April 22, 2024

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Traveling Around the World

Travel Inflation Price Tracker: January 2024

Some good news for travelers: Airfares are cheaper than they were this time last year.

Last month, airfares were down 6.4% versus the same month in 2023, and they are even 3% lower than what they were in January 2020, before the pandemic. That’s according to the latest set of Consumer Price Index data released in February 2024 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is based on January 2024 prices.

Car rentals price are also lower — down 14% versus January 2023. Hotel prices barely budged since last year, up a nominal 0.7%.

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 3.1% year-over-year through January.

According to NerdWallet’s Travel Price Index, the overall cost of travel is down 1% from the same month in 2023 and up 12% compared with January 2020. In short, expect the same trip taken this year to cost slightly less than it did this time last year (largely due to the steep drop in airfares), but more than it would if you had taken the trip before the pandemic.

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 January 2024 rose 3.1% 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:

  • 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, January 2024 is compared to January 2020 as the last corresponding pre-pandemic month.

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

How airfares have changed

When comparing January 2024 prices versus January 2023, U.S. airfares are down 6.4%. Even compared to pre-pandemic prices, airfares are 3% lower in January 2024 than they were in January 2020.

How airfare prices have changed

January 2024 vs. December 2023 (MoM).

January 2024 vs. January 2023 (YoY).

January 2024 vs. January 2020 (Change since pre-pandemic lockdowns).

How hotels room rates have changed

Prices for lodging away from home — including hotels and motels in U.S. cities — did increase 5.2% month-over-month. Though, they are largely flat (up a nominal 0.7%) over the past year.

Unlike airfares that are lower than pre-pandemic prices, hotel and motel prices are significantly higher than what they were pre-pandemic.

How lodging prices have changed

January 2024 vs. December 2023 (MoM).

January 2024 vs. January 2023 (YoY).

January 2024 vs. January 2020 (Change since pre-pandemic lockdowns).

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 16.5% versus the same month in 2020. Still, the costs are better now than they were a year ago. Car rental prices are down 14.1% year-over-year.

How car rental prices have changed

January 2024 vs. December 2023 (MoM).

January 2024 vs. January 2023 (YoY).

January 2024 vs. January 2020 (Change since pre-pandemic lockdowns).

How restaurant prices have changed

Food prices consistently rise nearly every month, and this month was no exception. In January 2024, the cost of food away from home was up 5.1% versus the same month in 2023. And prices are far higher than pre-pandemic, with January 2024 prices coming in at 25.6% higher than what they were in January 2020.

How restaurant prices have changed

January 2024 vs. December 2023 (MoM).

January 2024 vs. January 2023 (YoY).

January 2024 vs. January 2020 (Change since pre-pandemic lockdowns).

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 19.6% from what they were in January 2020. The year-over-year price increases, though, haven’t been as drastic — up just 5.2%.

How the prices of movies, theaters and concerts have changed

January 2024 vs. December 2023 (MoM).

January 2024 vs. January 2023 (YoY).

January 2024 vs. January 2020 (Change since pre-pandemic lockdowns).

If you’re planning to travel in 2024…

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.

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 February 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 January 2024 information, even though it is released in February 2024, 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:

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 2024, including those best for: