Where the cheap sleeps are, holiday travel and more

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hotel rates: Watch them drop

For those who need to get away but are stumped as to where to go, here's an idea: Follow the siren call of cheap hotel rates.

Hotwire.com, the discount travel site, last week released its Hotel Rate Report, which highlights the cities that have experienced the most significant rate declines over the year. The study takes into account trends from last year and monthly price variations.

The biggest drop goes to Houston, at 24 percent. The city's top ranking is due in part to the return of normalcy after last year's Hurricane Ike, which uprooted many South Texans, forcing them to seek refuge in hotels and causing rates to spike. Tampa also experienced a 24 percent reduction, with Miami and Fort Lauderdale close on its heels with 21 percent.

"This sun-soaked state continues to offer amazing deals and price drops mainly due to a lower demand for leisure and business travel during the down economy, both a key source of traffic," wrote Clem Bason, president of the Hotwire Group, in an e-mail. "Moreover, the majority of people who travel to Florida cities are Floridians themselves and considering the state was one of the hardest hit by the housing market crash, many inhabitants have likely cut back on traveling drastically. These factors have resulted in tons of hotel rooms that are going unsold, thus lower prices."

With its glut of rooms, Las Vegas was no surprise, but Austin made an unexpected appearance, as did San Diego and Oahu. Good vacation destinations made even more attractive by inexpensive lodging.

For the report: http://www.hotwire.com/hotelratereport.jsp.

When turkeys fly . . .

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which oversees Reagan National and Washington Dulles, is readying itself -- and travelers -- for the holiday onslaught. According to a recent tipsheet, the Thanksgiving rush started on Friday and will last through Nov. 30, with peak times falling in the early morning (5-8 a.m.), midday (11 a.m.-1 p.m.) and late afternoon (3:30-5:30 p.m.). The MWAA recommends arriving at least two hours in advance for a domestic flight and three hours for international, especially if your departure coincides with the busy periods.

Most of the advice is second nature, such as printing out boarding passes in advance and leaving gifts unwrapped. But a few suggestions caught CoGo's eye:

-- Place ID tags outside and inside your bags, and slap a label on your laptop in case you leave it behind at security.

-- Due to high demand, Reagan National has added more than 1,400 parking spaces, with more than 800 in Daily Garage B/C. For parking info at National, call 703-417-7275; for Dulles, 703-572-4500. At Dulles, grab a locator card from the yellow boxes placed by the garage elevators and bus shelters. After all that L-tryptophan, you'll never remember your row.

-- Spare lithium batteries are not allowed in carry-on; other types of spare batteries are permitted if encased or taped together to prevent short-circuiting.

-- 3-1-1: 3.4-ounce (or smaller) bottles of liquid; one quart-size, clear plastic zip-top bag; one bag per passenger. Enough said.

For more tips: http://www.mwaa.com.

Travel ticker

Get your fork ready: NYC Restaurant Week winter 2010 will be Jan. 25 to Feb. 7, with prices fixed in 2006: $24.07 for three-course lunches and $35 for three-course dinners (excluding beverages, taxes and gratuities). More than 250 restaurants will participate. Info: http://nycgo.com/restaurantweek. . . . Zagat recently released its first Cruise Lines survey, which covers 22 lines. The findings were based on the experiences of nearly 2,400 veteran passengers, who have taken 22,700 cruises. Among the rankings: Cunard took best overall in the large-ship category; and Carnival snagged top honors for budget cruises and singles. Info: http://www.zagat.com/cruiselines. . . . On Dec. 6, the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa, a stalwart in healthcations, will relocate its facilities from Turnberry Isle Yacht Club in Aventura, Fla., to Miami. Its new venue provides twice the space to feel well again.

Reporting: Andrea Sachs. Help feed CoGo. Send travel news, road reports and juicy tattles to: cogo@washpost.com. By mail: CoGo, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.

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