Can't Afford a Vacation? Blame the State!


Your sweet summer getaway is just around the corner—if you can afford one.

But however you get to and from your favorite vacation spot, the government is there to take a cut. If you're a road tripper, you'll pay a tax on gasoline that accounts for almost 19 percent of the price of refilling your tank. Even more annoyingly, a quarter of that money is diverted from relevant tasks like highway maintenance to other projects, including turtle bridges and bike lanes. Repaving the roads is low on the priority list, but at least you can experience first-hand what driving in the Soviet Union must have been like.

If you fly, Washington will get you too. A ticket from New York to Paris in September on the French airline XL costs a total of $541. Some $401, or 74 percent, goes to taxes and fees. These can include a passenger facility charge (up to $18 per passage), a federal excise tax (7.5 percent of your airfare), $5.60 per one-way trip for the "September 11 security fee," up to $200 in U.S. and international departure and arrival fees, and more.

If you're flying domestically you'll pay fewer fees (yay), but your ticket will be more expensive than it could be (boo) because of protectionist laws banning foreign airlines from accommodating travel within the United States. According to the Mercatus Center's travel guru, Gary Leff, "The largest domestic airlines are lobbying aggressively to stop foreign airlines like Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar from expanding their U.S. flights, and from being allowed to charge low prices."

The rationale for government intervention here is that it "protects American jobs." Of course, that ignores the new jobs that could be created if these foreign companies were allowed to set up shop in the United States—not to mention the benefits that flow to American consumers when they get to choose from more carriers and price points.

Getting where you're going can take longer than it should, thanks to long security lines and an antiquated government-managed air traffic control system that stacks delays on top of delays. Other countries have privatized their systems and seen spectacular results, but not us.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has also made it harder for most of us to adjust our plans in the face of such delays. For decades, the only way to catch a lift on a private jet with open seats was to check for postings to a physical billboard. Not surprisingly, this limited the number of people with access to that option considerably. But when the company Flytenow put this data on an online platform, the FAA showed its gratitude for the money it could save passengers and pilots alike by shutting Flytenow down.

The fun continues even after you've arrived, since many state and local governments are also running interference. Don't expect to be able to grab an Uber or a Lyft in places such as Atlanta and Boston, which ban ride-sharing companies from picking up passengers. While some of these laws are only loosely enforced, many airports now spend a great deal of effort punishing rogue ride givers. According to The Wall Street Journal, "Miami airport police issued 4,000 citations to ride-sharing drivers over the past several years, each with a $1,010 fine."

Home-sharing services, too, are being targeted. Last year, Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law to impose fines in the state of up to $7,500 "per advertisement of an 'illegal unit' on home sharing sites like Airbnb, which is likely to mean a fine for anyone who advertises short-term accommodations," Leff wrote at View from the Wing. The result, of course, is higher costs for visitors. Unfortunately, cities such as San Diego and San Francisco are considering doing the same.

The governmental meddling doesn't end when you reach your destination. Some places won't let you drink or dance anywhere near a beach. Others ban food trucks, gambling, the consumption of soda from oversized cups, and/or smoking in public spaces. The bottom line is that you could vacation more and better, with lots of additional cash at your disposal, if government just got out of the way.

NEXT: Brickbat: We Know All About You

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  1. “Don’t expect to be able to grab an Uber or a Lyft in places such as Atlanta and Boston, which ban ride-sharing companies from picking up passengers”

    I’m pretty sure I got an Uber home from Logan two weeks ago.

    1. Yes, just have to get to the under punishment lot for your ride

      1. Uber

    2. I have never had a problem getting an Uber to/from Logan either

  2. “The bottom line is that you could vacation more and better, with lots of additional cash at your disposal, if government just got out of the way.”

    Next installment; There is a significant trend of the sun rising in the east.

    1. Water wet, film at 11:00

  3. TOP MEN in government know best.

  4. You forgot to include all of the corporate taxes which are passed on to the consumer through prices. Raise the price on a good and raise the sales tax… YAY! More government largesse!

    I’d like to see a comprehensive study on an average person to see how much money they send to the government each year through the myriad of taxes and registration fees. Can anybody link to a good example?

    1. All you need do is look at GDP, employment figures and total government spending for a rough idea.

    2. “I’d like to see a comprehensive study on an average person”

      Really? I find you average people so…. average.

    3. I always enjoy informing people of my 4 months of slavery per year that I’m forced to pay the Federal government in 30% taxes. When you start throwing out how much you have to work per year, per Slave owner you start getting a bit more attention. I don’t start making any money for myself until around July, even then, that just starts chipping away at cost of living.

  5. ‘The rationale for government intervention here is that it “protects American jobs.”‘

    Durka Dur!

    Oh well, I guess there’s little hope the great Orange Protectionist will help out much on that one.

  6. Some of the taxes and fees are appropriate, such as airport and ATC. I don’t know how much and what their funding source is, whether taxes or fees.

    1. Found the slaver!

    2. AbBas fuel tax (a user fee), PFC’s – whch are $4.50 per departure, so a two hopper round trip would be $18 (2 legsx$4.5/leg x 2legs/trip) as mentioned in article, and some general fund which is justices under defense and commerce ( think navigatable waters but replace water with sky)

      1. AbBas = Av Gas

  7. Bah humbug! Vacation is just another form of white privilege…

  8. Come to Mexico–especially for medical-dental treatment. The savings alone will pay for your vacation trip. I used to do this when I lived in USA–then I just simply moved here and live in a perfect climate in the mountains, and am RICH….

  9. Can’t afford a vacation? Happy with a roof and food.

  10. Uh, the departure & arrival fees pay for the airport, airport security screening, immigration & customs.

    1. Right, like the 100% taxes everyone paid in the Soviet Union, those ungrateful plebs!

    2. And check your rental car and hotel taxes some time.

  11. Travel “fees” and gasoline taxes are annoying, but the main reason you can’t afford that Caribbean cruise is the 50 percent of your income the government takes off the top. (federal, state and local income taxes, FICA taxes, state and local sales taxes, etc.)

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