Nantucket Vacation Budget Hacks

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Nantucket and saving money, not two things that usually go together. There’s a reason a “Nantucket $10” is a hundred dollar bill. Between dining, entertainment, lodging, ubers & taxis, and even getting there on the ferry & paying for parking, it’s likely you’ll look at your bank account and ask what the hell happened?

There are thousands of articles and blogs that can tell you how to spend your money on ACK (nickname for the island); stay at the White Elephant, dine at the Galley, try the $1,000 escargot at Cru, and then hand over your black card at Straight Wharf.

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(I would budget for at least one Mud Slide from the Gazebo, they’re the best”

This blog is for the few that may be visiting the island and want to save a few bucks. Say you’re getting dragged down to ACK for a friend’s birthday, or you just always wanted to visit Nantucket but weren’t born with a trust fund: this blog is for you.

I’ve been going to Nantucket my entire life, and although I’ve often rubbed shoulders and partied with the rich (fun times, especially in college), I’ve yet to join their ranks and become a full-blown Chad (Nantucket slang for rich kids). These are a few tips from a lifetime of being a regular joe on the island of the financially elite.

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  1. Getting to Nantucket

Nantucket is an island 26 miles off of Massachusetts and there is no bridge. You can either take a plane, boat, or ferry to reach the island.

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If you’re looking to save money, taking a ferry is your best option. There are two main ferry companies that leave out of Hyannis: the Hyline and the Steamship Authority. The Hyline is a privately owned company and the Steamship is government-owned.  They both have fast boats that can reach the island in roughly one hour. The Steamship additionally has a slow car ferry which takes 2 hours and 15 minutes to hit the island.

Taking the Steamship slow boat is the cheapest option, $18.50 one way or roughly half the cost of the fast ferry, and if you plan on taking your car over, it’s your only option.

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However, an extra hour and 15 minutes can really eat into your vacation time, especially if you are going for the day. The Hyline offers deals for same day fast ferry roundtrip travel. I prefer taking the Hyline. Better customer service, more reliable, Captain Pete is the man, and they were my employer for 5 glorious summers (ages 16-20). Below learn about how you can save money taking the fast boats.

Pro tip: Buy ticket books. If you are traveling with a group then buy a book of fast ferry tickets. These books are 10 one way fast ferry tickets and for the Hyline it knocks the price of a fast ferry ticket from $41 to $26. If you are traveling in a group of 5 this will save you $75 and allow you to take the fast ferry on the cheap.

2. Getting Around Nantucket

Ubers & Taxis can add up real quick. Uber from the boat to your place $16; Uber to the store to get sunscreen $13, taxi to the Cisco Brewery $20, back home $20, uber out for the night $20; crap downtown is dead, let’s go to the box $20, leaving the bar hammered and trying to get home $35-$60: whoa $160 real quick.

If you’re any type of fitness enthusiast then I recommend bringing down your bike or renting one. Nantucket has extensive bike paths and you can get to the beaches, the brewery, and downtown by pedaling on your own feet.

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There’s also reliable public transportation that goes all over the island, including the beaches, for cheap. Cisco Brewery runs its own free shuttle service to and from town leaving at the Visitors Office.

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Pro Tip: Uber during the day when prices are low and take taxis at night to avoid surge prices. The taxis on the island are mostly vans so it can be cheaper to get around with a big group in them late night vs splitting up and taking separate surging ubers. Also, check out Turo for cheap car rentals.

3. Lodging 

If you’re visiting Nantucket on a busy weekend, like Figawi or the 4th, rental prices will be jacked through the roof. However, in the offseason and non-peak weekends you can find affordable rooms on Air-Bnb, hotel rooms at the Nantucket Inn or the Beachside, and for truly tight budgeters, there’s always the hostel at Surfside Beach. If it’s your first time visiting, I recommend coming on a non-peak weekend, you can get into the best spots and not have to wait in lines or fight the crowds.

The bed & breakfasts are very nice and a great way to impress your date, but a well-equipped and centrally located Air-BnB will do just the trick.

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Pro tip: Location matters and not just for ocean views. There are remote parts of the island like Sconset (Bill Belichick lives there in summer, Hi Bill!) that can be a bitch to get to and from if you don’t have a car. It will save you time, and eventually money from getting rides, to stay somewhere not too far away from town or the Box, where you’ll most likely be spending a lot of your time.

4. Dining & Entertainment 

Nantucket is a drinking island with a fishing problem. If you can’t find a fun time on this island, then check your pulse. From the beautiful beaches to the rocking bars & restaurants, you’re a few mudslides away from a night filled with stories.

