As a Budget Traveler I am always looking for ways to stretch my travel dollars further. And as an Explorer, I want to maximize my experience by seeing and doing as much as possible at my destination. In this post, I have put together a list of some of my favorite ways get the most out of your travel budget and itinerary.
I have found that a Walking Tour is a nice option for getting a real feel for a city. It’s also a great way to gain a lay of the land and learn some insights from a Local Expert before heading off to explore on your own. Even though a Walking Tour is generally only 1-2 hours in length it can cover a lot of ground and introduce you to a lot of local landmarks.
A Walking Tour was included as part of our day when we visited Vienna, Austria. I was really glad we had a chance to see a lot of things like the Plague Column, the Palace, and the Training Arena for the famous Lipizon Horses. When we were done, I felt familiar enough with the city layout that I was able to find my way to the places that I wanted to visit. Having a solid understanding of our surroundings allowed us to make better use of our free time and truly enjoy the experience.
Many cities offer options for you to book these tours for free or at a very low price. Pleae remember to tip your Tour Guide at the end of your walk. This is how the Guides make their money and they often have to pay the city for licensing and fees to be able to conduct their business. There are several free Walking Tour options available for us to choose from when we visit Porto this fall, but I have also found maps outlining self guided tours to several popular areas. I love to have options.
Hop On Hop Off Bus Tours
Another fairly inexpensive way to see a city is with a Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour. Many cities offer these types of easy and affordable tours. They are great because they let you explore at your own pace. Unlike a Walking Tour, you can stop for lunch, a bathroom break or to watch a street performer whenever you like without worry of being left behind by your group.
My husband and I took advantage of one of these City Sightseeing Tours in San Antonio a few years ago when we would only be there for a day. By using a Groupon Deal, I only paid $29 per person for the whole day. It was easy to get off at some place like the Alamo and take our time exploring. When we were finished we just hopped back on and went to the next stop that we wanted to check out. It even came with a pass to take a boat tour through the Riverwalk which included a guide who pointed out the sites and provided some narration. It was a nice hot Texas day and we really appreciated the breezy and relaxing boat ride. We were able to easily see all the sites on our list by utilizing the Hop On Hop Off Bus.
Many cities have City Cards for purchase which allow you free or discounted entrance to numerous attractions. These cards are usually reasonably priced with options for one or multiple days. I like to look up cities that we will be visiting before we travel there and see if they offer a City Card, what it offers and it’s cost. Sometimes the included options work for us and sometimes not.
Last year I considered the Go Oahu Card for our 6 day trip to Hawaii. But we had our own agenda of things we wanted to see and do and weren’t planning to do enough of the included activities to make it worth our while.
On the other hand, the Lisboa Card for Lisbon Portugal, seems like a great choice for us. It contains a great selection of Free or Discounted Activities that we are interested in and as an added bonus it also includes unlimited free transportation via bus, metro tram and funicular. From our research, we aren’t too excited about driving in Lisbon, so this feature opens up the door for us to get around easily and affordably. Cards can be purchased at the Airport or the Lisbon Welcome Center and are activated at their first use. They are available in 3 options:
- 20 Euros adult/13 Euros child for 24 hours
- 34 Euros adult/19 Euros child for 48 hours
- 42 Euros adult/22.50 Euros child for 72 hours
- There are also options available to add on the Ocenario
City Card Options
Porto, Portugal offers two separate choices. The Andante Card which is for transportation only and includes unlimited use of the metro, buses, and some regional trains or The Porto Card which combines free and discounted access to city attractions with free use of the bus and metro. You should consider the needs of your travel itinerary before making a choice, but it is awesome to have some options.
Likewise you can opt for a City Pass in Paris or just a Museum Pass. A City pass includes a host of activities including the Bateaux River Cruise, Entrance to the Palace of Versailles, the Paris Opera House and a 1 Day Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour. The Paris Museum Pass gives you free entry to over 60 museums and monuments in and around Paris, including the Louvre and the Musee D’Orsay. It also provides Skip The Line Access at many of the included sites. A third option there is to purchase the 3 day City Pass which includes the Museum Pass in the price. Cost for a 3 day City & Museum Pass combo is 165 Euros per adult.
Small Group Tours
When we traveled to Oahu last fall, we decided not to get a car for the first 3 days while we were in Waikiki. It cut our costs significantly by not renting a car on those days and also allowed us to avoid a $39 per night parking fee. There were tons of public transportation options available to us, so it was never an issue. Mostly we just walked everywhere.
On our second day, we decided that we wanted to do a day trip to Pearl Harbor, so we simply booked a Small Group Tour at the Excursions desk in our hotel. It cost $45 per person for the trip which included our reserved tickets to Pearl Harbor on an air conditioned motor coach and a Honolulu City Tour (bonus!) as well. Since Pearl Harbor only allows 1300 tickets per day and there can often be a long wait to enter, booking the tour also guaranteed us our entrance and time slot. It was money well spent as we really enjoyed our no hastle day.
Comparitively, we saved $240 on parking and car rental costs, while only spending $90 for the tour. I think we came out way ahead of the game in value.
Look at companies like Groupon and Viator that offer a variety of deals on small group tours. They have a lot of different options that you can choose from so it’s not hard to find one that will work well as part of your trip.
Use Your Travel Time and Money Wisely!
When you are planning a trip to an area that has a lot to explore, or if your time there will be limited, do some research to find out what options are available at your destination. By utilizing tools like Walking Tours, Small Group Tours, or Hop On Hop Off Tours, you can easily visit a lot of sites in a small amount of time. It’s also pretty easy to find free walking tour maps and sample itineraries online. By going a step further and purchasing a City Pass or Transportation Card, you can greatly reduce the cost for your travel and admissions to many popular sites.
You can save a lot of time and money by incorporating even a few of these into your trip itinerary.
Dream, Plan, Save, Adventure!!