My husband & I have made it a kind of goal to visit different cities (some larger & some smaller) whenever we go on vacations. We’re not the kind of vacationers who fill up every single minute of the trip with plans & things to do. When we travel, we try to visit for 3-4 days & during that time we only plan a few big things. The rest of the time we spend chilling & exploring at our own pace. We have found this way is much more relaxing, less stressful, & we end up finding fun, quirky, & less “touristy” things to do.
So, here’s how we took a fun, frugal 3-day weekend vacation to Williamsburg, VA for under $450…a budget that included travel, lodging, snacks, food, entertainment, & souvenirs:
First…a few helpful tips:
- Pack everything you’ll need (except toiletries) a day or 2 before you leave.
- Purchase snacks you can divvy up throughout your trip & for the car ride there & back (trial mix, granola bars, chips, bottled water, etc). This will save you lots of money throughout your trip because you can fill up on these healthy snacks instead of spending more money on fast food.
- Book your hotel through a site like Hotels.com or Travelocity to save $. The hotel/motel doesn’t have to be super fancy, but make sure to read the reviews for it on multiple sites- you want it to be clean, but it doesn’t have to have all the amenities.
- If you’re going to go to Busch Gardens, purchase your tickets at a local credit union or local business that sells them at a discount. We saved about $40 by getting our tickets through the credit union instead of buying online or when we arrived. Typically you have to be a member of a credit union to do so, if you aren’t, see if someone you know is & if they’ll get the tickets for you.
- You do not have to purchase tour passes to explore Colonial Williamsburg. You can check out pretty much everything, you just can’t go into the exhibit houses. All outdoor locations, shops, & restaurants are open.
- Make sure to factor parking into your budget- it’s $15 at Busch Gardens for the day, & if you park in downtown Williamsburg, there’s a big parking deck that is $1/hour.
- Factor in bag storage at Busch Gardens- $1/2 hours storage. You can pretty easily find a central locker in each “country” to lock your goods, ride all the rides there, then go back to get them at the end of that “country”.
- Visit Busch Gardens on a Sunday- you will hardly have any wait times!
- Don’t take cash! If you have cash & were to get pick-pocketed…you’d be out of luck. Use a debit or credit card & keep a strict account of your budget (PS- I did our budget on a post-it note throughout the entire trip!)
- Make sure to pack REALLY good footwear. I don’t usually have issues with my feet, but this trip I did. Halfway through the first day I could hardly walk. We ended up having to go to Walgreens to purchase shoe inserts that are meant for people with plantar fasciitis, which I do not actually have. After I started using those, the rest of the trip went swimmingly.
Daily Itinerary: Feel free to follow…or don’t. 😀
- We got up around 4-:430 AM to get dressed & ready to go. We packed everything we needed, triple checked everything, & were out of the house by 5 AM. This definitely helped. There was hardly any traffic on the roads so we made great timing.
- Again, make sure to take snacks with you, things like granola bars, trail mix, chips, & bottled water. This will save you $ along the way so you won’t need to stop for food & you can use them throughout the trip, too.
- Take the route that takes you across on the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry. We weren’t originally planning to, but Siri switched the route on us while we were driving. We just thought it was a funky named road at first. We didn’t realize it was an actually ferry until we were almost there. We almost had mini-heart attacks because we were afraid we would have to pay for it…but no worries, it’s run by the Virginia DOT, so it was ABSOLUTELY free & fantastic! We just drove our car right onto the ferry. Once we were on the way we were allowed to get out of our cars, look around, & you could even go onto the upper deck to take pictures & use the restrooms. The trip was only about 10-15 minutes across the water & it was beautiful!
- Once we got into Williamsburg, we decided to go exploring first since we couldn’t check into our hotel until later in the day. So, we decided to start exploring downtown & Colonial Williamsburg. One of the most convenient places to park was the Prince George St. Parking Garage. Again, make sure to factor this into your trip budget if you use it. It’s $1/hour with a max of $12 for the day. It’s super convenient because it is only 1 street over from the main downtown district of Williamsburg. Since it was a Saturday, the Farmer’s Market was open on the main road. It was so fun! They had the whole street blocked off & it was filled with vendor booths selling all sorts of things- fresh produce, flowers, & more! That street was just buzzing with life & beauty. We spent part of the afternoon weaving in & out of the booths & poking our heads into little boutiques & stores up & down the street.
