Way back in the 1800’s, the island of Martha’s Vineyard began as a very modest Methodist summer camp. Over the years, more and more people from all backgrounds began to travel to the island, and it eventually transformed into a luxury destination. The island is just 8 miles from Nantucket, and many people consider it to be the more “affordable” and laid-back place of the two. Even so, going to Martha’s Vineyard is anything but cheap!
The cost of living is 60% higher than the rest of the country, so it’s far too easy to spend a fortune on your trip. Lucky for you, it’s still possible to save money, and have an amazing experience with memories to last a lifetime.
10. Go Off-Season (And Avoid Holidays)
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the island is full of people who are on their summer vacation. Prices on hotels, restaurants, gas, and attractions are all inflated to cost more than normal. If you want to have a cheaper vacation with fewer crowds, try to go in spring or early autumn. Don’t worry, there is still plenty to do. The Martha’s Vineyard Wine Festival happens every May, and the Food and Wine Festival is in October.
9. Calculate The Cheapest Way to Get to the Island
Depending on where you live, the cost of traveling to Martha’s Vineyard will vary drastically. For people who live in Massachusetts or Rhode Island, they report paying less than $20 person to take a ferry without a car.
However, if you are like me, taking a ferry would mean spending $240 round-trip from Highland, New Jersey to Martha’s Vineyard. If I wanted to take my own car, I would have to drive 12 hours before going to the Steamship Authority in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and spend an additional $137 to transport my car onto the island. That doesn’t account the gas, tolls, time, and parking. Needless to say, I wouldn’t bother taking my own car.
For anyone who lives a significant distance away, is actually cheaper and faster to get a plane to Martha’s Vineyard. Flights from New York and Philadelphia are in the $150 ballpark for a round-trip ticket, and some people have reported flights as low as $60 in the off-season.
8. Book a Room at an AirBnB or Hostel at Martha’s Vineyard
If you’re looking for a cheap hotel in Martha’s Vineyard, that’s going to be difficult. Most of the hotels on the island charge $300 a night, but they can cost upwards of $1,000 per night in some of the swankiest placer. There are a few Martha’s Vineyard motels, but they will still cost at least $100 per night. If you really want to get by the cheapest way possible, look into renting an individual bedroom on AirBnB, which will be under $100. Or, you can look into the HI Hostel, which is only $38 per bed.
7. Walk or Ride a Bicycle
Since the entire island is only 100 square miles long, many of the small towns are walkable. It’s possible for you to get a ride to where you are staying, and then spend the entire week walking. You can also rent a bicycle. The roads are bike friendly , and there are 55 miles of bike trails.
6. Take Advantage of The Bus System
One of the most important aspects of your vacation is going to be getting around Martha’s Vineyard. Public transportation is fantastic at Martha’s Vineyard, and they have busses that will pick you up just about anywhere on the island. There are also bike racks, just in case you try cycling and get too tired to make your way back to your hotel. Fares start at just $1.50 one way. For just $8 a day, you can use the bus as many times as you want.
Before you go, download the Martha’s Vineyard Transit Authority app. This will help you know how long you need to wait for your bus, and it will also help you know which stops to use for various locations on the island.
5. Visit the Natural Landscapes and Lighthouses
One of the best ways to enjoy an island vacation is to appreciate the natural scenery. After all, it’s free! There are also several historic lighthouses on the island that you can admire for free. Or, you can pay the small entry fee (Usually under $5) to tour the inside of the lighthouses.
4. Go Camping
The cheapest way to stay in Martha’s Vineyard with a group of friends is to split the cost of a camp site. At the Martha’s Vineyard Family Campground, a wooded area where you can pitch a tent is $64 per night, or you can have it reduced to $44 per night if you stay for an entire week. Log cabins are $164 per night, or $140 per night at their weekly rate. Just keep in mind that these cabins are not air conditioned, so you are still roughing it.
3. Spend a Day at the Beach
With so many different beaches on Martha’s Vineyard, you truly could spend your entire vacation trying out all of the various areas where you can lay in the sun and read a good book without a spending a ton of money. Every individual beach is going to have different rules and prices for beach tags and parking. So make sure you check ahead of time. (And don’t forget to pack your own sun screen!)
2. Go to Affordable Restaurants on Martha’s Vineyard
Since Martha’s Vineyard is a luxury vacation destination, you will find no shortage of gourmet options that will be over $100 per plate. If you are a foodie, it is an amazing place to go for lobster and other seafood specialities. But if you are on a budget, adn you want to stay in the ballpark of $10 to $15 per meal, check out Sharky’s Cantina, Mocha Motts, and Mad Martha’s. TripAdvisor has an entire list of cheap meal recommendations.
1. Visit the JAWS Bridge (And Other Free and Cheap Attractions)
Did you know that the movie JAWS was filmed in Edgartown, MA? This is part of Martha’s Vineyard. The little town is famous for being apart of the movie, and many people have a tradition of jumping off the “JAWS Bridge”. Some other ideas for free and under $10 activities are to pet Alpacas at one of the local farms, ride the Flying Horses Carousel, visit the The Vineyard Camp Meeting Museum, or attend the The Vineyard Artisans Festival.
If you enjoyed these tips, check out our guide to Long Beach Island on a budget.