On a free tour of Florence by foot, I marveled at the bronze- relief doors of the city's historic baptistery, gazed in awe at the architecture of the duomo and leisurely strolled along the Ponte Vecchio. While traveling, your love of antiquity doesn't have to bust your vacation budget. Here are four fun tips for cost control.
Markers: Historical markers provide free family entertainment, and the treasure-hunting experience of finding as many markers as possible during a particular trip. The Historical Marker Database (www.hmdb.org) lists plaques around the world, from Hawaii and British Columbia to Argentina and Kiribati. Georeader, a free smart phone application, provides information about individual historical markers you can listen to upon approach, making it a helpful travel tool to use while hiking, driving or riding a bicycle.
Charity: Volunteering for historical projects can provide significant travel savings compared to traditional daytrip adventures. Dr. Jessica Voigts of Wandering Educators, a website for traveling teachers, favors the Caribbean Volunteer Expedition program (www.cvexp.org), where travelers pay for their own expenses, but are allowed hands-on participation in the organization's programs . Expeditions include archaeological projects, historic building restorations, and cemetery surveys throughout the Caribbean. Similarly, the Council for British Archaeology has a variety of volunteer programs available to travelers.
Inns: Historical inns allow travelers to immerse themselves in their destination's past, at a cost that often trumps prices offered by modern resorts. Craig-y-Nos Castle in Wales for example, has rooms for less than $200 per night. The castle's location allows easy access to the famed Brecon Beacons National Park, a nearby village from the Iron Age and multiple cave systems. St. Augustine, Fla., is a walkable, seaside city pairing history with European charm and a high concentration of historic hotels. Innsofelegance.com lists several of them, including the notable St. Francis Inn. With room rates starting at less than $150, guests receive a gracious breakfast buffet, various beverage and snack offerings throughout the day, and free use of bicycles.
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Walking tours: One of the most affordable ways to see a city's history is on foot. Londonwalks.com provides a variety of historical tours for less than $15, including such themes as Jack the Ripper, Shakespeare and the hidden older pubs of London. Boston's historic Freedom Trail can be experienced with free, ranger-guided tours courtesy of the National Park Service, and the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society (www.sfhistory.org) offers free walking tours throughout the city, including one of the historic Barbary Coast Trail.