Flight attendant secrets for exploring a new city on a dime

Flight attendants are not only experts in onboard safety, but also know how to make the most of a visit to a new city. They also know that when you are in a new and exciting city every night, you can’t spend a fortune on each layover.

So how do flight attendants explore new places without breaking the bank?

Flight attendant Rai Adair has been flying for Alaska for four years and loves the adventure and discovery that come with the job. She shares her top five tips for exploring new destinations on a budget.

Explore a new city: Alaska’s newest destinations include Baltimore, Albuquerque and Detroit. Find tickets.

Tip 1: Pick up a local alternative newspaper

Alternative newspapers often have brilliant ideas for activities that are more off the beaten path, so you can expertly explore the city like a native.

“Pretty much every city has one,” says Adair. “And it’s a great way to quickly find out about local concerts, art shows, festivals, and to see which restaurants have everyone talking.”

Check out papers like The Portland Mercury, Seattle’s The Stranger, or Tampa’s Creative Loafing.

Tip 2: Find the daily deals

Whether you enjoy art, history, music, or even celebrity wax figures, free museum days often make for a perfect budget-friendly outing. Many museums offer free entrance on specific days of the month, and some offer quirkier deals, like Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum where you can enter for free if you have the right first name.

“The day I visited, I regretted that I wasn’t named Isabella” Adair quipped.

Tip 3: Grab a bike and get pedaling

If the weather is beautiful and you have some time on your hands, Adair says “feel free to grab a bike and tool around!” You don’t always need an itinerary to have an adventure, and bikes are a fun and inexpensive way to cover a lot of ground.

Make sure to ride the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail in Anchorage or the Kapaa Bike Path if you find yourself in Kauai. Flight attendants love finding deals with hotel bike rentals, bike shops and bike shares, and most hotels can point you in the right direction.  Many cities, including Seattle, offer bike share programs where residents and visitors alike can check out bicycles in one location and drop them off in another. Check out Pronto! Cycle Share in Seattle, Hubway in Boston, or Divvy in Chicago, among others.

Tip 4: Try a historic house tour

For a unique take on the culture of a new locale, Adair suggests taking a historic house tour. During these inexpensive tours, hosts take you on a journey through homes where famous people were born, or houses with interesting history and architecture. The ghost tours of New Orleans are steeped in cultural history and folklore, and on the tour of the Clara Barton House near Washington, D.C. you can experience the first headquarters of the Red Cross.

“You really learn all about the city and its history, but on a more personal level,” says Adair.

Tip 5: Re-create local specialties

If you have already indulged in a Baltimore crab cake in Lexington Market or a Tom Douglas pizza from Serious Pie in Seattle and are feeling thrifty, Adair offers an innovative way to experience the local flavors.

“I like to find out what the local specials are, and then head to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients for a picnic,” says Adair. “There is nothing better than grabbing some of Seattle’s famous marionberry jam and Beecher’s cheese and heading to the Olympic Sculpture Park to take in the sights.”

It’s always a good idea to take a moment to research your destination before you travel, but if you need more ideas about what to do first in a new city, you might want to just ask a flight attendant.

What are your favorite ways to explore a new city without breaking the bank?

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