Seeing Boston on a Budget
As one of the oldest cities in the United States, Boston compels and teases with interesting architecture, rich culture, and storied education facilities. The technology, finance, medical, and education sectors have all propelled Boston to the top of many economic and cultural rankings. However, all this fame comes at a price: a high cost of living. Despite this, seeing Boston on a budget is still possible for the savvy traveler.
Flying to Boston for Less
Though the city's Logan International Airport doesn't serve as a hub for any major airlines in the United States, Boston still sees a lot of air traffic domestically and internationally. Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, located about 50 miles to the south of Boston, is sometimes a second option for those traveling to Boston. Because of the extra distance involved, you may be able to save a few dollars in some cases by flying into Manchester-Boston rather than Logan. You'll know for sure when you search travel aggregators like Orbitz.com or AOL Travel's search powered by Kayak. Be sure to include the option to check surrounding airports to have the best chance of finding cheap flights to Boston. You'll soon be on your way to seeing Boston on a budget!
Cheap accommodations in Boston
Accommodations are often the next most costly item of a trip. But with a little research, you'll be sleeping well for less in Beantown. The most obvious options are budget hotels. Boston has many of them, but know that the majority of them will be outside the city center, sometimes up to 15 or 20 miles away. The Boston subway will take you out that far in some cases, but you'll want to ensure a budget hotel's proximity to the subway by looking at an online map.
Boston hotels that are close to the city center are going to cost more. However, there is one hotel close to the city center that stands out as having the best value for the price: Club Quarters. While many reviewers find the amenities a bit "minimalist," the hotel still comes highly rated on sites like Hotels.com. As of this writing I was able to advance book a single-person room for a weekend for as low as $79 a night, a massive bargain with location and user ratings factored in.
If $79 a night is still too much, and sharing a room with other people doesn't bother you, then perhaps a hostel is right for you. Hosteling International's Boston location offers you a bed in a shared dorm for around $36 a night. But the hostel isn't just a place to sleep; it also hosts numerous daily and nighttime activities designed to help you with seeing Boston on a budget.
Cheap Eats and Drinks in Boston
As Boston has a constant stream of college students looking to make the few dollars they have go further, it's a given that cheap restaurants exist in the city. While the obvious venues for saving money are fast food, it doesn't mean that quality is always sacrificed. That said, if you're looking for cheap eats in Boston, going where the college students go is a decent bet.
One such place that fits the bill of being inexpensive but tasty is Le's Vietnamese restaurant. With three locations that serve some of the tastiest Vietnamese cuisine in Boston, it's easy to see why college students -- and you -- should be found there. Oh, and it was voted as Best of Boston 2010 by the Boston Phoenix.
If you're looking for something a little south of the border, give Anna's Taqueria a try. With over 15 years of experience serving up tasty burritos, tacos, and quesadillas to folks in Boston, Anna's knows Mexican food. And guess what? Their delicious eats won't empty your bank account either.
One final suggestion for those seeing Boston on a budget is India Quality. College students and locals alike seem to constantly rave about this place as having some of the best Indian food in Boston. In same said raves there's also usually a mention of how little the food costs. However, shy away from the upselling of Indian beers; they tend to be a bit overpriced for the quality.
Enjoying Boston on a Budget
With so many things to do in Boston, getting to everything without spending too much money can be a bit daunting. However, the public transportation in Boston is generally good. The subway system has five different lines that spread throughout the city and beyond. For those seeing Boston on a budget, it makes perfect sense to buy a one- or seven-day pass. One-day passes sell for $9 while an additional six days of use only costs $8 more. The passes are extremely versatile, with the capability of utilizing them on the subway, train, bus, and ferry. Unfortunately the subway service ends sometime between midnight and 1:00 a.m. (depending on the line and stop). The bus system doesn't run much later either. If you plan on staying out late, you may need to hail a cab.
Finally, if you plan on seeing a lot of the major tourist attractions in Boston, consider buying a Go Boston card. You're able to see significant portions of Boston on a budget with one of these cards. They give you admission to see places like the New England Aquarium, the Harvard Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of Fine Arts. If you plan on hitting many of the city's tourist destinations, the Go Boston card is definitely worth consideration.
Photo by Amy the Nurse on Flickr