Inflation Makes Holiday Travel Cost 36% More This Year

On the bright side, gifts like toys and smartphones won’t hurt your wallet as much

Woman running with shopping bags

Jordi Salas / Getty Images

Travel and meals are costing up to 36% more this holiday season than in 2021, thanks to inflation, according to an updated analysis from The Balance.

In a welcome surprise, prices for presents like toys, jewelry, and clothing have risen slower than the overall annual inflation rate of 7.1%. Meanwhile computers and smartphones have actually dropped in price, providing holiday shoppers and their wallets some relief from skyrocketing travel costs.

Key Takeaways

  • Holiday travel and food costs will be more expensive this holiday season, thanks to inflation. 
  • Plane tickets are 36% more expensive than last year.
  • On the bright side, some presents might cost you less this year because of price drops—both smartphones and computers cost less now compared to 2021.  

Airfare will cost you roughly 36% more than last year’s holiday season, and visiting your relatives by car will also be pricier as gasoline prices have risen nearly 10% since 2021.

And once you arrive at your destination, your holiday meals will come with a side of inflation as holiday food favorites are also more expensive. Turkey costs 17% more this year, cookies are up 19%, and the price of potatoes is 16% higher than last year, too. 

If you prefer the smell of pine in your home for Christmas, the cost of real trees is up 10%. Real trees are still cheaper than artificial trees, but the fact that you don’t have to buy a new artificial tree every year makes them a more cost-effective option in the long run.

Thankfully, the cost of gifts might put you in a more giving mood this year as all items analyzed by The Balance have seen price drops or price increases that are lower than the overall annual rate of inflation.

Toys are 5% more expensive than they were last year while cosmetics like lipstick cost 5.4% more. Clothing prices are up 3.6% from 2021, while jewelry prices have jumped 5%.

Both computers and smartphones are cheaper this year than they were last year. Computer, e-reader, and tablet prices have dipped 4.4% since 2021, while smartphone prices have dropped more than 23%, the biggest decline on the list according to our analysis. 

Ways To Save This Holiday Season

With airfare and gasoline costing so much, there are a few ways to cut back on travel costs during the holidays. See if you have any credit card travel rewards you can redeem. If you plan on driving to grandma's to celebrate the holidays, you could carpool to share gas costs with friends or family headed in the same direction.

Sharing food costs among family members, buying store or generic brands, and using coupons can help you save money on holiday meals, too. 

Though prices on holiday travel and meals have increased since last year, lower prices on gifts will hopefully give our wallets a break. Having a solid holiday budget in place, planning out your gifts so you don’t overspend at the last minute, and comparing prices can help keep your finances in check during holiday shopping. 

A Break for Last Minute Shoppers?

This look at the effect of inflation on holiday spending has been updated with the latest data from November and early December. One thing we found while crunching the numbers for the update is that inflation now has a smaller impact for many products than it did just a few weeks ago.


Price changes are from the November 2022 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all items except for Christmas trees and eggnog. For trees, we sourced the Real Christmas Tree Board. For eggnog, we pulled USDA Agricultural Marketing Service market retail data from late October and early December.

Ham prices are per pound for boneless ham. Turkey prices are per pound for whole frozen hens and toms. Potato prices are per pound for yellow, russet, round-white, and round-red types. Cookie prices are per pound for the chocolate chip variety. Clothing prices are for an average pair of Levis 501 or an equivalent pair of jeans. Gasoline prices are per regular unleaded per gallon. Cosmetics prices are the average price for lipstick. The BLS looks at a wide variety of cosmetic and clothing items when calculating their index value for each series. We chose to express the average price of cosmetics and clothing through lipstick and jeans because they are common and widely used items for each.

Christmas tree prices are the average price for a real tree. Eggnog prices are per half gallon, including adjustments for inflation.

Price figures for eggnog, ham, turkey, and potatoes are from USDA Agricultural Marketing Service market retail data. Cookie-price data is from the BLS CPI average price data. Average airfare data is from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Average regular unleaded gasoline price data is from the Energy Information Administration. Jewelry average price item data is from Edahn Golan. Lipstick average price data is from Edited. Christmas tree average-price data is from Finder. Smartphone price data is from the International Data Corporation. Computer price data is from IndexBox. Average selling price data for toys from The Toy Association. The average price data for a pair of jeans is from Numbeo.

Note: This story was originally published November 30. It has been updated with the latest CPI and other data.

Research and analysis by
Adrian Nesta
Adrian Nesta, Research Analyst on the Data Journalism team at Dotdash
Adrian Nesta is a research analyst on the Data Journalism team at Dotdash, the digital publisher that owns and operates The Balance. His work includes data collection, cleaning, analysis, and visualization for stories in the data journalism portfolio across every vertical at Dotdash.
Updated by Lars Peterson
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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1.  U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Consumer Price Index Summary.”

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