With the 4th of July just a day away, CardHub.com announced its rankings for the Best and Worst Cities to Celebrate Independence Day. Consumers who are planning to travel for the Fourth can hopefully use this report’s findings – which are based on a number of different metrics, including weather forecast, hotel prices and entertainment options – to have more fun and spend less.
Fourth of July spending is expected to be significantly higher in 2014 than in years past. Americans, including those who are not planning overnight trips, are expected to spend an average of $300 on Independence Day celebrations this year – 58 percent more than the $190 we shelled out last year. That’s unsurprising given the economic recovery, but with rising credit card debt levels painting a worrisome picture of what the future could hold for many people’s personal finances, savings opportunities should be welcomed whenever they present themselves.
With cost-effective festivities in mind, CardHub compared the 30 largest metropolitan areas in the United States – which are always popular vacation destinations – based on the following factors:
4th of July Popularity
Price of a 3-Star Hotel
Number of Bars & Restaurants
Number of Arts, Entertainment & Recreation Establishments
Legality of Fireworks
Based on this analysis, the Best & Worst Cities for July 4th Vacations are as follows:
1. Los Angeles
3. San Francisco
4. New York
7. San Diego
14. Washington, D.C.
15. St. Louis
19. Las Vegas
24. San Antonio
30. Kansas City
You can find other highlights of the report listed below, along with 5 Tips for July 4th Savings & Safety and commentary from Odysseas Papadimitriou, CEO of CardHub, entrepreneur and widely-respected personal finance expert.
Other Main Findings
Half of the 10 Best Cities for 4th of July Celebrations are in the West, largely due to more temperate weather and varied restaurant, bar, and entertainment options.
Detroit is the only major U.S. city that allows the sale and use of aerial fireworks, following a recent change by the Michigan legislature. However, the law enables local governments to impose their own restrictions, so this might not be the case for long.
Many cities have further restricted the use of fireworks in recent years due to drought and the threat of wildfire.
Las Vegas, Tampa, and Phoenix offer the cheapest hotel rates (most likely due to the high summer temperatures in those areas), while hotels in St. Louis, San Diego, Seattle, and Pittsburgh charge the most.
New York City, San Francisco, and Boston are the most walkable 4th of July destinations, while Phoenix, San Antonio, and Kansas City are the least walkable.
New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago have the most bars, restaurants, and entertainment options, while Kansas City, Sacramento, and Portland have the least.
San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco boast the best 4th of July weather forecasts (in terms of expected high temperatures and chance of rain), while Houston, Tampa, and Baltimore have the worst.
“While the fact that July 4 falls on a Thursday this year may prevent some folks from scheduling prolonged vacations around the holiday, plenty of people will undoubtedly use it as an excuse for a long-weekend getaway. From gas and dining out to hotel reservations and festive attire, there are a number of different expenses associated with such a holiday. It’s therefore important for consumers to take a few simple steps to regulate their expenses, particularly given what recent credit card debt trends are telling us about our spending and payment habits,” said Odysseas Papadimitriou, “By and large, we’ve had a tough time adhering to a budget in recent years. Much of that is obviously due to the fact that only about 2 in 5 people even have a budget, according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. But you also can’t ignore the diminishing distinction between luxuries and necessities in people’s minds. Make no mistake about it, a 4th of July vacation is a luxury, so if you’re in debt you might want to stay home. The great thing about the 4th of July is that most municipalities host some sort of free celebration. So, whether you’re staying local this holiday or traveling, there should be plenty of things to do that won’t put an undue burden on your wallet.”
5 Tips for July 4th Savings & Safety
Comparison Shop & Book Packages: Consumers have a wealth of pricing information at their immediate disposal these days, so in addition to checking out CardHub’s Best & Worst Cities report, it makes sense to hunt around for attractive deals online. Booking hotel and transportation accommodations together is often an easy way to save.
Declare Financial Independence: Too many folks are dependent on debt these days, as evidenced by rising credit card debt levels. So, in the spirit of the holiday, you might want to leverage attractive credit card offers like the Slate from Chase – which offers 0% on balance transfers for 15 months with no balance transfer or annual fees – in order to free yourself from your financial burden at the lowest possible cost.
Budget: The best way to keep 4th of July spending under control is to figure out how much you can afford to spend and then plot out exactly how you wish to allocate these funds. This will give you the foresight necessary to prioritize your expenses as well as to search for low-cost substitutes for certain buys that you may now be questioning.
Arrange Public Transportation: For some reason, many people seem to believe the best way to celebrate Independence Day is to drink, get behind the wheel of a car, and then trade in their freedom for a jail cell. For your own sake and that of the general public, look into the availability of public transportation and maybe even factor cab fare into your budget.
Use Common Sense with Fireworks: Whether legal or not, it would be naïve to think that people will refrain from shooting off celebratory fireworks this 4th of July. If you are among them, you should consider how much you want to spend as well as what steps you can take to ensure your own safety as well as that of neighbors and surrounding property.
Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, shared some tips on how to do so. In addition to advising that people be careful when mixing sparklers and young children (particularly since they burn at high temperatures and stay hot for quite a long time), Heckman offered the following cautions and best practices when it comes to using fireworks.
“First and foremost, you need to know what’s permissible where you live and to obey the local laws. You should also plan your activity so that you consider an area that’s free from dry grass and shrubs. It makes sense to water down the area with a garden hose in advance and have a bucket of water ready just in case. You should always use your fireworks outdoors in a safe, flat, and non-wooded area,” she said. “You should always have a sober adult in charge of all fireworks activities. Light only one at a time; you don’t want too much going on because then people will get hurt. You should never touch, throw, or combine fireworks. It’s a big problem when people try to manipulate the devices. If the fuse does not ignite, you do not want to relight the firework. You want to let it sit for at least 15 minutes and then you should just douse it in water.”