Traveling to Charleston on a budget
Dreaming of visiting this beautiful historic city but not loving the cost? While its true that a trip to Charleston can be expensive, its also completely doable on a budget. Here are some tips to see Charleston for less
Travel during the off-season
Thanks to Charleston’s generally mild climate, visiting in the off season doesn’t mean you’ll have to bundle up in layers to enjoy your vacation. Temperatures on average drop to the 50s during December-February and aside from Valentine’s Day, you’ll find lower crowds and much less expensive hotels.
Stay during the week
If you can swing it, staying during the week can save you some serious cash on accommodations. For example, while we love the Francis Marion hotel on King St for a downtown stay, it can set you back a pretty penny. However if you can manage staying during the week, you can save close to $100 (or more if you’re lucky) on this beautiful hotel.
Stay outside the city
We recently visited Charleston during(what we didn’t realize) was a very in- demand season. The spring brings in crowds of tourists coming to admire the beautiful blooms scattered throughout the city. And along with it, comes the higher priced hotels. By staying in Mount Pleasant, we were literally less than 10 minutes from Charleston for about half the cost.
Head to the Beach
One of my favorite things about Charleston is that there are so many beautiful beaches. Folly Beach, Isle of Palms, Kiawah Island, Sullivan’s Island and Seabrook Island all offer different atmospheres and activities, but if you love sand between your toes, they’re all a great way to escape the city, get some sun and relax. Pack yourself a picnic and enjoy the beauty of these beaches for next to nothing. You might have to pay for parking but the serenity here is free. Find your perfect Charleston beach here.
Take the Trolley
Parking is a huge problem in Charleston, especially when its crowded. There’s not a lot of it and it can be expensive. Luckily, Charleston is a very walkable city that also offers a free trolley to get you around if needed. Find yourself a reasonable parking space and take the trolley to your next destination.
Take a free walking Tour
Free Tours by Foot offers, well, you guessed it, free walking tours. We recommend a walking tour of the city when you visit. It’s a large city, with lots of things to see and taking a tour will give you a good idea of the layout of the city, a little history and an insight to things you might want to check out later on your own. Not a group tour person? You can also download the Historic Walking Tour of Charleston app for $4.99 that gives you a self guided audio tour of the city.
Enjoy the free things!
While you may not realize it, there’s a lot of free stuff to do throughout the city! Take a walk to the most photographed place in Charleston, Rainbow Row, to see the pretty pastel colored row homes; head to waterfront park to see the pineapple fountain, watch dolphins play in the harbor and get a great view of the Arthur Ravenel Jr bridge; take a walk over the bridge itself for a whole new view of Cooper River; head to King St. for some window shopping(or real shopping if you’re not on a budget)
There are so many fun things to do in Charleston without spending a dime and blowing your budget, you can easily get away with spending a few days exploring the city and only paying for parking. Oh yeah, and food…..which brings me to my next point
Plan your food
Charleston is truly a foodie destination. At one point, walking along East Bay, I realized the incredible over-abundance of restaurants. There’s a lot of ‘em. If you’re specifically in Charleston for the foodie experience, then live it up. They’ve got great food and so many choices, you won’t be disappointed.
However, if you’re looking to spend less, the food can really blow your budget. Research ahead of time what meals you’re willing to splurge on and which ones you’d prefer not to. You can find some really great choices for less, but they’re not exactly the most obvious. A little research beforehand will go a long way!
Head to the Visitor’s Center
Is there something specific you want to see/do but are trying to figure out how to experience it for less? Head to the Visitor’s Center and you might be able to find a discount for it! With loads of brochures available for area attractions, they also have a wide variety of coupons for attractions, restaurants and tours. You might also be able to find these coupons at your hotel as well, just ask your concierge!