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Sex on Stage’s first and only performance at the Muse circa 2009

My favorite places to get food and drink on the island are Faregrounds, the Box, the Gazebo, Easy Street Cantina, the Brotherhood, Stubbys, Fairwinds, the Downy flake, Cumbys, Rose n Crown, and the Sandbar at the Jetties. My favorite bartender on the island is Abbot at Faregrounds and at Cisco my go-to beer is the Shark tracker (Sam is the man there also).

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Bloody Mary from Faregrounds

Now that you’ve read an offtopic paragraph on my favorite spots, let’s get back to saving some $. There are two Stop N Shops on island, along with two Cumberland farms, and they are great places to stock up on essentials and get your grilling needs. For buying beer, wine, and booze, I usually find the best prices at either the Islander or Hatchs.

Now for Entertainment, some $0 dollar fun options include going to the amazing beaches, playing disc golf at Nantucket’s free 18 hole course, hiking in the parks, playing sports out at Tom Nevers, running the bike paths & trails, the Nantucket public skatepark, walking around town and checking out the mega yachts, and the endless people watching.

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Disc Golf Bros
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A lil bit of surf and rescue at Nobadeer
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Added bonus is most Nantucket beaches are dog friendly, WOOF WOOF!
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Imagine having a boat with helicopter, only on Nantucket.

If you are looking for a quick bite my #1 recommendation is getting a burrito, especially steak and egg, from Easy Street Cantina on the Strip. Stubbies is also a solid option, especially their waffle fries.

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Food from Easy Street Cantina, many also call it “Tacos Tacos”

If you are looking to watch a game or for a reasonably priced delicious meal, then head over to Faregrounds. It’s a non-pretentious sports bar with friendly staff and great food. There’s even a great outside bar when the weather is nice. They have excellent pizzas including Shepherd’s pie pizza, which uses beef gravy to replace the pizza sauce, mashed potatoes, hamburger, corn, and a Colby cheese blend.

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My go to is the Jamaican jerk wings, mmmmmmm. If you are there, ask for Abbot and tell him I sent you. It probably won’t help you and he’ll just make fun of me, but in seriousness, he’s a great guy and makes a mean mudslide.

Other reasonable priced meals can be found at the Brotherhood, which is known for their burgers (I once ate dinner next Bill B there, don’t worry I didn’t interrupt him, just gave him a creepy smile).

Pro tip(s): If you want to look like a baller and not break the bank then have dinner at the Sand Bar restaurant at Jetties Beach. You can dine at tables right on the beach and it’s much more reasonably priced than its neighboring beach restaurant the Galley. If you’re going on a date there, shoot for around sunset, and the atmosphere will be majestic.

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Pro tip #2: If you get food from the Muse, ORDER AHEAD. The Muse has good wings & pizza, but they are slow as heck. Order ahead 45 minutes before you plan to pick it up.

5. Coffee 

Go to Cumberland farms and get their $1 ice coffees. The Cumbies on Nantucket are nicer than off island and the $1 iced coffee is the best deal on the island, period.

6. Bars

As the saying goes, time is money and that is especially true for Nantucket bars where they close at 1am. If you’re there in the summer and plan on having a Nantucket night: Gazebo, Straight Wharf, Rose n Crown, Tree Bar, The Chicken Box, guess what? A lot of other people have the same idea and this can mean lines, especially at the #1 bar, the Chicken Box.

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If you want to avoid spending half your night in line and don’t feel like greasing the bouncer $100, then get to the Box early. You might avoid paying the cover, you can get your whole group in, grab a good spot before the band goes on, and play some shuffleboard or pool. The Chicken Box doesn’t have food, but right across the street is Sophie T’s Pizza and you can bring a pie right in the Box, no problem (obviously earlier in the night when it’s not stupid packed).

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Pro Tip: Win Shake a Die and pay for your whole vacation. What’s shake a die? Ask a Nantucket bartender.

6. Rent a Local 

This goes for anywhere you visit, but if you can get a local in your crew, a lot of doors open, especially in a tight-knit community like Nantucket.  They have the hookups for everything; they know the bouncer that can get you in for a free and skip the line; they have special connections with bartenders they take care of during the winter; they know taxi drivers that will pick you up when you’re stranded late night; they heard the word through the grapevine where the beach parties are and so on. Having a Nantucket local, especially a well-liked one, is your ultimate island hack.

Now how about getting a Nantucket local in your crew? They haven’t yet launched Rent-a-Local, so I would just recommend being friendly and letting the magic of Nantucket take over.

Pro tip: Rent Trevor Marsh or Chris Welch

 

There’s a few tips to save time & money on your Nantucket vacation. Just remember, only leave footprints at the beach, and also upload every picture with an “ACK” pun like “take me bACK”. 🙂

 

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