Summer Vacation: Safety and Affordability Loom Large

As Americans plan their summer vacations this year, survey data suggest many have been scared away from visiting Europe by terrorist attacks and the migrant crisis. However, global economic trends have made it a relatively cheap time to visit.

Safety” and “affordability” are the two watchwords for summer vacation planning this year. For some Americans, that translates to traveling within the US. For other Americans as well as travelers of other nationalities, that means rethinking where to visit in Europe.

Safety

The booking site Travelzoo found that 80% of Americans who have already arranged their vacations will stay in the US this summer. Of those, 84% chose to remain in the US based on safety and 63% plotted their trip based on affordability.

The November terrorism attacks in Paris and the March attacks in Brussels combined with the instability of the migrant crisis caused many vacationers to cross Europe off their travel lists. Hopper, an airfare prediction app, cites a 13% decrease in searches for travel to Europe in 2016 versus the same time period in 2015.

For those who don’t want to skip Europe entirely, visiting a city with a lower profile than Paris such as Lisbon, Dublin, or Warsaw is a strategy. Virtuoso travel agencies report an 88% increase in bookings to Portugal, a 58% increase in bookings to Ireland, and an 18% increase in bookings to Poland.

Affordability

Adding complexity to the “go to Europe or not” conundrum for Americans is the fact that the strong US dollar makes European travel more affordable than it’s been in recent years. Compared with 2014, a euro costs 17% less to buy; the British pound is 15% less expensive to buy, and the Canadian dollar is down 16%.

More good news: Cheaper summer airfare. Domestic airfare for June through August dropped from a median price of $330 to $286 and flights to Europe are down 15% from a median of $1,331 to $1,129 according to travel booking site Hipmunk.

Best Times to Purchase Summer Airfare

In general, to grab the lowest airfare Hipmunk advises travelers to book two months before the beginning of summer or five to seven weeks prior to your departure month. The site advises that July trips require the most lead time and August trips, the least.

Memorial Day trips: Book five weeks prior for a 31% less costly fare than the highest price offered the week before Memorial Day.

July Fourth: Book six weeks prior for a fare that’s 21% of those offered during the week before July 4.

Labor Day: Book about seven weeks prior for a 60% discount from Labor Day week highs. Sometimes, the same discount is available three weeks in advance.

Are you planning to visit Europe this year? How have safety and affordability factored into your decision? Comment below, or connect with me on Twitter, @familyitrips.