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10 cities that charge travelers the highest taxes–and the ones that charge the least

Make sure these taxes are included in your travel budget

Published: May 23, 2014 04:00 PM

When you’re planning a family vacation, you’re likely to earmark some of your travel budget for incidentals such as souvenirs and tips. But you might not think to factor in "travel taxes"–additional taxes cities add to bills for hotel rooms, rental cars, and meals.

When you add those travel taxes to the sales taxes you are also likely to pay, the additional amount can really add up–especially if you'll be in town for several days. (The few states that don't levy a sales tax might charge "resort" taxes in some of its cities.)

According to a Global Business Travel Association study, which calculated how much these taxes pick out of travelers pockets in the 50 most popular U.S. travel destinations, the city that charged the highest travel and sales taxes last year was Chicago, where they totaled $40.31 a day. Stay there for a week and it could cost you more than $282.

New York City came in second, Boston third, Kansas City fourth, and Seattle rounded out the top five most taxing cities (see the charts below).

Three Florida cities charged the least: Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, and West Palm Beach. The taxes in each of those cities totaled $22.21 a day, or more than $155 per week. 

The study used the average daily price for a hotel room ($105.31), a car rental ($57.05), and restaurant meals ($93.32) from the 2013 Consumer Price Index. Of course, if you stay at a more expensive hotel (certainly likely in pricey cities such as Chicago, New York, or Boston) spend more on meals, or, conversely, get a better rental car rate, the amount you'll pay will vary.

The Global Business Travel Association study says that these taxes have taken a bigger bite out of travelers' funds as cities and counties in the United States have reduced their reliance on broad-based property and sales taxes to meet their needs, and have increased their reliance on excise taxes such as travel taxes.

Read "Save Big Traveling to Your Getaway Vacation" for money-saving tips that can help you compensate for these taxes. Our airline travel buying guide and Ratings of the top U.S. carriers will help you save on flights, and might make flying at least someone more enjoyable. We can also tell you five ways you can avoid baggage fees. And our hotel room buying guide will help you negotiate the best deal and avoid sneaky fees.

––Mandy Walker

The ten U.S. cities where travelers pay the highest daily travel and sales taxes:

  • Chicago                     $40.31
  • New York                   $37.98
  • Boston                       $34.83
  • Kansas City               $34.58
  • Seattle                       $34.43
  • Minneapolis               $34.32
  • Cleveland                   $34.22
  • Indianapolis                $34.19
  • Nashville                     $34.13
  • Houston                      $33.51


The ten U.S. cities where travelers pay the lowest daily travel and sales taxes:

  • Ft. Lauderdale, Ft. Myers, and West Palm Beach, Fla.            $22.21
  • Detroit                                                                                       $22.37
  • Portland                                                                                    $22.45
  • Orange County, Calif.                                                               $22.79
  • Burbank, Calif.                                                                          $23.74
  • Ontario, Calif.                                                                            $24.08
  • Honolulu                                                                                    $24.38
  • Orlando, Fla.                                                                              $24.50

Source: Global Business Travel Association, based on central city locations.

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