Travel to and around California is back but, in some cases, pricey

Posted at 4:21 PM, May 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-21 00:57:39-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Air travel is back, hotels are opening up, and Californians are ready for summer travel.

But just because people are ready doesn't mean a tropical getaway is affordable or even possible.

"They said they didn't have any cars, and I had already paid for it," said Shaniqua Long.

Shaniqua Long just arrived in Las Vegas to learn that car rental agencies are running short on vehicles after selling off their fleets during the pandemic.

Long was forced to pay more for an upgraded car.

"They're struggling right now, and prices are spiking," said Jonthan Weinberg, founder and CEO at AutoSlash. "We're seeing rates anywhere from $100 to $500 a day and that's if you can even find a rental at all. There are places in this county where there are simply no rentals at all."

Weinberg said when the lockdown orders went into effect in 2020, the rental car companies saw demand drop 90 percent, and they sold off cars to survive.

"As 2021 came along, folks were starting to get vaccinated, which is great news, but the problem is the demand came roaring back, and it came back way faster than the rental car companies expected," Weinberg said. "The rental car companies just can't get any new vehicles in order to satisfy the demand, so they are struggling right now, and prices are spiking.”

Reporter Adam Racusin did a search of cars for rent in Honolulu starting the middle of next week. The price for a minivan was $450 a day.

"It's extremely challenging," Weinberg said. “You really can't do what you did in the past. You need to turn that process on its head. You need to check rental car prices before booking your airfare."

It's not just rental cars where travelers are feeling the squeeze.

Many hotels and resorts are still coming back online, and some are under occupancy guidelines.

"Because of capacity control everywhere, that's why a lot of places are showing sold out when maybe they aren't really sold out," said Laila Matarwe, CEO of Five-Star World Travel.

Matarwe said summer hot spots include destinations such as Mexico and the Caribbean. There's even an appetite for cruises. But that's if you can book what you're looking for.

"People are itching to get out and really do something different," Matarwe said. "I think everyone's been to the national parks now, and we've done Arizona."

For those in local destination sites, the lack of supply in certain parts of the country could help increase their demand.

"When you talk about the California road trip, we'll see a lot of viability for people who want to stay in the state and really feel comfortable about the destination they are traveling to," said Chuck Davison, the CEO of Visit SLO CAL.

Davison said visitation to San Luis Obispo County continues to increase. He says some places are seeing higher rates than 2019, but there's a lot of opportunities for travelers.

"One of the great things I think about our county is because there are so many different communities and we're so spread out you might see a higher rate in Pismo Beach, but you might have the opportunity for a similar rate to 2019 in the City of San Luis Obispo or even in Paso Robles," he said.

Across the country, the TSA screened about 1.5 million people on May 19, 2021. That's up from 230,000 people on the same day one year ago.

The best advice from everyone we spoke to: if you can, try to avoid booking last-minute and plan ahead.