TIME Money

Here Are the Most Expensive Places to Book a Hotel in the U.S.

Most Expensive CIties to Stay In
Stan Badz—US PGA Tour A course scenic shot at sunrise on the 17th hole during the first round of the Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club on January 9, 2014 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

From Butte, Montana., to Panama City, Florida

Planning a spring trip within the United States? You might want to budget a bit more money for a hotel.

The 20 most expensive American cities to stay in are surprisingly scattered across the nation, from Butte, Montana, to Panama City, Florida, according to Hotel.com’s Hotel Price Index, which ranked U.S. metro areas by average nightly hotel prices.

Honolulu, Hawaii, tops the list ($236), with New York, New York, in second ($221), and Boston, Massachusetts, and Miami, Florida tied for third ($187).

Click on the map below to take a closer look at all 20 cities:

For other rankings based on hotel prices, check out Hotel Price Index’s full report.

 

TIME Travel

Why an Overseas Vacation Could Be Cheaper Than You Thought

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Getty Images

The value of a destination depends on how willing you are to get out of your comfort zone and what kind of trip you want

It seems preposterous, but my trip to another continent will probably end up costing less than my trip to California — and that’s including airfare. Ever wonder why every young twenty-something backpacker goes to Southeast Asia?

Thankfully for us, the American cost of living is relatively high in comparison to the rest of the world. Unless you’re heading to a ridiculous Western country—like Norway or Australia—things generally remain pretty affordable in comparison elsewhere. Sometimes, low cost of living in other countries can negate high airfare so much that a trip can end up being the same price as a vacation back home. In some cases, it’s actually cheaper to go out of the country for a vacation.

One common misconception is that international flights usually cost more than domestic flights. Sometimes, this is true; sometimes, it’s not. Recently, I booked a flight from New York to San Francisco for $318. Less than 24 hours later, I booked another flight from New York to Colombia for $366. In this case, the flight to South America only cost $48 more than the domestic flight. I’m sure I’ve seen some domestic fares cost more than $366! In fact, when I used to fly to Mexico City somewhat regularly, I often flew for less than $250 on a sale fare.

The interesting thing is that sometimes you can also get a deal to Colombia for under $300 if you manage to find a fare that’s been reduced wildly on sale — it’s really all about knowing the market rate for an average route (Kayak Buzz, which is only available on the mobile app, is great for this). Of the flip side, I guess I should acknowledge it’s also possible to get a flight to San Francisco for under $300. But once you factor in cost of living, it’s more than likely that the trip to Colombia will end up being cheaper than the trip to California.

For the most part, to get a good sense of how much a certain part of the world costs, I usually ask other travelers or rely on Expatistan. The site uses the cost of different staple goods across a broad range of categories in two places to evaluate how expensive cities are relative to another. Though it’s hard to get an exact cost, it’s a great tool for setting budgets and for gauging the general cost of things. It was also no surprise, though, that when I ran Bogota and San Francisco on the site, San Francisco was deemed to be 78% more expensive than Bogota.

The easiest way to see this difference is to compare the standard cost of a private room. In 2012, Travel + Leisure found that a hotel room in the United States on average cost about $98 — and that was for Denver. Of course, there are ways to cut corners, but that’s more or less the minimum going rate. In a big city like San Francisco or New York, that price can increase up to $158 and $244 respectively. To keep things simple, we’re only considering prices at midrange hotels to see how cost of living contributes to the bottom line.

The price at a midrange hotel can range significantly around the world. When I traveled through Turkey last year, I found that the average rack rate for most budget options ranged around $20 to $30. Rates were fairly similar in Mexico, where $50 could get you a room that was often more than sufficient. Of course, the sky’s the limit, but unless you’re hanging out in extraordinarily expensive cities like Sydney or Copenhagen, your money will generally go farther. In particular, Kuala Lumpur is noted for having some of the cheapest five-star hotels in the world for around $100 per night. (In a former lifetime, I once remember snagging a spotless private room in Thailand for just under $5. One of my crowning achievements.)

