Major U.S. cities are experiencing a revival in visitors and activity right now. This is an especially exciting development because the flexibility of remote work means that many people are less limited in their travel options—a long weekend away can now be even longer. Priceline took a look at the data for hotel, flight, and package bookings across 20 U.S. cities to find out the advantages of booking travel right now, and where to go to get the most value for your money. Here's what we discovered, plus ideas for what to do in our top five cities.
Why Book Now?
Cities are making a comeback. Major cities across the country are seeing an uptick in travel in the second half of 2021 compared to the first half of the year, particularly northeastern cities, such as Boston, New York City, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.
Hotel rates are rising—and may only get more expensive. Compared with the second half of 2019, the average daily rate of a hotel stay has increased by 5 percent. As travel continues to rebound, we expect that these rates—which are already above 2019 levels—will likely continue to rise.
Airfare is still more affordable than it was before the pandemic. The average cost of a roundtrip ticket has dropped 15 percent, while the TSA is reporting checkpoint numbers that are more than twice as high as 2020, although still lower than 20191.
Package deals are better than ever. Priceline's Work-Life Balance Report revealed 74 percent of Americans agree that saving money through travel deals is a high priority—a sentiment reflected in an increased interest in bundling hotels and flights when traveling to major U.S. cities. In the second half of 2021, average package prices dropped 10 percent, reflecting an even stronger value proposition in the face of rising hotel costs.
The State of City Prices
- Orlando, Sacramento, and Phoenix are showing the biggest increase in consumer interest for hotels during the second half of 2021 compared with the same time period in 2019. While most major U.S. cities show an increase in average daily hotel rates, some are showing large drops, particularly San Francisco (-21%), New York City (-14%) and Seattle (-11%), making them incredible values right now.
- When it comes to flights, Miami, Orlando, and Atlanta are showing the most growth in consumer interest when comparing the second half of 2021 with the same period in 2019. While average roundtrip flight costs remain down across major cities, Miami (-26%), Los Angeles (-16%), and Phoenix (-15%) have all experienced the largest decreases, making them especially attractive and wallet-friendly. Boston is the only city for which average roundtrip flight tickets have remained flat compared with 2019 rates.
- And packaged deals for hotels and flights to Miami, Tampa, and Phoenix, all warm-weather destinations with great outdoor activities, are showing the most growth in consumer interest in the second half of 2021 compared with the same period in 2019.
Pro Tip: Looking to really save? Package deals to San Francisco (-18%), Phoenix (-17%), and Seattle (-14%) have come down the most, making them great options.
5 Cities Worth a Closer Look
To help travelers plan their next trip safely and affordably, Priceline further evaluated all of these cities—for roundtrip hotel and airfare pricing, and how to get the best experience by extending your stay in surrounding areas—and homed in on the five best cities to visit now: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco.
- New York City The city known for constantly reinventing itself is guaranteed to offer something new every time you visit, not to mention a ton of free attractions. This fall, visitors can enjoy the long-anticipated reopening of Broadway shows, drive north to go apple picking at farms like Love Apple Farm in the Hudson Valley, or attend Comic Con on October 7 or 8, where you may spot original Priceline Negotiator, William Shatner.
- Average daily hotel rate: $188
- Average roundtrip airfare: $314
- Los Angeles To discover the city's outdoorsy side, consider taking a day trip only two hours east to Big Bear Lake for its OktoberFest event, which runs through November 7.
- Average daily hotel rate: $190
- Average roundtrip airfare: $303
- Chicago Watch the leaves change in Millennium Park, attend one of the city's many food festivals—Chicago Gourmet is a standout—or even celebrate Halloween in Chicago style: with parades, haunted tours, Day of the Dead celebrations, and more.
- Average daily hotel rate: $205
- Average roundtrip airfare: $282
- Washington D.C. Beyond visiting the historical landmarks that dot the capital, you can also enjoy sporting events, check out free street fairs, or attend unique events like Brews and Views (Oct. 21) at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, a happy hour open to all where you can discuss the intersection of beer making, art, and politics.
- Average daily hotel rate: $144
- Average roundtrip airfare: $310
- San Francisco The weather here is perfect in the fall, without the city's signature summer fog. Check out the Castro Street Fair (October 3), a free, fun-filled festival with live music and dancing in the street.
- Average daily hotel rate: $184
- Average roundtrip airfare: $367
Those who are interested in visiting these cities, especially during the upcoming holiday season, can offset rising hotel rates by taking advantage of the current affordability of air travel and by bundling their flight and hotel bookings. By bundling their booking on Priceline, travelers can save up to $625 on their next vacation. "As cities across the country start to make a comeback, we're seeing hotels and air travel recover at their own pace," says Brigit Zimmerman, Senior Vice President of Hotel, Flight and Packages at Priceline. "That makes package deals, which bundle both at discounts, the best way for travelers to save."