In addition to free information and maps, most tourist offices have stacks of free and discount coupons for local venues and attractions. Many restaurants and attractions have two-for-one deals or special offers. Your local tourist office will have all the goods.
How to do it: As soon as you check in and unpack, ask for directions at the front desk to the local tourist office. You'll avoid paying for maps and will get all kinds of coupons on meals, attractions, excursions and tours.
2. Find free walking tours
Chris Christensen, an award-winning travel podcaster and blogger, waxes poetic about a free, three-hour walking tour he and his family enjoyed in Berlin with an enthusiastic English-speaking Berliner. There are free walking tours all over the world. Volunteers share their knowledge and impart a personal touch – something you don't necessarily get on paid tours. Tipping is welcome, but there is no set fee.
How to do it: Visit the local tourist board or Google "free walking tours" plus the name of your destination.
3. Check out free festivals
There comes a time during any family vacation when lining up at tourist traps and swinging by the must-see attractions begins to get stale and you just want to enjoy local culture and entertainment. Free music, dance, art, theatre and other cultural diversions are at your fingertips.
How to do it: Again, the local tourist board is a great source of information. Also try Googling "free festivals" and the name of your destination.
4. Keep an eye out for bargains in your favourite travel publications
Many journals, magazines and newspaper travel sections feature bargain tours and trips.
How to do it: Keep an eye out as you begin planning a trip. Two of my favourite travel reads are The National Geographic and The Globe and Mail, which publish travel bargains on a regular basis. That's how I got a great deal last year on a glacier-hiking outing in Iceland.
5. Head down to the community ballpark
Most children and teens love watching their favourite sport when on vacation. So if your soccer-playing daughter and baseball-obsessed son are on holiday with you, consider taking them to a local game played by kids their age.
How to do it: Check local newspapers or ask at the hotel for information on local community leagues and where they play.
6. Take a pew for some free church music
In many places, tourists must pay a fee to tour major churches (such as Westminster Abbey in London, England). However, visitors are often welcome to attend worship services without paying. I once enjoyed attending a Black Gospel Church Choir's brilliant Sunday morning celebration at a church in Harlem, New York. In Dublin, Ireland, I attended an entire mass in classic Latin: It was just part of the church service.
How to do it: Ask at the local tourist office or ask the staff at your hotel. Calling the religious facility itself beforehand is a good idea.
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