Like we’ve mentioned before, accommodation is usually the first- or second-most expensive cost in a trip after airfare. It doesn’t take much number-crunching to figure out how a daily rate that is $10 cheaper plays out over the course of 10 days. In fact, to apply some real numbers, let’s take a look at the upcoming San Francisco and Colombia trip.

In lieu of a hotel, we’re going to use the “Denver cost” of $98 as our daily rate for accommodation in San Francisco. (I actually have a pied-à-terre there so this isn’t something I have to worry about.) Assuming the trip lasts four nights, the total cost for some shuteye works out to $392. When I combine that with airfare, the total is $710, without considering the cost of food and other incidentals.

Now, let’s assume the cost of our accommodation in Colombia will cost $50 per night. Over the course of four nights, this works out to $200. Once we add the actual airfare in, that total figure comes in at $566 before figuring for daily expenses. Once we compare that number against San Francisco, we can see that Colombia is $144 cheaper nonwithstanding.

The longer we extend each trip, the more pronounced these differences become. Interestingly enough, they aren’t even real figures for these cities. The average rack rate in San Francisco is significantly more expensive than $98 and it’s more than possible to get your own room in Bogota for less than $40.

Now, if you’ve just run across this blog and are appalled at the thought of heading to Colombia for some savings, calm down. The value of a destination—how much its worth to you—depends on how comfortable you are about getting out of your comfort zone and what kind of trip you’re looking for. You’ll get a completely different experience going to a place like Ecuador rather than going to a place like Chicago or Vancouver. Sometimes, I value cultural experiences over escapes. Other times, I just want to drink sangria. But I’m digressing.

These price differences generally scale pretty well across the board into other costs, food being a prime example. Still, most people will find that other expenses have a much smaller impact on the overall bottom line of a trip.

If you’re finding that a place isn’t as cheap as you expected, try avoiding the most touristy or expensive parts of town. Basically, don’t be surprised if establishments that have large American clientèles serve up American prices. It’s just the way the world works. Luckily, when it comes to the relative wealth of Americans, the odds are already in your favor.

This article originally appeared on Map Happy.

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MONEY Travel

Take Enough Ubers and You’ll Get a Free Night at a Sheraton

Uber and the hospitality giant Starwood have teamed up to offer reward points for using the ridesharing service.

TIME Travel

Godzilla Will Make Sure You Get a Good Night’s Sleep in This Japanese Hotel

Godzilla Eats A Commuter Train
Embassy Pictures/Getty Images Godzilla is seen in a scene from Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, 1956.

Sleep tight, don't let the mutant lizards bite.

If you’ve ever wanted to sleep under the gaze of Godzilla’s giant eyes, you’d better book a room at Tokyo’s Hotel Gracery.

The hotel, which opens in April in Tokyo’s buzzing Shinjuku district, promises a monstrous good time for fans of the big lizard. The 30-story hotel will feature two Godzilla-themed rooms, one of which requires the hotel to construct an enormous Godzilla head on the roof of the Toho Cinema, which sits on the ground floor of the hotel tower. The gigantic mutant lizard head will peek into the window of one of the rooms, promising that your slumber will be under the ‘zilla’s never-sleeping eyes.

The other room, appropriately called the “Godzilla Room,” is even more ominous with one Godzilla wreaking havoc on a miniature Tokyo in the corner of the room, while a giant hand armed with razor-sharp claws reaches over the bed.

For those who prefer to look over a monster instead of having a monster look over them, the hotel also offers two Godzilla View Rooms, which are close to the action, but don’t require visitors to try and use the restroom with a giant lizard staring at them.

According to AFP, the Godzilla Room is 39,800 yen (US$ 334) during weekdays and 49,800 yen ($417) during weekends and holidays. The two Godzilla View Rooms available, with each a single starting at 15,000 yen ($125) a night.

The Hotel Gracery seems to be affiliated with Toho, who operates the cinema, and is the movie company behind the original Godzilla film. They plan to release a new Godzilla film in 2016, according to AFP.

