January 7 2009 by Chris McGinnis
Hitting the road this month? I can't think of a better time to be traveling on business. Prices for anything travel-related are at historic lows. Families with kids are back in school and travel industry front-liners thankful to be employed during tough times are more accommodating than ever.
Here's what I mean:
We are paying about half as much for a gallon of gas as we were this time last year. According to the US Energy Information Administration, the average price per gallon is now $1.68, down from about $3 in January 2008. The total cost to fill up my 15-gallon tank is now about $25; last summer I paid $60.
Airfares have sunk as fast as gasoline prices, especially into leisure-oriented markets like Florida, Colorado, California and Hawaii. However, new fees for things like checked bags or advance reservations for certain coach seats which were imposed last summer are here to stay, I'm afraid.
Average room rates have softened considerably compared to last year. While analysts are predicting declines of just 5-10 percent year over year, I'm finding some crazy-good deals out there. Here are some examples found right here at BestWestern.com:
- New York City: Complaining about high hotel rates in Manhattan is so 2008! The Best Western Hospitality House has apartment style suites (big rooms, including kitchens) in the heart of Midtown on East 49th St. for as little as $169 per night in January. If you're working closer to downtown, consider the brand new Best Western Bowery Hanbee hotel near Chinatown. (To me, newer is nearly always better in NYC.) Rates start at about $130 in late January.
- San Antonio, Tex: Hotspots in Middle America are lowering rates, too. A king suite at the Best Western Sunset Suites, located along the famous Riverwalk, is going for just $107 in late January. That rate includes parking and gym access.
- Los Angeles: If you've got business in the LA area, sleep near the stars in Hollywood and Beverly Hills at the Best Western Sunset Plaza in January for just $150 per night, including breakfast.
If you're looking to burn off some frequent flyer miles and soak up the sun this winter, consider Hawaii. I just redeemed 35,000 hard-earned United Mileage Plus miles for a trip to Honolulu later this month. (I had to pause and consider the surprisingly low $375 round trip fare from San Francisco but decided it was time to drain the mileage bank...) I'll be kicking back at the newly refurbished Best Western Coconut Waikiki Hotel, where rates start at just $112 per night. Stay tuned for a full report.
Question: Have dramatically lower prices influenced your travel decisions this winter? Are you re-considering that business trip or vacation? Let me know!