How Much You Need To Be ‘Rich’ in 15 Major Vacation Destinations

Colorful sunrise of modern urban skyline of Austin Texas USA
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Whether your ideal vacation is sunbathing on white sandy beaches or setting up a tent in the mountainous backcountry, there’s a vacation out there for everyone. But if you opt for a popular vacation destination, you’re likely to see locals as well as visitors from far and wide.

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This scenario inevitably leads to people playing the comparison game. Even if we try not to, we sometimes can’t help but pay attention to the clothes other people wear or the car they drive. One reason we do this may be to compare ourselves to other people at our beloved vacation destination — and to guess if we are “rich” by comparison.

We don’t have to guess, though. GOBankingRates put together a report of the real-world income of people in the top 20% and top 5% of people living in each destination. For perspective, the U.S. average for the lowest income in the top 20% is $131,350. The average income of the top 20% is $238,035, and the average income of the top 5% is $430,662.

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How does your favorite vacation destination compare? Read on to see if it ranks among the top 15.

1. Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (top 20%): $191,660
  • Average income of the top 20%: $318,232
  • Average income of the top 5%: $467,786

Carmel-by-the-Sea’s population is just 3,220. Still, the coastal town has the highest income to crack the top 20% among travel destinations and has an interesting mix of European-style architecture.

2. Austin, Texas

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (top 20%): $145,166
  • Average income of the top 20%: $267,777
  • Average income of the top 5%: $485,554

Austin is the capital city of Texas and the self-proclaimed live music capital of the world. In addition to plenty of live music and the state capitol building, it has a number of museums, bars and restaurants to keep you entertained.

3. New York City

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (top 20%): $144,541
  • Average income of the top 20%: $295,662
  • Average income of the top 5%: $585,902

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The Big Apple needs no introduction; America’s largest city has more things to do than one could hope to fit into one vacation. Plus, it has an extensive public transit system to help travelers get around.

4. Honolulu

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (top 20%): $139,854
  • Average income of the top 20%: $246,814
  • Average income of the top 5%: $431,830

The capital city of Hawaii is a natural travel destination for those looking to escape the cold. After all, in addition to sitting on the ocean, the average temperature is above 80 degrees Fahrenheit year-round in Honolulu.

5. Charleston, South Carolina

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (top 20%): $135,071
  • Average income of the top 20%: $260,323
  • Average income of the top 5%: $495,408

Founded in 1670, Charleston is one of the oldest cities in the U.S. Travelers are sure to love its colorful architecture and easy access to the ocean.

6. Williamsburg, Virginia

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (top 20%): $130,199
  • Average income of the top 20%: $243,380
  • Average income of the top 5%: $427,411

Speaking of old cities, Williamsburg is even older, dating back to 1638. Williamsburg is considered the epicenter of the American Revolution, making it a perennial favorite among travelers.

7. Chicago

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (top 20%): $129,772
  • Average income of the top 20%: $253,077
  • Average income of the top 5%: $482,166

Chicago’s population actually peaked in 1950 at over 3.6 million, but the Windy City remains a top travel destination. After all, it boasts an impressive skyline overlooking Lake Michigan plus world-class museums, pro sports teams, live music and a vibrant nightlife.

8. Bend, Oregon

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (top 20%): $124,503
  • Average income of the top 20%: $221,181
  • Average income of the top 5%: $390,046

Bend is seemingly in the middle of nowhere and you have to drive just over three hours to get to Portland, but this smaller city stands on its own as a travel destination. That’s because it has a large number of attractions, such as craft breweries, restaurants, hiking trails and coffee shops. Plus, it’s just a beautiful and scenic place to be.

9. Fort Worth, Texas

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (top 20%): $120,362
  • Average income of the top 20%: $204,008
  • Average income of the top 5%: $355,816

If you’ve never been to a rodeo, the Fort Worth Stockyards can make for a great experience. The city has much more to offer, of course, including excellent museums, parks and a zoo.

10. Santa Fe, New Mexico

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (top 20%): $117,767
  • Average income of the top 20%: $214,917
  • Average income of the top 5%: $399,988

First settled in 1610, Santa Fe boasts a unique combination of arts and culture, including Spanish and Pueblo influences. As a result, it was named a UNESCO Creative City.

11. Nashville, Tennessee

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (top 20%): $115,609
  • Average income of the top 20%: $212,201
  • Average income of the top 5%: $393,014

Austin may call itself the live music capital of the world, but Nashville, also known as Music City, could certainly give it a run for its money. Home to the Country Music Hall of Fame among many other attractions, over 16 million visitors flocked to Nashville in 2019.

12. San Antonio

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (top 20%): $103,459
  • Average income of the top 20%: $177,051
  • Average income of the top 5%: $307,182

San Antonio is the home of the Alamo and thus continues to be a popular travel destination. Tourists also enjoy attractions such as the beautiful San Antonio River Walk.

13. New Orleans

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (top 20%): $103,102
  • Average income of the top 20%: $214,081
  • Average income of the top 5%: $419,277

New Orleans is always a favorite place to go among travelers. After all, the city is the birthplace of jazz music and has popular draws such as Bourbon Street and the French Quarter.

14. Asheville, North Carolina

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (top 20%): $102,302
  • Average income of the top 20%: $181,170
  • Average income of the top 5%: $306,552

Asheville is a great place to visit with its craft breweries, live music and extensive outdoor activities. The city’s close proximity to the Blue Ridge mountains also makes it a great place to visit.

15. Savannah, Georgia

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (top 20%): $91,405
  • Average income of the top 20%: $172,064
  • Average income of the top 5%: $333,648

Savannah is a historic city where you can experience southern cooking, museums and beautiful architecture. And if you want to see the ocean, Tybee Island is about a 30-minute drive east.

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About the Author

Bob Haegele is a personal finance writer who specializes in topics such as investing, banking, credit cards, and real estate. His work has been featured on The Ladders, The Good Men Project, and Small Biz Daily. He also co-runs Modest Money and is a dog sitter and walker.

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