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Nearly two out of every three adults plan to take a summer vacation this year — up slightly from the number who planned trips in 2022, according to Bankrate survey data.
What those vacations look like, however, will be heavily influenced by high prices associated with ongoing inflation. Ted Rossman, Bankrate senior industry analyst, reports that, “This year, as prices and interest rates continue to push higher, we’re seeing more signals that vacationers are adapting their plans. Many are still going somewhere, but they’re being more thoughtful about how they’re spending.”
In particular, travelers plan to seek out less expensive destinations or accommodations, engage in cheaper activities while traveling, drive instead of flying and take fewer trips lasting fewer days.
As you’re putting your own summer travel plans together, having access to realistic numbers can help you get a better sense of how to stretch your budget. If you’re asking how much is a plane ticket, here’s a look at the average cost of airfare for domestic flights out of the top 10 busiest airports in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Transportation.
|City and airport||Cost of airfare|
|Los Angeles (LAX)||$438.87|
Airline price statistics
- Prices for airline tickets decreased by 0.9 percent between April 2022 and April 2023, following a series of year-over-year increases (BLS)
- Airline ticket prices are still up compared to pre-pandemic prices, with a 9.6 percent increase between April 2019 and April 2023 (BLS)
- The most expensive airport to fly out of for U.S. domestic travel is Guam (GUM) with an average cost of $1,521.24 (Bureau of Transportation)
- The least expensive airport to fly out of for U.S. domestic travel is San Bernardino, CA (SBD) with an average cost of $104.03 (Bureau of Transportation)
- The average cost of a “good deal” U.S. domestic round-trip airline ticket is $285, which is down 15 percent from 2022 prices (Hopper)
- 63 percent of U.S. adults are likely to take a summer vacation in 2023 (Bankrate)
Average flight cost changes in the U.S.
A number of factors determine airfare prices in the U.S., including the flight’s distance, the time of year you’ll be traveling, the cost of fuel and your time of purchase.
While the average cost of flying in the U.S. fell during the pandemic in 2020, travelers booking domestic flights are still seeing higher costs compared to historical flight prices. This is because travel demand and jet fuel prices have increased over the last two years, as airline staffing challenges have continued.
According to Hopper’s Price Tracker, the average cost of domestic flight travel is now closer to 2019 levels, as you can see below:
|Month||2019 airfare cost||2020 airfare cost||2021 airfare cost||2022 airfare cost|
5 most (and least) expensive origin cities for domestic airfare
Plane ticket prices vary greatly across the country; discrepancies that can be chalked up to a number of factors, including the difference in the number of airlines that serve that particular airport and overall demand for flights. It will likely cost you more to fly into a smaller airport with less foot traffic than one of the nation’s major airports.
So how much does a plane ticket cost? Here’s a look at the top five most expensive airports to fly out of versus the top five most affordable airports, based on how much you can expect to pay for airfare. All data is from the Bureau of Transportation.
Top 5 most expensive airports
|City/territory and airport||Average plane ticket cost|
|Unalaska, AK (DUT)||$1,438.32|
|Pago Pago, American Samoa (PPG)||$1,233.84|
|Sandpoint, AK (SDP)||$1,217.50|
|Homer, AK (HOM)||$964.07|
Top 5 most affordable airports
|City and airport||Average cost of airfare|
|San Bernardino, CA (SBD)||$104.03|
|Santa Maria, CA (SMX)||$123.81|
|Provo, UT (PVU)||$134.84|
|Trenton, NJ (TTN)||$144.32|
|Stockton, CA (SCK)||$144.63|
When is the cheapest time to fly?
According to a 2023 study conducted by CheapAir, January and February are the least expensive months of the year to fly, compared to flights in December during the busy holiday season. For summer travel, planning for an August departure date could help you rake in more savings compared to flying in June or July.
As for the cheapest day of the week to fly, the middle of the week — such as a Tuesday or Wednesday — tends to be more affordable. In fact, according to CheapAir, choosing a Tuesday or Wednesday flight could save you an average of $94 to $100 per ticket, compared to flying on Sunday.
As for the weekend, Saturdays also tend to be one of the cheapest travel days, whereas Sundays are usually the most expensive day to travel, according to Experian.
How to save on air travel
Despite high prices, there are still a few strategies you can use to trim your overall costs when booking a flight.
- Opt for a travel card. The top travel credit cards can help you earn valuable rewards to put toward flights, hotel stays and other travel-related expenses. If you already have a travel card, see if there are any rewards you can redeem to maximize your savings. You may also be able to cut down on other costs like travel insurance since many top travel cards come with numerous travel protections.
- Book ahead. Timing is everything and can translate to major savings when purchasing airline tickets. According to the same study conducted by CheapAir, the best time to book a domestic flight is between 46 to 164 days before your travel date.
- Set price alerts. Monitoring flight prices can be a job in and of itself. Automate where you can. Sites like Skyscanner, Hopper, Kayak and Google Flights let you set price alerts and will notify you when the airline ticket you’re hoping to purchase drops below a certain price point.
- Be flexible. Not only does the timing of your ticket purchase matter, but when you choose to fly is key to saving money as well. When you start planning your trip, see if there’s any flexibility in when you plan to venture off. If you can travel during the middle of the week or on a Saturday, you may save a considerable amount on airfare.
The bottom line
With a busy travel season ahead, it’s important to make your travel plans early and keep in mind that flexibility is key when scoring the lowest fare. Search around your area to see if flying out of a different airport could help you save. And if you have some wiggle room in your schedule, see if changing your travel dates could cut down your costs as well.
Lastly, set yourself up for success by allowing for enough time to do your research, monitoring and comparing deals and looking for ways to redeem credit card points so that you can rake in extra savings.