Where (Not) To Go To Save Money This Summer

newport mansion chateau sur merI unintentionally chose one of most expensive weekends of the year (Memorial Day) to visit the country’s most expensive destination. Whoops.

According to a new survey from Cheap Hotels, Newport, Rhode Island, is the United States’ most expensive destination in terms of hotel costs (one of the famed mansions is shown at right).

The survey compared hotel rates for all destinations in the U.S. for the period of June through August 2012. The rankings were determined based on the cost of each location’s cheapest available double room (only hotels above two-star ratings were considered). As such, it reflects the minimum amount travelers will have to spend to stay at a certain destination.

I learned this the hard way – even tiny bed and breakfasts that looked, in my mind, decent, were $300 or more per night. In fact, the exact average is $319 and the high-end hotels were running closer to $1,000 per night.

At this price tag, the Rhode Island resort scene is living up to its nickname, “Queen of the Summer Resorts,” coming in significantly higher than the runners up: coastal California’s Santa Monica and Napa Valley’s Calistoga. In comparison, visitors to these second- and third-place finishers will have to pay at least $287 and $285 respectively for a double room this summer.
Martha’s Vineyard, the affluent Massachusetts island located south of Cape Cod, ranks as the fourth most expensive U.S. destination, with an average overnight price of $275. The Massachusetts cities of Cambridge, Boston and Provincetown also landed prominently in the Top 10.

On the bright side, we had fun? If you’re visiting one of these destinations this summer, here are five money saving tips you might not have considered:

1. Pick a place with at least one meal included. Our hotel in Newport had a rather hefty breakfast spread each morning.
2. Opt for somewhere central. Sure, it’s less expensive to stay a bit outside of town, but if you’re constantly schlepping back and forth and looking for a place to park, your cab fees or parking costs may negate your thrifty hotel purchase.
3. Book early. Yes, hotels are sometimes known to drop rates at the last minute or place discounted rooms on sites like Hotel Tonight, but just as many offer early-purchase promotions of 15 to 30 percent off the average daily rate.
4. Consider a suite. You’ll not only have more living space, but many offer pull-out beds, which can save those traveling with kids or a group from buying an extra room.
5. Know where to splurge. This may sound counter intuitive, but planning out where you want to spend your money pre-trip can actually save you. Want to visit the aquarium or that fancy steak place? Great – now you know not to blow $15 on coffee and muffins each morning. Factor that in times two, for four days and you have your steak dinner.