TIME Spending & Saving

Budget-Minded Travelers Have to Look Harder for Deals

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Getty Images

Consolidation means would-be deal hunters must turn to new sites for savings

One of the ways the TV show The Americans makes it clear that it’s a period piece is by showing its Soviet spies working at a travel agency. Yes, those were indeed different times when a family could support a decent lifestyle by booking trips for tourists. When the web emerged in the 90s, travel agencies were one of the first to fall by the wayside.

A generation of web startups emerged helping travelers to quickly find the cheapest fares on their own PCs: Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz. Priceline offered its distinctive “name your own price” model before giving in and adopting the basic discount business model of the others. Meanwhile, independent travel agents in North America and Europe closed up shop.

After a while, consolidation became inevitable and it grew harder to differentiate between the myriad travel sites. A generation of younger startups like Kayak and Trivago emerged to improve on things, by offering meta-search engines that searched the travel search engines for deals that were getting harder to find. Airlines and hotels wised up to the game, inserting add-on fees onto their posted fares or offering deals available exclusively through their own sites.

In time, consolidation gobbled up the young startups: Priceline bought Kayak and Expedia acquired Trivago. Many of the older sites are still around , for anyone loyal to them–Travelocity, Hotels.com, Cheaptickets.com–only they’re owned by either Expedia and Priceline.

And earlier this month, when Expedia said it would pay $1.3 billion for Orbitz, it left basically two major online-travel sites. There are a few mid-sized travel companies remaining but some, like TripAdvisor, have seen their stocks rise on speculation that its shares could soon be in play.

For consumers, the trend probably isn’t a positive one. It may well make finding the best travel deals that much harder, now that there’s less incentive for Expedia and Priceline to compete with others for the best deals. The Justice Department may review the proposed Expedia-Orbitz deal for antitrust concerns. If regulators act to derail the transaction, Expedia will owe Orbitz $115 million, so Expedia has a strong incentive to see the acquisition go through.

In the meantime, competition from other web giants hasn’t really emerged. There have been reports that Amazon would enter the online-travel space in January, but they haven’t panned out yet, and Amazon’s plans may be as modest as some package deals as part of Amazon local. Google’s purchase of ITA hasn’t made it a huge presence in online travel, but it allowed it to create a spiffier interface for the same flight data that can be found on Kayak, Orbitz and others.

If there’s any hope for bargain-hunting travelers, it may come from the ever flowing emergence of new travel startups. The clearest example is Airbnb, the accommodation-rental marketplace that more than any other startup of the past decade has shown there’s still growth for new entrants. Airbnb was recently valued around $13 billion, or slightly less than the combined market value of Expedia and Orbitz and about a fifth of Priceline’s.

For airfares–or for hotels and vacation rentals that can’t be found in the lodging-sharing economy pioneered by Airbnb–there are mostly smaller players. HomeAway, which offers through VRBO.com and other sites vacation rentals that avoid Airbnb, has a $2.9 billion market cap. CheapOair and Skyscanner represent a new, more-meta kind of airfare engine that scours fares available to online travel agents.

In the end, consolidation may simply push budget-minded travelers away from the biggest companies and toward new startups that are figuring out new angles for finding travel values. Vayable, for example, connects travelers with locals who can act as tour guides, while Gogobot uses a social model to help tourists plan trips based on their interests.

And then there’s Flightfox. The San Francisco-based startup, sensing the difficulty of finding the best travel deals online in an era of consolidation, uses crowdsourcing to tap the expertise of others who know the tricks of finding deals. In a way, Flightfox has brought the online-travel industry back full circle to the traditional travel agent. After two decades of online travel sites, having a human book your itinerary may be the once again the best option.

MONEY Travel

3 Affordable All-Inclusive Beach Getaways

Fantasizing about a warm-weather getaway? All-inclusive resorts offer sun, surf, and savings.

If winter weather has you thinking about a tropical getaway, a resort with a flat daily rate can mean major savings. But choosing an all-inclusive resort is trickier than picking a regular hotel.

