Free MBTA Rides on July 4, 2013 after 9:30pm

Free MBTA Rides

If you are planning to ride the MBTA on July 4, 2013 after 9:30pm do not pay your fare– rides on the MBTA will be free!

People are encouraged to take public transportation to and from July 4, 2013 activities and the commuter rail times will be pushed back slightly later. Also, random bag inspections are expected to occur on the Fourth as well as heighten security.

For more information about free rides, security measures, updated schedules, and more, please visit the MBTA website here or this article from CBS Local.

 

Boston Third Most Expensive U.S. City to Visit + Tips to Lower Travel Costs

Boston Picture

I returned from vacation last week and while I was away I read an interesting article that Boston is among the most expensive U.S. cities to visit… third to be exact, losing only to Honolulu and New York City.

This insight is thanks to Trip Advisor and their 2013 TripIndex report which compares prices from each city from four categories to determine which destinations where the most and least expensive to visit. They compared prices for between cities for a one-night hotel stay, taxi cab ride, 2-course dinner with wine, and cocktails between each city.

Here is the breakdown for Boston:

  • One-Night Hotel Stay for Two at a Four-Star Hotel: $351.79
  • Roundtrip Taxi: $18.80
  • Two-Course Dinner with wine: $76.33
  • Cocktails for Two: $26.67
  • Total: $473.59

Ouch. I spent less than that for 6 days for two people within the United States on my very recent vacation. (Granted I did use my air miles to fly and stayed with family), but still… $473.59 can be a lot of money, especially for one night of vacation, which doesn’t include a flight or Boston parking.

I wanted to share a few tips to bring down travel costs to help those who are visiting Boston in the near future or live in Boston and want a staycation and/or are trying to convince friends and family to come visit at a reasonable price.

Here are some tips to make a one-night visit to Boston much more budget-friendly:

Tips to Save Money on Hotel Costs

  • Be flexible with your dates to find the best hotel rates. Hotel rates in Boston can vary a lot depending on season and what conferences or events are happening in the city.
  • Book a conference hotel on a weekend or a luxury resort during the week to receive the best hotel rates
  • Figure out what’s included or not included in the desired hotel and what makes sense for your individual (or family) needs (Do you need to pay for parking; how much a night? What are your means of transportation around the city; walking, public transit, etc.? Is breakfast or kitchenette included to help save on food costs? How about wi-fi?)
  • Daily deal sites like Groupon, LivingSocial, and more have dipped into the travel deals, and sometimes you can score great deals through a daily deal voucher. Travel deals through these sites often change mid-week and last 7-10 days and have certain restrictions. (But read this USA Today article first and be careful since not all deals are good deals).
  • Priceline: If you are looking for any special hotel accommodations and are just looking to sleep at a great price, priceline may be a good fit. You do need to place a credit card down before you book, and are stuck with what you get. However, websites like betterbidding.com can help you bid better and smarter.
  • Shop around. Prices can change as well as hotel availability. Try a few different booking sites or use a travel aggregator to help narrow down the options to find the best rate. Some booking sites may show no availability for an affordable hotel whereas another site may have it available at a rate in your budget.
  • Find a hotel alternative. Hotels aren’t for everyone or in everyone’s price range. Couchsurfing, Hostels or renting out a room through Airbnb may be a better option for you as well as a vacation rentals through HomeAway.com or VRBO.
  • Don’t forget… If you book your travel online, book your hotel (and more) through cashback sites like Ebates and Shop At Home where you can get a percentage back from your sale! (For example, if you bid $150 for 2 nights for $300+ total on Priceline and Ebates offer 5% cashback from Priceline, you would receive a $15 check afterwards from Ebates for just taking the 5 seconds beforehand to be redirected from their site!) Every penny counts, right!?

