The 6 Best Places in the World to Get an Affordable Luxury Hotel Room NOW
Picture this: You. Your dream city. And a hotel with plush carpeting, a seasoned concierge who knows all the city's best spots, and high style you never thought you could swing without one of those fancy black credit cards. Nice, huh? You're going to love this news: Hotels.com just released its Hotel Price Index data for this past year, and there are some very pleasant surprises for Budget Travelers: Hotel rates across the U.S. have gone up, but the opposite happened in several desirable cities abroad. In fact, rates so low that you can afford a chic stay at a 4-star or even 5-star hotel (ahem, Warsaw) for what you would have paid for a lower-star-rated property in years past.
Take a quick glance at your travel bucket list and cross-reference it with the cities below, then pick your palace. (Rates are all based on current Hotels.com pricing.) Because sightseeing is that much sweeter when you know you'll have your own personal marble soaking tub to unwind in at the end of the day.
Average daily 5-star hotel rate: $107
Change from 2013: Down 13%
Why not stay at the... Hotel Bristol. If what you picture when you think of a "luxury hotel" is traditional glam that pays homage to neo-Renaissance and Art Deco styles, rich upholstery in the lobby, towering drapes on the windows, and polished marble as far as the eye can see, book here now. Each room—even the junior suites—has a gray marble bathroom with a separate bathtub and shower, and the hotel has an indoor heated pool with cool-hued tiling in "cobalt blue," "forest green," and "cream." Now let's talk location: The historic, 1908-built hotel is right next to the Presidential Palace and within walking distance of Old Town, the Royal Castle, and the National Theater and Opera House (from $108, hotelbristolwarsaw.pl).
Average daily 4-star hotel rate: $99
Change from 2013: Down 11%
Why not stay at the... Riad Flam. You'll think you've died and come back in another life as a Moroccan king when you get a load of this hotel's common areas, decked out with tasseled burgundy cushions, opulent mirrors, and ornate hookahs. Each of the boutique property's eight rooms—all with intricate carved-wood detailling, some with four-poster beds—represents a different soul-nurturing stone, from the Ambre room (used historically for its medicinal properties) to the luxe Ruby room (thought to heighten energy and sensuality). After a long day of bargain-hunting at the souks, drift into the hotel's lush, peaceful courtyard, with lounge chairs for sunbathing, and up into an elevated wood terrace for a soak in a jacuzzi tub with massage jets and a view of the city around you. When you rise the next morning, breakfast is included—pancakes, dates, and fresh juices are a few of the options (from $77, riadflam.com).
Average daily 4-star hotel rate: $113
Change from 2013: Down 11%
Why not stay at the... DoubleTree by Hilton Jakarta-Diponegoro. With retro-style rooms so curvy and modern you'll think you're sleeping in a space pod, plus deep soaking tubs in the bathrooms and resort-like perks including a lagoon-style pool with a streamlined soda parlor–themed cocktail bar that serves milkshakes and booze, this is no ordinary business hotel. Geared toward families, the property has child-friendly amenities, like a kids' pool and indoor kids' club packed with toys (and babysitting services if you need them). With or without the rugrats, a complimentary weekend shuttle will take you to Grand Indonesia Shopping Town, where you can buy batik tapestries and taste local dishes like crispy duck for cheap. While we're on the subject of food: DoubleTree doles out warm chocolate-chip cookies to all its guests upon arrival (from $77, doubletree3.hilton.com).
Mumbai (Bombay), India
Average daily 4-star hotel rate: $114
Change from 2013: Down 10%
Why not stay at the... Vivanta by Taj President. As hot spots go, this business-friendly but design-forward Taj location is quite the scene, especially the Wink bar, known for its social mixing and mingling, infused syrups that incorporate flavors like vanilla and anise, and signature vodka-and-lychee Winktini. Located in South Mumbai, near the Colaba Causeway shopping street (try haggling for a stylish pair of kolhapuri chappals, or leather slippers) and the National Gallery of Modern Art, the hotel has a sizable outdoor pool with beach umbrellas and sleek, modern decor that gives nods to ancient India. Travelers praise it for its attentive service, especially considering its 292-room size (from $124, vivantabytaj.com).
