Thanks to the struggling economy, the word "vacation" has become taboo -- so taboo that a substitute word, "staycation," was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2009. Although the web is bursting with deals and advice on vacationing on a dime, let's be honest: There are some cities that are, in one word, expensive.
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To separate the reputed budget-busters from the truly expensive cities, UBS Wealth Management Research, a Swiss-based global financial services company, conducts a regular Prices and Earnings report, the most recent of which was published in August 2011.
The study, which covers 73 of the world's major cities, analyzes economic factors such as currency strength, plus the price levels of travel basics like hotels, food and transportation.
The good news is that vacationing here in the U.S. has become a much more budget-friendly option, while some of the world's most prevalent tourist spots are edging their prices down into the affordable realm. Still, there are several cities that frugal travelers -- no matter how bargain-savvy they may be -- should avoid. Based on the Prices and Earnings report, here are the 10 cities most likely to devour your travel budget.
Average Hotel Price: $204 per night
While the U.S. and Europe are battling an economic crisis, Singapore is flying high. According to UBS' Prices and Earnings report, this destination in southern Asia -- which was ranked No. 24 back in 2009 -- snags 10th place on the current list of most expensive places. This steep price climb correlates with the increasing strength of the Singapore dollar. Although you can still find cheap eats and the occasional bargain hotel, don't expect that to last.
Average Hotel Price: $133 per night
It used to be the case that Americans living near the northern border would hightail to Canada to take advantage of the favorable exchange rate, but over the past few years, the tables have turned. Now that the Canadian dollar is roughly on par with our greenback, Canada's price tags have become increasingly cringe-worthy. Toronto is an excellent example: Since 2009, the metropolis has climbed from No. 31 to No. 9 on the Prices and Earnings report's list of the most expensive cities.
Average Hotel Price: $163 per night
So far, Helsinki has remained relatively untouched by Europe's economic crisis, clocking in at No. 8 on the Prices and Earnings report's list of pricey places. However, Bloomberg reports that the recession may have finally caught up to Finland, with the country's Finance Ministry shrinking its original gross domestic product expansion forecast from 1.8 percent to 0.4 percent. This means that budget travelers may soon be able to knock this dynamic city off their bucket lists.
Average Hotel Price: $172 per night
In 2009, Sydney was ranked 38th on UBS' Prices and Earnings report. Since then, the city has skyrocketed to seventh place, and that's due in part to the Australian dollar's steady rise in worth. Although the Aussie dollar is relatively on par with our own, Sydney's currency has strengthened while the greenback has struggled. That contrast is made apparent through the city's room rates and menu prices.
Average Hotel Price: $163 per night
The bright lights of Tokyo come with shiny price tags. Like Singapore, Japan has weathered the global economic crisis fairly well -- in two years, it's fallen only one spot on the Prices and Earnings report. Although visitors can find plenty of ways to fill their bellies with affordable local cuisine, a convenient hotel will consume a good chunk of money. Yet 2011's earthquake and tsunami will no doubt affect prices in 2012 and 2013. Keep an eye on this one, bargain hunters.
Average Hotel Price: $190 per night
Unlike its neighbor, Finland, Sweden has trumped Europe's recession. Stockholm's strong economy has not only allowed the country to weather the storm, but also to rise from the No. 16 spot in 2009 to fifth place on Prices and Earnings report's list of expensive cities. Bargain travelers beware: Sticker-shock is a common side effect of a Stockholm vacation, while the unfavorable exchange rate only fuels the fire.
Average Hotel Price: $174 per night
Like Helsinki, Copenhagen's price levels haven't been affected by the European recession. Prices and Earnings most recent report shows that Denmark's capital dropped only one place. So while you may find this city's antique shops, intimate restaurants and cozy coffee bars comforting, your wallet sure won't. Travelers will find rates at their highest during the summer months when the weather is ideal for sightseeing. Discounts can be had in winter, but make sure to bundle up.
Average Hotel Price: $268 per night
Switzerland seems to be vanquishing the Eurozone crisis, with Geneva bumping Copenhagen from the No. 3 spot in the past two years. Unlike the Euro, the Swiss Franc has remained a strong currency throughout the recession, and the city's residents benefit from their country's high wages. In fact, according to the Prices and Earnings report, Switzerland doles out the bulkiest paychecks in the world; Geneva's price tags reflect the residents' hefty buying power.
Average Hotel Price: $224 per night
Zürich's residents also welcome Switzerland's generous salaries, surpassing Geneva by a few points on the expensive meter. Unfortunately for travelers, Zürich doesn't offer as many opportunities to nab deals. Prices jump during the summer as people pour in to savor the comfortable temperatures and enjoyable activities on Lake Zürich. During the winter, there's not much of a price break, as snowy weather draws skiers to the nearby Alps. Rates slump briefly in spring and fall, but not by much.
Average Hotel Price: $169 per night
Oslo's prices may be staggeringly high, but at least they're consistent. Norway's capital has held on to the No. 1 spot on the UBS Prices and Earnings report's most expensive list since 2006. And it's not just hotels that will gouge travelers' pockets: In 2009, the New York Times noted that a bottle of water costs roughly $6 USD. Money-saving tactics -- like visiting in July or August when most residents are on vacation -- do little to curb the expense of an Oslo trip.