Frugal and Free City Travel: Transport Tips from the Duchess Herself
Getting from one place to another presents a challenge in any city. When you progress from tourist to resident on a budget, things get even more . . . shall we say, interesting? For figuring out free and low cost city transportation, nobody finds better deals than Sharon Rosenberg, the Frugal Duchess and author of the hot new book by the same name. So I gave her a call.
As predicted, she seriously came through. Here's her list of insider suggestions for figuring out free and frugal transportation options in nearly any major city here in the U.S. Bonus? She even had some ideas for rolling with the unexpected and avoiding stress induced logistical meltdowns.
- Free trip planners for mass metro transit. While Sharon's home base of Miami has had this option for a while, they've apparently teamed up with other cities on this Google transit site to allow people to plan trips within various major United States cities, and a few others around the world. Miami has this cool feature built in to their transit site which will allow you to view via your hand held mobile device the time of the next train's arrival, just in case you miss your connection. Or, you can print out some schedules ahead of time and keep them in page protectors to reference in case of delays.
- Employer subsidized transit passes. OK, so you have to work for a major big wig to score this deal. But I still say Sharon is really on to something here. These mega corporations employ tons of people. If you're one of them, check into their transportation subsidy programs for employees. It's a huge financial help to you and an affordable job benefit for them to provide. Definitely a win-win situation.
- University shuttles in major cities. These are almost always free for the riding, and Sharon has recently used this service successfully for her entire family while out and about on her book tour. In her case, she was a guest of the university making a public appearance, but consider trying this out for yourself while touring a new metro area. Often these shuttles have regular routes to and from major tourist destinations and other transportation hubs. And do I really need to remind anyone just how much free rocks?
- Seasonal or monthly mass transit passes. Basically, this is bulk buying for on-the-move city folks. Super deals are available if you are not just in town as a tourist needing a day pass. Getting bulk passes for bus rides, train trips and subways is a great way to get bang for your buck.
- Take advantage of the hotel shuttle service. This is why I value Sharon's input so much. I thought these things were for back and forth to their airport only. Wrong. Apparently, many hotels have shuttle service to various large tourist attractions as well. Got an entire family? Even a generous tip to the shuttle driver is way cheaper than bus tickets for a family with four children. The Frugal Duchess recently used this in a couple of different major cities and calculated that even the savings from traveling to one destination a day came out to around a twenty dollar savings for her family. Doing a morning run, an afternoon activity and heading out for dinner? This can rack up major bucks in a hurry. I know the next time I'm trying out a new city, I'll trying this tip out for sure.
- Creative use of airport shuttles. Hotels aren't the only ones with shuttle services. Now, going from airport to airport, or catching a shuttle from your door to the departure terminal might not be free, but is is way cheaper than a cab. A true story Sharon told me about a woman she met during her book promotional travels? The city this woman was flying into had two airports. One had a much cheaper air fare to travel to than the other, but was further away via ground transport than the other, which would apparently have affected the cost. So she took the airport to airport shuttle (which was in this case free), and then snagged the drive-you-to-your-door shuttle from the closer airport. Another example Sharon shared was a situation where catching two airport shuttle vans in a row with an airport in between can often get you where want to go cheaper than flying or driving yourself. Bonus? You get dropped directly at your door. How cool is that?
There you have it, insider tips for saving money on city transportation. Got a great savings tip for a major world city or an across the board mass transit strategy? Share the love, people. We all need fresh ideas for savings these days, myself included. Have a great weekend, everybody!