Dermatologist Shira Maryles, 45, decided she and her husband David deserved a vacation to Europe together this summer – an added treat as their four children will be away at camp or college. The New Rochelle, NY pair are already avid travelers, but decided to make the 2022 trip a splurge, increasing their regular budget by 20%.
Getting away and being pampered was the top priority.
“We’ve all put a lot of things on hold over the past two years, and we need some pressure relief, some way out of your daily headspace,” Maryles told the Post. “Part of us was, like, let’s do this – we don’t know when the next opportunity will come.”
They are not alone. “Spending has really changed. Americans are much flashier with money now,” said travel agent Jaclyn Sienna India. This includes renting private planes, spending six figures on renting villas, and double the rates for renting yachts.
Maryles and her husband asked their travel agent, Janel Carnero of New York’s Embark Beyond, to organize a 10-day trip. She’s planned an adventure that includes an EDM festival in Barcelona, primo seats for the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, and a five-star beach hideaway in Biarritz, France. The couple opted for the most expensive hotel available.
“We chose the most expensive option, and I don’t blame myself. I never feel bad about taking a vacation,” Maryles said, “And anyone who travels this year pays a premium.
And then some. According to hospitality data tracker STR, a tony hotel room in Europe will cost $471.96 this summer compared to $364.91 in 2019, almost a third more. According to the consumer price index, air fares jumped 18.6% between March and April this year, marking the highest increase on record.
Taking a trip this summer is an expensive proposition — but the wealthiest Americans don’t care, even amid record inflation.
“A lot of my clients have more than doubled in terms of spending, even though how much they’re going to spend is no longer part of the conversation,” luxury agent Carnero said. “Now it’s, ‘This is what I want, tell me how much I have to spend to get it. “”
Another of his clients, a couple who typically book two or three trips a year, would have typically spent $30,000 in about a week in the Mediterranean. “Now they want private charters, not business class, and they’re spending the same for two nights of travel, instead of an entire week,” Camero said.
Many trouble spots around the world, of course, desperately need such gratuitous largesse. They are reeling not only from the pandemic shutdowns, but also from the absence of two groups of spendthrift travelers used to keep five-star batteries afloat: Chinese travelers remain largely barred from venturing abroad thanks to the measures of their government, while sanctions keep many Russians one way. Even Russians able to travel to, say, Saint-Tropez might feel unwelcome and prefer to stay in Putin-friendly regions.
But the Americans are catching up.
“Americans are the new Russians,” Embark Beyond founder Jack Ezon told The Post. “They’re filling Mediterranean hotspots at ridiculously inflated rates, and they can’t seem to get enough.”
They even plan for the future, the impending recession be damned.
“The travelers we’re dealing with now want to plan their next four or five amazing trips together – we’re taking up space in 2024 and 2025,” Departure Lounge’s Keith Waldon told The Post. “A lot of people now realize that nothing is guaranteed, and if they put off something, it might not happen.”
The insatiable appetite currently values Italy above all else, according to experts. Cari Gray of Gray & Co said she sees customers cramming their days into it like never before.
“They go all out and fit everything they can into a three-night stay in any city — some nights they even have two dinners,” Gray told the Post.
“People are spending about 40% more per capita this year,” said Jennifer Schwarz of Authentic Explorations, which specializes in ultra-luxury Italian. holiday. “And the big thing we see during the booking process is the boats. People are renting them who would never have done this before. They say ‘Omigod, let’s do it.’
But chartering a luxury yacht is more expensive than ever this summer, Ezon said, mainly due to the absence of those Russians. Many charter yachts were owned by Russians, and stocks have fallen by around 30% since the start of Russia’s war against Ukraine.
“They’re hard to get,” Carnero said, “so most of the time you have to be prepared to pay double what you usually would before.”
Deep-pocketed Americans are also fueling an increase in villa rentals, a COVID trend that continues apace. On the once Russian-populated Cote d’Azur, for example, Americans are filling villas that sanctions-shackled Muscovites cannot.
“Hands down, my biggest clients are two American families. They are so great to work with and they just have fun,” Alexandra Lloyd is a long-time agent on the French Riviera who owns and runs an eponymous company.
And while Americans, like wealthy Russians before them, are willing to spend six figures on a Saint-Tropez getaway, the difference is that Russians could stay six weeks. The Yanks will retire after one or maybe two weeks, but they are splurging on every little detail.
Jeff Tolkin, who runs World Travel Holdings, parent company of five-star specialist Villas of Distinction, told the Post that his internal data shows prices are up 24% from a year ago. And, among Americans, requests for supplements like private chefs have increased by 30-35%.
Sean Siegal is one of Tolkin’s long-time customers and said he’s been taking twice as many trips this year.
“Sometimes you need a break,” says the 49-year-old father of four, who runs a beverage delivery business and lives in Weston, Mass. “With this COVID thing, we’re ready to go out and spend all the money we’ve spent the last two years when we haven’t been travelling. If you have to pay a little extra right now, that’s okay. You only live once.”
He’s just returned from a two-week jaunt through Europe – including Italy, of course – as well as a must-visit Iceland. He’s taking another vacation right now, to St Maarten, one of the family’s favorite Caribbean islands.
“The only thing that worries me is how crowded it is everywhere,” he told the Post. “Everyone goes there so it’s going to cause frustration when you travel.”