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VOL. 131 | NO. 90 | Thursday, May 5, 2016


Lance Wiedower

Anticipating Summer Travel Season


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May technically is still the shoulder season, but it’s the start of my summer travel season.

In fact, I have three trips planned this month, not necessarily because the prices are better and crowds are smaller, although those two things are always nice about May travel. I’m visiting San Antonio, Baltimore and Minneapolis this month. The Texas heat won’t be scorching and a windbreaker might be necessary still in Minneapolis and Baltimore.

As schools let out for summer break in the coming weeks, the travel season will be in full swing. The economy has travel destinations anticipating visitors. Gas prices are forecast to average $2.04 per gallon, down from $2.63 during last year’s summer driving season.

Hello, road trip. Seriously.

Speaking of cars, this summer I think I’ll take a deeper look at Uber. I used it and competitor Lyft extensively on a visit to Chicago last summer. I suspect my weekend in Baltimore will include a few uses of Uber.

I was slow to come around on the ride-sharing service. I’m not sure it’s perfect, but neither is hailing a cab. Actually, have you ever stood outside in a city not named New York and tried to wave one down? It’s a nightmare, and can be so even in the Big Apple where cabs are in abundance.

Uber and Lyft users pull up the app on a smartphone and order a car. Usually within minutes the car appears.

Another big business in the so-called gig economy is Airbnb. I’ve used rental sites such as VRBO many times, but rarely Airbnb.

I did use it to book a condo adjacent to the MGM Grand on the Las Vegas Strip once, and actually saved about $100 a night compared to the hotel. We also had access to the massive pool complex at MGM. Very nice. And I’ll also stay in Airbnb on my Baltimore trip.

I’m visiting the city with two friends, and getting our own apartment is just easier and more cost-effective than a hotel suite.

The availability of apartment rentals will only grow, whether it’s on Airbnb or another rental site. Reuters reported late last year that Airbnb was expected to double its nights booked in 2015 to 80 million from 40 million the previous year.

Is the site a good call for you? I think it depends on your travel style and type of trip. Take New York City – a destination, actually, that has fought a fierce legal battle against Airbnb.

I’ve stayed in apartments in New York on three occasions. All three times the apartment stays were in neighborhoods that fit my style more than the hotel centers in Midtown, specifically around Times Square.

They were more affordable, and I liked the idea of walking down the street to the little neighborhood wine bar in the West Village where prices were stable – for Manhattan – and I likely was the only tourist in the room.

Some people prefer a hotel, where maid service is available. I’ll stay in a hotel on my upcoming visit to San Antonio where we’ll be staying near the Riverwalk. Sometimes it’s good to let go and just be a tourist.

Lance Wiedower can be reached at tripsbylance.com.

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