Head’s up to all the brides, grooms, best men, and maids-of-honor out there who are planning a destination bachelor or bachelorette party: these celebrations don’t have to break the bank for you or your guests.
You are officially on notice: your friends are probably on a budget (paying off student debt, saving to buy a home, etc.) so try your best to keep a cap on the cost. With engagement presents, bridal-shower gifts, bachelor/bachelorette parties, wedding gifts, tuxedo rentals, dresses for those in the wedding party, travel and lodging overnight to out-of-town weddings . . . the tab for a friend’s marriage plans can easily jump into the four figures. Multiply that by the number of close friends who may be getting married in waves, and this is a big hit against the wallet.
The good news is that you can plan a great trip without breaking anyone’s bank. Check out our 10 suggestions for planning a bachelor or bachelorette party while staying within a reasonable budget:
1. Pick a location that is within driving distance.
Bachelor and bachelorette parties don’t have to mean jetting off to an exotic location for the long weekend. Instead of incurring the cost of airfare, consider a destination that is within driving distance from most of the guests. If they don’t have a car, they can tag along with someone who does or buddy up and split the cost of renting one. Depending on where you live, there are probably lots of great places within a 1-3 hour drive away. You just chopped hundreds of dollars off the cost of the trip for each person.
2. Instead of booking an expensive hotel, consider renting a large house, finding a place on Airbnb, or (if your guests are up for this) going camping.
Beautiful resort hotels are terrific, but the price tag might require taking out a second mortgage (which is difficult when most of your guests don’t even have a first mortgage). Look into renting a large house with multiple bedrooms, try to find a large place on a site like Airbnb, or—if your guests are into camping or willing to rough it for the weekend—consider a campsite or camping lodge. (Just make sure you round up enough sleeping bags in advance.)
3. Before you arrive, research some of the free or low-cost activities in the area.
With a little looking on sites like TripAdvisor, the local Chamber of Commerce, or Visitor Bureau websites, you can probably find many free or low-cost activities at your destination. Depending on where you are staying, these can include:
- Local attractions or points of interest (famous monuments, statues, buildings, city/town centers, natural wonders like waterfalls, rivers, lakes, etc.)
- National Parks and State Parks
- Walking trails
- Local public parks
- Outdoor music festivals and concerts
- Art shows and craft fairs
- Other local seasonal events
- Free or low-cost factory tours (Check out the Cape Cod Potato Chip Factory Tour (free) in Hyannis, MA; the Ben and Jerry’s Factory Tour ($4) in Waterbury, VT; the Hershey’s Chocolate Tour (free) in Hershey, PA; the Gibson Guitar Factory Tour ($10) in Memphis, TN; the Jelly Belly Factory Tour (free) in Fairfield, CA; and the Budweiser Brewery Experience ($5 for general brewery tour—add-ons for additional tours) in St. Louis, MO, Fairfield, CA, Fort Collins, CO, Houston, TX, Jacksonville, FL, and Merrimack, NH. There are many other factory tours throughout the U.S., and most of them are free or have low-priced tickets. You can research these online once you know your destination.)
- Free TV show tapings in New York City, Los Angeles, and other cities (depending upon the show)
- Free comedy/stand-up shows (although usually there’s a two-drink minimum)
4. Find low-cost ways to give your trip a theme.
Hall of Fame Tours:
One way to organize a trip around a theme is to visit the hall of fame for the topic or theme you pick. For example, here are a few places, depending upon interests and location:
- Baseball: the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY
- Music: the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, OH
- Country music: the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, TN
- Basketball: the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA or the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, TN
- Football: the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH
- Ice Hockey: the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in Eveleth, MN or the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, CA (if you live close enough for a road trip)
- NASCAR: the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, NC
- There are many other hall of fame museums throughout the U.S. in different fields, including tennis (RI); golf (FL); skiing and snowboarding (MI); astronauts (FL); motorcycles (OH); and aviation (OH)
For major league sports lovers, how about a behind-the-scenes tour of the ballpark or stadium for your favorite team? (Tour availability is subject to home game schedules, so check dates carefully.)
