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Montauk has just been named the most expensive travel destination in the US, according to a survey by CheapHotels.org that compared destinations across the nation by the average cost of lodging during the month of August. All the properties considered have three stars or more, and prime locations.
Not surprisingly, the East Coast dominated the list with 13 of the 20 most expensive US tourist destinations. Martha’s Vineyard, in Massachusetts, took the No. 2 spot. Saratoga Springs, New York and Cape May, in New Jersey, also claimed top spots with average nightly prices exceeding $250. And for even the least expensive double room in Montauk, travelers could expect to spend an average of $342 per night.
Fortunately, there are ways to trim down the total cost of a spontaneous summer vacation. And we’re pretty sure this survey didn’t take into account savvy travelers using their points and miles.
There aren’t many major brand hotels around Montauk, but that’s part of the charm. Travelers can still maximize their stay in an Airbnb or guesthouse, especially if a group of friends is willing to go in and split the cost. We are seeing full two bedroom, two bath apartments with good ratings available for summer weekends from $600 per night. That’s not cheap, but splitting it with friends it isn’t terrible. Split four ways, for example, and you could be paying $150 per night, per person — well below the survey’s estimate. (And remember to earn points or miles on your Airbnb booking.) Plus, when you book an Airbnb with a full kitchen (and kayaks, a canoe and a charcoal grill) you can save a lot of money on additional expenses like dining out or water sports.
You can also search for a place to lay your head through online travel agencies (OTAs) like Hotels.com. There are some summer nights bookable at well-rated Montauk hotels from the $300’s per night. That’s not inexpensive, but you can make that deal better by booking using your Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card at Hotels.com/Venture to earn 10x miles on your stay and take advantage of the Hotels.com Rewards program to earn one free night for every 10 paid nights, effectively boosting your return to ore than 20% when you pay with the Venture card.
Because many properties are already full, it may be best to start looking with several dates in mind. Some available options include the Montauk Manor (from $312) and Hartmans’ Briney Breezes Beach Resort (limited availability in motel rooms from $150 just after Labor Day).
There’s still availability at Gurney’s Star Island Resort & Marina, too, which took over the old Montauk Yacht Club this year. Though it’s a splurge (we found rates from $500 in August, $400 after Labor Day) it’s one of the hottest properties on the beach — and standard room rates typically start at $825 during peak times. So, if you’re going to go all-in on your Montauk getaway, there’s actually a lot of value to be found here.
Fortunately, you can still limit the damage to your wallet by booking your hotel or other lodging with a card that allows you to erase the cost with fixed value points.
If you’re feeling impulsive, you can also peruse HotelTonight, an app that helps you find open hotel rooms at close-in dates, often at steeply discounted rates. While they do not have a credit card partnership like Hotels.com, HotelTonight purchases often code as travel on some credit cards. For that, both the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card are solid payment options. The Sapphire Reserve earns 3x points on all travel and dining purchases, and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card earns 2x on the same purchases. Unlike other travel credit cards, both of these cards consider a wide variety of transactions eligible travel purchases, including OTAs such as Hotwire, Priceline, etc.
Don’t forget the Citi Prestige, which has the 4th Night Free benefit that can get you huge savings if you are eyeing a pricier hotel stay on Montauk — but the card comes with a $495 annual fee. You can only take advantage of the perk if you’re booking a stay of four nights or more, and this perk can only be used twice per year.
If you do decide to make the trip over to Montauk, there are just as many ways to get there as there are places to slurp oysters and sip rosé. Time is money, and TPG editors know there’s no faster way to get there than a helicopter. But for travelers seriously trying to cut down on the expense of a spontaneous Montauk getaway, the least expensive methods of transportation are the Long Island Rail Road and the Jitney bus. Tickets for each, for Manhattan departures, start around $30 per person, one way.
Just as you would with your accommodations, be sure to buy your train or bus fare with a credit card that maximizes travel expenses. You’ll then get to kick back on Montauk and enjoy some surf, sand, fresh seafood and cool drinks.
Featured image courtesy of HaizhanZheng/Getty Images
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