Tips to save on Roundtrip Taxi:

  • Take Advantage of Boston’s Innovation and try a car-sharing or driver service, which can be requested with a touch of your smartphone and often is cheaper than a taxi. Below are some taxi alternatives, and discounts, when possible.
    • Uber: Use promo code uberBudget to score a free $10 credit, or try UBERx which is Uber’s cheaper alternative. (Update: LivingSocial has a UberX daily deal available: $2 for $20 credit for new customers only)
    • Lyft: Use promo code BOSBUDGET at sign-up to score a free $20 credit (expires at the end of June)

Using one of these taxi alternatives is a great way to save on (and avoid) taking a taxi during your trip. Heck, you may even score free transportation, which is much better than $18.80 for a taxi ride any day.

Tips to Save on Dinner for Two (with 2-courses and Wine):

  • Eat or have a snack before heading out to dinner to crave and order less, which helps keep the bill at a minimum
  • Eat appetizer specials at the bar before going out to main dinner or eat a few appetizer deals instead of having a full dinner
  • Dine early to take advantage of early bird specials or dine at the bar to grab a bar only deal
  • Check out Boston On Budget’s Cheap Eats page to help navigate the best deals for every day of the week in Boston and Cambridge
  • Enjoy Boston Restaurant Week which is the last two weeks in August (excluding Saturdays) and two weeks in March. Two-course lunches are $15.13, three-course lunches are $20.13 and three-course dinners are $38.13 for Boston Restaurant Week 2013.
  • Buy a daily deal voucher from Groupon, LivingSocial, Travelzoo and more to help reduce, often in half!
  • Restaurant.com is a great way to save at local restaurants and work similar to daily deals, but they don’t have expiration dates. New vouchers also update at the beginning of each month if inventory is low.
  • Check out the GoPapaya smartphone app which lets you save up to 30% at local restaurants when they have open tables they want to fill

Cocktails for Two:

Okay, is $1 Bud Light Drafts at Coogans comparable to sipping cocktails at a Five Star bar with a tab of $26.67? No? Darn. I hate to be the barrier of bad news but Boston doesn’t have a proper Happy Hour because discounting liquor is illegal in Massachusetts. (We do use the word happy hour for discounted food though). However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get affordable… Bud Light at bars.

Yes. I rambled on FOREVER… sorry about that. What hotel, taxi/transportation, dining, and cocktail tips (or questions) do you have?!?

Do you think Trip Advisor is on par with the $473.59 for a night out in Boston??

*Disclaimer: A few links in the above post are affiliate links. Please see my disclaimer policy here.

 

Grab a $20 Credit from Lyft through the End of June!

Lyft New Logo

Update: New users can receive a free $10 credit when you sign up through a friend.

Lyft is Boston’s newest car-sharing app, which allows you to get picked up by a friendly driver with a touch of a button via smartphone. Lyft just expanded to Boston and is currently offering a $20 credit for new users when you use promo code BOSBUDGET valid for the month of June!

This past weekend I downloaded the app, and went out on the town and gave Lyft a try! Here’s a few things that I liked and learned about Lyft through my experience, and first a few things to note when setting up an account:

  • Lyft is available for download on iPhones and Android phones
  • Link your Facebook account with Lyft to create a profile (Must use Facebook for an account)
  • You must upload your credit card information when you set-up an account
  • Below the credit card line is the promo code line where you can enter BOSBUDGET promo code (I missed it the first time around, but was able to add a promo code a few minutes later no problem)

I’m not going to lie: I didn’t like the fact that my only option was signing up with my Facebook account at first. I like to keep my personal Facebook personal as much as possible. However, Lyft didn’t post anything to my Facebook page, which was nice. I did notice that my driver was able to see my Facebook picture, and I received a confirmation e-mail through the same e-mail my Facebook account is signed up with, which was fine by me.

I signed up for an account on Lyft before leaving my place, and it only took a few minutes to set up an account. Requesting a ride from Lyft was even quicker and easier than setting up an account. Here’s how to get a ride home from Lyft after the account is created:

  • Open Lyft App, and it will show your current location
  • Hit request Lyft at the bottom
  • It will ask: Confirm Lyft Request and hit yes (only if you are ready for the ride)
  • Your ride is on its way!

