What with flights, lodging and food, traveling is often expensive. Add activities and even the shortest excursion can suddenly become a budget buster. To help you stay on track, here’s how you can find cheap — or even free — things to do in any city.
Word of mouth
Crowdsource your friends, family and followers. A social media post, group text or email chain can lead to a wealth of recommendations. Just avoid posting the dates you’ll be out of town; it could leave your home vulnerable to break-ins.
Talk to people in the service industry. Bartenders, servers and taxi drivers are used to chatting with tourists and locals alike and often can offer insider information about goings-on. Pick their brains for itinerary ideas — and don’t forget to tip.
Consult your couch surfing or Airbnb host. A friendly host can introduce you to under-the-radar landmarks and activities or, if you’re lucky, bring you to events with their friends, where you can strike up conversations and learn more about the area and its culture.
Talk to the hotel concierge. If you’re staying at a hotel, the staff should have a list of things to do or even discounted tickets to popular attractions. Hotels sometimes get kickbacks from local businesses for referring customers, though, so even after the discounts, you might be able to find better deals.
Online and print sources
Check coupon and deal sites. Groupon and LivingSocial deals can be hit or miss, but they’re worth checking. You may find discounts on brewery or distillery tours, theater productions, boat excursions and more.
Grab a local newspaper or alt-weekly. If you’re looking for the official word on happenings around town, a city’s publications typically have calendars and articles featuring art shows, live music, festivals, sporting events and more.
Search social media by location. Browse the “Explore” tab on Instagram by location and look for popular destinations in the city you’re visiting. You can also “check into” the city on Facebook, and if you have friends who have been there, the site will give recommendations based on where they stopped.
Explore events on sites such as Yelp, Meetup and Eventbrite. These provide listings of upcoming academic lectures, social activities, bar crawls, gallery shows, live music and more, many of which are affordable.
» MORE: Compare travel credit card deals
Other ideas to explore
Opt for outdoor activities. Visiting a public garden, taking a self-guided walking tour or hiking in a nearby national park are all great ways to explore a new place for little to no cost.
Ask if museums and theaters have deals on certain days of the week. Some of these places offer discounted rates on weekdays to drive more business.
Call your credit card concierge. If your credit card offers a concierge service, give it a call and see if anyone there can help you find discounted tickets to events, festivals and other activities.