Sure, there are different strategies for saving money on tourist attractions…
But what it really boils down to is this:
Research in advance.
Exploring your options to see if there are any coupons, discounts or vouchers available for the attractions you are planning to visit can go a long way.
Timing is also important. Because buying your tickets in advance can end up saving both money and time.
Here are some strategies to consider before taking off to your destination.
If you are planning to visit a major centre, the odds are good that there are coupon books available for tourist attractions in the area.
When I visited New York City two years ago, I bought the NYC City Pass from Costco – which gives access to a lot of the top tourist attractions that the city has to offer.
The pass is a group of vouchers that you can exchange to get access to many of the top destinations within the city. Cost is $140. But not only we were able to skip lining up for every single venue to get tickets…
Depending on how many attractions you visit – and which ones you visit – you can generally save around 20% from the ticket prices at the gate. More information on it can be found here.
Read the fine print
When buying any coupon book you’ll want to read the fine print.
For the NYC City Pass, the main drawback is that it’s valid for only a certain period.
The one I used was valid for three days which begins when you receive it from the pick-up location in NYC.
The pass (and any other similar coupon book) wouldn’t be worth it unless you planned on visiting about three main attractions per day. That means your days will be full of visiting only the attractions it is valid for, all within a certain time frame.
If you want to go slower, then the time-restricted coupon books may not be worth the cost.
Checklist before buying a coupon book
Before buying any time-restricted coupon book you’ll want to do some quick research on:
- Which venues the book is valid for?
- What the time restrictions are (if any?)
- What the cost of each venue is at the gate? Is it cheaper to just pay the gate price? (Likely not, but you’ll want to verify.)
Also other coupon books can usually be found in:
- The hotel lobby (if staying at a hotel),
- Tourist information booths and tourist information kiosks.
Some hotels offer coupon books to guests when they check in, so you’ll want to make sure you ask if any are available.
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Time Your Visit
Another strategy on saving money at tourist attractions is to time your visits so you go during off-peak hours.
Some of the most popular tourist attractions offer discounted rates for those who visit:
- Early morning, or
- Late evening.
Some museums even offer free admission on certain dates/times. So when planning your trip:
Do a quick research on the sites you want to visit to see if they offer cheaper rates on certain dates or times.
When I travelled to Europe I was able to save about 20% on admission to some art museums by visiting them in the evening rather than during the middle of the day.
Companies try to give tourists an incentive to visit during off peak hours when it’s less busy, but this might not be ideal for your schedule.
Group Buying Sites
Most people know to check out their local group buying websites for deals, but have you ever considered checking out deals in other cities when travelling?
Depending on the city there may be a huge selection of deals available for cities you’ll be visiting.
The nice thing is you can purchase the voucher beforehand online, and bring a printed copy without having to worry about finding WIFI while travelling to make the purchase.
Sites such as Retail Me Not specialize in deals, vouchers and coupon codes for major companies and tourist attractions.
Find out if there are any attractions you can book online – and if there are, make sure you do a quick google search to see if there are any promo codes available to reduce the cost of admission.
When visiting New York, I managed to save $5 per person off the regular admission price by booking online and using a promo code.
This strategy worked so well that I booked almost all tourist attractions online before leaving home. And I made sure I used promo codes whenever I could find them.
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If you truly want to get a feel for what a city is like, I would recommend a group walking tour.
Walking tours are available in most major cities in North America and Europe that offer a deep history. For example, New York City offers a walking tour of the Financial District.
Walking tours may be more appealing because:
- You get to see more sights than visiting one museum, and
- The guides are usually quite knowledgeable and can answer many different questions about the city and they offer a chance to get some physical activity.
They are also sometimes cheaper – since there is minimal staff and usually a large group of tourists, costs are usually reasonable compared to nearby museums or other attractions.
When researching tourist attractions in a foreign city, make sure you check for group or association discounts.
For example, you may be able to save by showing your CAA card or that you belong to a professional membership.
They may also have student rates so it’s always a good idea to bring your student card if you are currently a student.
The Bottom Line
Saving money on tourist attractions in a foreign city doesn’t have to be hard and basically means doing some quick research before you go.
You’ll want to know the range of prices, whether you can use discounts or coupons, and if visiting during off-peak hours can save you money.