On the upside, a flat rate can save you big money over paying for all your meals and activities individually. And paying in advance means less vacation time spent planning and more time relaxing. But many “all-inclusives” aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Here’s how to make sure you don’t get nickel-and-dimed:

1. Size it up. What’s your priority? A resort with more than 200 rooms will have more amenities—and is likely to be cheaper—whereas smaller properties tend to have better service and food.

2. Mind the “extras.” Even at many all-inclusives, you may have to shell out for extras like golf, spa treatments, and off-property outings. To save up to 15%, try booking those activities in advance.

3. Comparison shop. Buying an airfare package from the resort could save you 5%, says Janet McLaughlin of Provident Travel. That said, always price flights yourself before committing.

If you’re thinking about a last-minute spring break getaway, these three all-inclusive resorts offer sand, surf, and great value.

 

  • Maya Tulum

    150219_FTR_MAYATULUM
    Courtesy of Maya Tulum Resort

    Best for: Spa lovers

    For an escape that combines healthy living with a healthy dose of pampering, try a package from the 46-cabana Maya Tulum, an hour and a half south of Cancún (from $277 per person in March, five nights minimum). The price, which includes fresh seafood meals and twice-daily yoga classes, handily beats other wellness-themed resorts in the region, says Karen Benson of Camelback Travel. The Zoëtry Villa Rolandi on Isla Mujeres, for instance, costs $340 a night. Booking a full week? The resort will throw in two spa treatments, a $160 savings.

  • Club Med Sandpiper Bay

    150219_FTR_SANDPIPER
    Courtesy of Club Med Sandpiper Bay

    Best for: Families

    Good luck finding a resort packed with more activities than this sprawling, family-friendly Florida Club Med (from $160 per adult in March; $70 per child age 4 to 14; younger kids free). While kids paint in the art studio, swing from the flying trapeze, or hang out in the teen lounge, you can take a golf or sailing lesson. “You’re saving hundreds compared to doing these activities individually,” says Margie Hand of Andavo Travel. Sailing classes nearby on St. Lucie River, for one, are $250. For an extra $85 a day (booked in advance), the Sandpiper also offers childcare for kids as young as 4 months.

     

  • Chic Punta Cana by Royalton

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    Courtesy of Chic Punta Cana

    Best for: Couples

    Located on the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic, the adults-only Chic resort (March rates from $386 for two) is the rare Punta Cana property to offer a luxury getaway at an affordable rate. To save even more, go in April, when prices drop 23%. Either way, you and your significant other can spend your visit playing tennis, lounging on the gorgeous beach, and trying out the slew of bars and restaurants. Or just opt for some alone time: 24-hour room service is included.

TIME North Korea

North Korea Said to Ban Foreigners From Marathon

Regime reportedly cites Ebola as a concern

North Korea has banned foreigners from participating in the 2015 Pyongyang Marathon, citing concerns over Ebola, a company that facilitates foreign travel to the isolated country said Monday.

“We are sorry to announce that our North Korean partners contacted us this morning with news that the 2015 Pyongyang Marathon has — as of today — been closed to amateur and professional foreign runners,” Koryo Tours said in a statement on its website.

The marathon, scheduled this year for April 12, typically draws a large foreign contingent. Koryo Tours alone had planned to take 500 people to the country for the event, according to Reuters. The company said it planned for March tours to proceed as previously scheduled.

North Korean authorities also reportedly cancelled the annual Mass Games—a gymnastics festival that typically drew a foreign crowd—without providing an explanation.

The North Korean government offered no apparent explanation for its Ebola concerns. The disease has killed thousands of people around the world, but none of the deaths have been in Asia. The country’s government has claimed through state television that Ebola was created by the U.S. government.

MONEY Tourism

Disney Theme Park Admission Is About to Cross the $100 Threshold

Magic Kingdom Park, Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, Orlando, Florida
Alamy Magic Kingdom Park, Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, Orlando, Florida

Word is out that Disney is about to jack up theme park admission prices, like it does every year. This time, a single day at the Magic Kingdom will hit three figures.

