Good Friday Is a Bad Deal for Travelers

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- Congratulations, everybody who gets Good Friday off as a result of the markets closing: You're getting a long weekend on one of the most expensive weekends to travel.

The financial markets shut down on Good Friday, and most of those lucky enough to get the day off will spend it in a pastel-ensconced candy coma. This year, 80.3% of Americans plan to celebrate Easter and spend an average of $137.46 doing so, according to the National Retail Federation. Their combined $15.9 billion investment accounts for roughly 6% of all holiday spending and made Easter the nation's No. 4 gift-giving season behind Mother's Day, Valentine's Day and the winter holidays, according to IBISWorld's last easter estimates.

Just don't spend too much time looking for hotel reservations and plane tickets among the stale jellybeans and plastic grass. According to travel analysts, the reluctance of much of the working world to recognize Good Friday as a day worth losing productivity over (and Easter's stubborn refusal to fall on any day other than Sunday) has just about stripped it of any appeal as a holiday getaway. In fact, as a primarily religious holiday, Easter only boosts demand for family travel and drives up prices.

"We generally don't see much of a spike like you would for the Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, but you might see some higher prices with hotel and airfare in high-demand places -- Orlando comes to mind," Anne Banas, editor of SmarterTravel, told us a few Easters ago. "Not much advice to give, except to plan early, compare prices and be flexible."

Travel site Travelocity tends to agree, noting that the week before Easter through Good Friday is when April hotel and airfare packages are at their most expensive. An average package to Las Vegas, for example, costs about $50 more than it does the rest of the month. TripAdvisor, meanwhile, notes family holiday plans ensure that airports will be mobbed as if it was a winter holiday from Good Friday through Easter regardless of whether fliers have that Friday off or not.

Even if you're not heading home, vacation destinations aren't particularly forgiving to Easter travelers. Walt Disney World Resorts in Orlando, Fla., for example are offering up to 30% percent during the spring. But its first window was from March 14 through April 12, and deals don't resume again until April 20 through June 15. No free admission day for Easter travelers upgrading to a room and ticket package, no free fast passes for rides -- just as much money as you can hand over on one of your few long weekends.Travelocity also notes that the lack of a solid, universal three-day weekend makes Good Friday and Easter less like the typical travel holidays and more like this year's Valentine's Day/Presidents Day hybrid weekend. That inspired about $21 billion in spending, but not a whole lot of travel, as couples accepted the fact that every hotel room in the country was going to come with a Valentine's Rate.

But much as only a certain segment of the country has Presidents Day off, there are schools that take the week of Easter off as a spring holiday. That puts a lot of educators and students into the mix and makes it a great time for hotels, resorts and airlines to start offering deals. In Las Vegas alone, for example, the week after Easter features sub-$100-a-night rates at the Mirage Resort and Casino ($74 a night), Treasure Island ($71, down from $109), Caesars Palace ($87, down from $116), MGM Grand ($65), the Tropicana ($59), the Luxor ($40), Circus Circus ($21), the Excalibur ($29) and the Riviera ($15). That same week, rooms at Miami Beach's Art Deco Whitelaw Hotel ($71 a night), Chesterfield ($84) and Ocean Spray ($84) get similar treatment.

The teachers like to party, and the local businesses know it.

At this point, if you've made plans for your long weekend, you're already paying through the nose for them. Next year, when someone reminds you that you have Good Friday off, just nod politely and think to yourself that you'll never make the mistake of sharing that weekend with the rest of the traveling public again.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.

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