While just being in a new place can be awesome, it's what you do that makes a vacation. Sitting in your hotel room is fun and all, but you could do that at home for way cheaper. You want to do things. Experience your destination. Go home and brag about the cool things you saw and did. There are lots of ways to do that without draining your bank account. Here are ways to do activities for less when you travel.
If you missed out on my post last week, go back and read it now.
Skip the lines at attractions plus get a bundle of them for less. Generally, the more you do, the more you save. CityPASS can save you up to 50% on popular attractions in certain circumstances. There are over a dozen participating cities, including Dallas, Toronto and Philadelphia, and is one of the best ways I've saved on a vacation. You can read about my experience with the Southern California Pass if you missed it.
Like CityPASS, Smart Destinations' Go Cards and Explorer Passes allow you to do more for less. They cover different cities, too. I've blogged about these several times, most recently for Las Vegas. These have saved us a ton on activities in the past and will in the future.
Not all cities are covered in the last two options, but that doesn't mean you're out of luck. Google "city card (insert destination here)" and see what comes up, even if you're headed out of the country. In the past we've used both the London Pass and the Paris Pass, and in the U.S. we've used VisiTicket and the Power Pass for Washington, DC and Hawaii.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but maybe not. There's always a (sometimes long) list of things to do for no money in a city. I just Google "free things to do in X" and I often get a lot more than expected. Look at a few sites to get a comprehensive list and them add the good stuff to your list of things to do and see how much further your dollars stretch.
You might be surprised by what things are free. Many of London's museums are free (with the exception of special exhibits), public parks may have awesome things to see in them (like sculpture parks), and city events may also have free admission. Expensive destinations often have more freebies too.
If you're road tripping (and even if you aren't), you can fin coupons for dollars off things you want to do at your destination. Look online before you go, check the lobby of hotels and even rest stops. Not all of them can be as awesome as this one we stopped at in Virginia, but usually they have a good selection of brochures, with at least the most popular attractions.
Keep an open mind when you travel. Some of the lamest sounding things have turned out to be the most fun to us and some of the most expensive have been disappointing. With this in mind, I keep a list of random optional things with my vacation schedule, so if we find we want to bail, we have a list of other things to choose from. Also, don't be afraid to try new things that may be out of your comfort zone or to ask locals and hotel staff for suggestions. They live there, so they have a totally different perspective of a place. I've rarely been steered wrong, especially when it comes to food recommendations. A local's favorite place may turn out to be yours as well. We've found quite a few "hidden" gems this way.
What are your favorite ways to get deals on attractions and activities? What's been one of the best free things you've done in your travels?