It’s not too late to plan a Memorial Day trip — here’s where to go for great hotel rates
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Editor’s note: Rates mentioned in this story all cite prices found as of Friday, May 20
We like to say it’s going to be the sold-out summer, especially for U.S. travel, and all signs point to that being a pretty strong hypothesis.
That doesn’t mean you’re out of luck for the first holiday weekend of the summer travel season, though.
Deals might be hard to come by heading into the summer, but loyal readers might remember a little something The Points Guy recommended just a few weeks ago: Don’t be afraid to go after Options B or C. A deal might be waiting behind Door #2.
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We pored over both popular and more off-the-beaten-path destinations for you to consider for the long weekend. Truly amazing deals were, as you might expect, hard to come by. However, our picks reflect properties that are a great value for travelers looking to hit the open road or friendly skies and get some time at the beach, in a city or in the mountains.
Nashville might take top billing for trips to Tennessee these days, and the Outer Banks is extraordinarily popular in the summer for those flocking to North Carolina. Don’t discount heading to the mountains straddling the borders of the Volunteer and Tar Heel states, though.
The Smoky Mountains are home to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and ideal for those looking to explore the great outdoors. The region is also home to mega-attractions like Dollywood, country crooner Dolly Parton’s theme park. Mosey 1.5 hours east on Interstate 40 into North Carolina, and you’ll find yourself in trendy Asheville — home to a vibrant arts scene, Food Network-caliber restaurants and extensive outdoor adventures. The North Carolina city also boasts palatial Biltmore Estate, the largest privately-owned house in the U.S.
While there might be warnings of the pending sold-out summer for travel, especially in the U.S., there are still plenty of hotel options available in the Smokies.
The four-star, Caribbean-inspired Margaritaville Island Hotel in Pigeon Forge has rates averaging $417 per night for stays May 26-30, according to the hotel’s website. Another Margaritaville property, the Margaritaville Island Inn, has rates starting at $253 per night for those staying four nights as part of the hotel’s “Drop Anchor & Save” rates.
Both properties are part of The Island, a family-geared entertainment complex in Pigeon Forge that includes the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel (a Ferris wheel), dining and shopping. Of course, the real attraction is just up the road at Dollywood.
Loyalists of major hotel brands will find better luck across the state line in North Carolina, particularly in the city of Asheville. There, rooms at the Foundry Hotel (part of Hilton’s Curio Collection) start at $550, while those at the Grand Bohemian Hotel (part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection) are available for $469 per night during Memorial Day weekend.
New York City
You probably won’t believe this, but it’s not too late to book a Memorial Day weekend trip to New York City to experience the absolute best season of the city – spring.
Right now in NYC, the city blooms, quite literally, with beautiful plants and trees, but also with a renewed energy and vibrant spirit. If you haven’t visited since pre-COVID days, you’ll find a new version of the city, one with charming outdoor dining spaces, lots of streets closed to vehicles that now belong to pedestrians and new attractions — like the Instagram-famous mirrored observation deck — that have opened over the last two years.
For the lights and action near Broadway, you can snag a room at the Moxy NYC Times Square for an average of $264 per night. Use a discount ticket service like Today Tix to see a show (I spy “Dear Evan Hansen” tickets for under $70 over the weekend). Or, for even less, IHG’s voco Times Square South New York has rooms for $220 per night.
If you want a taste of the city that’s not so tourist-centric, head to the Lower East Side for a stay at the Hotel Indigo for $301 per night. Its popular rooftop lounge Mr. Purple is the perfect spot for soaking up city views.
At CitizenM Bowery, another hotel with an incredible rooftop bar, a stay of three nights or more gets you a great discount that averages out to about $265 a night. The hotel is within walking distance to shopping in SoHo, the incredible food of Chinatown and easy access to the chic Brooklyn neighborhood Williamsburg.
South Florida was already a popular vacation destination, but it exploded with tourism during the pandemic. Everyone wanted to be in Miami, and hotel rates reflected that. There was even chatter that some friends-and-family rates at Miami Beach hotels were going for more than $1,000 per night.
Keep in mind: Memorial Day isn’t exactly the peak travel season for Miami or any other city in South Florida. Humidity and temperatures can be high, so it isn’t as pleasant a time weather-wise as winter or spring.
However, for those willing to put up with some heat, it’s a much more affordable time to book a hotel — and there’s still availability for the upcoming holiday weekend.
For those looking for the most luxurious of accommodations, the Mandarin Oriental, Miami, showed rates starting at $490 per night.
Nobu Hotel on Miami Beach’s official website showed rates starting at $469 per night. Rates on third-party booking platforms like Kayak were about $110 less than that — not a bad price for those looking to try to hotel offshoot of the highly popular restaurant.
Further north, rates at the waterfront W Fort Lauderdale for Memorial Day weekend start at $389 per night.
Live like the old Hollywood elite in this oasis and bastion of midcentury modern architecture in the desert.
Like South Florida, Palm Springs in late May isn’t exactly the coolest spot temperature-wise — at least during the day (it is the desert, after all, so it does cool down considerably at night). This usually meant hotel rates plummeted come summer. However, the pandemic led to more people taking road trips to Palm Springs during even the off-peak season.
Don’t worry: There are still hotels available for the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
The Hilton Palm Springs has rooms starting at $283 per night, while World of Hyatt members can get a room at the Hyatt Palm Springs for $359 per night on advance purchase (non-member rates start at $389).
