Chicago is a fun, fun place to be.
It's popular with conventioneers, families, students, girlfriend groups and couples on a romantic getaway. Everyone wants to join the festive mobs at Millennium Park, Navy Pier and, at Christmas, the Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza.
There are nearly 40,000 hotel rooms downtown, which you'd think would be enough. Except in summer, when vacationers from around the world flood in. And whenever there's a big convention or event.
In winter, not everyone wants to get out and enjoy the great outdoors.
Many people would rather enjoy down comforters, hot toddies and a massage. Many people don't even want to look at snow and ice.
And that's possible at many inns and resorts. Some include a spa or dinner theater, others shops and restaurants, and a few
offer a whole weekend's worth of entertainment under one roof.
If you think its expensive to stay in Wisconsin's Door County, you havent looked very hard.
In early June, rates can be almost ludicrously low, cheaper than a Super 8. And even on weekends in July and August, its not hard to find a decent place for $100 or less if you book in advance.
The Door Peninsula's breezy beaches are the place to be when the rest of the region is sweltering. During one early June heat wave, temperatures there were 20 to 40 degrees lower, and lodging rates were low, too I got three nights for the price of two.
In summer, when the cities start to sizzle, a lot of people suddenly realize theyd rather be in Grand Marais.
This village on Minnesotas North Shore is awash in Lake Superiors cool breezes, and it has everything else a tourist could want restaurants, shops, galleries, nightlife and scenery.
But it doesnt always have enough room for all of the escapees, especially on festival weekends.
In 1997, a small-town damsel who married a prince well, an heir waved a silver wand over her hometown of Perry, Iowa, and unusual things began to happen.
She took the dowdy Hotel Pattee, built in 1913 and on the brink of demolition, and filled it with terra-cotta tile, Persian rugs and so much Honduran mahogany she cornered the market for it.
Artists moved in and painted murals and whimsical folk-art lamps, bedsteads and armoires.
If you've ever been shocked by the price of a hotel room, join the club.
You may have barely heard of Duluth, Minnesota, but rooms there will cost you at least $200 on summer and fall weekends, $350 if you wait until the last minute. Don't forget to add nearly 14 percent in taxes.
Hotel rooms cost about the same in Chicago, except tax is 16.4 percent. And in both towns, you'll pay closer to $500 during big events.
When reserving a hotel room, there are deals, and then theres Priceline.
Five years ago, I tried the on-line bidding service, which has a big catch: You dont know what hotel youve reserved until youve paid for the room. We got a hotel in Miamis South Beach that had a decent location but was noisy, had an unfriendly staff and charged an extra "resort fee.''
After that, Id had it with Priceline until friends made me reconsider.