Average daily 4-star hotel rate: $100
Change from 2013: Down 9%
Why not stay at the... Eastin Grand Hotel Sathorn. Three words: rooftop infinity pool. You might never leave the water after taking in the streamlined 14th-floor space's sweeping panoramas of Bangkok and the Chao Phraya River. Another draw for view hounds: Every single room looks out onto either the river or the city, so you'll be hyperaware that you're not in Kansas anymore. The hotel's Glass House restaurant's massive buffet is legendary: Around 26 bucks buys you a lunchtime spread of foods including sushi; lobster; classic Thai, Japanese, and Chinese dishes; meat entrées cooked to order; fresh fruit; and pastries and desserts so picture-perfect they look like movie props (from $106, eastinhotelsresidences.com).
Average daily 4-star hotel rate: $131
Change from 2013: Down 7%
Why not stay at the... Levni Hotel & Spa. So well located it's almost ridiculous—everything from the Hagia Sophia to the Grand Bazaar to the Istanbul Modern Art Museum is within walking distance—the Levni also has surprisingly affordable spa treatments: A traditional kese (exfoliation glove) scrub, including a hammam steam treatment and soap massage, starts at about $42. If you're a spa traditionalist, 60-minute massages (including the deep-compression, sleep-promoting jet lag massage) are about $85. Plus: The longer you stay, the more perks you rack up if you book through the hotel's website. A three-night stay earns you a free airport transfer; six nights or more nets a complimentary transfer, welcome dinner, and 30-minute spa treatment (from $95, levnihotel.com).
Meet America's Coolest Small Town 2015!
Congratulations to Grand Marais, MN, the winner of Budget Travel's 10th annual America's Coolest Small Town contest! The beautiful town on the north shore of Lake Superior amassed a whopping 30 percent of the vote in our contest, surpassing strong second-place finisher Chincoteague, VA, and 13 other semifinalists to attain the title of "Coolest" of 2015. We're psyched that this year's contest had a total of more than 100,000 votes, with loyal Budget Travel readers and fans of our nominated towns coming to the site each day since the contest opened on January 21 to click or tap for their favorite town. Since 2006, Budget Travel has celebrated the culture, history, natural beauty, and old fashioned charm of America's small towns like no other publication, with enthusiastic support from hundreds of thousands of readers around the world. Each fall, we open up the contest by soliciting online nominations for cool American towns with a population under 10,000 from our readers. Budget Travel defines "cool" as an energetic vibe that often combines community spirit with a vibrant arts scene, great food, natural beauty, and unique history. Grand Marais (population 1,351) fits the bill. It's the gateway to the Boundary Water Canoeing Area, one of the world's perfect paddling destinations, with miles of waterways to navigate. It's a perfect vacation town for a romantic getaway or an outdoors adventure, with a little something for everyone, including cozy B&Bs, a vibrant arts community, an annual Fisherman's Picnic, Lake Superior National Forest, and restaurants whose names I personally love and feel say a lot about the town's upbeat spirit: Angry Trout Café, Crooked Spoon, and Sven and Ole's pizza! Here, the top 10 towns in Budget Travel's America's Coolest Small Town 2015 contest. We'll celebrate them all in an upcoming feature and in the July/August issue of our bi-monthly tablet edition. See final contest standings here! Grand Marais, MN (Population: 1,351)Chincoteague, VA (Population: 2,941)Hillsborough, NC (Population: 6,087)Allegan, MI (Population: 4,998)Washington, NC Population: 9,744)Delhi, NY (Population: 3,087)Fort Myers Beach, FLHuron, OH (Population: 7,149)Snohomish, WA (Population: 9,098)Old Orchard Beach, ME (Population: 8,624)
Who's in the Lead for America's Coolest Small Town 2015?
