If you’re anything like me, you would get motivated to go out and visit more interesting things if only it didn’t cost as much and you knew where to find them. So how do you find ways to see attractions while making a frugal living or learn about off the beaten path options? It isn’t as difficult as you might think. This article will cover ten simple and effective strategies to saving money on tourist attractions and events.
1. The Library:
Your local library is a treasure trove of information. Of course you can peruse the Travel section or even your Local History shelves to garner more information about a specific destination or get ideas. You can even plot your course if it is a journey to get there by using the Reference Desk. But what people may not know, or forget about, is that libraries often have free passes for local museums, historic sites, children’s attractions and parks. All you have to do is reserve them to use them. The passes provide free or discounted admission and can expose you to new places.
2. Subscribe to Online Newspaper Sites:
Most newspapers have online sites or blogs with an Entertainment section that highlights happenings around town and broadcasts special events on the scene. You can usually subscribe to receive e-mail notifications for these specials. If you are planning a trip to a region, subscribe to their alerts or newsletters to get a taste of the types of things they promote and even find special offers for the time you plan to be there. And you certainly can subscribe to your local area’s notices to learn about upcoming festivals, fairs, concerts, tours and activities with potential discounts, exclusive invites or things to do for free.
3. Use Google Alerts:
If you open a free Google account one of the features is Google Alerts. Generally people use alerts to track when their name, product or site appears on the web to monitor what the world is saying about them. But you can set it up to be alerted of the appearance of any key words that you like. So for example, if you wanted to know whenever something was published online about Free Boston Events or Boston Attraction Discounts you would just type those keywords in a new Alert and receive an e-mail whenever those words appear.
Let the good stuff come to you rather than searching around on your own.
4. Board of Tourism:
Visit your local or destination’s Tourism Board, online or in person, to get a slew of options for places to see, events coming up, or special tours to introduce you to the area. You can order or view free guidebooks, brochures, and look through calendars for upcoming events. Sign up for newsletters or e-mail notices. See if they offer State or City Passes which allow for discounted access to multiple venues for a flat rate. You don’t have to be a tourist to benefit from all of this. In fact, State or City Passes are perfect for locals who are more likely to have the time to eventually get to all the sites covered within the pass than tourists just passing through for a few days.
5. Entertainment Book:
For about $35 you can purchase an Entertainment Book for most U.S. and Canadian regions which provides coupons and discounted passes for attractions, restaurants, shopping, travel and events valid for an entire year. You also have access to additional coupons for online purchases with the membership your book purchase provides. These books are valuable for vacations to a specific destination or for using in and around your own hometown.
Pitch in with friends, family or neighbors to share a book if you are wary of the balance between the cost and your actual usage level.
It is not difficult to find free or discounted museum passes, park memberships, attraction tickets or even Entertainment Books through Craigslist. People often end up buying a membership they find they no longer need, or end up with extra amusement park tickets, parking passes or even public transportation cards that they would like to sell for a partial return on their investment. Good deals can be found if you think to look for them.
You do have a AAA Card don’t you? In addition to providing you a discount on your auto insurance and providing roadside assistance, it gives you discounts on everything from hotel rooms to attractions close to home or on the road. They’ll put together a TripTik for your road trips, provide online guides and even offer travel packages and promotions.
Sign up for their e-mails to receive special offers and ideas for things to do and places to go.
8. Visit The Website:
If you happen to know exactly where you want to go or what you want to visit, go to their website first. Sometimes you can purchase tickets in advance to save time, and they may even be cheaper online. Be careful though, just as often they charge you extra for online purchases. The website will tell you about upcoming or current promotions or sales, give you links to coupons and tell you when certain memberships provide discounts (like AAA, Veteran, Student or AARP) and if any of their hours allow for free admission windows. For example, in my area of the world in Boston, I learned by going online that:
- I can print a $0.50 off admission coupon for the Orchard House (home to Louisa May Alcott)
- The Museum of Fine Arts does not charge for admission on Wednesday evenings after 4PM
- The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is free on your birthday, free forever if your name is Isabella, and $2 off if you are wearing Red Sox paraphernalia
9. Ask About Affiliations:
Sometimes attractions band together to offer discounted rates via cross promotion. It always pays to ask before purchasing tickets at a site or museum if they have any special packages with other affiliates – locally or across other regions. Not only may you discover another place of interest to visit, but you can see both for less than the cost of full admission.
Memberships can provide similar benefits and if you live in the area or plan to be visiting often, the cost can end up being a savings in the long run.
10. Ask A Local:
Whenever we plan a trip somewhere we try to consider if we know anyone in the area or someone with roots there. We ask them for their favorite places, hidden gems and sentimental spots. Every now and then we get lucky enough to know a local with the time to give us a personal tour of the area, showing us places we never would have known to look or down roads tourists would never find to travel. A personal touch without the ticket charge is hard to beat.
If we don’t know anyone personally, we ask the hotel staff what their favorites are. And we ask the people we meet along the way. Befriending that person next to you on the bar stool or on the subway or working in the boutique will result in wonderful referrals to restaurants, beaches, shops, strolls, events and tips to making your visit unique and outside the pages of the standard guidebook which means the prices are probably not inflated for tourists either.
And for when you are home, unless you were the founder of your community, chances are there is someone that has lived there longer than you. Or someone a lot more active in the region than you are able to be who has explored and discovered all kinds of interesting places. Ask at your children’s schools, your place of worship, your office, while commuting to work or even in your favorite coffee shop.