Spring Break in the City? How to Keep Costs to a Minimum

Blog | March 24th, 2014

Spring Break in the City? How to Keep Costs to a Minimum

Spring break is just around the corner and if you’re
planning a vacation in a big city with friends or family, be warned: the cost
of everything in the city can be much higher than the surrounding areas.
Whether you’re in the Big Apple, San Francisco or any major city in between, everything
from hotels to restaurants charge a pretty penny just because they’re in a big
city (don’t forget exorbitant local sales taxes for many metro areas, too). If
you have your heart set on the city this spring break however, there are many
ways to enjoy your stay without coming home penniless:

Stay Outside of the

Staying in a motel or hotel in the city is convenient
because you’re close to everything, but if you don’t want to spend $200 or more
each night on accommodations (or risk staying in a crime-ridden area where the
cheaper hotels are located), then consider staying in a hotel in a nearby city.
No, you won’t be as close to all the attractions and commuting may be a bit
more difficult, but you’ll likely pay much less and get a much better quality
hotel if you stay outside of the city.

Budget Accommodations

Another option for accommodations is to check budget
websites such as, Orbitz, Kayak or Expedia. Many of these sites
allow you to compare room prices at hotels in the area and determine which one
is in your price range. These sites also offer reviews from previous customers
who stayed at the hotel and ratings based on a variety of factors such as
cleanliness, staff helpfulness, location, price, etc. For student travelers who
don’t mind sharing a room and bathroom with multiple people, offers
affordable alternatives to hotels in the big city. Couch surfing is also popular
these days but space may be limited, especially in big cities.


One advantage to major cities is that they often have
excellent public transportation, ranging from bus lines and subways to trains,
trams and more. Rather than drive through the city and pay ridiculous prices
for parking everywhere you go (and gas) consider getting a multi-day pass for
unlimited use of transportation in the city. This will probably cost a fraction
of what you’d pay for other modes of transportation (your own private vehicle
or taxi, for instance).

Food and Drink

Before you arrive at your destination, check daily deals
sites such as Groupon or Living Social and couponing sites such as SumoCoupon for dining discounts. Food and
drinks tend to be more expensive in big cities, especially at a restaurant, so
come prepared and build your meal schedule around restaurant deals you find
online. Alternatively, you could look for happy hour specials in the area.

Tourist Traps

The most frugal option would be to avoid tourist traps
altogether, but if you simply must visit the most popular tourist destinations
in the city and buy souvenirs, then there are still ways to be frugal. First
off, be on the lookout for special discounts. AAA member? Card-carrying
military personnel? Student with valid identification? Over 65 years old? Many
places offer these kinds of discounts but they may not be openly advertised so
be sure to ask. Also, avoid going during peak hours/days (weekdays generally
have cheaper admission prices).

As with food and drinks, be sure to check for deals and
discounts before going. And if you have to buy a souvenir, either get something
small and useful (shirts are great) or check the clearance area for marked down
items. If you have a lot of people to shop for, consider buying postcards
instead of overpriced stuff that’ll be used once or twice then gather dust in
the back of the closet.

Kelly Kehoe is a staff writer for Money Street Smart and works with, a site full coupons and coupon codes.