More good news for travelers: U.S. hotel occupancy rates rose last year without pushing up average room rates. The bad news: managers are making the most of their busy nights, meaning rates at individual hotels have never been more changeable, according to professor Bjorn Hanson, dean of the hospitality program at New York University. When your travel plans are flexible, Hanson advises asking for the best available rate and then inquiring if you’d get a lower rate by checking in a day or two earlier. “A quarter of the time the answer will be yes,” he says. Also keep in mind that bargains are easier to find in some places. Excess room capacity still plagues Nevada and Florida following a building boom, says Tim Leffel, travel bargains expert and author of Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune. For longer trips, Southeast Asia is still affordable, especially Bangkok, where you’ll find $200-a-night rooms in five-star hotels. But don’t book on room rate alone, Leffel advises. Consider resort fees and Wi-Fi charges that can tack up to $50 a day onto the bill. Upgrading to a club-level floor can sometimes be worth it if it includes breakfast and Internet access.
To chart where you’ll get the biggest—and smallest—bang for your buck, T+L calculated the average nightly price per square foot of standard rooms at luxury hotels in 24 cities. Here, the best and the worst destinations for space.
Most Room for Your Money (Price per Square Foot)
Buenos Aires: $0.66
Cape Town, South Africa: $0.70
Dubai, U.A.E.: $0.71
Least Room for Your Money (Price per Square Foot)
Rio de Janeiro: $2.10