What to Expect for Airfares and Other Travel Trends in 2015

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Would-be travelers could be in for some pleasant surprises if predictions are correct, but watch out for the extra fees.

It’s the time of year when everyone churns out their annual predictions, quoting the same experts on 2015’s travel trends. Or, if they’ve been doing this long enough, they just cite themselves.

Not this consumer advocate. No one really knows what will happen this year, even someone who’s been trend-watching as long as I have.

All we can do is guess. And according to the best guesses, here’s what to expect: Airfares, car rental rates and hotel prices will rise by at most a few percentage points. That doesn’t automatically mean you’ll pay a reasonable price for your trip. Leisure travel will remain safe, as long as you take reasonable precautions. And watch for those junk fees, because more are on the way.

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what the forecasters are saying about prices:

  • Airfares will get a modest bump. A recent survey by the Global Business Travel Association, a trade group, looks for a 2.5 percent increase in domestic ticket prices in 2015.
  • Car rental rates should stay more or less flat, according to an American Express prediction. Prices should rise no more than 1 percent this year.
  • Hotel room rates will jump 5.7 percent, hotel analysts at PKF Consulting predict.

In other words, with the possible exception of your hotel rate, travel should cost about the same as it did in 2014. That’s good news, if it’s true.

So where’s everyone headed? Lonely Planet and MSN commissioned a survey that named the most desirable destinations for 2015. No. 1 is Washington, D.C., followed by (I’m not making this up) El Chaltén, Argentina; Milan; and Zermatt, Switzerland. That stands in sharp contrast to the most-visited cities of 2014, and the likely front-runners for 2015, according to a survey conducted by MasterCard — London, Bangkok, Paris, Singapore and Dubai.

Maybe a more interesting question is: Will leisure travel be safe?

Which places should you avoid?

Health and safety experts say it will be, but it’s a qualified “yes.” Any pretrip planning checklist should include a scan of the State Department’s Alerts and Warnings page, which is a good predictor of future flare-ups. And that list says you might want to avoid such places as Lebanon, Syria and the Central African Republic.

Same for health issues. Apart from the usual problems, such as flu outbreaks in the spring or the occasional norovirus problem on a cruise ship, you’ll have to mind one or two hot spots. Topping the list in 2015: Tourist destinations including Brazil, Malaysia and Singapore, where travelers are at risk from dengue fever; Haiti, Ghana and Nigeria, where cholera is a problem; and India and several African countries, where malaria can end your trip. That’s according to Ronald St. John, founder of Sitata.com, a site that tracks infectious diseases and identifies the problem areas using an algorithm.

How about Ebola? “Even for travelers going to the affected countries, the risk is low,” St. John says. “Remember, among the three most affected countries, there are about 20,380,000 people who do not have Ebola.”

So it’s safe to travel, with some exceptions. But is it affordable?

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