Boston is a city on most people’s United States travel bucket list, steeped in history and culture. However, Boston is also one of North America’s most expensive places to travel.
The high cost of visiting Boston is primarily associated with accommodation. The city’s busy events calendar and high real estate prices make budget-friendly hotels here hard to find.
Fortunately, there are ways to save. Compromises on when you travel, how you travel, where you stay and what you eat will make a difference. This way, you can experience the best that the lively city of Boston has to offer without breaking the bank.
Boston Trip Budget Calculator
This calculator has been designed to help provide you with an idea as to how much a trip to Boston will cost. The amount is based on the number of adults and children as well as your level of travel.
A more detailed explanation of cost estimates that have been used to create this calculator is broken down in detail below.
This estimate covers accommodation, transportation, food, attractions, and miscellaneous expenses. It does not include the cost of transport to Boston.
1. Explore Boston in the Off-Season
With so many significant events throughout the year, Boston’s off-season can be hard to find. The Boston Marathon, Red Sox games and college graduations all increase the cost of visiting the city.
During the winter months of November to April, Boston experiences some of the United States coldest weather. These harsh weather conditions deter tourists who prefer the warmth of summer or the colours of fall.
Fewer tourists in Boston mean lower prices, especially on variable expenses such as airfare and hotels. Not only that, but the city’s attractions are less crowded, allowing you to enjoy popular places without long queues.
2. Boston’s Best & Cheapest Neighbourhoods
Selecting the right neighbourhood for affordable Boston accommodation is crucial, but some neighbourhoods may require a longer commute to major attractions.
That being said, this slightly longer commute can often be a worthwhile trade-off for big accommodation discounts. Some of the best, budget-friendly neighbourhoods in Boston to consider include:
- Allston-Brighton: Known for its student population, you’ll find many affordable options for accommodation.
- Jamaica Plain: Another budget-friendly area with local attractions such as the Arnold Arboretum.
- Mission Hill: This neighbourhood is near the University and Longwood Medical area.
3. Boston’s Hotel Alternatives
High real-estate prices in Boston mean that most hotels in the city carry a pretty hefty price tag. However, there are a few lower-priced options for travellers willing to give up a little space and privacy.
Some of the most popular accommodation alternatives in Boston include:
- HI Boston: I stayed here on my first trip to Boston in 2016. The central location is fantastic, and the shared kitchen makes for cheap meals.
- Oasis Guesthouse: This idyllic brownstone home offers rooms with shared and private bathrooms.
- Revolution Hotel: The rooms here are small. However, guests can also benefit from free bike hire.
Budget-friendly hotel alternatives in Boston are incredibly popular. Therefore, you’ll want to book early to avoid disappointment.
4. Maximising Discounts & Deals
Finding budget-friendly accommodation in Boston is more than just the neighbourhood or hotel you stay in. Instead, there are a couple of other tips and tricks that can reduce your costs further:
- Compare prices: Websites like Kayak, Booking.com and Expedia all list the same hotels. However, selected platforms offer cheaper prices or better promotional offers.
- Search for discounts: Students, seniors and AAA members may be eligible for exclusive discounts.
- Book in advance: Early bookings can help you save money. However, feel free to look for last-minute deals in case a better option comes along.
5. Take the T
The cost of travelling around Boston doesn’t need to be expensive. The city boasts a fantastic public transport network that’s easy to navigate and affordable.
Public transport in Boston comprises buses, subway lines, and commuter rail and is run by the MBTA, commonly known as the T. A single ride on the T in Boston starts from $2.40 for a one-way fare to $22.50 for a 7-day pass.
Navigating the city using the T is cost-effective and convenient. The subway has four lines: Red, Orange, Green, and Blue. Meanwhile, the Silver Line is a bus service that connects you to South Station and Logan Airport.
When travelling to the airport using the T, allow plenty of time for cancellations or delays.
You should arrive at Boston Logan Airport at least 2 hours before a domestic flight and at least 3 hours before an international flight.
6. Walking & Cycling Through Boston
Walking and cycling are great alternatives to public transport in Boston. Most of the city’s major attractions are within a 2-square-mile square. Meanwhile, neighbourhoods are connected by open green spaces and parks.
For slightly longer distances, check out Boston’s bike-sharing program, BlueBikes.
There are hundreds of BlueBike stations in Downtown Boston and neighbouring towns. Meanwhile, borrowing a bike costs just $2.95 for a single ride (up to 30 minutes) or $10 for a 24-hour pass.
Most Boston locals will tell you that the city is terrible for driving, and they are not wrong. In fact, you can often walk between locations here quicker than you can drive.
Terrible traffic, difficult navigation, and limited parking make hiring a car in Boston a headache.
7. Boston’s Best Free & Low-Cost Attractions
Visiting Boston on a budget doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice having a fantastic trip. The city has many free and low-cost attractions that will make your visit memorable.
- Freedom Trail: One of the most popular attractions in Boston is walking the Freedom Trail. The Freedom Trail takes you to 16 historic sites within the city, including the Massachusetts State House, Paul Revere’s House, and the USS Constitution.
- Boston Common: The oldest city park in the United States boasts beautiful green spaces to relax and enjoy the city.
- Fenway Park: It is home to the Boston Red Sox and offers daily guided tours for just $21.
- Faneuil Hall: This famous market played a pivotal role in Boston’s history and offers plenty of shops, free entertainment,
- Quincy Market: This food hall has more than 50 different vendors for you to choose from.
- Museum of Science: This science museum and indoor zoo offers free exhibits and low-cost entry fees.
To save more on museums, get a Boston CityPASS. This pass offers discounted admission to several of Boston’s famous attractions.
Did you know? Boston is one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly cities in the United States. I have travelled to Boston independently as a masc presenting lesbian and with my wife and received no form of discrimination.
8. Budget-Friendly Boston Eats
Boston offers excellent food, but it can be expensive. Thankfully, finding affordable dining options that won’t break the bank in Boston is possible.
For delicious cheap eats, I recommend following the students. Boston is a college city, and if anyone knows where to get fantastic budget-friendly food, it’s hungry students.
Time Out Market Boston in Fenway is one of the most popular spots. There are 15 different outlets here, most of which are concessions of independent Boston restaurants.
Consider trying Boston’s street food scene for a more casual dining experience. The city boasts mouthwatering options like lobster rolls, clam chowder, and roast beef sandwiches. These street eats save you money and offer a more authentic taste of the local cuisine.
Alternatively, check out some of Boston’s best food trucks. These mobile eateries offer various dishes, from gourmet burgers to fresh seafood and ethnic cuisine. Food trucks often congregate in popular areas like the SOWA Open Market, the Greenway, and various university campuses.
Meanwhile, if you’re into craft beer, visit the Sam Adams Brewery and Harpoon Brewery to taste Boston’s finest brews.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have more budget-related questions about visiting Boston? Here are some of the most frequently asked questions visitors have.
Is Boston a Cheap Place to Visit?
Boston is one of the most expensive places to visit in the United States. However, there are several ways you can enjoy an affordable break in the city. From visiting in the off-season to opting for free or inexpensive attractions.
What Is the Cheapest Month to Go to Boston?
The cheapest month to go to Boston is January. The city’s harsh winters put off tourists. This results in more affordable accommodation and airfare and fewer crowds.
What is the Cheapest Way to Get Around Boston?
The cheapest way to get around Boston is to walk. Most of the city’s major attractions are within a 2-mile square. However, the T is a budget-friendly travel method if you want to go further.