Holiday weekends are great for grabbing a room at a fancy local hotel that you thought you could never afford or wandering an area that you've always been curious about. This Labor Day you could take your cheapest upscale trip yet — if you know where to go. And it starts with the right lodging.
"Hotels that cater to business travelers will generally offer their best deals during the peak holiday periods," said Bruce Baltin, senior vice president for Colliers PKF Consulting USA, an advisory and real estate firm specializing in the hospitality industry.
He's talking high-quality chain hotels in urban locations, such as the Hiltons, Hyatts, Marriotts and Sheratons, that traveling executives covet for their comforts and frequent-stay points. When these road warriors return home for weekends and holidays, rooms go empty, and big-city hotels drop rates to fill them.
Take the glamorous Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on the Westside of Los Angeles, probably the area's best-known convention hotel, which often commands $250 or more a night on weekdays. When I checked its website Aug. 22, rooms for Labor Day weekend started at $189 a night. Shopaholics, take note: You'll be near the stores, restaurants and movies of the tony Westfield Century City shopping mall.
Culture vultures may prefer the iconic arts venues near the downtown Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles, an ornate, historic landmark that often charges $199 or more for weekday stays. When I checked its website Aug. 16, Labor Day weekend rates started at $129 a night.
Earlier this month, using the websites of these and eight other Southern California urban hotels, I compared rates for the Labor Day weekend (Friday-Saturday stay) to two non-holiday weekends in September. At six hotels, the holiday rates were the lowest of the three weekends. I also checked three sets of weekdays. At three hotels, the holiday rates were the lowest for any date checked, weekend or weekday. (Rates may have changed since I did my research.)
You'll find the opposite pattern in resort towns.
"At the beach, the peak periods are summer weekends, so that's when hotels have their highest rates," Baltin said.
That is, if you can get a room at all. Although the Los Angeles Biltmore dropped its prices over Labor Day, another Biltmore — the Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore Santa Barbara, in a popular resort location — was shown as sold out for Friday-Saturday stays on the holiday weekend, when I checked its website Aug. 22.
Besides lower holiday prices, city escapes at upscale chain hotels usually come with spas, pools, fitness centers and other perks, said Barbara Messing, general manager of Travel Ticker, a discount travel website. And you won't be bored.
"A big-city weekend getaway allows you to visit museums in town, restaurants, see plays, do shopping, visit parks and explore the neighborhoods you'll never have time to explore in your busy life," Messing said.
With many urban denizens out of town for the holiday, or barbecuing in their backyards, you may even snag a Saturday night table at a top-tier restaurant or seats to a popular show. In Los Angeles, for instance, the Center Theatre Group recently offered $25 Section A seats (usually $45) over Labor Day weekend for "The Glass Menagerie" at the Mark Taper Forum downtown.
Los Angeles offers another advantage: Out of the 10 most heavily booked Labor Day destinations on the Orbitz travel website, it was the only city where the average holiday hotel rate was lower this year than last year, according to Orbitz. At $98 a night a room, it was the third cheapest, after Orlando and Denver.
OK, it's not as cheap as staying home. But a day or two of pampering at a nice downtown hotel could be just the ticket to a relaxing Labor Day.