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Don’t be fooled by misleading weekend getaway prices

SmarterTravel

Often it seems as simple as a one-stop shop: A weekend package that includes your accommodations, dinner and breakfast, and romantic amenities such as flowers and chocolates thrown in for good measure, all for one price. One phone call and you’re done… you’ve saved both time and money, right?

Not always. While hotel getaway packages certainly save time, you should weigh the package’s components to make sure the offer is a good value for your money—otherwise, you may pay more than you should for your weekend trip.

Bad deals

Occasionally, a getaway package proves not to be a good deal for two reasons: an inflated price when compared to regular room rates, or ho-hum amenities that you could get for less elsewhere.

Consider the “Sports Fanatic” package, listing at $229 at press time, from the Onyx Hotel in Boston. For $229, you get one night’s deluxe accommodations, a six-pack of Sam Adams Boston Lager, a bottomless bowl of pretzels, the current issue of Sports Illustrated, and a hotel bottle opener. Additionally, this package is only available to those with tickets to a sporting event at the nearby TD Banknorth Garden.

When we priced these components separately, we found a total cost of $146 if you could travel on one of the hotel’s “Hot Dates/Great Rates” dates, or $196 using standard rack rates for a deluxe room. With a la carte pricing, you could save up to $83—enough for several six-packs, or maybe even an extra ticket to the sporting event you’re planning to attend.

Another deal that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny is the “Stress-Free Shopping Package” at the Renaissance Chicago O’Hare Hotel. For $229 per suite per night, guests receive accommodations, a glass of wine each, and access to the hotel’s “Holiday Shopping Library,” which is a collection of “gift-giving periodicals” from major retailers. When we checked regular room rates, we were quoted $139 per night, a $90 difference. Essentially, this package charges you an extra $90 to have a glass of wine and look at catalogs. If you book the regular room rate and have wine on your own at the hotel bar or a nearby pub, you’ll most likely save more than booking the package.

Good values

Unlike its “Sports Fanatic” package, the Onyx Hotel does have some good getaway offers, particularly with its “Onyx a Go-Go” deal. Available from $399, the package includes a two-night stay in deluxe accommodations, a walking map of Boston, and two-day trolley passes to see the sights around town. When we priced these options separately, the total cost was $438, nearly $40 more.

Additionally, the Onyx’s “Hot Dates/Great Rates” program provides an excellent value if you have flexibility in your travel dates. On select dates each month, the hotel offers discounted prices from $129, a significant discount off the $196 rack rate. If you don’t have a particular date in mind for when you want to travel, this program offers a way to save for downtown accommodations.

Splurge to save

Believe it or not, the packages that on first glance seem most extravagant often hold the greatest value. If you’re planning to splurge on a weekend escape, take a close look at package prices versus standard room rates to see if the package offers a better deal for your indulgent getaway.

For example, the “Procreation Vacation” at the Westin at Our Lucaya Beach & Golf Resort on Grand Bahama Island costs $1,851, or $617 per night, and includes three nights in a luxury suite, one 50-minute couples massage, one in-suite dinner for two, one dinner for two at a fine restaurant, and several “fertility cuisine amenities,” such as unlimited bowls of pumpkin soup. The price seems expensive at first, until you compare it to standard luxury suite rates, which start at $700 and can go up to $1,400 per night. With the “Procreation Vacation” package, the room rate alone is hundreds of dollars cheaper per night.

The Flatotel in New York City offers “Guys Getaways” from $489 per night, including suite accommodations, drinks on arrival, cheeseburgers and fries, and unlimited pretzels. While the rate seems steep, suites typically go for $630 per night. So if you’d like to stay in one of the Flatotel’s suites, even if you don’t think you’ll take advantage of those “unlimited pretzels,” the package offers a bargain with savings of $141 per night.

Remember, for the splurge categories, it’s important to compare apples to apples. Naturally, suite accommodations are going to cost much more than a standard room. Be sure to compare non-package and package rates for the specific room category that interests you to determine the best value for your trip.

Consider your tastes

The lesson here is, don’t rush to book. You may save time, but you may spend a lot of extra money, too. Dig beneath the surface and decide what the components are worth to you: Could you get them cheaper if you purchased them on your own (or not at all)?

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