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Higher fares, hordes of voucher-rich travelers, reopened countries: These are the predictions about how we'll travel in 2022

These experts say we'll get back on the beaten path to Europe and Asia. And they predict more mistake fares that could allow you to travel for pennies on the dollar.

DALLAS — Alright, who is ready for summer vacation?

Before everyone’s hands shoot up at once, let’s emphasize: Who is READY for vacation? There are experts who say you need to be shopping now (or maybe you should have been shopping even before now) to find the best deals for summer.

Willis Orlando explains it’s like swimsuits. And, “When are bathing suits on sale?"

"Right now," he said. "If you wait until April or May to get that swimsuit for your summer vacation, guess what? Everyone else is looking for one at the same time, too, and the prices go through the roof.”

Orlando is the senior product operations specialist with Scott’s Cheap Flights, which Orlando says scours hundreds -- even thousands -- of airfares each week and posts deals like this one: “Just this morning, we saw early summer fares from Dallas to Greece for $484 roundtrip. If you wait until April, that price will double, I can guarantee you that.”

Predicting travel in 2022

If you find a good deal, you may want to jump on it quickly this year. Because, for the first time, Scott’s Cheap Flights is making travel predictions --17 of them to be exact.

Each prediction comes with its own confidence rating, so govern yourself accordingly. None of this is guaranteed to happen. But one of the predictions is that more Americans will fly this summer than flew in pre-pandemic summer 2019. 

Orlando advises travelers to be prepared for the return of the jam-packed airplane.

"As somebody who has been traveling quite a bit this year, I am going to miss that empty seat," he said. "I have been enjoying that.”

A lot of those travelers may be voucher rich, too, after all the cancelled flights of the last two years.

“We have all this pent-up demand…and folks have thousands of dollars in airline credits and vouchers ready to spend," Orlando said. "Those are going to expire at some point, and people want to spend them.” 

If you have those vouchers, put on your reading glasses now and look them over, Orlando recommended.

“The airlines have been decent about extending expiration dates. Delta just said all airline credits are now good through 2023. That was kind of industry leading," he said. "But, we advise people, if you booked a flight in 2020 or 2021 and ended up cancelling it and taking that voucher, check your expiration date and go on the airline’s website to see if it has changed.”

If, for some reason, you have to cancel a trip this year, Scott’s Cheap Flights also predicts that U.S. airlines will not re-introduce change fees this year for fares in main economy or higher classes.  

They also think that average airfares will rise by 10% in 2022, and that no more than one European country will require a quarantine period for vaccinated American travelers. And they believe Japan will reopen to vaccinated Americans no later than Aug. 31. 

Travelers getting back on the beaten path in 2022

The reason timelines for those destinations are especially important, says Orlando, is that the website is seeing a trend away from our previous pandemic favorites that were socially distanced and off the beaten path. He says there is a clear shift now back to major population centers.

“Right now, we are looking at London, we are looking at Paris…at Rome," he listed. "That’s where people want to go.” 

Orlando says airlines are repositioning their fleets to respond to that trend.

“That repositioning of planes, that reshuffling of routes should result in some great deals to Europe, and once Asia opens -- some great deals to Asia, as well,” he predicted. 

As that transition unfolds, he notes, some closer-to-home routes have developed a capacity glut -- which means there are deals to be found now. Like Puerto Vallarta nonstop: $194 roundtrip. 

"These are major carriers. We’re not talking about Spirit or Frontier," Orlando said.

Some fares almost too good to be true

But there are bargains way better than that. Those unbelievably good deals are affectionately known as "mistake fares" at Scott’s Cheap Flights.

“When something goes haywire…like an airline for example leaves a zero off a price or they misquote a business class flight as an economy flight," he explained.

Not surprisingly, Orlando says mistake fares are, “without a doubt the most popular thing we send. We only sent nine of them in 2021.” 

He thinks there may be more in 2022 “because we are expecting a very competitive environment when airlines are onboarding a lot of people really fast.”

Examples of some beautiful mistakes…

  • A $23 roundtrip flight from Boston to Puerto Rico
  • How about $27 from Baltimore to Salt Lake City?
  • $63 from Atlanta down to Santiago, Chile! 

"One of my co-workers actually took that flight,” Orlando said.

…but only if the airline honors them

Airlines don’t always honor these once they flag the error. Orlando said it's only about 35 or 40% of the time they are honored. But that shouldn't stop you from booking it.

"Give them two or three days for them decide what they are going to do,” he advised. 

Even if the airline rejects your mistake airfare booking and hikes the price, Orlando encourages you to ask the airline for a credit, a voucher, a future upgrade or lounge pass for making a mistake that got your hopes sky high.  

Should you insure your travel in 2022?

Finally, because of the pandemic, many people have become strong believers in travel insurance (including this author, after a months-long hassle recouping costs from a COVID-cancelled trip to Iceland).

Orlando says he doesn’t personally buy the coverage but says if you book a very expensive (by your standards) trip - especially if many of the elements of the trip are non-refundable or non-cancellable - trip insurance may be an important consideration.

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