|By Hugo Martin, Los Angeles
TimesMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Sept. 10, 2012--Chicago, the city that brought us deep-dish pizza, Oprah and "da Bears," is also home to the nation's highest tax burden for travelers.
The lowest taxes imposed on travelers can be found in the Florida cities of Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers and West Palm Beach.
Those are among the findings of new research by the GBTA Foundation, the education and research arm of the Global Business Travel Assn., a trade group for travel managers.
The foundation created a ranking of the destinations with the nation's highest and lowest tax burden on travelers by combining general sales taxes and taxes charged to travelers each day for car rentals, hotel stays and meals.
For an average visit to downtown Chicago, a traveler will pay about $40.31 in combined taxes per day, according to the research. Also high on the list of travel taxes were New York ($37.98), Boston ($34.83), Kansas City, Mo., ($34.58) and Seattle ($34.43), the study said.
On the other end of the list, the study found that the three Florida cities tied for the lowest combined taxes: an average of $22.21 a day.
Orange County ($22.79), Burbank ($22.74) and Ontario ($24.08) made the list of the 10 cities with the lowest combined taxes.
The foundation conducted the study to highlight such charges as bed taxes on hotel rooms and airport surcharges added to car rentals that may discourage visitors.
"Cities and states must think carefully about the sales that local businesses will lose because of the higher costs that travel taxes impose," said Joseph Bates, senior director of research for the foundation.
A spokeswoman for the group that promotes travel to Chicago declined to comment, saying she had not seen the study.
LAX joins other airports offering free Wi-Fi
Before flying to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa touted last week the news that Los Angeles International Airport now offers free Wi-Fi service in its terminals.
It's good news for travelers, but LAX is not breaking new ground.
Several large airports around the country already offered free wireless Internet service, including Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport, San Francisco International Airport and Long Beach Airport.
Until last week, visitors to LAX had to pay a fee, starting at $9.99 an hour, to jump on the Web. Now LAX visitors get free Wi-Fi for 45 minutes of regular access, or they can pay $4.95 for an hour of high-speed service or $7.95 for an uninterrupted 24-hour period.
Airport officials acknowledge that LAX -- the nation's third-busiest airport -- is not the first to jump on the free Wi-Fi train.
"Given passenger expectations and trends at major airports and other public facilities, providing free Wi-Fi service at LAX allows us to meet the demands of today's travelers," airport Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey said in a statement.
JetBlue offers flight deal for pets
Here's a deal that might make your travel companion howl, bark or purr.
JetBlue Airways Corp. recently unveiled a package that lets pets travel an unlimited number of times for three months for $299.
It's called the All Your Pet Can Jet deal and was unleashed at about the same time that JetBlue launched the Go Pack, a deal that lets human passengers make 10 flights in three months, ranging in price from $700 to $2,500, depending on the city where the trips start.
But like the deal for humans, the pet package includes some restrictions. The deal runs Sept. 7 to Dec. 31 and pets must accompany a human with a separate ticket. Under the deal, pets fly in the cabin and are exempt from the standard pet fee of $200 per round-trip fare.
But don't start packing your pet boa constrictor, rooster or armadillo just yet. JetBlue will only transport small cats and dogs that, along with their carrier, weigh no more than 20 pounds. The pets can go anywhere JetBlue flies except -- sadly for your pets -- to the Caribbean islands of Jamaica, St. Lucia and Barbados.
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