What do higher oil prices mean for your summer travel?

Oil prices spiked to over $120 per barrel a few weeks before settling back down to a mere $100.

Nobody can predict what will happen to oil next, yet everybody is curious how it will impact long-delayed summer travel plans.

In three sentences:

Airfares are going up, but not as much as you might think. Renting and fueling a vehicle will be more expensive than usual. To find a deal, visit cities with good public transportation.

The last two years have been a halcyon era for cheap airfare, if little else. Yes, prices are rising quickly now, but unlike food and other inflation-afflicted expenses, they’re rising from a much lower baseline.

And even though jet fuel prices have gone way up lately, airfare hasn’t followed quite the same trajectory. Fuel accounts for about 30% of operating costs for airlines, according to Hopper, a travel booking platform. So an increase in fuel prices doesn’t necessarily result in a one-to-one increase in airfare.

Even so, booking sooner rather than later is a good bet.

Meanwhile, driving is getting more expensive.

We all know the pain of filling a tank of gas these days. Even if you’re prepared to pay more for fuel, will you even be able to find a rental car? Has their availability normalized since last summer’s shortage?

In a word? Nope.

The average price of rental cars remains outrageously high, costing 39% more in February 2022 than in February 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Pair that with astronomical fuel prices and reportedly higher rideshare fares, and the message is clear: If you can avoid vacations that require renting a car or driving long distances, do so.

In fact, remember cities? National parks are cool, but they’re so summer 2020.

Now, there are good financial reasons to avoid far-flung rural destinations and target bigger, more transit-friendly cities instead. I’ve already talked about how expensive driving will be, but there’s another factor at play: demand. Everyone is still booking travel to rural destinations for some reason, which means you should do the opposite.

Data from AirDNA, a vacation rental tracking platform, suggests that demand for vacation rentals already exceeds pre-pandemic levels across the board. But coastal urban areas still lag far behind other markets.

New York City is one of the easiest destinations to visit without renting a car. In other words, it might be financially prudent to visit the Big Apple this year.

When in the history of humanity has that ever been true?

Sam Kemmis writes for NerdWallet.com.