The Budget Travel Guides are travel tips to help you save money and enrich your travel experiences. While Newport Rhode Island shares many similarities with Annapolis, Maryland, this is one city that knows lifestyles of the rich of famous. Check out the tips for Newport Rhode Island in this Budget Travel Guide from Liz Froment.
Once the popular playground of the uber rich and famous, Newport Rhode Island, was home to the summer mansions of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, the Vanderbilts and President Dwight Eisenhower, is still one of the areas most popular destinations.
Surrounded by water on three sides, Newport has an amazingly rich maritime history. Home to the United States Naval War College, and up until the 1990s the site of the New York Yacht Club’s defense America’s Cup, it has been called “the sailing capital of the US.”
Don’t worry – you don’t need to bring your boat shoes and lobster belts to fit in. There are plenty of easy ways to hang out in a classy place like Newport on a budget.
Check out these 5 budget travel tips for Newport Rhode Island.
Transportation – Getting to Newport Rhode Island
First things first. To get to Newport Rhode Island, fly into TF Green Airport which is 15 miles south of Providence, the capital of Rhode Island. From there, a few options are available.
Take the commuter rail, called the MBTA or T if you want to really sound like a local, up to Providence, about a 20 minute ride. Or, if you have a car drive, or rent a car at the airport.
Many visitors to the New England area as whole also consider trips down to Newport for a day, if that is the case, fly right into Boston’s Logan Airport, from there Newport is a great day trip option. Either by driving, or taking the MBTA to Providence and then RIPTA to Newport, that alphabet soup will cost you less than $20 round trip.
From Providence there are basically two options to get to Newport. Drive or bus. Driving, obviously gives you a bit more availability to check out all the great things that happen in the area surrounding Newport.
If you don’t already have a car, then a car rental or Zipcar rental are options as well. There are many spots all over Providence with Zipcars, so there should be easy availability.
For the bus, using RIPTA, which is the Rhode Island transit, is your best option. For a $2.00 ride, you can hop on a Route 60 bus which leaves right from Kennedy Plaza in downtown Providence and drops you off in the center of Newport about an hour later.
RIPTA also operates a few bus routes that travel within Newport and the surrounding areas. If you plan to use the bus, check out the RIPTA website to see what your options are. Generally speaking you will want to stick with Routes 60, 63 and 67.
Lodging in Newport Rhode Island
Since Newport is right on the water and known for being a fancy place, the hotels there feel that they can charge you an arm and a leg to stay. But, with a little bit of research, there are plenty of ways to stay right in Newport on a budget.
If you are looking to stay for really cheap and don’t mind roughing it with a few nights camping, then take a look at Melville Ponds Campground in Portsmouth, just a few miles up the road from Newport. The great thing about many campgrounds in Rhode Island is that they are usually situated right by the ocean, and Melville Ponds is no exception. Another great feature about this site is that it is right on the bus line.
For two other camping options that are bit further away from Newport but also right on the water look at:
The William Gyles International Guesthouse, a very posh way of calling something a hostel, is the only game in town, so expect to pay higher rates than in other areas, especially during the summer.
For discounted rates, like many other places in the US, checking out some of the standard travel aggregator sites are a great option:
Newport is home to a number of little bed and breakfast type places. If you negotiate, you will have a little bit of wiggle room in terms of pricing.
Play by the general rule of thumb that the further you are from the water, the less expensive you accommodations will be. Walking six or seven blocks back from the main drag will generally result in savings.
Other Lodging Options
Another thing to consider is that many people own vacation rentals and timeshares in Newport, so they are always looking to find people to fill their places. Take a look at places like Craigslist, AirBnB or VRBO to see more of these options. If you are travelling into Newport during some of the shoulder seasons, chances are there will be some great deals to be had.
And, as in traveling around other place in the US, a site like Couchsurfing is also always available.