Here at The Points Guy, we’re kind of obsessed with theme parks — especially the major ones in Orlando. There’s a lot of reason to head there these days, including the rebirth of Epcot at Walt Disney World Resort and the opening of Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind on May 27.
The truth is, though, getting last-minute Disney World reservations is tough over the holiday weekend though there are spots open for Epcot.
Luckily, there are other parks full of thrills for the whole family, like Universal Studios, where Harry Potter comes to life, or Seaworld. If a park just isn’t the works, go to one of the endless mini-golf courses, visit the Orlando Science Center or drive out to Cocoa Beach for a day by the ocean.
The good news is that getting a hotel reservation in Orlando over MDW isn’t as tough as securing Disney reservations. Across from Universal, the Hyatt Place has rooms averaging out to $185 a night, including rooms with double beds and a pull-out couch.
Near Seaworld, the Holiday Inn Express has rooms at $180 a night — and you get free breakfast. Or, for a slightly more chic stay, Castle Hotel (part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection) has rooms around $174 a night.
Probably one of the best deals you can find is at the JW Marriott Orlando Bonnett Creek, where for around $300 a night you can can enjoy an impressive pool, hit up the spa, play mini-golf, climb a rock wall and see the Disney fireworks without having to leave the property.
Some of the best deals we found this upcoming holiday weekend are in San Francisco, which is still one of the worst-performing hotel markets in the U.S. because of the pandemic. While Miami hotel profits in March were at 141% of pre-pandemic levels, revenue at San Francisco hotels was at only 56% of 2019 levels.
It seemed like a week didn’t go by during the worst of the pandemic without a Bay Area company announcing a move to somewhere with more relaxed coronavirus protocols like Austin or Nashville.
The attractions are all still there in the Golden City, though – from the Golden Gate Bridge to Fisherman’s Wharf. Also, the lagging recovery means there are some pretty great deals to be had for some of the city’s nicest hotels.
Rates at the Fairmont San Francisco atop the city’s affluent Nob Hill start at $350 per night. The historic hotel was the first in the Fairmont chain. The JW Marriott in Union Square has rates starting at $227 per night, while the San Francisco Proper — part of trendy Proper Hospitality Group and included in Marriott’s Design Hotels division — has rates starting at $361.
A deal that particularly stood out was for the Clift Royal Sonesta Hotel.
Sonesta may not be a brand everyone knows yet, but it’s growing quickly. The company expanded rapidly during the pandemic thanks to gobbling up a few Marriott and IHG portfolios, as well as an acquisition of RLH Corp., the parent company of Red Lion Hotels. Some Sonesta offerings may not be the stuff of everyone’s dream vacation, but Sonesta’s high-end Royal Sonesta brand isn’t anything to sneeze at — and the Clift is a crown jewel.
The property went through several brands over the years, including Four Seasons. Ian Schrager’s company started managing it in the 1990s before buying it and overhauling the whole property in partnership with famed designer Philippe Starck. Sonesta gained control of the hotel in 2018 and renovated it again right before the pandemic (still holding onto some of the Schrager magic but with brighter, cheerier tones). Rates for Memorial Day weekend start at $210, with suites beginning at $299.
The Gulf Coast
If the sun and sand are calling your name, it’s still possible to plan a last-minute beach trip to some of the Gulf Coast’s most popular destinations. From the farthest tip of Texas to Alabama and across the Florida Panhandle, there are plenty of cute beach towns to frolic in the water or lean into kitschy attractions like mini-golf and go-kart racing — and all within a few hours’ drive from major southern cities.
In Texas, South Padre Island is where you’ll find the state’s best beaches and a popular waterpark. Less than a five-minute walk to the beach, the Holiday Inn Express & Suites: South Padre Island is a steal at $254 a night. For just a little bit more you can stay on the beach at the full-service Holiday Inn Resort, available for about $300 a night.
In Gulf Shores, Alabama, Hilton’s Lodge at Gulf State Park offers direct beach access inside the 6,150-acre state park, along with kayaking, hiking, biking and fishing for less than $400 a night. Maybe not the most affordable in the area, but an option that will keep you busy on property and spending less money off.
Over in Destin, Florida, consider spending the weekend at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, a sprawling complex of vacation rentals with activities for the whole family, from golf and tennis to dinner cruises, fishing and just lounging on the beach.
The great thing about booking here is that there are a ton of different property types available, from studio condos starting at $280 to three-bedroom rentals for under $600. This isn’t exactly a hotel, but it might just be what you need. If you’d rather be at an actual hotel, though, book the Hyatt Place Sandestin for less than $250 a night. It’s not too far from the beach and includes free breakfast.
To really channel the Memorial Day theme, there’s always the opportunity to visit our Capital City where the National Memorial Day Parade takes place. You can save big, too, by spending your days visiting some of the nation’s best museums for free. They include the National Museum of American History, the National Air and Space Museum and the stunning National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The Hamilton Hotel has played host to a handful of inaugural balls and is within a quick walk to The White House. Rooms are available for less than $220 a night. The Grand Hyatt, also not far from the Mall, averages out to $226 per night.
Kimpton’s Banneker Hotel, which feels almost like an art gallery, is a modest $221 a night. For just $170 a night, Hilton Honors members can book a room at the modest, but efficient Motto by Hilton Washington DC City Center.
Featured photo courtesy of Kimpton Epic Hotel.
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