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Cheap Vacations in Expensive Tourist Resorts - Shel Horowitz's Monthly Frugal Fun Tip

Cheap Vacations in Expensive Tourist Resorts

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts is a posh resort island with a steady stream of visitors. In season, hundreds of tourists per day flock to the island's beaches, lodging houses, and restaurants. It's typical of many such resort communities all around the country, and probably the world.

Typical tourists probably spend something like $100-150 per night on lodging, $100 per day on food, and those who rent a car, probably another $30-$50 per day (or they can bring their own car on the ferry, for about $100 round trip in addition to their own passenger fares).

Dina and I just got back from a few days on the vineyard (which is why this is a few days late). We were in a splurge mood, so we didn't aim for rock bottom. Still, at $65 per night for lodging, average food costs per day of under $30 (the most expensive meals were $17 each--and that was for two of us), and $80 for three days of transportation (plus another $36 for round-trip ferry tickets), our three days and three nights cost us only $401--or $66.83 per person per day, including food, lodging, and transportation.

How'd we do it so cheaply?

Well, first of all, we did our research. Dina wrote to the local Chamber of Commerce, seeking inexpensive lodging. From the list of B&Bs they sent us, we investigated several in the lower price ranges. We found one that seemed to be a good fit for our lifestyle--in a rural village, away from the noise and crowds, yet centrally located to other attractions. $65 per night included a fabulous breakfast, and, as it turned out, our innkeepers were not only extremely friendly and helpful, but had much in common with us. (We had also contacted our local barter association, but they didn't happen to have any suitable lodging for us.)

So breakfast was taken care of. For lunch and dinner, we tried a few different strategies. We read through the ads and listings of local tourist guides, looking for places that looked inexpensive. We took one sit-down restaurant meal per day (one of which was delivered to us at our B&B because we didn't feel like getting out. One dinner--the best we had, actually--we biked to a local supermarket and piled up on the salad bar, added a bag of gourmet chips and some juice, and spent $7 ($3.50 each). Often, when we travel, we simply buy bread and cheese--or get a quick snack like pizza or bagels. This time we found an inexpensive snack bar selling things like falafel, tabouli, and hot dogs, all very reasonably priced. Another meal was from the local farmers' market, where I met B.Z., the proprietor of Charlotte's Gardens (several of you are readers of hers who signed up for this list when she and I exchanged ads). It reminded me of one of my all-time favorite travel meals--buying hot tortillas and a perfectly ripe avocado in the Mexican interior, and savoring this delicacy in an exquisite national park, under tall trees and lush foliage.

And as for transportation: we rented bikes and rode them all around the island. The bike shop owner gave us one evening free, since we showed up just before closing time. $18 each per day, plus tax, came to $75--including helmets and locks. And what marvelous bikes they were! These 21-speed hybrids could climb steep hills, stop on a dime, and make cruising a pleasure (I want one!) Makes my venerable ten-speed feel its age. The other $5 was for bus fares.

So, even in the high season, you can take a reasonably priced vacation, even in a place where almost everyone is a tourist.

PS If anyone is near Newport, Rhode Island, I found the perfect slice of pizza there, in a place called Rocco's, 124 Broadway, in a neighborhood where people who live in town go to eat (another good strategy--residential neighborhoods are cheaper and often better eating than tourist neighborhoods). this place, by the way, was only about five blocks from pricy Thames Street. I think the plain pizza was the very best I've ever had. This is a completely unsolicited testimonial.

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