dropping, with April 2023 prices down 14.6% from those May highs.

While April 2023 airfares are 2.7% higher than what they were last month in March, they’re actually slightly lower (down 0.9%) from what they were in April 2022.

How airfare prices have changed

April 2023 vs. March 2023 (MoM).

Up 2.7%.

April 2023 vs. April 2022 (YoY).

Down 0.9%.

April 2023 vs. April 2019 (Change since pre-pandemic lockdowns).

Up 9.6%.

Hotels and motels

The price for lodging away from home, including hotels and motels, saw one of the biggest swings of any price category throughout the duration of the pandemic. March 2023 marked new record highs for hotel room rates — though they’ve eased slightly and are down 0.9% in April.

April hotel prices are also up 3.5% year-over-year. What’s more, hotel room rates are, on average, nearly 15.3% more than what prices were in 2019, pre-pandemic.

How lodging prices have changed

April 2023 vs. March 2023 (MoM).

Down 0.9%.

April 2023 vs. April 2022 (YoY).

Up 3.5%.

April 2023 vs. April 2019 (Change since pre-pandemic).

Up 15.3%.

Car rentals

High rental car prices have been one of the biggest stories of pandemic-era travel, especially after renters last summer witnessed record high prices in July 2021.

Car rental prices seem to have reached their top and continue to drop, down 11.2% year-over-year. Still, rental cars are far from cheap. Prices are up an astounding 51.4% versus the same month in 2019.

Luckily though, prices aren’t quite as high as they were this time last year, but they’re still far beyond what they were before COVID-19.

How car rental prices have changed

April 2023 vs. March 2023 (MoM).

Down 0.2%.

April 2023 vs. April 2022 (YoY).

Down 11.2%.

April 2023 vs. April 2019 (Change since pre-pandemic).

Up 51.4%.

Food away from home

Food prices consistently rise every year and they typically set fresh records every month. That happened again this month. In March 2023, the cost of food away from home was up 0.4% over the prior month, and it was up over 8.6% versus the same month in 2022. And prices are far higher than pre-pandemic, with March 2023 prices coming in at more than 24% higher than what they were in March 2019.

How restaurant prices have changed

April 2023 vs. March 2023 (MoM).

Up 0.4%.

April 2023 vs. April 2022 (YoY).

Up 8.6%.

April 2023 vs. April 2019 (Change since pre-pandemic).

Up 24.2%.

Movies, theaters and concerts

Like restaurants, entertainment prices see fairly consistent increases — save for a small dip in 2020. Luckily for consumers, year-over-year price increases here haven’t been as drastic as those for dining out — up just 6.9%. But, it still suggests that people are heading outside of their homes to spend money on experiences over things.

How the prices of movies, theaters and concerts have changed

April 2023 vs. March 2023 (MoM).

Up 1.4%.

April 2023 vs. April 2022 (YoY).

Up 6.9%.

April 2023 vs. April 2019 (Change since pre-pandemic).

Up 18.2%.

If you’re planning to travel in 2023…

Especially if you’re building your next vacation budget based on an early-pandemic-era trip, expect to pay far more now for pretty much every expense. Yet even though prices constantly feel like they’re getting higher, you can still save on travel with a little planning.

Paying for travel with miles and points versus cash isn’t as daunting a task as it may seem. Frequent flyer miles and hotel points can be accrued not just for recurring travel, but through other outlets as well. Credit card rewards and welcome bonuses can be one of the most popular ways to accrue a big stash of points for a lot less effort than living your life out of a suitcase.

To avoid the costs of eating out, head to local grocery stores — which can be a fun activity on its own — or pack snacks from home. While in an airport, head to the lounge. Many credit cards have partnerships with airport lounge operators (Priority Pass is a popular one) where you can typically expect complimentary snacks and drinks.


NerdWallet conducted an analysis of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index data released by the U.S. Department of Labor, which was most recently updated in May 2023 and measures prices of items like travel, groceries and cars. Prices usually change every month, but some prices change more than others.

Keep in mind, this data is based on April 2023 information, even though it is released in May 2023, so prices you actually see may have actually improved (or gotten even worse) than this data, because it lags one month behind.

And even within the realm of travel, some expenses might go up, while others might go down.

The NerdWallet Travel Price Index combines data from the Consumer Price Index, weighted by the estimated spending in each category, which is based on 2019 travel expenditure data from the BLS.

Here are the spending categories considered, and how heavily each was weighted:

  • Flights: 29%.

  • Car rental: 13%.

  • Lodging: 30%.

  • Food: 21%.

  • Entertainment: 7%.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:

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