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First, you need to know which areas command top dollar for hotel rooms, including downtown Tampa and the nearby community of Clearwater, which offers beachfront rooms facing the gulf. If you stay near Busch Gardens during the park’s peak season, you’ll pay premium prices for hotel rooms.
Book a hotel in the Westshore area, south of the Tampa International Airport, if you’re looking for cheap accommodations in the city. You’ll find a mix of well-known, affordable chain hotels such as Courtyard by Marriott, Hampton Inn, and La Quinta. Besides offering plenty of budget-friendly hotels, this area has the additional benefit of being close to the airport. Another bonus is that it's close to the spring training facility for the New York Yankees.
Another ideal location for affordable lodging is the area near the Florida State Fairgrounds. The hotels are located just north and east of downtown, close to the Orient Park neighborhood. You won’t be close to the water, but you’ve got the Hard Rock Casino nearby as well as live music events at the Amphitheatre.
Check out possible deals in the area known as “Tampa East.” This neighborhood sits on the opposite side of town from the airport, but it’s conveniently located near the downtown area. Expect to find local hotels such as Masters Inn and mid-range chains such as Staybridge Suites* and Holiday Inn Express. East of the city’s center sits the Ybor City hotels, which cost a little less than the downtown high-rise hotels. Ybor City is an ideal location because you’re close to several popular concert venues and the Florida Aquarium.
If you book a room near Busch Gardens before May or after August, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the low price tag. Staying near the park also puts you close to the Museum of Science and Industry, Lowry Park Zoo, and Adventure Island. If your destination is downtown Tampa, staying by Busch Gardens means you’re only seven miles from the heart of Tampa. Budget hotels in this area include Econo Lodge and Comfort Inn.
If you know when to book a room, you can capture a reasonable rate at Tampa’s luxury hotels. The best strategy is to book an upscale hotel during the off season. Look for the best accommodations in places like Tampa Harbour Island, the Riverwalk area, and downtown. Expect only minimal price breaks at beachfront luxury hotels in nearby communities such as Clearwater.
If you want to stay at a luxury hotel near Tampa International Airport, keep in mind that many of the hotels in Westshore cater to business people and host conferences. As a result, it may be difficult to find discounted rooms, if you can find a room at all, when there’s a large conference or event at one of these hotels.
Finally, consider staying in the nearby community of Brandon. You’ll get more luxurious accommodations for fewer dollars because you’re staying 12 miles from Tampa. If you don’t mind the extra driving, you can still enjoy all that Tampa has to offer and sleep in an upscale room outside the city.
The thrilling rides of Busch Gardens and the nearby wet and wild rides of Adventure Island Water Park present opportunities for families to have fun together in the Tampa area. The northern part of the city, specifically the Temple Terrace area, is the ideal place to stay for easy access to both of these parks. There are a wide variety of hotels that run the gamut for price. From Baymont Inn to Embassy Suites, there are many recognizable names in the vicinity of the park.
Another bonus of staying in the northern part of the city is being close to Lettuce Lake Park. Tourists consistently rank it as a favorite attraction that offers activities for people of all ages. The 240 acres include bicycle paths and jogging trails as well as a place to rent canoes and kayaks.
The Florida Aquarium is another major tourist draw. Visitors who want to be close to this aquatic wonder with its thousands of live creatures and interactive exhibits should book rooms in Tampa East or Ybor City. Hotels in downtown Tampa also are just a short distances from the aquarium.
Because of its location on the bay, the city of Tampa itself has only a few beaches, but they are a popular place tourists love to visit. The city’s beaches are Ben T. Davis Beach, Davis Island Beach, and Picnic Island. Among the more affordable hotels nearby are Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express, both in the Rocky Point area. There’s also the Best Western Bay Harbor. More upscale choices close to the beach include hotels by Westin, DoubleTree, and Hyatt.
Many of the hotels near the airport offer free pick-up and drop-off van service for their guests. Don’t expect all of the upscale downtown hotels to offer free shuttle service because many do not. When you arrive at the airport, there are shared passenger vans available to downtown Tampa and Port of Tampa. This service is operated by a company called SuperShuttle. Many people choose to rent a car and drive themselves to their hotel, and when traffic is moving, the airport is only a 20- to 25-minute drive from downtown Tampa.
If you’ve saved money on your hotel, consider booking a limousine service to give you a no-hassles ride to your destination. Reservations are required. For people who like to travel on the fly, the no-reservation-required taxi service from United and Yellow Cab is a good choice.
Anyone who loves to get a great hotel on the cheap should check out Tampa during the off season, which begins in September and ends in December. Average highs for these months range from the mid-80s in early fall to the lower 70s at the end of the year, providing ample warmth to attract people who live farther north and want to escape the cold. During this window, it’s possible to find cheap hotels in Tampa near the water well below the high season rates.
May through August is the second best time to visit Tampa while paying reasonable rates for a room. However, hotels and area attractions do get crowded because these months are peak travel times for families whose kids are out of school on summer break. Late April and May are considered the shoulder season, and this is also a time when tourists find lower rates for hotel rooms. Avoid visiting Tampa from January through mid-April because hotels charge premium rates during these months when temperatures are pleasant and mild.
If all the hotels are sold out or you just find yourself itching for an experience that is a little different, search through Airbnb listings in the Tampa area; there are nearly 700 options from which you can choose. If money is your main concern, book a shared room; they start out at well under $50 a night, and they present a golden opportunity to get to know some of the locals. Of course, if you want your own space, you can book a private room; they can cost as little as $50 a night.
Do you really want to indulge? Book an over-the-top home for your time in Tampa. For several hundred dollars a night, you can rent a gorgeous villa that has room for you and your entire travel party. Having access to a full kitchen will make it easy to trim your dining budget.
Whether you’re going to Tampa for the first time or you’re a seasoned tourist, you can use travel resources to plan which seasonal events you want to attend, the art exhibits you want to see, and the latest and greatest happenings in the bay area. A good place to start is The Tampa Bay Times. In addition to covering the big local news of the day, the newspaper also maintains a robust events calendar. The newspaper may tip you off to road closures in the area to help you avoid construction-related delays during your vacation.
Tampa Bay Metro Magazine covers Tampa and surrounding communities. This publication includes shopping discounts and deals for discounted dining. If you want insights on what the locals know about events, artists, and restaurants, check out Tampa Bay Metro.
Creative Loafing is another local publication that offers insights into the local music, food, and arts scene in and around Tampa. You can check out the magazine’s best reviewed magazines near your hotel or a new art exhibit a short drive away. Presented in a rather cheeky way, the magazine highlights free things to do, and through its Twitter feed (https://twitter.com/cl_tampabay), it shares information on food and beverage specials. Not to be outdone by other publications that have their own deals, Creative Loafing has a deal of the day for discounts at a local restaurant.
If you’re ready to see the waterfront, bustling downtown, Busch Gardens, and the many other attractions Tampa has to offer, Hipmunk is your gateway to finding cheap hotels and affordable transportation. Let Hipmunk make your next Tampa vacation more affordable with its fast and thorough search capabilities. You’ll soon be on your way to a vacation in this gorgeous part of the Sunshine State.
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© 2015 Hipmunk, Inc. Hipmunk is a trademark of Hipmunk, Inc.