Once I hit yes, I received a picture of my driver and the driver’s car to look for. The time estimation was there as well as the exact location of the driver on the map so we could track the progress. (It took 7 minutes for us). We saw our driver come around the corner and I received a text from Lyft letting me know he had arrived right when he pulled up! We hoped into the car, and I sat in the front seat. It was such a nice and easy way to get home from the bar (er, I mean the Art Gallery) on a Saturday night. Oh, and, my driver was awesome. I felt like I was chatting with a friend and not a cabbie.

The rates for Lyft work on a time/mileage formula that isn’t advertised so I was a little unsure what the exact rate for my trip would be since Lyft prides themselves on being cheaper than a Taxi. Lyft also works as a suggested donation so you do not have to pay the rate it is suggested, especially if you feel like service did not coincide with suggested rate. All payment is made directly through the credit card linked to the account, and you are charged after you ride. No cash is needed or exchange of money with the driver. I received a bill with my suggested donation pretty quickly once exiting my ride, and then received a receipt after I paid my bill with a click or two. I think that’s how it worked, like I said, I visited the Art Gallery that night, so my memory is a little blurry… from all that beautiful artwork, ya know.

I took Lyft pretty far since I wanted to experiment and see how far $20 could get me. I went about 10-11 miles (during a low traffic time) and my suggested donation was $26.00, before my $20 credit. $6.00 to travel 10-something miles and get in my bed in half the time had I taken the MBTA home. Score.

The free $20 credit is good until the end of June with promo code BOSBUDGET. As you can tell from my adventure, $20 should get you pretty far. If you don’t use the entire credit, you can also use it towards your next ride!

I was really impressed with Lyft. I was a little weary a first with setting up the account with Facebook, but that was the hardest part, which wasn’t too hard. I really enjoyed “hailing” Lyft with my app and had a great ride home. I hope you have a chance to try it!

What do you think? Have you tried Lyft before? Will you try Lyft in the future!?

Disclosure: I received credit from Lyft and decided to try Lyft before sharing the $20 promo code with you. All thoughts and opinions of Lyft are my own.

 

Celeste-A-Thon on Monday, May 13th Trimming to Raise Funds

Celeste-A-Thon

If you need a haircut or some beauty treatments done, please consider doing so next Monday, May 13th. On 5/13/13 there will be a Celeste-A-Thon to support Celeste and her daughter Sydney who were severely injured at the Marathon. Celeste has been a stylist on Newbury Street for several years and her salon as well as many in the area are cutting hair to raise funds for Celeste and her family!

Please click here to find a participating salon and for more information. Many of the Salons & Spas are donating 100% of the proceeds, so it’s a great day to get a haircut, especially if you frequent a salon on the list anyway!

Thanks, Boston Bachelorette for the blog post inspiration.

Free Meter Parking in the Back Bay through April 28, 2013!

freeparkingboston

Yesterday Mayor Menino announced free meter parking in the Back Bay through Sunday, April 28, 2013 to encourage people to return and support Boylston Street shops and restaurants. The free parking will be from Arlington Street to Mass Ave, as well as meter spots adjacent to the Public Gardens.

So return Back to the Back Bay, grab a free meter parking spot, and use the money saved on parking to tip your server a little extra this weekend, and then some if you can swing it.

To find a list of the open and closed restaurants in the Back Bay, please click here.

 

Day of Prayer and Healing

Boston Strong

Wow, what a crazy and emotional week it has been; and it hasn’t even been a full week yet since Monday’s tragedy. I saw this note on my twitter feed this morning from Mayor Menino’s office and wanted to share it. The title of the letter is: Day of Prayer and Healing, which inspired the title of my blog post. Let’s take care of ourselves, reflect on this crazy week, and never forget those we lost & hurt, and those who kept us safe this week.

For those needing a little extra support this week, the staff from the Public Health Commission will be able today from 10-2pm at 617-534-5050 for counseling as well as Monday-Friday 9-5pm. The Red Cross also has a disaster hotline at 1-800-985-5990.

Hope everyone has a better week, and take care of yourselves.