Thursday, July 26, 2012

High cost of travel

I know that cities love it when conventions come to their city limits. They bring people with money to spend, usually their company's money. Political conventions are particularly good ones, since they draw delegates, media members, and lobbyists. The city can get a little crowded that way.

But for those of us who aren't on expense accounts ... whew.

I had planned to take a trip to Tampa in late August on personal business. Then I was reminded that the Republican National Convention was going to be there at the same time. OK, I wasn't planning on staying in a downtown hotel, so how much of a soaking could I take?

I checked the plane fares first, and there were seats available at respectable prices ... especially if I left on a Saturday with most people going home from the convention on a Friday. Then I moved on to rental car rates. Ouch. 

For a six-day rental, the lowest rate I could find for a car was about $490. The others were around $550. And I didn't check Hertz and Avis, who traditionally are more expensive than the other companies.

For comparison's sake, I rented a car in Tampa for the same time period earlier in the year. It was $211. You'll be stunned to know that none of the coupons in the books worked this time either. OK, maybe you won't.

I wondered what hotel prices had hit for that week, but it was difficult to find a decent one that had a room available. There wasn't an available spot at a Holiday Inn throughout the Tampa Bay area. There were some rooms in fine Motel 6's in Clearwater available, though.

It reminds me of the time a friend of mine went to the Super Bowl in Dallas about 18 months ago. When he checked out of the hotel, he was afraid to look at the bill. Someone else said the Hampton Inn was charging something like $250 a night.

I can hear my friend Glenn reading this and saying, "Gouging tourists at a convention? I'm shocked. SHOCKED." Still, it's fun to see the numbers.

I know I won't get to see Mitt Romney in August (I know he can afford the rental car prices, even if the Bush tax cuts expire), but maybe we'll get together later.

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