Monday, October 4, 2010

Not sure what you're likely to spend in Los Angeles, Louisville or Lubbock? Ask the Federal Government!

I once had a libertarian say to me, in the midst of a heated political discussion "Name one good thing the government's ever done." I came up with about 20 on the spot, starting with roads and ending with overseeing food safety (the discussion also ended the friendship with the woman who married this guy; I hear they're now divorced so I have to give her a call!).

Not surprisingly, Vail, Colorado has some of the highest daily costs in the Untied States (photo by Rob Pongsajapan)
Well now, I have a 21st to add, if I ever meet him again. And that 21st item (and of course there really are more) is: the Federal Government is a good source to consult when planning travel and trying to figure out the per diem costs of a day in any of the major cities in the United States.

You see, the General Service Administration sets caps for per diem pay for federal employees and does extensive research to figure out how much each place will cost. The daily rates change seasonally and are based on criterion that most American travelers use when they travel. Federal employees aren't expected to share a bathroom when they travel to cut costs, but they can't book themselves into the Ritz either. Food budget is not based on chain meals, but meals at real restaurants, though not the high-end ones. And all of these costs, broken down by county, are available online to the public.

I first learned of the per diems from an article by Jane Engle in the LA Times. Its an interesting piece that delves into which cities are priciest, and how the per diems are arrived at. Click here to read the whole thing.

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