Travel Inflation Report: June 2024

Travel prices are down versus this time last year. Most noticeably, airfares continue to fall.
Sam Kemmis
Sally French
By Sally French and  Sam Kemmis 
Updated

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Some good news for travelers: Airfares, car rental and hotel prices in May were down compared to the same month last year. Falling travel prices is a bright spot for customers, considering that the price of pretty much everything else is going up. In fact, average consumer prices across all items rose 3.3% year-over-year through May.

According to NerdWallet's Travel Price Index, the overall cost of travel is down 2% from the same month in 2023 and up 12% compared with May 2019 (the last fully-normal May before lockdowns). In short, expect the same trip taken this year to cost slightly less than it did this time last year, but more than it would if you had taken the trip before the pandemic.

Despite travel costs declining year-over-year, there are still things you can do to reduce the price of your trip. Check out our smart money suggestions below.

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, lodging, meals and rental cars.

Overall prices for the past 12 months through May 2024 rose 3.3% before seasonal adjustment. 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, May 2024 is compared to May 2019 as the last corresponding pre-pandemic month.

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

How airfares have changed

When comparing May 2024 prices versus May 2023, U.S. airfares are down 5.9%. What's more — when compared to pre-pandemic prices — airfares are also down (ever so slightly). That's pretty staggering to see such a minimal change in airfares versus their pre-pandemic pricing. After all, average prices as a whole are up by 22.7% since May 2019.

How airfare prices have changed

May 2024 vs. April 2024 (MoM).

Up 1.3%.

May 2024 vs. May 2023 (YoY).

Down 5.9%.

May 2024 vs. May 2019 (Change since pre-pandemic lockdowns).

Down 0.8%.

How hotels room rates have changed

Prices for lodging away from home — including hotels and motels in U.S. cities — did increase 1.7% month-over-month. Though, they are actually down from last year, falling by 1.7% versus May 2023.

Unlike airfares that are barely higher than pre-pandemic prices, hotel and motel prices are significantly higher than what they were pre-pandemic — though still not as high as the 22.7% all-items average increase.

How lodging prices have changed

May 2024 vs. April 2024 (MoM).

Up 1.7%.

May 2024 vs. May 2023 (YoY).

Down 1.7%.

May 2024 vs. May 2019 (Change since pre-pandemic lockdowns).

Up 13.3%.

How rental car prices have changed

High rental car prices were one of the biggest stories of pandemic-era travel. Though prices have leveled off, they are still up an astounding 34.8% versus the same month in 2019. Still, the costs are better now than they were a year ago. Car rental prices are down 8.8% year-over-year.

How car rental prices have changed

May 2024 vs. April 2024 (MoM).

Down 0.7%.

May 2024 vs. May 2023 (YoY).

Down 8.8%.

May 2024 vs. May 2019 (Change since pre-pandemic lockdowns).

Up 34.8%.

How restaurant prices have changed

Food prices consistently rise nearly every month, and this month was no exception. In May 2024, the cost of food away from home was up 4% versus the same month in 2023.

And prices are far higher than pre-pandemic, with May 2024 prices coming in at 29.5% higher than what they were in May 2019. That's higher than the inflation rate across all items, suggesting that restaurant prices have risen more than many other categories of goods.

How restaurant prices have changed

May 2024 vs. April 2024 (MoM).

Up 0.4%.

May 2024 vs. May 2023 (YoY).

Up 4.0%.

May 2024 vs. May 2019 (Change since pre-pandemic lockdowns).

Up 29.5%.

How the price of movies, theaters and concerts has changed

Like restaurants, entertainment prices see fairly consistent increases — save for a small dip in 2020. Prices are now up 20.5% from what they were in May 2019. That's just under the general rate of inflation of 22.7% for that same period.

The price for tickets to movies, theaters and concerts is up 3.4% year-over-year.

How the prices of movies, theaters and concerts have changed

May 2024 vs. April 2024 (MoM).

Down 0.6%.

May 2024 vs. May 2023 (YoY).

Up 3.4%.

May 2024 vs. May 2019 (Change since pre-pandemic lockdowns).

Up 20.5%.

Smart money move: Use travel rewards cards to book

Paying for travel with points and miles 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.

In addition, travel credit cards can offer various money saving perks, like:

And more.

Here's a sampling of cards that offer travel-related statement credits.

Top travel cards
Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on Chase's website

U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card
U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card
NerdWallet Rating
Rates & Fees
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on Bank of America's website

Citibank Strata Premier Card
Citi Strata Premier℠ Card
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on Citibank's application

Rates & Fees
Annual fee

$550.

$400.

$95.

$95.

Rewards earn rate

• 10 points per $1 on Chase Dining, hotel stays and car rentals purchased through Chase.

• 5 points per $1 on air travel purchased through Chase.

• 3 points per $1 on other travel and dining not booked with Chase.

• 1 point per $1 on other purchases.

• 5 points per $1 on prepaid hotels and car rentals booked directly in the Altitude Rewards Center.

• 3 points per $1 on eligible travel purchases and mobile wallet spending on Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay.

• 1 point per $1 on all other purchases.

• 1.5 points per $1 spent.

• 10 ThankYou® points per $1 spent on hotels, car rentals and attractions booked through the Citi Travel site.

• 3 points per $1 on air travel and other hotel purchases.

• 3 points per $1 on supermarkets.

• 3 points per $1 on gas stations and EV charging stations.

• 3 points per $1 on restaurants.

• 1 point per $1 on all other purchases.

Travel credit benefit

$325 annual credit.

$100 in airline incidental statement credits.

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If you’re planning to travel in 2024 …

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.

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.

Methodology

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 June 2024 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 May 2024 information, even though it is released in June 2024. Thus, 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: 36%.

  • Car rental: 6%.

  • 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 some of the best travel credit cards of 2024:

Travel Cards from Our Partners
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