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Are Hotels Outside of Boston Cheaper?

Yes and no. 

You may find hotels with lower rates in Boston neighborhoods outside of the city center such South Boston and Allston, and also in some Boston suburbs.  However, many of these hotels on the outskirts are not near subway stations.  The time and expense of getting to and parking in central Boston will make any savings quickly disappear, along with a chunk of your precious vacation time.

In general, you're better off looking for inexpensive Boston hotels within the city's central neighborhoods - Downtown, Back Bay, Beacon Hill, the South End, the North End, the West End/Government Center, Fenway, and Charlestown.  If your plans include Cambridge, then look for hotels near Harvard Square, Central Square, or MIT/Kendall Square.

However, Best Western Hotel Tria in West Cambridge is an 8-10 minute walk from the Alewife station on the subway's Red Line, and is worth considering . . . IF you can find low rates.  From Alewife, you're about 10 minutes from Harvard Square in Cambridge and about 18 - 20 minutes from downtown Boston locations.  You'll usually find much better rates in winter than in summer.  Daily rates for parking will typically be less than those charged by downtown Boston hotels.

When Hotels in the Suburbs Make Sense

Sometimes, you may be planning a couple of Boston activities plus other excursions outside of the city.  At other times, hotels in Boston and Cambridge fill up due to conventions or graduations.  This is when looking for inexpensive hotels in Boston's suburbs may make sense.

Good areas to try are Lexington, Waltham, Newton, and Needham.  They're reasonably close to the Mass Pike (which comes into Boston from the west), Route 128 (which circles Boston), and Route 2, which goes to the Alewife subway station on the Red Line. 

Here are several attractive choices in each of these areas:

Lexington Hotels

Co-located at the same site, both of these Westin/Starwood hotels feature cool design and great amenities.  Element targets the extended stay market.  About 10 minutes to Red Line/Alewife station, assuming normal (non-rush hour) traffic:

Waltham hotels:

Perhaps 12-15 minutes to Red Line/Alewife station, assuming normal (non-rush hour) traffic:

Newton hotels:

Close to Mass Pike, and to Green Line subway stations:

Needham hotel:

Not too far from Mass Pike:

You can fairly easily reach various Green Line stations in Newton - but the Green Line "trains" (in reality, above-ground trolleys) are considerably slower than the Red Line trains.

Is the savings worth the time, inconvenience, and cost of having to commute into town by subway, or worst yet, drive in and park? 

That's a question that only you can decide.

How to Shave 25% Off Your Boston Hotel Bill

Many Boston hotels are now charging up to $50 per day for parking - yes, that's up to $50 plus tax that gets added to your hotel bill each day.  Some hotels charge more.

If you find a great rate of, say, $180 per night at a Boston hotel but have to pay another $50 for parking . . . well, you can do the depressing math.  Leaving your car at home is a no-brainer way to save almost 25% on your total hotel bill. 

You do not need a car in central Boston because you can easily take the subway ("T") or a cab.  In fact, a car is a liability - just read my tips about driving in Boston to see why!  If you are planning a day trip outside Boston during your visit, you can rent a car for the day - much cheaper!

But what if you're planning to drive to Boston, and taking a plane, train, or bus simply doesn't work for you?  If you're planning to be here for 7 days or less, park at one of the T stations that allow overnight parking (find a list at the MBTA's website by clicking on "parking"). 

Park your car in the lot (in at least some lots, you'll need to arrive either before about 7:30am or after about 6pm to find a space), grab your suitcase, and take the T to your hotel.  Or, if you're traveling with your family or friends, drive first to your hotel and drop off them and all of the luggage.  Then drive to the T station, park, and take the T luggage-free.

You'll have to pay for the overnight parking (about $8 at most stations) and of course your T ticket (less than $3 each way) - but you'll still save a bundle.  Plus, parking at the station and taking the T to your hotel will probably be faster and easier than driving in the city.

Even Cheaper Hotel Alternatives

Are even the inexpensive Boston hotels pricier than your budget permits? 

Don't despair . . .  Check out these options:

Guest Houses - These are more like small furnished apartments than hotels.  Rates are somewhat lower than most hotels - you won't save a lot of money, but everything helps!  They're also good options if you're staying for several weeks or months.  Try Copley House for nice studios and 1-bedroom apartments in a lovely location on the Back Bay - South End border. 

Hostels - Hostelling International provides hostel accommodations in excellent locations in Fenway and the Theatre District, as well as travel-related services such as tours.  Both private and shared rooms are offered, although the biggest bargains are the shared rooms.  Just keep in mind that since rates are on a per-person basis, if you're traveling with 1 or 2 other people, you may find better values at some of the inexpensive Boston hotels.  Hostelling International Boston website and rates

Also check STATravel for more cheap rates on student hostels and hotels - mostly private rooms and baths, NOT shared accommodations.

YWCA - The YWCA's Berkeley Residence in the South End near the Back Bay neighborhood offers nightly and longer term (5 weeks or more) lodging for very reasonable per-person rates.  Both private and shared rooms are available, with shared baths.  Public transportation is nearby.  YWCA Boston website and rates:

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