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VOL. 129 | NO. 234 | Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Wiedower

Lance Wiedower

Bargain Travel Hotspots for 2015

By Lance Wiedower

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December is here and with it comes holiday decorations, busy party schedules and trips to Grandma’s house. And with Christmas presents being a drain on the wallet, future travel probably isn’t top of mind.

So it might be a good time to have a look at bargain travel hotspots for 2015, based on the trivago Best Value City index. Hotel search site trivago.com compiles all kinds of cool data on travel prices and trends. I recently stumbled on their list of 50 Undiscovered U.S. Cities for 2015, and since a big chunk of the list is made up of destinations in the South and Midwest, it is a good list to know.

The top 10 cities rated as the best value for 2015 all are within a 10-hour drive of Memphis, with No. 10 Little Rock just a couple of hours west.

The full top 10: Macon, Ga.; Branson, Mo.; Montgomery, Ala.; Lincoln, Neb.; Wichita, Kan.; Augusta, Ga.; Tulsa, Okla.; Springfield, Mo.; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Little Rock.

The Best Value Index ranks cities based on a combination of consumer ratings and average hotel prices.

These aren’t exactly Seattle, Miami or New York City, but if you’re the type of traveler who enjoys experiencing off-the-radar spots as much as big cities, amusement parks and beaches, this list might just have some gems.

And if you want to get away for a couple of days, the average hotel price in Macon ($77), Branson ($84), Montgomery ($89), Lincoln ($93) and Wichita ($96) are hard to beat.

Obviously timing plays a role in hotel rates; Knoxville, for example, will have higher rates and less availability during football season. And Augusta, Ga., will be a hotbed during the Masters in early April.

Looking outside the top 10, there are some other interesting finds. Sitting at No. 11 is Mobile, Ala., with an average price of $96. I really enjoy Mobile. I’ve spent several nights in the city, often on the way to the beach, but once as a standalone trip.

The city’s downtown is quaint with a lot of beautiful architecture and great seafood restaurants. And it sits 30 minutes from the arts community of Fairhope and less than an hour from the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico.

The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is covered well with No. 17 Fort Worth ($114), No. 32 Irving ($103) and No. 44 Arlington ($108). Fort Worth has museums, great food and nightlife, and sits less than 30 minutes from the theme park and sports stadiums of Arlington.

One of my favorite destinations visited in recent memory makes the list at No. 24 in Albuquerque, N.M. With an average hotel price of $89, this underrated city is worth a visit. I’ve sang the praises of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, held annually in early October. But there is so much history, natural beauty to explore and wonderful New Mexican food to taste. And it’s a more affordable option than Santa Fe, about an hour north.

I guess I’m a little surprised about the East Tennessee resort communities of Pigeon Forge (No. 20, $82) and Gatlinburg (No. 25, $91) making a most affordable list. Along with Knoxville in the top 10 and Chattanooga coming in at No. 28 with an average hotel price of $97, it looks like East Tennessee should be on everyone’s radars for a 2015 vacation.

Managing editor Lance Wiedower’s column appears every other Tuesday in The Daily News and The Memphis News. For more travel inspiration, read his blog at tripsbylance.com or follow him on Twitter at @tripsbylance.

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