Where to travel to avoid crowds and high prices? See the list

Many Americans are looking for quiet, secluded trips to the great outdoors this year – only to find that millions more are doing the exact same thing.

Travelers hoping to avoid the crowds in cities and theme parks find themselves among record numbers of visitors to national parks and coastal destinations.

Americans searched for national parks more than any other travel destination in May and June, according to consumer data company ShareThis.

“Many campgrounds and accommodations in and around national parks at popular destinations – places like Yosemite, Yellowstone, Zion, Glacier and Acadia – are already full or nearly full until Labor Day,” said Stephanie Roulett , spokesperson for the American national park. The service told CNBC.

Crowds gather to watch the Old Faithful Geyser erupt in Yellowstone National Park on July 14, 2021.

Nathalie Behring | Getty Images News | Getty Images

To make matters worse, prices for private rental housing are increasing, with rates as high as 79% compared to 2019.

But this does not happen everywhere.

Using Google Trends and home rental data from 265 municipalities, a Florida-based travel agency analyzed where travelers might find fewer people and cheaper home rentals this year.

Popular destinations

According to travel agency Trips to Discover, nine locations in the United States had higher travel-related searches in the first quarter of this year than in 2019. They were the only places to experience “a real recovery in travel.” to date, according to the company’s June research.

Online travel searches increased earlier this year in places such as Ruidoso, New Mexico (population: 8,000) and Niagara Falls, New York.

Interest in Lake Hartwell, a man-made reservoir between Georgia and South Carolina, has increased 348%, while searches for trips to the North Carolina Outer Banks have more than doubled since the start of 2019.

Despite being a long-standing tourist attraction, with popular seaside towns such as Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills, the Outer Banks have received an unusually high number of tourists this year. “The roads are busier than ever,” according to local reports, which quote Karen Brown, CEO of the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce, as saying that weekly visitors have increased from 250,000 before the pandemic to 400,000 this year.

While travel bookings have not returned to pre-pandemic levels in most places in the United States, this may not be the case for people vacationing in places such as Telluride, Colorado.

HawaiiBlue | instant | Getty Images

Occupancy rates paint a similar picture. Vacation home occupancy rates increased in small rural settlements (+ 67%) as well as resorts, lakeside and coastal resorts (+ 25%) in April this year compared to April 2019, according to a report. published last month by AirDNA, an analytics company that tracks rental listings from companies like Airbnb and Vrbo.

At the same time, rental housing occupancy rates have fallen in peri-urban areas (-13%) and large cities (-41%).

Based on current data from the Trips to Discover site, these trends have continued into the summer travel season, said company founder and CEO Dayne Ford.

Bookings for summer rental homes confirm this, showing an even larger drop in trips to major cities (-46%) with an increase in resort stays (43%) compared to 2019, according to the report. AirDNA.

Rising house rental prices

In addition to the crowds, vacation home prices might also surprise travelers this year.

Average daily rates on Airbnb and Vrbo rose 23% nationwide in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period in 2019, Ford told CNBC. This is in part due to the rise in home values ​​in the United States combined with an effort by rental companies to recoup income lost earlier in the pandemic, according to research from his company.

“We think it’s a clear case of supply and demand impacting the pricing landscape – rental owners follow price increases around them,” Ford said. “With data, short-term rental owners are more informed than ever. “

Some markets are hit harder than others. Of the 265 markets examined by AirDNA and Trips to Discover, 16 have seen average daily house rental rates increase by more than 50%.

Vacation home prices are rising the most along the east coast, where average daily rates are up 34% from 2019, according to the study. This is especially happening on Long Island, home to the Hamptons, where house prices have skyrocketed after families fled New York City to live and work full time in their second home.

The price increases are not attributable to demand everywhere, however, as overall interest in searching for trips to east coast destinations has fallen by 32%.

The Jersey Shore is the exception. The interest rate for searches (+ 66%) and house rental rates (+77) have increased – the latter from $ 213 to $ 378 in two years – indicating that tourists are interested in the sun and to the pleasure of New Jersey beaches, even if it costs them more.

Run away from the crowds

With vacationers congregating in many of the same destinations, this leaves some vacation spots – even well-known ones – with fewer people than usual.

The Trips to Discover report identified places travelers can go to escape the crowds, including:

  • Green Mountains, Vermont
  • New York City
  • Washington coast
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Louisville, Kentucky
  • Tallahassee, Florida

Searches in each of these locations have declined by more than 50% from pre-pandemic levels.

“Hidden gems”

Travelers who want fewer crowds but don’t want price increases can turn to a list of “hidden gems,” as Trips to Discover calls them. They combine the best of both worlds: stable or declining home rental rates and low interest in online searches.

The list includes:

  • Texas: Corpus Christi
  • Florida: Lakeland, Punta Gorda and Orlando
  • Colorado: Vail, Aspen and Breckenridge
  • Indiana: South Bend
  • Utah: Park City
  • California: Mammoth Lakes

While search interest in Telluride, Colorado has increased by nearly 25%, fewer people have searched for trips to the popular ski towns of Breckenridge, Aspen and Vail than before the pandemic, according to the research. Prices in these upscale areas also fell slightly, with average daily house rental rates falling the most in Vail (nearly 8%).

Rental prices for homes around Park City, Utah haven’t changed much since before the pandemic, but the ski town has been searched about half as much this year as it was in early 2019.

Home rental rates have fallen nearly 10% in Corpus Christi, Texas, while interest in online searches has fallen 40%. The rest of the South fared better, with daily vacation rental averages reflecting 2019 prices and interest in travel searches only declined by 10% in the region.


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