5 Money-Saving Tips for City Vacations

by Jessica Sommerfield · 1 comment

When planning vacations, some people prefer to spend time in the great outdoors camping, hiking, and communing with nature while others find it more relaxing to stay at a 5-star hotel in the heart of a bustling city with plenty of venues and night life. While certain outdoor-oriented vacations can be pricy (a week-long guided tour through Yellowstone National Park, for example), most are more budget-friendly than city vacations.  This doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to save money while enjoying city life; it just tends to be pricier. Whether you purposely seek out a city vacation or just end up there, here are some simple tips on ways to save money and still enjoy your time.

Book a hotel that’s not immediately downtown. While convenience is certainly a plus, downtown hotels are notoriously pricier than outlying hotels. In larger cities, many ‘outlying’ hotels aren’t more than a few miles from downtown, a distance easily overcome by walking, biking, or taking a commuter bus,train or subway.  When you book a hotel in the heart of a city, you will often have to pay extra for hotel parking, which can run upwards of $60 a day. So unless you take a train, plain, or bus into the city and walk the rest of the time, you’ll be paying more for your hotel stay. In addition to saving money on your hotel stay and parking fees, choosing  an outlying hotel will provide a less hectic and touristy atmosphere, and possibly afford some better views of nature.

Don’t drive in the city. Driving to your hotel may be necessary, but driving in cities (especially ones you aren’t familiar with) isn’t recommended. Not only will city driving automatically increase the stress level of your vacation, you will get poor gas mileage, pay outrageous parking fees, and, in rougher neighborhoods, risk having your car robbed or stolen. Why do you think so many locals walk, bike, or use the subway?

Find unique but cheaper dining. While staying in a city, it can be easy to drop a lot of money on food.  The best way to cut your dining costs is to choose 1-2 special places to dine out and try to eat as cheaply as possible the rest of your meals. One easy way to do this is to choose a hotel that offers continental breakfast. Consequently, these hotels are often cheaper in general. Hotels with their own restaurant offer much pricier food, even for breakfast. Continental fare may not be fancy, but you can eat as much as you like, and it’s included in the price of your hotel. If possible, get a room that includes a kitchenette area with a refrigerator. You can buy staples at a local grocery store to save even more money on food or at least have a place to keep your leftover take-out deep dish pizza.

Finding cheaper lunch and dinners at reputable establishments in the city can be a gamble since you don’t know the area, but try online restaurant review sites or even smartphone apps to help you choose something unique yet inexpensive. For the best advice, ask a local.

Avoid stores that anticipate tourists. Finding a special keepsake or souvenir is an important part of remembering your vacation, but you don’t have to hit the tourist shops to do so. Many of the cheaply-made knickknacks and tacky souvenirs sold in these stores are extremely overpriced. (Would you spend $15 for a paperwork if it didn’t say Chicago)? Instead, try to find something unique that you will enjoy and be able to display with pride. Forgoing souvenirs altogether is an even better way to save money; taking plenty of pictures and making memories are the greatest souvenirs you could ever hope for.

Go off the beaten trail. Sometimes the greatest treasures are found in the places no one else is looking. Don’t be afraid to go down a different street or explore beyond the bounds of tourist-thronged areas. Of course, you’ll still need to exercise caution to avoid dangerous places, but there are great eateries, shops, architecture, and music to be found where the locals live.

Bonus Tip:

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Peta August 2, 2013 at 8:27 am

Avoiding the typical tourist traps is a great way to save money during your vacation. There are free things to enjoy!

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