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How to Plan the Ultimate Budget-Friendly Trip to Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix offers blue skies and warm weather, making it a top choice for the winter-weary who are looking for a spot of fun in the sun to even out their seasonal blues. Even in summer, however, Phoenix is full of amazing sites, attractions, and things to do.

Like with any trip, however, it can be hard to plan an amazing trip away when you’re on a budget. Not only do you have big upfront costs like accommodation and transportation to consider, but you also have on-the-ground costs like food. Just because you’re on a budget, however, does not mean that you cannot have an amazing time. With these top budget-friendly tips and tricks, you can save and get the most out of your vacation.

phoenix arizona
phoenix arizona

Save in Advance for Top Experiences

Some of the best things to do in Phoenix involve taking tours and going on excursions, which means to get the best experience, you are going to want to book ahead of time and save ahead of time. The good news is that you can do this all online easily.

Though it seems counter-intuitive to go on pricey excursions and experiences, this is what makes any trip amazing. In Phoenix, for example, you can go on a morning hot air balloon flight over the area and enjoy some amazing landscapes in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Choosing one or two experiences like this in advance can help you save up for it and then book it before it sells out.

When it comes to saving in advance, you have two options. You can either start putting money aside if you don’t have it and then book, or you can book today and use the rest of the time between now and your trip recuperating that cost (and putting it towards the rest of your budget.

Go on Tours

Though it may seem like going on paid tours isn’t the way to save, there are many benefits that can actually work out to be quite cost-saving. When you go on a tour, for example, the entire experience is already included in the price. This includes entrance tickets, the cost of the tour guide, and so on. You can also book these tours in advance, which means you can spread out the cost at home.

Tours are a great way to improve your experience since they add context and enjoyment to whatever you’re doing and will take up a set amount of time in your day. Rather than run late, or run into unexpected costs, booking a tour makes everything clear-cut and fool-proof.

Book and Pay in Advance

Booking and paying for things in advance is another great way to manage your budget. If most of your trip is already paid for and accounted for before you go, you have less to worry about when you’re on the ground. Aim to have booked and paid in advance for accommodation, tickets, and tours.

This leaves shopping, dining, and in some cases, transportation as the only costs you need to concern yourself with.

Money Saving Tips for Your Meals

One of the best ways to save on any trip is to make food at home. To do this, you will need to book a stay with at least a kitchenette, if not a full kitchen. Don’t just go for the everyday meals you’d make at home. However – go all out. There are many farmers’ markets in Phoenix that operate on various days throughout the month. Going to a farmer’s market is a great way to get amazing fresh ingredients that will kick your meals up a notch.

The step-up option in terms of cost is to go to food markets. There are street food markets throughout Phoenix that offer amazing meals for great prices. This can be a great lunchtime option for many, especially if you plan on walking about or, if it’s too warm, enjoying some time in the shade relaxing.

When it comes to restaurants, your budget can go right out the door, but before you swear off all restaurants or only go to the budget-friendly chains you’re familiar with, know that there are ways to eat well for less. To start, go away from the beaten track. Simply getting off the main tourist spots and into more local-friendly areas can give you great dining options for less.

If you are on a particularly tight budget, look up the menu and prices in advance. You can then calculate taxes and tips and then use that to work out if an option is in your budget or not. The more traveler-friendly way to afford nice restaurants out is to eat out minimally. You can make breakfasts at your accommodation and pack lunches so that you can then enjoy nice dinners, for example.

Always Check for Discounts and Promotions

Always check for any special promotions or ways you can discount the price before you book. This applies to everything from transportation to accommodation. Where you’ll particularly want to check is with hotels, however. Most big hotel chains come with their own loyalty membership program. Joining is usually free, and once you join, you’ll immediately have access to special prices, promotions, and more.

Not all places will have a loyalty program, of course. In those instances, consider signing up for their newsletter so that you can be kept up-to-date on any special sales. Hotels, flights, and events have flash sales all the time to drum up interest or fill empty slots. Being the first to take advantage of the said discount is the trick, so signing up is the best way to save.

Build Up Points

If your credit cards aren’t currently earning you points, it’s time to change that. Earning rewards when you spend simply means getting more value every time you pay. To keep things simple, you will want to close any credit accounts you don’t use so that you can focus on the point-building options.

Not all credit reward programs are equal, however, as it depends entirely on what companies accept said points instead of payment. Always cross-compare programs before you sign up so that you can choose the program that will help you get the most value. You need to know that the credit card option is right for you first before you consider what you get out of any point system it may have.

Enjoy These Free and Budget-Friendly Activities

There are many great things to see and do in Phoenix that are entirely free, making them a great option for those that want to spread out their budget but fill up their days.


Museums are free to visit on select days throughout the month. In Phoenix, you can visit museums for free on the first Friday of the month throughout the winter, and in summer, you can visit them on the fourth Saturday of the month. The times vary, with the summer free days lasting throughout opening hours while in winter you get a half day for free.


Hiking is a great activity that gets you out of the city’s downtown area and exploring the beautiful landscapes. One of the best options is Camelback Mountain, where you’ll walk along a steep ridge or go up the cliffside staircase right to the top.

There are hikes perfect for those of all abilities. For those who don’t hike regularly, take the Quartz Loop Trail, where you’ll walk along a panoramic ridge and see colorful cacti. Those interested in a challenge, however, will want to take the Piestewa Peak Summit Trail, which will take you to one of the best views over Central Phoenix, or the Pyramid Trail, which takes you up South mountain’s uncrowded south side.


Public Events

There are free events, festivals, and city-wide activities that are free to attend, though you will usually be paying vendors for their food or wares. Like any big city, there are many fun things to do, with the city hosting live music, markets, and more. Always check the time when you plan to visit to see what is going on in the city. These time-sensitive events are a great way to make your experience special, no matter what budget you may have.

Stick with What You Find Interesting

It may feel like you have to do the top 10 things in Phoenix, but unless you’re actively interested and want to go, don’t. Going somewhere you aren’t interested in will be a waste, particularly if you’re also short on time. By narrowing down what you want to do and seeing by priority, you can build a great itinerary that engages your interests – and can help you save money because of it.

When it comes to building your itinerary, however, remember to keep it balanced. Stick to one museum per day, for example, or go on one hike instead of trying to fill your day with too much of one thing. This will help you get more out of your trip and save.

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