How the United States became the most expensive vacation destination in the world

From higher admission costs and resort fees to expensive car rentals and parking, tourists in the United States face expensive bills – Moment RF/Getty

The pound has finally returned to 2019 levels against the US dollar after a couple of years of stagnation. But if you think that means a bargain vacation, think again. Attraction ticket prices, expensive hotels, and the higher cost of living still combine to make a trip to the United States an expensive proposition.

As the third most expensive city in the world to live in according to Forbes (after joint winners Singapore and Zurich), New York offers a particularly stunning break. But visits to attractions like Disney will soon add up, too.

Multi-day tickets to the park increased in price throughout 2023, even though a 2022 study by TikTok user Pie Chart Pirate found that entry costs had already increased 3,871 percent since it opened in 1971. museums are offering tickets that are already expensive. the prices too. In 2023, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art increased its entry fee from $25 (£19.60) to $30 (£23.50), bringing it in line with the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

The Walt Disney WorldThe Walt Disney World

Admission fees to Walt Disney World in Florida have increased ‘3,871 percent since it opened in 1971’ – AP/Orlando Sentinel

“I’m also in the United States about four months a year,” says Alan Wilson of Bon Voyage, a specialist in the United States and Canada. “There’s no doubt that, just like here, compared to three or four years ago, everything has increased.”

It is also noticeable in supermarkets. According to foreign exchange specialists Moneycorp, consumer prices are 29.2 per cent higher in the UK than in the US (although that figure includes rent). Wages in the United States are generally significantly higher and food prices adjust accordingly. This means food bills could come as a shock to Brits staying alone: ​​the average price of a loaf of fresh white bread in New York is £3.60, and a regular cappuccino around £4.50. , according to data from Numbeo’s cost of living database.

And while eating out in the United States used to be pretty cheap, that’s not the case anymore. Restaurant prices increased 5.3 percent between November 2022 and November 2023 according to the USDA (Department of Agriculture). To counter rising costs, some restaurants have also begun adding surcharges to bills, on top of the large tips expected by often underpaid servers.

Meanwhile, the country is famous for its resort fees (an extra hotel charge for use of the pool, Internet and other facilities that can add up to more than $100 a night), especially in resort cities like Las Vegas. Because these fees go directly to hotels, they are sometimes not evident on booking or tour operator sites and can lead to an unpleasant surprise at the end of your stay. The website has a search function that allows visitors to see hidden extras before booking.

The illuminated casinos of the Las Vegas Strip.The illuminated casinos of the Las Vegas Strip.

To avoid a surprise at check-out, be sure to research resort fees when booking stays in resort cities like Las Vegas – Moment RF/Getty

Even before these added extras, American hotels are expensive. According to Skyscanner, the average price for a five-star hotel in New York is currently £567 per night, compared to £386 in London.

Outside of the more famous cities, however, bargains can still be found. “The expensive places (San Francisco, New York, Miami and the like) seem to have raised their prices exponentially. But one of our biggest selling areas is the deep south. [and] “Mississippi is the second cheapest state in the United States to live in and that translates into lower lodging costs and lower prices for eating out,” says Wilson.

There is one thing that is cheaper in the United States: gasoline. But car rental costs, as in Europe, skyrocketed after the pandemic, up 48 percent between 2019 and 2022, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Car rental companies basically sold their entire fleet when Covid hit, and when they went to buy back their fleets 18 months later, there were parts shortages… while production levels were not what they had been before,” Wilson says. “That’s putting car rental [prices] up quite a bit. And hotels are increasingly charging ridiculous amounts for car parking – we’ve heard of up to $65 (£51) a night.”

Car in San Francisco.  California.  USACar in San Francisco.  California.  USA

Watch for rising car rental prices and hotel parking costs – Moment RF/Getty

Although they have dropped slightly over the last year, costs are still high and you will also need extra money for expensive parking, even at Walt Disney World. “People don’t really take that into account,” says Helen Wright of the American travel blog Passport Stamps. “Price starts at around $22 (£17.25) plus tax per day.”

Is there anything British tourists can do to keep costs down? Book in advance to get started. “The earlier you book, the cheaper the vacation will be because airlines and hotels want to start operations early for the following year,” Wright suggests. “There still seems to be an outdated idea that you’re going to get a last-minute bargain, but that probably hasn’t been the case for about 20 years.”

Alternatively, do what many of Bon Voyage’s clients do and try Canada. “It’s growing for us and I think that has a lot to do with the price,” says Alan Wilson. “The Canadian dollar exchange rate is still around 1.7 per pound, while we haven’t had much relief from the US dollar. Canada has become a much bigger part of our overall business in recent years and is a fantastic product. “Everyone loves Canada and loves Canadians.”

Eight ways to save on an American getaway

Change your city

A visit to New York or San Francisco can break the budget, but America’s lesser-known cities are significantly cheaper. Helen Wright recommends Pittsburgh as an alternative to the Big Apple. “He has incredible art. [and] a really good food scene,” he says.

Reduce car rental

If your trip starts in a city, rent a car later in the trip. “Get around with Uber and pick up your car at a downtown location when you leave,” says Alan Wilson. “We have reduced the average duration of car rentals from about 15/16 days to about 10 and that saves a lot of money.”

Tourist in New York CityTourist in New York City

If your fly-drive vacation starts in a city, save money by renting a car later in the trip and spend the first few days exploring on foot – Moment RF/Getty

Be careful with the city pass

The United States has plenty of plans that offer discounted rates on multiple attractions, but you need to cover a lot of ground to get your money’s worth. Do the math before purchasing passes – it may be cheaper to book direct.

Skip the theme park meals

You’ll make significant savings by avoiding sit-down dining at Disney. “Don’t go to a different restaurant every night because that will just leave you without food,” says Wright. “Just have a hot dog.”

Avoid weekends at well-known resorts.

“In Las Vegas, hotel rooms cost double on weekends because of visitors from Los Angeles and surrounding areas,” Wilson says. Save by checking in between Sunday and Thursday. A double room at the Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs costs £343 on a Monday night in April and £574 on a Friday night the same week via, for example.

Amtrak Coast StarlightAmtrak Coast Starlight

Amtrak train services can be a great value for money – Alamy

try the train

“Amtrak can offer great value, especially in the Northeast: Boston, New York, Philadelphia,” Wilson says. “It has a bit of a dubious reputation in this country, but it has improved enormously in the last five years.”

Bring your own bottle

A mediocre bottle of wine in a New York restaurant can cost $100 (£78.50), according to Wilson, while Wright was surprised to pay $35 (£27.50) for a glass of Prosecco at the theater . Look for BYOB restaurants, but also beware of ridiculous corkage fees.

Consider a tour

“Our data shows that, on average, people save up to 26 percent by booking with an escorted tour provider instead of taking a trip on their own,” says Kelly Jackson of Costsaver Tours.

This story was first published in October 2023 and has been revised and updated.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *