Mackinac Island Horses
Budget Travel,  North America Travel

How to Visit Mackinac Island on a Budget

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If Mackinac Island is famous for two things, it’s horses and expensive hotels. Being the budget traveller that I am, even though I was dying to visit I kept putting it off until I could come up with a way to make it to Mackinac Island on a budget. I finally was able to do so this past summer, and now I’d like to share with you how you, too, can visit Mackinac Island on a budget!
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Tips and Tricks for Visiting Mackinac Island on a Budget

Camp (or at least give up your dreams of staying on the island)

St Ignace Camping Tent
Especially during the peak summer season, hotels on Mackinac Island are ridiculously expensive, and hotels in the surrounding towns climb to pretty steep prices as well. But for less than $30 a night, we were able to get a beachfront property all our own at Castle Rock Campground in nearby St. Ignace. I could not recommend this campground more – the owner was incredibly nice and the views and facilities were beautiful (guys, there were even hot water showers). To top it all off, we were only a five minute drive away from the ferry docks that would shepherd us off to Mackinac Island!

Buy a Multi-Day Ferry Pass

Mackinac Island Ferry

If you’re not going to be staying on Mackinac Island itself, chances are you’re going to have to take the ferry to get there. If you’re planning on going for more than one day, then a multi day ferry pass can save you a bit of money.

Pack a Picnic

Mackinac Island Picnic
Once you get on the island, prices for everything skyrocket – especially when it comes to food. We made the mistake of eating dinner at a restaurant our first day, and our wallets sorely regretted it. The day after, we stopped in at a market on the main street and were able to buy our lunch for around $15 – still expensive for two sandwiches and some cheese and crackers, but better than anything else we would have paid, and we got to enjoy it on a sunny lawn. If you have the foresight (which we did not) grab your food at a supermarket before you make it to the island – your bank account will thank you.
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Rent a Bike

Mackinac Island Bike Rental
As cute as the main street of town is, there is loads to see on Mackinac Island that you just might not consider ‘walking distance’. Or, maybe you have the desire to bike the 8-mile ring road around the island. Either way, pick up a bike from one of the many bike rental stands around town – the simple one speed cruisers are only $5 an hour!

Take a Horse and Carriage Taxi

Mackinac Island Horses
Going to Mackinac Island without riding a horse and carriage is probably a sacrilege of some kind. Unfortunately, most of the horse and carriage ride options are incredibly expensive, and way out of the price range of someone who is trying to stay on a budget. Fortunately, there are such a thing as horse drawn taxis! Really more like horse drawn buses, for around $5 a person you can get your quintessential Mackinac Island experience AND get to somewhere you need to go!

Visit the Grand Hotel (but don’t stay the night)

Mackinac Island Grand Hotel

Famous for having the world’s longest covered porch and being insanely expensive, the Grand Hotel is a Mackinac Island staple. Unfortunately, if you’re on a budget, staying at the hotel even for a night is the farthest thing from being an option. For $10 a person, however, you CAN get access to the hotel and grounds in order to walk around and explore as much as you’d like.

Walk Around

Mackinac Island Public Library Mackinac Island on a Budget
Finally, if you’re really looking to save some money, make your afternoon activity one day a simple leisurely stroll around the island. You’ll probably be surprised at all of the cool and cute stuff that you find!
And that’s it! While one or two splurges may put a sizeable hole in your pocketbook, visiting Mackinac Island on a budget is totally doable. If you’ve visited Mackinac Island on a budget before and have any tips that I didn’t cover, do be sure to leave them in the comments!
Want access to my VIP resource library, chock full of travel goodies? Cick here.

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Ever wanted to visit Mackinac Island but thought you didn't have the cash to do so? Fear no longer! Check out this great guide on how to visit Mackinac Island on a Budget

MY FAVORITE TRAVEL TIPS & RESOURCES

Booking Flights: The first place I turn when I’m searching for flights is actually just Google Flights - it’s great to figure out what sort of routes are available. Then, I check Skyscanner and Kiwi for deals. I also love Kiwi for its destination: anywhere feature!

Transportation: I love Omio for figuring out the cheapest way to get from one place to another, and Trainline for booking train tickets within Europe.

Accommodations: I absolutely love Booking.com for finding great hotel deals. After you stay a certain number of nights, you get Genius discounts! For hostels, Hostelworld is my go-to, and I use Airbnb occasionally as well (click here for $40 off your first booking!)

Travel Insurance: I knew that I shouldn’t travel without insurance for the longest time, but I really learned my lesson when I got an infected cut in Bali. Thank goodness I had travel insurance! I use and love World Nomads for their extremely comprehensive coverage.

Travel Insurance: I knew that I shouldn’t travel without insurance for the longest time, but I really learned my lesson when I got an infected cut in Bali. Thank goodness I had travel insurance! I use and love World Nomads for their extremely comprehensive coverage.

Tours: I always check Urban Adventures for great day tours of cities first–I’m obsessed with them! GetYourGuide and Viator are also great options. For multi-day tours, I highly recommend Intrepid.

Camera Gear: I use a Sony Alpha A6300 camera with an 18-105 mm lens and a 35 mm lens. My tripod is the MeFoto Backpacker Air and I loooooove it! I also use a DJI Mavic Air and a GoPro and which allow me to capture everything my regular camera can’t.

Addie Gray is a recent college grad and a passionate solo female traveler. Having traveled to more than 20 countries, she now shares her knowledge on budget travel, solo female travel, and travel photography.

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