Nantucket Island is known for being one of the most elite vacation destinations on the East Coast of the United States. For some people, it seems impossible to save money while vacationing there. The mere suggestion that you could have a budget-friendly Nantucket getaway sounds completely crazy. Thankfully, I’m here to tell you that it is possible to vacation in Nantucket on a budget, as long as you plan ahead and make some adjustments to your itinerary. If you are currently reading this during the Covid-19 pandemic, please read the state’s plan for Reopening Massachussetts to be sure that you’re following health and safety guidelines.
16. Take The Steamship Authority Ferry
If you take the popular high-speed ferry with a boat, you can expect to pay several hundred dollars to bring your car. Or, you can spend just $34 for a round-trip ticket by taking the Steamship Authority ferry, and rely on alternate forms of transportation once you get on the island. Kids 5-12 are $18 round-trip, and kids 4 and under are free. This is a great way to do Nantucket on a budget, especially if you plan to take an Uber together, ride bikes, use the bus, or walk for most of your transportation needs.
15. Split the Cost of Your Accommodations With Friends
Just like everything else in life, your accommodations will become cheaper if you split the cost among friends. One of the best ways to do Nantucket on a budget is share a living space is to rent a house or apartment on AirBnB. Check the rules ahead of time, and bring as many people as your host will allow. In many cases, this will be much cheaper than putting one or two people in a hotel room.
14. Book Mid-Week Flights
Most people plan to go to Nantucket on the weekends, but the cheapest flights actually occur in the middle of the week. Prices are typically 50% off what you see during the weekend. According to Noah Karberg from the Nantucket Airport, JetBlue flights have gone as low as $30 one-way from Washington DC and New York City. And in the wake of the pandemic, flights are cheaper than ever.
13. Travel Off-Season
The most popular time of year to visit Nantucket is during the summer. Everyone wants to enjoy the warm weather on the beach. However, if you are welling to book off-season in the autumn or spring, you will notice that the price of your accommodations are much cheaper than the peak season. This is true for many other luxury beach towns, including Long Beach Island, The Hamptons, and Cape May.
12. Take The NRTA
No matter where you go, one of the best ways to save money is to take public transportation. For just $2, you can take a bus provided by the Nantucket Regional Transit Authority (NRTA) from the airport to local beaches. For $3, you can take the routes that go to other sections of the island. If you have your whole family with you, kids under 6 years old ride free.
11. Eat at Crosswinds
Believe it or not, one of the best places to eat in Nantucket is the airport! The Crosswinds Restaurant has a menu filled with breakfast options under $10, and lunch ranges from $10 to $15. For kids, the meals range from just $5 to $7. There are also amazing specials on week days, like endless pasta and 50-cent wings on Wednesdays. Best of all, you can sit out on their porch and watch the planes coming and going from the airport. Many people who are on a day trip to the island will eat at the airport when they arrive, and again once they leave. This helps them save a lot of money, and enjoy a day on Nantucket on a budget.
10. Bring a Cooler
Some people choose to only visit Nantucket so that they can spend the day on the beach before heading back to their accommodations off-island. If you and your friends are traveling to the island on the ferry, why not bring a cooler? This way, you can pack your lunch and drinks ahead of time, and carry it to the beach. You can also accomplish this if you are staying at an AirBnB, and you bring a fabric fold-up cooler or insulated lunch box in your luggage.
9. Ride a Bike
If you are arriving in Nantucket without a vehicle, you will need a way to get around. Paying for rides from Uber and taxis can really add up, so you may want to rent a bike. Young’s Bicycle Shop has a lot of different options at varying price points. Or, you can spend $14 to take your own bike on the ferry with you. Best of all, you will be getting a workout in!
8. Scope Out Free Local Entertainment
Nantucket Parks and Recreation offers free events for their community like movies in the park, concerts, yoga, and so much more. Some of the best offerings include beach events for children. This is perfect if you are staying for a few days, and you want to find some free family-friendly entertainment for the kids. They offer puppet shows, games, and so much more. There are also craft workshops that are affordable for anyone, like tie die t-shirts for $5.
7. Check Out the Thrift Shops
Nantucket has a lot of amazing places to shop, which means that the local residents are wearing some of the best luxury brands. Thrift shop aficionados know that when you’re in an affluent community, it just means that the charity shops have the best stuff! The Nantucket Hospital Thrift Shop is filled with amazing finds at a discounted price. Best of all, the store is non-profit, so proceeds go towards the hospital.
6. Only Stay For a Day
One of the most expensive parts of spending time in Nantucket are the prices of a hotel or AirBnB. But it is completely free to walk around, enjoy the sights, and browse the shops. There’s nothing wrong with taking a day-trip, and staying somewhere off the island that is more affordable. If you are from New York or Boston, you could even fly to the Nantucket airport, spend the entire day there, and head back to the city at the end of the night without ever needing to get a hotel room.
5. Buy Groceries at Stop & Shop
One of the best ways to save money at a luxury destination is to do what the locals do. Instead of going to eat at restaurants for every meal, why not get some groceries at Stop & Shop? This is perfect if you are staying at an AirBnB with a kitchen. If you have a family of four, taking them out to breakfast may cost $50, Or, you could buy a loaf of bread, butter, bacon, and eggs for under $10 and feed the entire family for a couple days.
4. Take a Walk at Sanford Farm
Even if the hotels and restaurants are expensive, it’s totally free to take a walk through Nantucket’s natural splendor. Sanford Farm is managed by the Nantucket Conservation Foundation, and it is their mission to retain the original landscape of the island. Walking or jogging through Sanford Farm, you can see the beautiful trails, and maybe spot some of the wild birds and other critters. If you are staying for the entire summer, you can even volunteer to help with the conservation efforts.
3. Stay at the Youth Hostel
Like everywhere else in the world, staying at a hostel is going to be one of the cheapest ways to find a place to stay. Normally, you can go places like London and Paris for just $10 per night. Rooms at the Nantucket Youth Hostel are just under $50 per night or $84 for two nights. Since it’s Nantucket, it’s still more expensive than normal. However, it’s still one of the cheapest places to stay on the island, and it’s perfect for college kids on a budget. Considering that many hotel rooms are over $1,000 a night, this is a huge bargain, so long as you’re willing to share a bunk bed in a room with 10 other people.
2. Eat at Henry Jr. Sandwich Shop for a great lunch in Nantuket on a budget.
Who doesn’t love a good sandwich? If you scroll through the Henry Jr. Sandwich Shop’s Facebook page, you can see their full menu. All of their sandwiches are $8 to $10 apiece. After adding chips and a drink, you can easily get away with a $15 meal. Sure, it may not be as fancy as going to a five-star restaurant, but it really helps to have somewhere affordable go eat in a pinch, especially if you are staying multiple days.
1. Check Out Kitty Murtagh’s
Kitty Murtagh’s is an Irish pub smack dab in the middle of Nantucket. It has everything you expect to see at a bar- a pool table, Guinness on tap, and a brick fireplace. But you may be surprised to find an “Irish fry up” on the breakfast menu, which may look familiar to anyone who’s ever had a traditional breakfast in the UK. Normally, their meals range from $10 to $30 per person, but they are famous for their $5 Burger Nights. Say what?! That’s a great deal no matter where you live, and it’s perfect for Nantucket on a budget.