Cheap Charlotte – { What to do in Charlotte on a Budget }

Ok, so you want to plan a trip to Charlotte on a budget. Is it possible? Yes completely! Charlotte has a lot of free and inexpensive activities for families, you just have to know where to find them. Here are some resources to help you find deals when travelling to Charlotte. Not on a budget? That’s OK too… why not save money anyways on the places that you are already visiting! Or save money on your food so you can do some more of the attractions that you want to see?

Tips for Budget Travel {Charlotte or Anywhere}

  • Plan ahead – Research the area and see what areas have cheaper hotel rates, find out what nights restaurants in the area have “Kids Eat Free” nights, get on Groupon or Living Social a month before (and check regularly) for activities that you may want to do while you’re there, check out the Visitors Authority website to see if they have any special offers or coupon books that they can send you
  • Don’t be afraid to drive – Sometimes you may have to stay or eat outside of your destination to get a better deal
  • Don’t forget to ask for discounts – Are you a veteran? A fire fighter? A student? Member of AAA? Get in the habit of asking because they don’t always advertise discounts
  • Go off Season – If you are going to a beach destination or somewhere that has a seasonal crowd, go a week or two off season, either before or after and you will save a lot of money. We went with our family a few years ago to Ocean City, Maryland two weeks before Memorial Day and it was half the price than in-season. The weather was just as nice and we had a great time!
  • Don’t always go with the Cheapest Hotel – this is a vortex that I have been sucked into one too many times. I used to look at the bottom line, when I really should be looking at the amenities. We found two hotels on the last trip that we liked. One was $10 more than the other – so which one did we choose? The more expensive one… Why? It was a newer hotel which advertises comfort beds (with my bad back that is worth a million dollars), free wifi (not a $7.99 charge like the other) and a HOT continental breakfast (which would save us about $20-$25 from going to a restaurant for breakfast) and we brought some yogurts and fruit from the continental breakfast and used it to eat lunch in our room (saving us another $20 for a light lunch). In theory we actually saved more by staying at the more expensive hotel with better amenities than in the cheap one.
Resources for Saving Money on Your Charlotte Trip
Saving Money on Restaurants
  • If you are eating at a chain restaurant, check out Surviving the Stores Restaurant Coupon Database. This is where planning ahead will help you. You can print out some that you may want to eat at before you go. Also, most larger chain hotels like Comfort Inn and Holiday Inn Express will have a complimentary office area that you may be able to use to print.
  • Stock up on cheap Restaurant.com Certificates when they go on sale (sometimes as low as $2 per $25 certificate) and then use them on your trip. We had a few and with the new Restaurant.com app you can store these on your phone and if the restaurant allows, you can redeem them through your mobile phone. They usually have a minimum of $35 bill to be able to use the $25 certificate, however, if you got that certificate for just a few dollars, you are getting a great deal!
  • Look for restaurants where kids eat free (buffets are great for this). Golden Corral was a great deal on our trip. Monday-Thursday their buffet was 2 people for $20 and kids 3 and under ate free. So we filled our bellies for $20 plus drinks, tax and tip. You can search for Charlotte restaurants that have kids eat free deals easily by using My Kids Eat Free.
  • Eat a big lunch.. Lunch is usually cheaper so make your big meal lunch and have light breakfast (either the continental free at your hotel or bring your own cereal for a free breakfast) and a light dinner
  • Other Sites to find coupons for restaurants and food  Visitor Value Pass Charlotte, {CRVA} Charlotte Got A Lot Special Offers360 Charlotte (click on Coupons)Valpak (various coupons for Charotte and can search surrounding areas, too), Coupon Clipper
Saving Money on Attractions
  • Look for free admission times at the attraction you would like to see. For example, if you visit Charlotte on the first weekend of the month, Bank of America will cover your admission (with a Bank of America credit or debit card) to Mint Museum, Levine Museum of the New South, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Harvey B Gantt Center for African American Education. You can find out more information at Museums on Us HERE
  • Look for attractions that offer free admission all the time. You can find a great list including Gallery L at the PLCMC, UNC Botanical Gardens and more HERE. You can also find a comprehensive weekly listing of what free events are going on in Charlotte at Charlotte on the Cheap 
  • Look for half price admission deals on sites like Groupon, Living Social, etc. You can see a listing on all deal sites for Charlotte at Charlotte on the Cheap
  • Ask the hotel you are staying at if they have discount cards or coupon booklets or you can order the Charlotte Citi Pass HERE. The book costs $15 but is chock full of coupons from hundreds of restaurant, stores, and attractions all over Charlotte. Chances are you will recoup the cost and then some!
  • Other Sites to find coupons/discounts for attractions  Visitor Value Pass Charlotte, {CRVA} Charlotte Got A Lot Special Offers, 360 Charlotte (click on Coupons), Valpak (various coupons for Charotte and can search surrounding areas, too), Coupon Clipper
  • If there is an attraction you must see no matter what the cost, check out their website for deals and offers or google the name plus coupons. You just may find a coupon for it. Also, ask if there are any discounts.. Did you know the NASCAR Hall of Fame gives a free simulator ride to AAA members?
Other Resources
  • Check out my 7 Must Have Road Trip Travel Apps  and other travel tip articles (some will find you cheap parking or gas)
  • Check out my reviews of the Lazy 5 Ranch, The Nascar Hall, Discovery Place and Queen City Q HERE
P.S Make sure that you download the 2012 Charlotte Official Visitor Guide and their App for Iphone HERE for FREE:)
** Special thanks to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority for helping us out a lot during this trip to make sure that we got a great taste of Charlotte! We loved it here and can’t wait to come back! Make sure that you show them some love at their website Charlotte’s Got Alot, Twitter, and Facebook.
Topsail Beach NC

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