6 tips for visiting Charleston, SC (on a budget!)

Last week my husband and I visited Charleston for an early ten year anniversary getaway. Reflecting back on our photos I saw a trend: we naturally looked for ways to save money throughout the trip. Spending is normal on vacation, and we enjoy it! But we also set a budget before our trip and did our best to stick to it.

Here are 6 tips for visiting downtown Charleston, SC....on a budget!

1. Study the hotel rates. 

The travel books will recommend not visiting in July & August due to heat and humidity. We visited in early July and the temps were in the low 90s late in the afternoon. The heat did not bother us and the rates were lower than spring and fall. We also saved $100 a night by staying on weeknights vs. visiting over the weekend.

2. A walking self-tour.

Carriage tours will cost a couple $50. If you really want a carriage tour, absolutely go for it! But we saved money by walking ourselves throughout Meeting Street, King Street, the Waterfront Park, and City Market. History and beautiful architecture will surround you as you walk throughout the downtown. (and we felt less guilty for the fried Southern food we ate after our walks!)

King Street, Charleston SC

King Street, Charleston SC

3. Visit the beach.

Isle of Palms and Sullivan's Island are within a 30 minute drive of downtown Charleston. Isle of Palms has a clean, slightly touristy family atmosphere. Isle of Palms has public beach access with parking, bathrooms, and a playground. Sullivan's Island has a quiet residential feel with good restaurants and street parking for the beach (be sure to carefully read the signs). No public restrooms. While on Sullivan's Island visit Fort Moultrie, a piece of history built in 1776 (admission $3 per adult).

Sullivan's Island, SC

Sullivan's Island, SC

4. Pick a hotel with amenities.

A hotel with perks like free breakfast, happy hour, or free parking will save a lot. We stayed at the Ansonborough Inn: it included free breakfast (saving us at least $15 a day), free coffee/tea throughout the day, and a happy hour. The Kings Charles Inn also has a good reputation and includes complimentary parking.

5. Be selective with restaurants.

We ate one nice dinner at Poogan's Porch, and ate one dinner takeout style on the terrace of our hotel. Read reviews on yelp and trip advisor before you go, and consider checking lunch prices/menus. Lowcountry Bistro is one of our favorite lunch stops (sit outside on the porch if you go!).

Lowcountry Bistro, Charleston SC

Lowcountry Bistro, Charleston SC

6. Go shopping!

Window shop along King Street, and visit some of the art galleries for inspiring artwork. Nearby Mount Pleasant is home to several thrift stores for my thrift-loving friends. And I was completely inspired by the vintage dressers and chairs at Page's Thieves Market (the prices were slightly above thrift stores, but much lower than an antique store).

Page's Thieves Market, Mt. Pleasant SC

Page's Thieves Market, Mt. Pleasant SC

Have you visited Charleston? What is your favorite thing to do and see?