- Next was Colonial Williamsbug. Even though we couldn’t go into the exhibit buildings, there was still MORE than enough to see & learn about in the outdoor locations. They had a fun garden area, cute shops, fun demonstrations, & gorgeous horse & carriages. Just walking down & back the main road was enough to wipe us out!
- Next came lunch. Some of our friends had recently visited Williamsburg & they suggested a few great places. One of them was Aromas Coffeehouse Bakeshop & Cafe. This place was incredible! The atmosphere was fun & relaxed, they served FANTASTIC coffee (that they roast onsite), & delicious food options for breakfast, lunch, & dinner. The food was delicious & the prices were very affordable! I highly recommend this place!
- Next, we took a scheduled tour & tasting at Silver Hand Meadery. This was another recommendation from our friends who had recently visited the area. We got a Groupon for a tour & tasting for $15 for 2 people, & we got complimentary wine glasses, too! It was absolutely amazing & totally worth it! We got to learn about mead (honey-wine, in case you’re wondering…because I didn’t know, either), bee hives, honey, how they make mead, & then we got to try all sorts of different flavored honey & mead. It was a lot of fun & really inexpensive, so I highly suggest it!
- We ended the day with some much-needed rest & a delicious anniversary dinner. We made it to the hotel, checked in, & took some serious naps (according to my fitbit, we had already walked almost 11,500 steps!!). After we napped, we did some research to find a good place to eat. We picked a great restaurant called Second Street American Bistro. This place was fantastic! The food was delicious & not too pricey. We got really great serving amounts of food, the atmosphere was sophisticated but warm & romantic, & the staff was incredible! Our waitress was so kind & welcoming, & when she found out it was our anniversary she brought us a complimentary bottle of champagne!
- Again, we got up nice & early so we could get to the park pretty much when they opened.
- Even though online says you can’t bring in snacks, we found there was a sign at the entrance that said you CAN bring individually packed snacks & water bottles. So, feel free to do so in order to help with the cost of food.
- We headed through the park in a “counter-clockwise” direction, starting with England. It was a lot of fun & most everyone heads the opposite direction, so the foot traffic wasn’t too bad until we got to the opposite side of the park.
- Sunday is great day to visit because hardly anyone was there. There were very few ride waits longer than 5 minutes, except for Verbolten, the new Viking ride, & the haunted castle ride.
- We saved the water rides until the end so we wouldn’t have to worry about walking around soaked most of the day.
- Once you get to Italy, there is a great all-you-can-eat buffet. We got to make our own personalized pizza, & they offered pasta, salad, & dessert, too!
- We hit every single ride except the one that goes forwards & backwards in Italy. We felt like our stomachs couldn’t handle that one. By the time we were done, we still had plenty of time for dinner & a ride on the Skytram all the way around the park once, before heading out during the fireworks.
- This day consisted of sleeping in, then finishing the rest of Colonial & downtown Williamsburg.
- Again, we had breakfast & coffee at Aromas, then headed out for more exploration. We explored the backroads & buildings of Colonial Williamsburg. We got to see the old jail house, & a cute little house built over a stream! It was a bright, clear, gorgeous day, so we had SOOO much fun!
- Afterwards, we checked out the other hidden shops around downtown. We fell in love with a fudge shop called Kilwins, then discovered a quirky little used bookstore just below it called Mermaid Books.
- Lastly, we ended the day at Retros Good Eats. It is a DELICIOUS burger joint. They make their own fries & the get locally-sourced supplies for their restaurant, too. Absolutely delicious & very affordable!!
And that was our trip. We had a great time even though it was short & packed with walking. We worked to make it fit into our budget. There is no amount of money that you can spend to make a vacation super special- what makes it special is the time you have with the ones you love…we just choose to do it frugally. 😀 If you’re visiting Williamsburg soon, I hope this helps you! Have a great trip!
What city do you recommend we visit next?
Be blessed, friends!