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Cheaper flights and road trips have a dark side if you’re hoping for a cheap summer vacation. Your hotel bill can more than offset the savings.
AAA expects more than 38 million Americans to travel over Memorial Day weekend, a figure it says is the second-highest volume on record and the highest since 2005. It doesn’t is no wonder: the drop in oil prices has created positive points for summer travelers.
Airfares are down 12% year over year, according to a recent report from Hopper.com, with summer fares expected to be the lowest in seven years. Gas prices – currently at $ 2.28 a gallon, per AAA – could be at their lowest in 11 years for drivers over Memorial Day weekend.
Hotel prices, however, have skyrocketed. In March, prices for domestic hotels were up 2.9% from a year earlier and international rates by 1.2%, according to a report from Adobe’s digital price index. In the most popular destinations, summer hotel rates have increased by an average of 17%, according to Orbitz.com.
“There is a very clear trade-off,” said Mickey Mericle, vice president of marketing and consumer information at Adobe. As airline tickets and cheap gasoline make travel more attractive, hotel stocks fill up, she said – and Adobe’s report found that destinations with the lowest flight costs. lowest per mile had the highest hotel prices.
But travelers still have plenty of tips and strategies they could use to keep higher accommodation costs from blowing their summer travel budgets:
Re-evaluate the destination
If you haven’t found a place to get away yet, look for more popular “reverse destinations” at other times of the year. For example, ski resorts often have great activities all year round, but lower their prices in the summer, said Gabe Saglie, editor of deals site Travelzoo.com.
If you can handle the heat, try resorts in Southern California and Arizona as well as Las Vegas. “We are talking about prices a quarter of those we would have seen in winter,” he said.
Take into account the costs
Depending on how you book, daily hotel costs such as resort fees, parking and Wi-Fi may not be disclosed in advance, said Jason Clampet, co-founder of travel site Skift. .com. On vacation rentals, there may be additional charges for cleaning, access to amenities like a community pool, or the use of amenities like beach amenities.
“Make sure you know what to expect up front, as this can add $ 20, $ 30 or even $ 40 a day to your final bill,” he said. This makes it easier to compare apple to apple. You may find that the higher price of a competing property that includes more is, all in all, the better deal.
Broaden your search
Hotels are not the only accommodation option. Vacation rentals can be a smart option in hot markets, especially for large groups, said Steve Clarke, senior director of research site Hipmunk.com. In some of the most popular cities for rentals, the site said savings over hotel prices per night were up to 63%. (See the table below.)
A recent study by Pew found that only half of Americans were aware of home sharing services like Airbnb and Couchsurfing.com; only 11 percent used such a service. Another option: Vacatia.com, which allows resorts and owners to list open timeshare rentals and resort residences; savings can be up to 50 percent compared to local hotels with a similar star rating.
There can be valuable benefits to booking directly through the hotel’s website instead of a third-party site, Clampet said. You may be able to get a better rate or free extras, and avoid fees and strict cancellation policies.
(With many channels, direct booking is now also the only way to accumulate loyalty points for free nights.)
Monitor the market
Even after you book, watch out for sales at this property and others, Mericle said. Unless you’ve booked a non-refundable rate, policies may allow cancellation without penalty up to a few days before check-in, allowing you to research that cheaper rate. (The Tingo.com booking site takes care of the monitoring and re-booking for you, refunding the difference in price to your credit card.)
“The costs of change are low, as it looks in economics,” she said.