I was in Boston for a long weekend visiting one of my friends. Boston may not seem like a big deal to most anyone but I think it is good to get out of town every so often, even when one is on a budget. I thought as an entry I would include some of the ways I keep control of my travel expenses.

Ten Tips For A Thrifty Trip

1) This may seem obvious but go directly to the tourist information center upon arriving (or order an info packet beforehand if you know way ahead of time that you are going somewhere). Ask for all the free stuff you can handle. Ask for any specials they know about or coupons they have. I happened upon a $10 off coupon for a tour once at one of these stands which made me wonder what other good deals I’ve missed in my life. 

2) Groceries can be used for two meals a day. I try to look on the bright side of having to grocery shop in some strange city by telling myself it is a good way to better understand and appreciate local culture. I also use it as a lisence to try things that I wouldn’t normally try at home. I am, after all, on vacation. And going out one meal a day still makes it feel like a vacation, which brings me to…

3) Cheap meals to eat on vacation: breakfast and most things ethnic. You can also save money by not ordering a drink (except water) with your meal. You can also be really obnoxious and eat just bread and salad bar for one meal and take the entree home with you for a second meal. Now that’s what I call a two-for-one deal!

4) Look into mass transit deals. Look online before you go. Sometimes you can buy a week of travel (or even a pass for a couple of days) in a city for much less than buying individual tickets. Plus, everytime you go the wrong way, you won’t feel like you’re paying some kind of stupidity toll. This depends on the city you are going to of course (and Boston has nothing like this) but it’s worth checking into.

Outlaw2006poster_2 5) Check the local newspapers and college campuses for free events. This is how my friend Ally and I ended up at the Harvard Outlaw party with free drinks and drag queens Saturday night. I won’t say free events are often this inherently interesting but they will almost never be what you are expecting, which does make for some fun memories. Even if events aren’t free, usually you can find at least some inexpensive events on local web sites.

6) To decide which events are worth seeing, read online reviews. Think about it, if someone has taken the time to log onto a web site and say something, they take the time because the love love loved it or they hate hate hated it. If there are enough reviews, it’ll give you an idea whether that attraction is worth taking a $20 cab for or not. If you want, invest in your own Let’s Go, Lonely Planet, or other guide. The advice in them will save you at least that.

7) Avoid shopping. All the bright lights and pretty things you see will make you want to buy. Someone made sure of that when they designed the displays you are looking at. If you can, leave your money somewhere else. Bring a set amount that you can afford to spend with you. Spend only that. If you are not to be trusted, you can instead bring a camera and notebook with you and document what pretty things you see. If someone gives you a hard time, just say you are collecting information in hopes to write an article about shopping in the city. People love free publicity so they shouldn’t give you a hard time as you take a picture of your friend wearing a ridiculous hat.

8) Visit your friends where they live. You’ll save a ton on lodging and get to catch up. You do, however, have to bring them a great host gift for putting up with your broke butt sleeping on their couch.

9) Travel light and with a bag partially empty. This indirectly saves you money by not having to mail stuff home. Plus you won’t use half of what you bring anyway.

10) Keep your driving to under 60 mph, and use cruise control when possible. I increased my normal gas mileage by 25% by doing this. You can also save gas money by doing some other things, as suggested in this article.

And above all…

11) Know when to splurge. If you really want to do something, you should make it happen. It may mean missing a dinner out or not going to the pub one night but you’ll be glad you made a little sacrifice. I am forever regretting not paying $10 to go into the Coleseum in Rome. I was told it was overrated but I decided much too late that I wanted to find that out for myself. Remember: it is your vacation and if you’re like me, you don’t get many days like this. Enjoy!

As the holidays approach, please feel free to share your own money saving travel tips with other readers by commenting below. Happy travels, wherever they take you!

Picture of flier from http://www.hlslambda.com/OutLaw/index.htm

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