Budget Travel's America's Coolest Small Town 2015 contest ends next week, and it's looking like the competition will remain lively and close right up until voting closes at 11:59 p.m. on February 25! Right now, Grand Marais, MN, is in the lead, with about 24 percent of the tens of thousands of online votes cast by Budget Travel readers. The beautiful, outdoorsy town has a loyal following of not only locals but also vacationers and adventurers the world over who've paddled the area's lakes and rivers and can't wait to tell everybody about this awesome burgh. We're impressed by Grand Marais's ability to mobilize its fans to get out the vote. That's a sure sign of hometown spirit, which is cool in our book. But a close second right now is Cincoteague, VA, the gorgeous island town on the Atlantic coast known for its beautiful beaches, wild ponies, and awesome views of rocket launches from a nearby space center. And let's not forget the two North Carolina towns that made our list of 15 semifinalists: artsy Hillsborough and historic Washington are right up there in third and fourth places, respectively. With more than a week to go, the voting is guaranteed to get even more exciting as these towns vie for the title of coolest. When voting closes at 11:59 p.m. on February 25, one town will be named America's Coolest Small Town 2015, and the top 10 towns will be celebrated in a feature story in an upcoming issue of Budget Travel and right here at BudgetTravel.com. Have you voted? Don't miss out on the fun! And come back each day to check the standings and cast another vote!
The Grown-ups’ Guide to Mardi Gras
This article was written by Katie Coakley on behalf of Viator.com. Mardi Gras is as iconic an event to New Orleans as New Year’s Eve is to Times Square: you have to experience it for yourself to truly understand it. However, many of the common images of Mardi Gras include throngs of people hanging off of balconies, begging for beads, flashing various bits of skin, and indulging in every manner of debauchery. However, not everyone who visits for Mardi Gras is intent on devouring hurricanes and making questionable choices. For those who might be feeling a bit to, mature, for the Bacchanalian delights of Bourbon Street, there is a different side of Mardi Gras that is just as memorable. Eat, Drink, and Be Merry While most visitors to New Orleans will be standing six-people deep on the sidewalks, stretching for the strings of beads that are tracing ellipses over the crowds, the discerning diner will be making arrangements at some of the city’s finest restaurants. While places like Gautreau’s or Coquette maintain a business that requires advance reservations, parade times can be a great opportunity to slip off the streets and enjoy a world-class meal. Plan ahead and enjoy dinner at the historic Court of Two Sisters or take a look at these tips on how to skip the lines and snag a table at the best restaurants in New Orleans. Listen to the Music While Bourbon Street is ground-zero for much of the revelry surrounding Mardi Gras, it’s certainly not the only place to find the live music and merriment that New Orleans is known for. Nearby Frenchmen Street is packed with intimate clubs pumping out music that ranges from jazz to rockabilly to country. Spend an evening hopping from venue to venue; there’s enough to keep you entertained for the entire evening (and that’s just the people-watching). Don’t Be Late to the Ball One of the most noticeable aspects of Mardi Gras is the preponderance of krewes. Krewes, which are organizations that organize a parade and/or a ball during the Carnival season, consist of members who pay dues and usually participate in public service projects. Many groups have members who can trace their involvement back through several generations. Attending a ball is an once-in-a-lifetime event as most balls are invitation-only events—you have to know someone. However, tickets for some of the newer krewes’ balls are available to the public for a steep fee. For example, the Krewe of Cleopatra and the Krewe of Endymion open their parties to the public; tickets include live music, dancing, food and drinks. New Orleans is always lively and vibrant; Mardi Gras is just one of the occasions that it puts on a bit more glitz. There’s plenty of entertainment to be had during Mardi Gras—for those looking for a party and for people that might be looking for a more grown-up experience. If you do decide to try your hand at bead accumulation, be sure to get a great seat: reserving a spot on the premium viewing stands is a must.
Vote NOW for America's Coolest Small Town 2015!
Will YOUR favorite town be named America's Coolest? Budget Travel's 10th annual America's Coolest Small Town contest is now open—place your vote today! We've assembled 15 semifinalists—cool towns from Hawaii to Maine, from Washington State to Florida, and two from North Carolina!—based on our audience's online nominations. When voting closes at 11:59 p.m. on February 25, one town will be named coolest for 2015, earning themselves bragging rights and the top spot in an upcoming online feature and story in our tablet edition. How can your nominated town win? Vote early and vote often—and remind your friends, family, and neighbors to do the same. And don't forget to talk it up and share photos on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (tag them #ACST2015) to help campaign for your cool town. Check out our profiles of the 15 nominated towns—including photos and videos!—and vote for your favorite. You'll find a superb collection of beautiful American vacation spots, each one a vibrant community where natural beauty, art, music, history, and great food are a regular part of everyday life. The race is on! Which town will win? Now it's up to you!