So you haven’t taken a vacation to a long-haul destination since Covid first hit nearly two years ago. You’re itching to get out — despite recent disruptions to air travel — and maybe you’ve actually managed to bank the vacation money you would have otherwise spent months ago. Where to head?
Depending on how the latest pandemic wave plays out, you may want to consider the nearly two dozen places worldwide that travel website Scott’s Cheap Flights recommends in its “22 Cheap Destinations to Visit in 2022” list. That’s because experts at the site say they’re pretty confident there will be airfare deals to these destinations in the year ahead.
Whether it’s thanks to new routes, to new carriers serving them or simply to everyday low fares, these 22 cities, states, regions and nations, according to the site, could get you more bang for your vacation buck in 2022 — at least for your flight. After all, not all the destinations are cheap when it comes to other expenses.
Scott’s Cheap Flights included only destinations already open to visitors or expected to reopen before the second half of this year.
Not surprisingly, airfares to U.S. and Canadian destinations are the least expensive on the list, with the Pacific Northwest at the top, thanks to an average round-trip fare to Seattle of just $105. Rounding out the top five North American spots, from second place to fifth, are Oklahoma City ($182), Charleston, South Carolina ($185), Puerto Rico ($240 to San Juan), and Alberta, Canada ($259 to Calgary), all average round-trip fares.
In general, the next cheapest airfares can be found to Central America and the Caribbean, then Europe and Asia, followed by Africa, the Middle East and the South Pacific. Bringing up the rear — but still unusually affordable, historically speaking — is Greenland, where travelers who transit through Reykjavik, Iceland, can fly for around $940 round trip.
“In many cases, ‘cheap’ is a relative term,” said Willis Orlando, senior product operations specialist at Scott’s Cheap Flights. “Some destinations, like Greenland or Ghana, used to simply be prohibitively expensive to reach because of extremely limited capacity and are now all of a sudden attainable.”
Orlando said the pandemic radically changed how airlines calculate supply and demand, affecting prices, and a shift has been noted away from business-focused routes and toward leisure-travel ones. “So while an airline may not have found it profitable in the past to put extra planes on routes to far-flung leisure destinations or to partner with airlines that run those routes (as is the case with Greenland), today they’re thinking differently,” he said.
Carriers are pulling some planes from once-dependable business routes such as Tokyo, Frankfurt and Chicago and flying them to places such as the Maldives, Hawaii and Greenland, Orlando added.
That said, you may snag a $185 round-trip flight to Charleston later this year but actually visiting there may not be inexpensive. Hotels in the most desirable parts of that charming antebellum coastal city can be notoriously high-priced, for example. Travel website Budgetyourtrip.com reports that the average nightly hotel rate is $144, with a one-week stay costing $1,901.
“We all know why hotels are expensive in some of the most popular leisure destinations right now,” said Orlando. “The number of hotel rooms/accommodations in a given destination can only grow so quickly (rooms need to be constructed, apartments converted to vacation homes, etc.).” As demand rises, so do hotel and other rates.
Airlines, however, can note consumer interest and add capacity quickly, often driving down airfares, he said. “This is why although we’ve seen hotel prices in Miami reach and surpass their pre-pandemic highs in recent months, nonstop, round-trip flights on major carriers from dozens of cities across the country are still consistently dipping below $100.”
But what about the current mess at the airports? Should prospective flyers be wary of jumping on these apparent deals? Orlando points out that, from a historical perspective, the number of cancellations — although “dramatic” — isn’t high. “Compared to pre-pandemic, cancellations haven’t actually increased,” he said. “In 2019, 1.6% of U.S. flights were canceled — in 2021, that number was 1.5%.”
Orlando also noted that uncertainty is “part and parcel” of pandemic-era travel. ”The best thing folks can do is to be proactive, prepared and vigilant,” he said, frequently checking flight status updates, downloading airline apps to ease rebooking, and familiarizing yourself with destination documentation requirements and air passenger rights. When it comes to a significant delay or cancellation, “passengers are entitled to a full refund in the original form of payment if they choose not to travel,” he added.
“All major U.S. airlines continue to waive change fees on tickets above basic economy class,” Orlando said. “So if you’re nervous, you’d be wise to book yourself a ticket with no change fee — so if things begin to look hairy, you can postpone your trip without paying a penalty.”