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Hobbies on a Budget: How to plan a city tour

By Sharon Williams

Contributing columnist

We love to travel. Taking a long road trip is one of our favorite vacations. Sometimes it’s fun to just hop in the car and see where the road takes you, but when we are planning one of our famous road trips and city tours, it’s important to do some preplanning. Here are some planning tools and resources to help you plan your next city tour.

Whether you are visiting one of the big cities like New York City or are planning to head to a smaller area like Frankfort, the key to a successful city tour is a little bit of planning. Over the past few years, our family has had the opportunity to visit many of the tourist destination cities; but we’ve also ventured off the beaten path and found some smaller cities that are worthy of some time well spent. But how do you discover what is there to see and figure out how to make the most of your time in each city?

Do your research:  One of the most important parts of any city tour is the beginning research. Are you planning an epic road trip through many states and across many miles or do you have a more specific destination in mind? Do you have a specific date in mind?  There are some times of year that offer cheaper hotels, less dense crowds or better scenery.  If your dates are flexible, then consider going during the off season.

Ask the right questions to the right people: The first thing I do when I decide on a destination is to call the visitor center. That is the #1 best way to find out the inside scoop on the area and a great way to find out if there are any special events happening during your time in that city. They can steer you toward the best areas of town for lodging options and can direct you to the best options for tickets, transportation tips and places to eat.

We also like to talk to the people we personally know who have lived in that city. Are there travel tricks to getting around rush hour traffic? Are there neighborhoods that are traditionally known for their shady activities that we should avoid? Where is the best place to get coffee and a donut? Locals know these things!

Figure out your budget: Decide if it is cheaper to stay in a hotel outside the city and take public transportation or be right in the thick of things near the destinations you plan to explore. When we toured Boston last summer, we stayed about 15 miles outside the city and rode the subway into town. This was a much cheaper option than staying in the hotels downtown near the historic destinations we wanted to explore.

Another cost saving option is taking advantage of the hotel’s complimentary breakfast. Many of the hotels will include this in your room fee.

Opt to only eat out once a day if possible and snack through the other meal. Whether you choose to eat lunch or dinner at a restaurant, decide what works best for your family’s schedule and then plan ahead so you can save some money on food.

Write it down: If you’re like me, I have to have things written down so I can remember the important details. I like keeping all my important information in one place so I can access it from anywhere. Things like travel contacts, ticket information, admission times, confirmation numbers and travel tips go straight into a paper planner.

Get coupons: Look for the Entertainment book or restaurant coupons for the area where you will be visiting.  If you can find coupons for the local restaurants you will save money and be able to stretch your dollars.

Want more resources and tips?  Go to Hobbies on a Budget and find links to resources as well as printable checklists to help make your city tour planning easier!  www.hobbiesonabudget.com