Christopher Elliott: Pro travel advice for surviving the summer of 2023 | Business


Travel is officially back this summer — and along with it, all the high prices and headaches that make it unbearable.

“Travel is chaotic this summer,” says Sasha Gainullin, CEO of the travel insurance company battleface. “And travelers are looking for ways to handle the chaos.”

Fortunately, there are some new expert summer travel survival strategies that can help you get through it.

For example, battleface just teamed up with AirHelp, a claims management company for air travelers, to create a travel insurance plan that pays you for every flight delay. The new program, AirPayout, sends you $110 if your airline delays you for three hours or more, cancels your flight within a week of your departure, or diverts your flight. That’s on top of any compensation your airline offers.

“Call it what you will — the post-Covid travel bump, revenge travel, or the new normal — but it seems like everyone is traveling right now,” says Christina Tunnah, general manager of marketing and brands for World Nomads.

Travel insurance companies may be on to something. But this summer’s biggest pain points — crowds, delays and high prices — will require more than a good policy. I have some pro advice on handling these problems. And in a moment, I’ll give you a tip that no other travel columnist dares to suggest.

How to manage the summer crowds

When everyone wants to go to Ocean City, Galveston or Catalina at the same time, crowds are inevitable.

You can avoid the throngs of visitors by choosing a contrarian destination. Consider a place in Florida’s Northwest Gulf Coast, such as Destin, Fort Walton Beach, or Panama City, which saw record visitors during the pandemic. It has some of the prettiest beaches in the world, with white sand and turquoise water. But it’s also within driving distance of big cities like Nashville and Atlanta. When the pandemic ended, people wanted to go farther — and the crowds thinned.

David Demarest, a spokesman for The St. Joe Company, a land development company in Panama City Beach, Fla., says driving vacations are a great opportunity to avoid crowds and save money.

“With the growing uncertainties and expenses associated with air travel this year, maybe travelers should once again focus on destinations within driving distance,” he told me.

My favorite expert strategy for avoiding crowds is smart timing. Even on the busiest days during peak season, you can still find moments of serenity in the early morning. Try visiting the hotel breakfast buffet at 6:30 a.m., and you’ll find a cheerful staff eager to help you. At 10 a.m., not so much.

And that crowded beach is practically abandoned at sunrise, which is also one of the best times for a long walk.

Bottom line: This summer is not the time to save money on travel unless you can get creative. Consider a less expensive destination.

My unconventional advice: delay that trip!

I told you I had some unusual advice for you, and here it is: If you want to survive summer travel, don’t go now. Everyone else is trying to hit the beach, visit a national park, or tour a popular museum. Your best travel strategy is avoidance.

I know, I know. A travel columnist telling you not to travel. But honestly, I’ve never seen it like this. If you can delay your trip until early September, you’ll avoid crowds, high prices and what Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection calls “Airmageddon.”

You can thank me later.

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