Eating in Newport Rhode Island
As with most seasonal and oceanfront locations, the food can sometimes be a bit of a scam. Most of the time, you are paying far more for location your tush is sitting in rather than you are for the meal itself.
Keep an eye out when you’re traveling to Newport to see if you will be around during Restaurant Week. This is generally a two week long event where a ton of the dining facilities in town will offer fixed price specials for both lunch and dinner, usually involving multiple courses. It’s a great way to eat at some of the pricier places for a budget price.
There is one branded chain grocery store in Newport where you will be able to go and pick up food for breakfast, snacks or sandwiches. If you do end up renting a spot, most if not all, will have a kitchen and some will also have outdoor grills, so a great way to save some money on meals is to plan on having some of them at home, so to speak.
Mixed drinks will not be cheap in Newport, so the budget option would be to stick with beer when out for some libations. Ask some locals to tip off when happy hour deals are around, also pay attention to the signs or boards outside some of the dining establishments, if there are specials they will be listed.
Usually any happy hour deals will not be for drinks, but for food. Some of the waterfront pubs and restaurants will typically offer specials like discounted appetizers or bar menu items during the down times from somewhere around 3-6pm. Or check out places that seem as if they wouldn’t offer food, a great tip for visitors to New England is that most Lobster Pounds will actually serve take out style food at discount prices, and you can’t get much fresher than that.
For a few great and cheap places to eat check out some of the following:
Pour Judgement: Huge beer menu and every item for lunch costs no more than $8
Freaky Burrito: Has all sorts of deals like Taco Tuesdays and Breakfast Burrito Sunday’s
Del’s: A Rhody institution, find them on practically every corner offering delicious frozen slushies
Activities near Newport Rhode Island
For a little place, in a tiny state, Newport has got a lot going on.
Much of the activities in Newport are outdoor based and involve the water. If you are interested in taking any of the day sails out of the area, the consider signing up for the local Groupon deals for Providence. As the spring turns to summer they will start offering deals like 2 for 1 or 50% off on many of these trips.
If you just want a little jaunt around the harbor then skip the pomp and take one of the water taxi or ferry services, some of them have nightly discounts and go as low as $10 for a round trip.
Most people come to Newport to see “The Mansions,” many of the stately homes that were built during the Gilded Age (think Great Gatsby here), are open for tours, at an astronomical price! A few offer discounts of a few bucks if you happen to be a member of AAA which is an auto club. If not it is virtually impossible to get any sort of discount.
If you want to see the mansions from the outside (for free), then take a stroll down Bellevue Avenue, most of the homes are located on this street and you can wander around on the laws a bit for photos.
For an even better view then go on the Cliff Walk. This is a 3.5 mile path that wanders behind many of the mansions and right on the ocean. It is absolutely beautiful, and free and a great spot to have a little picnic lunch.
If you do have a car and want to explore a bit, betcha didn’t know that another favorite just outside of Newport (5 miles or so) is the Middletown area.
Middletown is also home to a couple of Rhode Island’s wineries. They offer tastings and tours throughout the year (with grapes and everything). Middletown is also home to the Newport International Polo series every summer weekend, gates open at 1pm and the games begin around 5pm, tickets can be bought right on the day of starting at $12 and they allow for tailgating!
Connect with Locals in Newport Rhode Island
Always interact with some of the locals when you can, some of the best places to do this in Newport is to just have a chat with a few of the bartenders in the local pubs. Sit at the bar, and have a chat, they will be the first to be able to tell you all of the non-touristy places to eat and specials that are going on in the area.
Also, since Newport Rhode Island is certainly a tourist destination, think about going during the shoulder or off season. Yes it won’t be as warm as July, but you can get some amazing deals in October and March, and there will be far fewer tourists around. Most likely anyone you encounter will either be a local, or a very smart traveler (like you!).
So there you have it, Newport is a fantastic destination with plenty to do. And, with a little bit of research beforehand, it can be pretty budget friendly as well.