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So, August is upon us and some of you, I know, haven’t taken a vacation yet this Summer. If that’s because you’re saving for your Fall vacation, like me, that’s cool. If you wanted to take a trip, but couldn’t figure out how it would fit into your budget, what with the crazy high airfares and stupid long lines for everything, then I’m here to give you some tips on trips that are still doable and also affordable. If you can drive you will save more, but if you have to fly, there are a lot of airfare sales going right now that you might be able to take advantage of. Follow me on Facebook or Twitter to see them all as they come up.
Only a few weeks until the kids are back in school, so if you have them, you better start planning your trip yesterday! Just kidding, but really, get on it so you actually have TIME to go there before they are putting on their backpacks and you’re fixing their lunches.
San Francisco – Yes, the city can be expensive if you don’t plan your outings properly, but there are lots of ways to save. One of the smartest things you can do when heading to a city that has expensive hotels and food is to stay outside the city. You can take public transportation or even rent a car. With the difference in hotel prices between San Francisco and, say, Oakland, Albany or Richmond, you’ll see how this could potentially save you hundreds off a vacation. Here are more ideas:
- Golden Gate Bridge – No trip to San Francisco is complete without at least driving across this beautiful bridge, but it is also open to pedestrians and cyclists during daylight hours. At almost 2 miles long, it’s a great way to get exercise while also seeing amazing views of the city. Take a break to browse the gift shop and visitor’s center on the southeast side. There is a $6 toll coming back into the city though.
- City Guides – Local volunteers take tourists on free walking tours of the city. Find locations and schedules of tours online, by just searching for “free San Francisco walking tours”.
- Exploratorium – This is another hands-on science museum that teaches young and old alike about electricity and other scientific principles. Admission is free the first Wed of every month and it can take up around 4 hours of your day, or more, depending on how fun you find it.
- California Academy of Sciences – Free admission is available on the third Wednesday of every month. Explore exhibits at the academy, including the African Hall, Swamp exhibit, T-Rex skeleton and aquarium. You can also get to the CAS through Golden Gate Park. Parking is free on nearby streets if you drive yourself.
- Cable Car Museum – Just what it claims to be, you can plan to spend about an hour and a half in this free museum. Learn the history of cable cars while observing full-size cars and photos. Spend some bucks that you saved on admission on funky souvenirs made from cable car tracks.
- Boudin Demonstration Bakery – Almost everyone enjoys some good sourdough bread, and San Francisco is famous for it. Watch bread being made through observation windows and right upstairs from the bakery is a free museum that gives you the history of sourdough in the Bay Area.
- San Francisco Botanical Garden – Located in Golden Gate Park, spend an hour or two in the garden that’s open all year long. There is also a library and bookstore to browse after you’ve taken in all 55 acres of more than 7,500 plants. Every day, there are free guided tours at 1:30 as well. If you’re looking for something to take home, you can purchase plants at the nursery every Saturday. They claim there is a $7 entry fee for non-residents, but no one will ask if you just walk in.
- Lost Canyon Winery – In nearby Oakland, taste some of California’s best wines for free Friday and Saturdays from 1-6pm.
- San Francisco Lawn Bowling Club – Sure this is obscure, but it’s also fun. Get free lessons from club members in Golden Gate Park every Wednesday at noon.
This photo of The Alamo is courtesy of TripAdvisor
San Antonio has some awesome affordable sightseeing, which I wrote about here.
This photo of Pike Place Market is courtesy of TripAdvisor
Seattle is the birthplace of grunge rock, Starbucks, Nordstrom and Microsoft. Seattle is steeped in history and tradition, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll go broke visiting. Do some of the offbeat tourist attractions for a whole different view of The Emerald City. It isn’t full of convenient freebies, but you can do it for cheaper if you plan – and if you can’t visit on any of the following days look into getting a Seattle CityPASS for a big discount:
- Seattle Art Museum – Thursday is a great day to visit some awesome free venues in Seattle, including the Art Museum. The first Thursday of every month, SAM is free to visitors.
- Experience Music Project (known as EMP) – This interactive museum of music is free from 5-8pm on first Thursdays.
- Science Fiction Museum & Hall of Fame – The first museum devoted to Science Fiction shares a building with EMP and also has free admission on first Thursday from 5-8pm.
- Pike Place Market – The market is one of the oldest in the country and is fun to shop or simply walk around and marvel at the stalls, especially the “flying fish” at the fish stall.
- Coast Guard Museum – Located at Pier 36, explore the free museum of Coast Guard memorabilia.
- Bainbridge Island Vineyard and Winery – While you’ll have to pay for a ferry ride (which can be super fun) across the Puget Sound, you can take a free guided tour of the vineyards every Sunday at 2pm.
- Chateau Ste. Michelle Vineyards is a short 15 mile drive from Seattle and offers a free wine tour and sampling.
- Redhook Brewery – For the beer-lovers among you, take a short drive northeast to Woodinville and take a brewery tour with 3-4 samples. You only pay $1 for a souvenir tasting glass.
- Freeway Park – This amazing park in downtown Seattle sits on 5 acres, overlooks the city, free Wi-Fi, a walking loop and in the summer offers free concerts and theater.
Las Vegas is also a great money-saving option in August. You can read more about affordable options in my last Sin City post.
If Los Angeles is on your list of must-visit destinations, you can look forward to a post on that on the 11th. I’ll be giving you my ideas for a fun 2-day trip in the next 48 Fun Hours on a Budget post.
Do you have a favorite budget travel location for the end of Summer?