September 11 2013 by Chris McGinnis
Every year at about this time, the largest travel buyer in the country, the US General Services Administration (GSA), publishes its annual per diem rates for business travel. Per diem rates are more about staying there than getting there--they include an allowance for lodging, meals and incidental expenses, but do not include transportation costs.
This year, the standard per diem rate (effective Oct 1) across the continental US is $129 ($83 for lodging, $46 for meals and incidentals). However, these rates vary widely based on location and season, so the GSA per diem web site provides rates for specific destinations and times of year. The GSA says that its per diems are typically about 5% less than the market rate.
While you may not be a government employee, the per diem rates set by the GSA are an excellent guide for any traveler. That's because they give you a good idea what the "ballpark" rate for an overnight trip to a specific city might be.
This helps business owners predict how much is "fair" when sending an employee across the state or across the country on a business trip. There's even a new mobile app that helps travelers determine the per diem rate in hundreds of destinations across the US.
This year, per diem rates rose most in New York, Chicago and San Francisco, but rates for Atlanta and Washington DC decreased.
Chris McGinnis is Best Western's travel trends expert and business travel blogger on youmustbetrippin.com