- Safeco Field Tours (Seattle Mariners) ($12)
- Wrigley Field Tours (Chicago Cubs) ($25)
- Fenway Park Tours (Boston Red Sox) ($20)
- Yankee Stadium Tours (New York Yankees) ($20)
- Oriole Park at Camden Yards Tours (Baltimore Orioles) ($9)
- SunTrust Park Tours (Atlanta Braves) ($20)
- Comerica Park Tours (Detroit Tigers) ($6)
- Chase Field Tours (Arizona Diamondbacks) ($7)
- Target Field Tours (Minnesota Twins) ($17)
- Coors Field Tours (Colorado Rockies) ($12)
- Minute Maid Park/Astros Ballpark Tours (Houston Astros) ($15)
- Busch Stadium Tours (St. Louis Cardinals) ($18)
- Kauffman Stadium Tours (Kansas City Royals) ($30)
- Miller Park Tours (Milwaukee Brewers) ($12-$15)
- This list is just a sample of the baseball stadium tours available. For all other MLB stadium tours, just enter the team name followed by “stadium tour” into Google. You can also find stadium tours for other major-league sports as well.
Low-cost sports tickets:
- Go to a major league game but in the nosebleed section–if you’re lucky, you may feel like you have the place to yourself.
- Get tickets to a minor league game (much lower-priced tickets than major league games).
- If you live near a college or university, you can also get low-priced (or free) tickets to college sporting events.
Another relatively inexpensive way to plan activities around a theme is to have the guests take a group class on a topic that the bride or groom likes, such as:
- Painting (also look for painting and wine bars in some cities)
- Tai Chi
5. If you want to fly to a destination, check out packages that bundle air and hotel together for a lower price.
If you choose a location that involves air travel, you may be able to find some good deals by looking for a combined air and land package. Bundling should result in a lower price than you could get if you purchased the air and lodging separately. (You can check out the cost both ways to get the best deal out there.)
6. Pick travel dates during the off-season and avoid holidays.
Different locations have different peak seasons and off-seasons based on weather and other factors, so you need to check the times for your particular destination. For example, fall is an expensive time to travel to certain areas in the northeast to see the fall foliage, but it is off-season in places like the Florida Keys due to hurricane season (so that cheap travel insurance may be worth buying). Booking during the off-season can save you a lot on air and hotel. (Just make sure that the attractions you are interested in visiting are open during the off-season.) Also, do not book your trip during holidays or 3-day holiday weekends if you can avoid that, because the rates will be a lot higher, and the place will be more crowded. If you are flying, airfares can be dramatically higher if you fly during peak times and holidays.
7. Save money on food by cooking some of your meals instead of eating out all day.
If you are staying in a rented house, look for one that has a good-sized kitchen or an outdoor grill. Shopping together for groceries and cooking some of the meals together can save a lot of money over the course of even a few days. (By not eating out, you also get to skip the constant bill-splitting headache: should the vegetarian who just had a salad really have to pay for someone else’s avocado toast appetizer, filet mignon entrée, and lava cake dessert?) You might want to splurge on a restaurant for your last night, just don’t have every meal out, especially in an expensive restaurant. Bonus points: Cooking meals together is a way to bond with people whom you might have just met. This could make the actual wedding much more fun when more of the wedding party has gotten to know each other in advance.
8. Don’t go overboard on alcohol.
The Hangover was just a movie, and life doesn’t have to imitate art. Alcohol can be the most expensive part of the food and drink budget, so budget it wisely. You’re already spending a pretty penny, so you want to make sure that you can enjoy and remember the event. Don’t overindulge. You also don’t want to be that guy/gal.
9. If you are planning the event, create a trip that all your guests can reasonably afford.
Keep in mind that different people on the guest list have different financial situations and may not feel comfortable saying that they can’t afford something. Don’t put your guests into the uncomfortable position of choosing between spending way more than they are able to afford or making up an excuse for why they can’t attend. The last thing you would want is for your guests to have to put their airfare, hotel, or other expenses for this trip on their credit cards and to have the debt climb higher every month with compounded interest. It’s your responsibility to your guests to plan something that they can all reasonably afford without going into debt.
10. If you are a guest and can’t afford the cost of the trip, don’t go.
Don’t ever take on credit-card debt for a bachelor or bachelorette party. If you cannot afford the cost of this get-together, just say so. The person getting married is one of your closest friends and will understand. After the party is over, you can invite the bride or groom out for brunch/lunch/dinner in your local city or town, make a home-cooked meal at your place, or go somewhere else local together (museum, park, etc.). Just because you can’t make it to the real thing doesn’t mean you can’t spend quality time together to celebrate the occasion in your own city or town (assuming you live close enough to each other.)
Bachelor and bachelorette parties have become almost a rite of passage for the modern groom and bride, but they don’t have to come at the expense (pun intended) of the couple’s closest friends. If you are planning a special weekend getaway before tying the knot, don’t lose sight of the real reason behind the trip.
A good party doesn’t have to mean parting with money.
Do you have any suggestions for throwing a low-cost bachelor or bachelorette party? Any experiences you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments section below.
(All prices listed above may change – check prices for the dates and times you plan to visit.)