Cape Cod may not be the first destination to come to mind when thinking of budget travel, but there are plenty of ways to stretch your dollars while still enjoying the best of the Cape.
Here are a few of our favorite money-saving tips.
Learn how to use the Cape’s public transportation
Renting, parking and fueling a car on the Cape is a huge expense and can be a big pain, too. Besides, there are probably many beaches and attractions within walking distance from where you’ll be staying.
The Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority (CCRTA), based in Hyannis, has bus lines that extend throughout the Cape with routes to Woods Hole, Chatham, Orleans, Buzzards Bay Train Station, Sandwich and Provincetown. As a bonus, all rides are free on Fridays.
Flying into Boston Logan Airport and heading for the Cape? Take Capebus or Peter Pan bus lines to Sagamore or Hyannis, then hop on a CCRTA bus to complete your journey. Plymouth & Brockton bus lines also have routes between Hyannis and both Logan and T.F. Green (Providence, RI) airports. On weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the CapeFlyer commuter train travels between Boston’s South Station and Hyannis.
Visit the Cape in the off-season
The Cape’s high season is traditionally Memorial Day through Labor Day with crowds and prices going up and availability going down. But fall on the Cape is gorgeous, and even the winter months and early spring have their charms too, with moody weather, fall color and early blooms.
The off-season may not be the best time for laying out on the beach, but it’s perfect for long peaceful strolls and finding cheaper places to stay.
Shop around for the most affordable room rates
Room rates on the Cape can flirt with four digits during the summer at some properties, but if you shop around, you might find simple rooms at a cheap rate. The Braemar Condo in Truro, the Chatham Motel, the Sandwich Lodge & Resort, the Cove Motel in Orleans and the Cape Sands Inn in Yarmouth are just a few properties around the Cape that advertise rooms for less than $200 a night during the summer.
Also, it may not have the range of a big city, but there are a few hostels to choose from in Cape Cod. Rooms at HI Hyannis Hostel and HI Truro Hostel start at $79 with shared dorms as low as $35. The Outermost Hostel (prices available on request) in Provincetown is just a 5-minute walk from the town center.
Stock up on groceries like a local
The Cape is known for its seafood served in beautiful settings, but going out to dinner every night of your stay can add up quickly. Consider stocking up for breakfast, lunch and snack items at local grocery stores and delis. Purchase fresh seafood from any number of stores, including the seafood market at Mac’s Chatham Fish and Lobster Company or Andrea’s West Yarmouth Fish and Lobster.
Grilling is permitted in designated picnic areas at Doane Rock, Pilgrim Heights, Marconi Station Site and Great Island at Cape Cod National Seashore. Charcoal and gas grills are also allowed on the outer beaches outside the protected and posted beach areas without a permit (permits are required for all fires with wood).
Charcoal grills are permitted at many other municipal beaches and parks; check local ordinances. Shopping for fresh Cape seafood is an experience in itself, and preparing and enjoying it on a beach gives you million-dollar views for free.
Purchase passes for Cape Cod National Seashore
Between June and Labor Day and on weekends and holidays from Memorial Day through September, entrance fees to beaches are $25 a day per vehicle.
If you’re planning on visiting the six beaches within Cape Cod National Seashore over several days, consider purchasing an America the Beautiful annual pass for $80 or Cape Cod National Seashore Annual Pass for $60. Military, Senior, fourth-grade students and other free passes are also available to qualifying applicants.
Select days are free of charge throughout the year at Cape Cod National Seashore, including August 4 to mark the anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act.
Rent a bike to get around this cycle-friendly destination
Renting a car is expensive, especially when you probably won’t use it often on the Cape, and parking is notoriously difficult during the summer, too. Bike rental, however, is easy and you can cruise to the beach or into town hassle-free.
Follow traffic laws and take standard safety precautions, such as wearing a helmet. There are even designated bike trails, such as the 25-mile-long Cape Cod Rail Trail that connects towns, national parks and state parks.
Bike shops throughout the Cape offer multi-day rentals. Pack a lightweight backpack for towels, snacks and other things you’ll need for the day, and enjoy the simplicity of biking wherever you want to go.
Go camping on the Cape
The Cape is filled with tiny resorts and quaint inns, but outdoor lovers can fully immerse themselves into Cape Cod scenery while saving quite a lot. RV and tent camping is available at Wellfleet Hollow State Campground and Nickerson State Park, which also has yurts available for rent.
Dune’s Edge Campground in Provincetown, North of Highland Camping Area in Truro, Maurice’s Campground in Wellfleet, Sandy Neck Camp Sites in Barnstable and Bourne Scenic Park on the Cape Cod Canal are just a few other of the Cape's budget sleeping spots with stunning views.
Find the best affordable things to do with the kids
From people watching to wildlife spotting, you can keep children entertained on the Cape on a budget. Head to Chatham Fishing Pier where fishers unload their catches throughout the day until 4pm, sending fish down slides in buckets to the processing center. Harbor seals hoping for scraps are usually around the pier too. It’s a free and fascinating look at the Cape’s fishing industry, and fresh seafood can be purchased right next door at the Chatham Fish Market.
Stop by Chatham Candy Manor where filling a paper bag with penny candy is a budget-friendly tradition for many. On Friday nights in the summer, see free band concerts in Kate Gould Park on Main St.
In Hyannis, families enjoy bowling, laser tag, escape rooms and video games at Ten Pin Eatery. Check the Specials section of the site to see what money-saving deals are on offer.
The Cape Cod Inflatable Park in West Yarmouth is a huge water park, arcade and bounce house playground that offers reduced rates after 4pm. Skull Island in Harwich has mini-golf, go-karts and an arcade with discounts, and the Cape Cod Children’s Museum in Mashpee is an interactive and affordable way to spend an afternoon with little ones.
A guide to daily costs on Cape Cod
Hostel room: $35 (dorm bed)
Basic room for two: $200–$400
Self-catering apartment (including Airbnb): from $300
Public transport ticket Boston to Hyannis (71 miles): $25 one-way
Dinner for two: $40–200
Beer/pint at the bar: $6–7