10 Business Travel Cities With Big Expenses

NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Think the shaky economy's taken a toll on business travel? Take a closer look at those expense forms.

Redmond, Wash.-based travel and expense management company Concur recently looked over data from 15 million of its business travel users and found 500 million expensed items that added up to $50 billion in travel spending for last year alone. In the U.S., average spending on business airfare increased 6.6%, while spending on hotel rooms jumped 4.15%. Those categories alone account for nearly 54% of all business spending.

While some costs jumped nationwide, there are clearly some cities taking a far bigger bite out of the business traveler's wallet than others. With help from Concur, we found the 10 most expensive destinations for both business travelers and their expense reports:


10. Washington, D.C.
Average travel spending minus airfare: $519

Avoiding business in the nation's capital is nearly impossible if you deal regularly with the nation's regulatory bodies, the military or even your local representatives. Unless you plan to camp on the National Mall, conducting business in D.C. is pretty costly as well. The average $164.30 business spent on lodging there per trip is the second-highest among all U.S. cities -- and that doesn't even count the third-in-the-nation $40.21 cost of getting to and from the airports.

9. Chicago
Average travel spending minus airfare: $529.76

There isn't one big item that makes Chicago a costly destination, just a lot of little ones that add up. The $188.60 cost of renting a car here is the third-lowest on the list, and the $35.58 dining average is remarkably low for a town that's home to a Michelin-star restaurant such as Alinea. Unfortunately, if you want to head out a show at Steppenwolf, a day at the museums or a Bulls, Blackhawks, Bears, Cubs or White Sox game, it'll set you back an average $146.28. That's still somewhat low for a city of Chicago's size, but it still requires a big-league business budget.

8. Bellevue, Wash.
Average travel spending minus airfare: $529.76

Why is Bellevue more expensive for business travelers than nearby Seattle? Because Seattle's ever-sprawling satellite city is where a whole lot of Seattle area business is. If you want a sit-down with Microsoft , T-Mobile's U.S. branch, Expedia or any of the numerous game designers in the area, chances are you'll have to do it in or around Bellevue. That'll set a company back $232 for car rental alone and $48 for meals, which is impressive given the average meal tabs in Chicago, San Francisco, Boston and D.C. are less than $40. Think you'll get a suburban discount on hotel rooms? The $115.61 companies spent on lodging in Bellevue last year is only about $1 less than they spent in Honolulu.

7. Honolulu
Average travel spending minus airfare: $530.40

First off, if you're the lucky laborer whose company sends him or her to Honolulu on business, congratulations. Not only did your employer send you to Hawaii on business, but they have enough faith in your ability to get the job done to spend $226 in your car, $117 on a hotel room and a whopping $55.19 on your meals alone. Business travelers don't tend to spend that much on food anywhere in the country outside the New York metropolitan area. None of this includes the cost of airfare that makes any trip from the mainland a considerable inconvenience. Enjoy the mai tais.

6. Plano, Texas
Average travel spending minus airfare: $531.38

Like Bellevue, Plano charges this much because it can. The city is the corporate headquarters for dozens of companies including Alliance Data Systems , Dr Pepper Snapple Group , Ericsson , Frito-Lay , JC Penney , Rent-A-Center and Cinemark Theaters . It has a higher tab than either Houston or nearby Dallas, which are among Concur's top 10 business travel destinations, mostly because it knows how to milk out-of-towners. Its average entertainment ($97) and hotel ($82) costs are the lowest on this list, but getting to them from the airport ($44) or via rental car ($259) will set travelers back more than it would in New York, San Francisco, D.C. or Chicago.

5. Garden City, N.Y.
Average travel spending minus airfare: $568.29

So you need to send an employee to New York for a conference but don't want to spend New York prices to get them there. If you're guessing putting that employee 18 and a half miles from Manhattan on Long Island and letting him or her drive into town each day will cut costs, you may as well guess that there won't be traffic on the Long Island Expressway. Garden City may look like the Roosevelt Field Mall and a whole lot of nothing, but there's a reason this town has five Long Island Railroad stations. It knows exactly how close it is to "the city" and just how much folks will pay for a discount. Sure, the average $94.47 cost of a hotel room is less than half the price of a room in New York City, but the $64 cost of getting to and from the airport is almost double that from Manhattan. Want to rent a car or have dinner? Garden City's $197 car rentals are $43 higher than their city cousins, while the $73 average Long Island meal bill makes Manhattan's $67 tab look downright suburban by comparison.

4. Boston
Average travel spending minus airfare: $572.81

With tech companies lining its Route 128 corridor, biotech companies clustered around Kendall Square in Cambridge and financial firms still calling Boston proper home, Greater Boston was built for business travel. It's also built like a giant tollbooth for those same travelers, taking huge bites of of their per diem at every turn. Its average $142 hotel cost trails only New York, Washington and San Francisco, while the $151.43 companies spend on tickets to shows, duck boat rides and Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins games rivals only their entertainment budgets for San Fran and NYC. That's some strong extracurricular spending in a town where "late night" bars close at 2.

3. San Francisco
Average travel spending minus airfare: $623.02

As one of the most expensive cities in the U.S., period, San Francisco isn't surprising anyone by breaking into this list's Top 3. A day at Fisherman's Wharf and a night at a Giants or 49ers game turns quickly into a $162.50 affair on average, while renting a car in this historically auto-averse town will set you back $237.31. Savvy business travelers know how to keep those costs down, though. Hitting the burrito stands or sticking to a beer and garlic fries at Gordon Biersch keeps average San Francisco meal spending below $44 and more affordable than Bellevue, Plano or Garden City. The $36 cost of ground transportation to the airport isn't cheap, but it's still a $2 discount over what fellow travelers are getting in Boston.

2. New York
Average travel spending minus airfare: $628.37

Its $197 average hotel costs are the highest in the country, the $175 spent on entertainment easily tops the list and the $67 average dining charge is outdone only by the city's jealous suburban neighbors on Long Island. So why pay it? Simple: Try matching the experience anywhere else -- of getting clients tickets to a Broadway show, a game at Madison Square Garden, a concert at Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center, a gala at the Met or MoMA or any of those other New York-specific experiences that tend to stir the senses and open purse strings. Besides, thanks to the top entry on this list, Mayor Bloomberg can say business travelers get all these things at a discount.

1. Santa Clara, Calif.
Average travel spending minus airfare: $644.64

So what do you get for your tops-in-the-nation $335 car rental and $54.50 ride to the airport? Apple . It's that simple. You want to do face-to-face business with Apple and get your company's product integrated into the next iWhatever? You go to Santa Clara and hike it over to Cupertino. Santa Clara's business price tag is just further evidence of Silicon Valley's shift away from San Francisco dependence. If you want to park yourself in the middle of the valley, sit down with companies such as Intel , Google , Oracle and other tech heavy hitters, you're coming to Santa Clara and you'll pay what they want you to pay. Yes, lots of young valley professionals still take their freshly lined pockets up to San Francisco condos when the work day's over, but even the San Francisco 49ers can see where the base is shifting. The team will start calling Santa Clara home in 2014 after its new stadium is built there.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.

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