Budgeting Boston

Earlier this week I wrote a blog on how to save money in Seattle, one of the most expensive cities for U.S. travel. Relying on the same concept, let's head to the opposite coast to Boston, the birthplace of a nation which just so happens to cost a pretty penny. Here are some tips on how to experience Boston like you are loaded while paying a fraction of the cost.


Hotels in the city are always going to be more expensive than those in surrounding neighborhoods. 2014 hotel prices in Boston averaged at $183 for a four star, $155 for a three, and $128 for a two star hotel. If you have your heart set on a brilliant four-star hotel with pillow chocolates and luxurious robes, you can get a room at the Liberty, a "Luxury Collection Hotel," for $221. On the other hand, you can find a very nice, trendy, and friendly three-star hotel like the Best Western Adams Inn on the Neponset River for $134 a night.

Budget Tip: Roadside, airport, and suburb hotels are almost always cheaper than rooms of the same caliber within the city's more attractive districts.

Four Points by Sheraton is a lovely, well-reviewed hotel with a giant indoor pool, recreation areas and large fitness center, as well as a beautifully designed interior. You can stay here for less than $150 a night because it's a roadside hotel off I-95. Likewise, as long as you don't go closer to the ocean, the surrounding neighborhoods have an abundance of hotels between $100-150 and some, like the Motel 6, are less than $100. It just depends on your standards and willingness to commute.


Like with the Seattle blog, let's assume you're in Boston for a 3-day stay and you want to see an average of three attractions per diem. This can get very pricey, though, with the costs of admission tickets. Try and cut down scheduling tours of places that charge admission to one a day, relying on the city's free attractions to fill in the gaps. Here's a suggested itinerary:

Day 1: Take the Freedom Trail

Although the Freedom Trail Foundation offers tours, for a price, leading you through the 2.5 mile trail by costumed, informative guides, the actual trail itself is free. You can follow the red brick line and see all 16 historic sites along the trail, many of which are free to tour. Start at the Boston Common and see free attractions like the Granary Burying Ground, the Massachusetts State House, and the King's Chapel. Each stop has its own historical plaque of information but if you desire more history, guide books, brochures, and audio tours are available for purchase and/or download.

Make sure you stop at the Faneuil Hall and Marketplace for lunch. Tour the historic landmark, stop in at the Cheers pub and restaurant - fashioned after the famous show, watch street performers, and get a little shopping in before you finish up touring.

With 16 stops, the Freedom Trail will, in all probability, eat up a full day of touring. If you don't get to all of them, cut it short before the Paul Revere House and the Old North Church and finish these two attraction up another time. Paul Revere's House costs only $3.50 for adult admission but the Old North Church is free.

Day 2:

#1: Museum of Fine Arts ($25/adult admission)

Generally considered to be one of the best art museums in the country, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston is also one of the priciest attractions. You don't want to miss out on the collections featuring works by Renaissance masters, artists from every continent, ancient artifacts, and more. Check out Gauguin, Rembrandt, 37 Monet paintings, Degas' The Little Dancer, and many more amazing pieces within their extensive exhibit collection.

Budget Tip: MoFA offers free admission certain Wednesdays after 4 pm, free admission after 3 pm daily for youths under 17, and free admission for Bank of America cardholders the first weekend of every month.

#2: Tour Cambridge

Just across the river is the small college neighborhood housing two of the country's most famous universities: Harvard and MIT. Tours of the campuses are free and tours of Harvard, in particular, are recommended for the art, history, and architecture of America's oldest campus. Also make sure you stop by Harvard Square and gather in the sights, smells, and foods of one of the city's most beloved commons.

#3: Boston National Historical Park

Though you may have seen some of the park's attractions while touring the Freedom Trail, this national historical park has extra features that further illuminate the War of Independence. Home to Boston's Naval Yard and the USS Constitution, visitors can board the ship known as Old Ironsides, see where the Boston Tea Party's effort came to fruition, and take a walking tour to see the Bunker Hill Monument and more.

The national historical park is free but the privately operated areas, like the USS Constitution tours, suggest a donation of $5-10 per adult. If you don't want to pay, you can always walk by and look on from the pier. Also, a valid ID is required to board the ship and pass security.

Day 3: 

#1: New England Aquarium ($26.95/adult admission)

A world leader in sea turtle rescue programs, the New England Aquarium is one of the best in the country when it comes to animal conservation and exhibition. With three species of sea turtle, there are thousands of rehabilitated, rescued, and otherwise cared for creatures, you can see all of your favorites plus some. See African penguins and their cute tuxedo coat look as they waddle around their enclosure, watch as sea lions are fed and perform for excited audiences, and stick out your hand to let cownose rays swim underneath, running your fingers over their backs.

#2: National Parks:

Surrounding Boston are a number of free national parks including the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, the Boston African American National Historic Site, and the JFK National Historic Sites. Each have incredible views of the forests, mountains, rolling hills, and filled with native animals alongside their own historic charms.

#3: Harborwalk and Castle Island:

The harborwalk, though it is only a public walkway along the Boston Harbor, it leads you through history and the culture of Boston as a city in general. There are plenty of recreational activities allowed at the Harbor including swimming, biking, picnicking, and so on. From this idyllic setting, follow the trail to Castle Island, home of Fort Independence and Pleasure Bay. Relax on the beach, take in the view, or take a free tour of the fort.

Other Free Attractions:

Copley Square
Concerts at the Hatch Shell
Tours of the Boston Public Library
SoWa Open Market - Sundays
Commonwealth Museums
Charles River Esplanade
Boston Public Gardens
Sam Adams Brewery Tours
Free Museum Nights: Thursdays at the Institute of Contemporary Arts