This post was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on 9th December 2015.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, travel in the U.S. increases by as much as 23% during the final week of December, making New Year’s one of the busiest long-distance travel holidays on the calendar. The vast majority of this travel (roughly 97%) is domestic.
Since there is a fixed supply of available flights and hotel rooms, the price of travel generally escalates during New Year’s. On average, hotels in the U.S. run about$160 per night during the holiday season; of course, there is a wide variance in price depending on which city you go to.
Where exactly are hotels the most expensive this holiday season? Where are they the cheapest? We took a look at our data to find the answers.*
Using Hipmunk booking and pricing data, we calculated the average nightly rate at a hotel in the 50 largest U.S. cities (by population). We then narrowed down our data to a date range that had travelers checking in on December 29, 30, or 31, and checking out on January 1, 2, or 3.
At an average of $348 per night, New York’s hotels are the most expensive of the nation’s 50 largest cities. City-wide, the median price for a one-bedroom apartment is a gasp-inducing $3,100 per month; apparently, these astronomically high housing costs apply to hotels too. There aren’t many places in higher demand for New Year’s than New York: everyone wants to see the ball drop in Times Square!
New Year’s is one of the biggest celebrations nights of the year, and many of America’s party hotspots reflect this in their pricing. Miami, New Orleans, and Las Vegas—each of which is crammed with popular clubbing destinations—all rank high here, and average more than $200 per night for a hotel stay. For contrast, rooms in Vegas’s premier hotels usually go for less than $100 per night on random summer weekends.
On the other end of the spectrum, cities with less celebrated nightlife options (Wichita and Oklahoma City) are extremely affordable on New Year’s, at around $50 per night.
New Year’s party hotspots aren’t just more expensive to stay at — they’re generally more expensive to get to as well. A crawl through Hipmunk flight data for the same date period (12/29 to 01/02) yields the priciest cities to fly to this holiday. (Note: these flight prices are based on the average round-trip ticket from a variety of U.S. cities.)
Miami, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and other clubbing meccas are predictably high-priced, averaging more than $500 for a roundtrip flight.
But there are some anomalies here: Why are places like Albuquerque (New Mexico), San Jose (California), Tucson (Arizona), and Fresno (California) ranked so high on this list? One possibility could be that people seeking refuge from brutal winter weather flock to warmer vacation destinations. Many of the aforementioned cities don’t get snow, and most of them feature comparatively high temperature averages in December.
We went through this list and analyzed December weather data, and found that the 25 most expensive cities on this list (first column) average highs of 60.3 degrees Fahrenheit during that month, while the 25 least expensive cities (second column) average highs of 45.1 degrees. On average, more expensive cities on this list are 15 degrees warmer during New Year’s!
Next, let’s consider total vacation cost. According to our data, New Year’s travelers average a three-night vacation. So, considering the total cost for a flight and three nights at a hotel, which of the 50 largest U.S. cities are the most expensive to travel to for New Year’s?
Topping the list of most expensive cities to travel to this New Year’s is party hot-spot Miami. The city not only features the best December weather of any on this list (averaging a lofty 74 degrees F), but some of the swankiest nightclubs in America. Sports stars, celebrities, and socialites flock there each year to celebrate the new year. New York, boosted in these rankings mainly due to its hotel prices, comes in second place.
If you’re looking for the absolute cheapest big U.S. city to travel for New Year’s, turn to Wichita, Kansas. You’ll be hard-pressed to beat $530 for a flight and a three-night hotel stay — though your experience may not come with the glitz and glamor of Vegas, or the warm-night pool parties of Miami.
All around—considering both price and fun factor—Austin, Texas, may be the best deal overall. It is the only city listed on Travel and Leisure’s top 10 New Year’s destinations to come in below $1,000 on our list, and also ranks #4 for “wild weekends,” #2 for “live music,” and #2 for its singles scene.
Wherever you choose to go this New Year’s, we hope it’s full of comfort and joy—and, of course, a few good deals.
Need help finding the best deals to celebrate NYE with friends? Email[email protected] and include your pals.
*Methodology: Hipmunk’s analysis is based on the average costs of hotel rooms booked and flights purchased between January 1 and November 11, 2015, for arrival dates of Dec 29, 30 and 31, and departure dates of Jan 1, 2 and 3, in the 50 largest US cities.