Five years ago, the price of a one-day adult ticket to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom was $79. Toward the end of the summer of 2010, prices were raised, to $82. From there, prices went on a tear. Sometime in the first half of the years listed below—before the peak summer season was under way—Disney raised prices as follows:

$85 in 2011

$89 in 2012

$95 in 2013

$99 in 2014

Here we are in early 2015, and, like clockwork, another theme park admission price hike appears to be in the works. The ThemeParkInsider blog and the Orlando Sentinel have both cited inside sources that indicate price increases will be announced as soon as Sunday, February 22. This time, the price of a one-day adult admission to the Magic Kingdom is expected to cross the $100 mark—it’ll hit $105, to be exact, taxes not included.

As has become custom, single-day prices at EPCOT and Disney’s other theme parks will likely be a few dollars cheaper, and prices for children (ages 3 to 9) will be a few bucks cheaper than those for adults. The prices mentioned are all for entrance at one park on one specific day; “Park Hopper” passes that allow visitors to hit multiple theme parks on the same day cost extra—and this option is all but guaranteed to cost extra as regular admission prices rise. Likewise, theme park giant Universal Studios will likely raise prices hand in hand with Disney.

As of Friday afternoon, Disney had issued no official comment on the subject of price increases, but given its recent history, at this point it would be more of a shocker if the company decided to forgo a price hike than leap over the $100 watermark. If the one-day Magic Kingdom price hits $105 as fully expected, admissions will have risen $26 (or about 33%) in a quick five years.

It must be noted that consistently strong visitor numbers give Disney and other theme parks good reason to keep jacking up prices. Year after year of price hikes haven’t scared the crowds away; in fact, on Christmas Day 2014, Disney parks were temporarily closed to new visitors on both coasts because there were simply too many people. There’s even a certain subset of fanatical theme park goers who wish that Disney and Universal would usher in price increases so severe and sudden that they would result in a sharp dropoff in visitors, at least on peak weekends and holidays if not year-round.

Overall, what the steady climb of one-day admissions and the general pricing structures of Disney and Universal do is destroy the spontaneity of a theme park vacation. A single day’s admission costs are so extraordinarily high that they basically force families into booking discounted multiple-day tickets in advance to get some semblance of decent value. Countless websites and guidebooks lecture visitors on the necessity of making dinner and “character breakfast” reservations, among other steps, months before heading to Florida. The idea of winging a trip to Orlando’s theme parks is widely viewed as foolish, perhaps somewhat by design.

For obvious reasons, this formula works out nicely for the theme park companies. Tourists are steered away from one-day, spur-of-the-moment visits in favor of multi-day vacations, dramatically increasing opportunities that they’ll also pay up for pricey lodging, meals, “after hours” cocktail parties and other extras.

It’s easy to see how, once you open the door into a theme park vacation, costs can quickly snowball. Sorta like what’s happened to theme park admissions prices over the past few years.

TIME Travel

What to Do When Your Flight Is Canceled Due to Weather

It's everyone's nightmare, but there are practical ways to cope with it

Looking for quick solutions to your travel concerns? Our resident expert Amy Farley has the facts with Travel + Leisure’s Trip Doctor Challenge.

It’s everyone’s worst nightmare: being trapped in the airport after a storm has canceled your flight plans. Today’s Trip Doctor Challenge video reveals how to handle travel problems when the weather takes a turn.

If you’re stuck at the airport because of a storm, follow these tips:

Firstly, get busy. You have to be your own advocate: Go online, get on the phone, and step in line to get yourself rebooked. You can also try calling the airline’s international reservations desk—or, if you have access, speaking to the agents at an airport lounge.

Help your case by knowing if there are alternate seats available on other planes. For this, use the Seat Availability function on the website FlightStats.com.

You’ll also want to consider alternate airports to get home. You can always pick up a rental car and drive the rest of the way. Travel insurance should cover the cost of the rental.

And finally, get comfortable. You can usually buy a day pass to an airport lounge for about $50. Try Gateguru to locate the best airport bars and restaurants for waiting out a delay. Worst-case scenario? Use the Hotel Tonight app to find a great last-minute deal on a stylish hotel room.

This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure.

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