For U.S. News & World Report, the road from weekly news magazine to publisher of company and service rankings has been a long and winding one. The key, though, to its shift toward data-driven ratings of companies and institutions was its 1983 publication of “America’s Best Colleges.”
The enormous success of that publication, combined with the withering of its general news-reporting business, led the company to expand its best-of rankings to include hospitals, cars, jobs, mutual funds, and travel suppliers. Today, reflecting that focus on rating consumer goods and services, U.S. News’s tagline is “Life’s decisions made here.”
If the decision in question involves choosing a hotel, U.S. News’s latest “Best Hotels” study may indeed be helpful, depending on your travel budget.
Based on a combination of TripAdvisor data, class rating (only 4- and 5-star hotels are included in the rankings), and awards and recognition from industry experts, U.S. News has picked the best luxury hotels in five geographic areas, the U.S., Europe, Canada, the Caribbean, and Mexico. In addition to the country and region rankings, it’s possible to drill down into the findings, to find the best hotels in individual states and cities. The highest-rated hotel in Los Angeles, for example, is the Peninsula Beverly Hills ($635 a night in early February).
Following are the 10 highest-rated U.S. hotels, together with their best available nightly rates for an early-February mid-week stay:
- The Langham, Chicago ($333)
- Four Seasons Resort Hualalai ($1,145)
- The Jefferson, Washington D.C. ($500)
- Montage Kapalua Bay ($1,225)
- The Lodge at Sea Island ($338)
- Acqualina Resort & Spa ($795)
- The Hay-Adams ($429)
- Montage Deer Valley ($985)
- Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa ($621)
- Primland ($304)
Predictably, the highest-ranked hotels are pricey, some eye-poppingly so. For most travelers who are paying their own way, they’re affordable only for a special occasion, if then. Which points up a conspicuous oversight on the survey’s part.
For all its many ways to sort and cross-sort the data, what the U.S. News report lacks is a best value ranking. Sure, it’s entertaining to imagine where we’d stay if money were no object. But when it comes to real-world travel, most of us are seeking the best combination of affordability and features, with the emphasis on the former.
Perhaps next year’s report will do more to help travelers with Ritz tastes and Motel 6 budgets.
Reader Reality Check
Which hotels would nominate to include among the U.S.’s best?
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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.