Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The cost of a summer road trip

With more than a month of summer remaining and Labor Day weekend looming large, there are road trips in the immediate future of many Americans. This year, there is good news and bad news about the cost of such an adventure.

The good news

One item of good news is that gas prices are down.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects the retail price of regular-grade gasoline will average $2.04 per gallon during the 2016 summer driving season, which extends from April through September. That average figure marks a 59-cent reduction from last summer’s average price of $2.63 per gallon last summer and would mark the lowest summer average since 2004.

The bad news

The money saved at the gas pump may well go to your hotelier. Not surprisingly, hotel prices in most cities are higher in the peak summer travel season of 2016 than their average for 2015.

According to Hotels.com’s Hotel Price Index, the price of a night’s lodging in many popular destinations increased from two to eight percent from 2014 to 2015 and are even higher today in many popular U.S. destinations.

Heading for Hollywood or Disneyland? Be prepared to pay. The average price of a hotel in Los Angeles was $175 in 2015. As of Friday, July 29, the best rates for three-star hotels in L.A. on Hotels.com ranged from $219 at the Los Angeles Athletic Club to $225 at the Palihotel Melrose to $227 at The Orlando. Four-star properties ranged from $269 at Le Parc Suite Hotel to $279 at The Culver Hotel to $335 per night at The Hotel Roosevelt.

The Culver Hotel is a “Loved by Guests” award winner. The “Loved by Guests” awards recognize hotels that have achieved the best average review rating in reviews provided by the hotels’ guests.

As one would expect, the more popular the summertime destination, the higher the price of accommodations.

Seattle Space Needle Kerry Park
Seattle's Space Needle
In Seattle, where summer is absolutely magical (though I admit to being biased), visitors can expect to add at least 20 percent to the 2015 average price of $191. Three-star properties including the Warwick, Paramount and Mayflower Park Hotels are $234, $249 and $299, respectively, while the four-star Hotel Andra, Hotel Vintage and the Inn at the Market will fetch $231, $249 and $350, respectively. The Mayflower Park, Hotel Andra and Inn at the Market have all earned “Loved by Guest” awards.

Hotel prices in Denver reflect the city’s summer popularity and aren’t even close to the 2015 average price of $143 per night. Three-star properties including the Nativ Hotel and the Patterson Inn are $219 and $241, respectively, with four-star hotels The Art and The Crawford Hotel at $299 and $309, respectively. The Patterson, The Art and The Crawford are all “Loved by Guests” properties.

In San Francisco, the 2015 average price of $221 per night is fairly representative of what is available this summer. Among the lowest-priced three-star properties, prices ranged from $159 per night at the Hotel Diva to $249 at the Inn at Union Square, a “Loved by Guests” property. Four-star accommodations were, surprisingly, within the same general range: $199 for the Sir Francis Drake to $229 for the “Loved by Guests” Orchard Hotel.

More good news

Although summers can be hot and sticky in some popular destinations, those willing to endure less-than-ideal weather can also snag some real bargains.

Chicago, for example, had a $172 average hotel price in 2015 but prices for the summer of 2016 are dramatically lower. Three-star rooms are available from $90 (Hotel Indigo Vernon Hills) to $149 (ACME Hotel), while four-star rates range from $151 at the Kimpton Burnham Hotel to $185 at Virgin Hotels Chicago to $188 at the Dana Hotel and Spa.

Summer in our nation’s capital is a great time to see the sights, including the air-conditioned Smithsonian Museums. The Hotels.com 2015 average price of $162 per night in Washington, D.C., is considerably higher than current rates, even for some four-star hotels. The Henley Park and the Morrison Clark Hotels, both four-star properties, are offering rates of $109 and $129 per night, respectively, while the three-star Kimpton Rouge and Kimpton Topaz Hotels have room rates of $107 and $129, respectively.

Lucerne Hotel, New York, Upper West Side
Entrance to The Lucerne Hotel
New York’s hotel prices dropped four percent from 2014 to 2015 and are even lower this summer.

While the average price of a room was $254 in 2015, rooms at the three-star Franklin Hotel can be had for $143 per night or at the Hotel Bellaclaire for $179. Those who prefer more upmarket accommodations can book a room at The Bryant Park Hotel, a “Loved By Guests” property, for $245 per night or The Pearl New York for $300.

My wife’s and my personal favorite in New York, the four-star Lucerne Hotel on the city’s Upper West Side, also has rooms from $159 per night; a real bargain for such a delightful property.

All prices cited are from Hotels.com. Prices may vary depending on how and where guests book a property and by the dates of their stay.

To take some of the sting out of your end-of-summer fling, Hotels.com is offering a Labor Day coupon sale. Guests can save up to 50 percent, plus get an additional 10 percent off by using coupon code LASTCHANCE. Rooms must be booked between Aug. 1 and Sept. 5, and stays must take place between Aug. 1 and Sept. 19.

Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.



Photos by Carl Dombek
Click on photos to view larger images

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