Money & costs
The cost of living in New England is similar to the rest of the eastern seaboard, which is higher than the rest of the US. Travelers will find that urban areas – especially Boston – are particularly pricey for hotels and restaurants (although there are plenty of options for the budget traveler). In recent years, the floundering dollar has made the US an attractive destination for European and Canadian travelers, and New England is no exception.
Travel costs are highest in the summer and during fall foliage; in the mountains, rates go up during ski season. Of course, costs vary widely depending on your mode of travel. If you camp, drive your own car and pack picnics, your daily expenses can be as low as $50 per person per day. A traveler staying in budget motels and hostels and eating in budget restaurants can expect to spend between $80 and $100 per person per day.
Midrange travelers can expect to spend between $100 and $150 per day, which includes staying at a midrange hotel, paying admission for parks and museums, eating at restaurants and paying for transportation. This does not account for the occasional splurge on shopping, dining or accommodation!
Many discounts are available. Most state tourism centers publish brochures that include discount coupons for places to eat and stay; also look for travel coupons online. Discounts on car rentals and accommodations are often available to members of auto clubs affiliated with the American Automobile Association.
Parents should inquire about reduced rates on meals and activities for children. Often museums will have a free family day or family discounts.
Taxi drivers and baggage carriers expect tips (15% and $1 per bag, respectively). Waiters and bartenders rely on tips for their livelihoods. Tip 15% unless the service is terrible (in which case a complaint to the manager is warranted), or about 20% if the service is great. Never tip in fast-food, takeout or buffet-style restaurants where you serve yourself. Baggage carriers in airports and hotels get about US$1 per bag. In hotels with daily housekeeping, remember to leave a few dollars in the room for the staff when you check out. In budget hotels, tips are not expected, but are always appreciated.
New England has one of the healthiest, fastest-growing and diverse regional economies in the US, with a combined gross state product of $623 billion in 2005. In recent years, the technology and biotechnology industries have spawned from local university research labs (Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers developed the first computer in 1928). Boston is a major center for financial services, while Hartford is the insurance capital of the country. Much of this white-collar industry developed in the 1980s and 1990s, breathing new life into a region that was suffering from the decline of its manufacturing sector (this was dubbed the ‘Massachusetts Miracle’ in the region’s most populous state). While the fishing industry has suffered as a result of declining stocks, cod and lobster continue to be important regional products. Tourism, education and medicine are all major players.
The result today is a robust economy that continues to grow. The downside of the region’s prosperity, of course, is its high cost of living. New England is consistently rated as one of the country’s most expensive places to live. Housing prices are prohibitively high. This concerns companies and schools that want to attract talent from elsewhere. Recruiters lament the low- and moderate-income family being frozen out of the housing market, as do the families themselves.
The dollar (commonly called a buck) is divided into 100 cents. Coins come in denominations of one cent (penny), five cents (nickel), 10 cents (dime), 25 cents (quarter) and the rare 50-cent piece (half dollar). Notes come in one-, five-, 10-, 20-, 50- and 100-dollar denominations.
Major credit cards are widely accepted throughout New England, including at car rental agencies and at most hotels, restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores and tour operators. Many B&Bs and some condominiums – particularly those handled through rental agencies – do not accept credit cards, however.
American Express (800-528-4800)
Diners Club (800-234-6377)
Traveler’s checks provide protection from theft and loss. For refunds on lost or stolen traveler’s checks, call American Express (800-992-3404) or Thomas Cook (800-287-7362). Keeping a record of the check numbers and those you have used is vital for replacing lost checks, so keep this information separate from the checks themselves.
Foreign visitors will have an easier time if their traveler’s checks are in US dollars. Most mid-range and upscale restaurants, hotels and shops accept US dollar traveler’s checks and treat them just like cash.