Mackinac Island on a Budget – 22 Ways to Save

To really get the biggest bang for my buck, I like to travel on a budget. I like to save a little where we can and really have a great experience. Here are 22 tips for saving money when visiting Mackinac Island. 

1. Weekdays – Hotel rates during the week, Monday-Thursday are usually much lower than weekend rates. If you’re looking to save a little, stay during the week if possible.

2. Groupon Deals – If you’re not familiar with Groupon – it is a deal-of-the-day online service. New promotions and discounts are posted each day, for activities and goods, including Mackinac Island.

Spring Ferry in St. Ignace michigan
Spring Ferry in St. Ignace

3. Follow your favorite businesses on social media – You never know when Starline will offer half-off ferry tickets on Facebook. Pro tip: They do!!

4. Eat dinner early – Dinner prices are usually higher than lunch prices. If you decide to go out to eat, do it earlier in the day, because dinner prices usually begin at 4pm.

Horse Carriage at Fort Holmes
Horse Carriage at Fort Holmes

5. If you have a larger group, you can save money by doing a private drive yourself carriage. It’s the next cheapest option to get on a horse carriage, the cheapest carriage option is takin a taxi. .

6. Stay the last night of Lilac Festival, instead of during the festival. Hotels rates are higher during the week of Lilac Festival and the parade is on Sunday, the very last day of the festival. You can arrive early on Sunday, participate in the festivities and stay the night for much less.

Lilacs on the West Bluff
Lilacs on the West Bluff

7. Try fudge samples at all the stores – this might sound a little tacky but it is pretty common. Almost all the fudge shops on the island offer free samples. If you don’t want to spend money buying a pound of fudge, just try a little piece at each shop around town until you’re satisfied.

8. Look for coupons – they can be shared anywhere. Look in brochures, ask your hotel, search online, etc. Put in the effort and you may find a good deal!

Downtown Mackinac Island
Downtown Mackinac Island

9. Eat at Mighty Mac – One of the more inexpensive places to eat on Mackinac Island. It is the island equivalent of a fast food restaurant. A nice burger joint where your food comes quick, you seat yourself, they even have outdoor waterfront seating.

10. Visit during off season – Basically any time before schools close for summer break and any time after Labor Day, is considered off- season. Hotel prices are much lower during this time.

Biking along the water at Mission Point
Biking along the water at Mission Point

11. Bring your own water, food, beer. – You’re allowed to bring a cooler, so if you want to save money – load it up and don’t go out to eat.

12. Book a place with breakfast included. – Then you will automatically have 1 free meal for the day!

Mackinac Island traffic
Mackinac Island traffic

13. Buy Groceries at Douds and keep them in the mini fridge in your hotel room. BUT – do remember the groceries are much more expensive on the Mackinac Island.

14. Hike trails and hang on the beach – It’s one of the funnest “free” activities to do on the island. And an added bonus it is absolutely beautiful!!

Collecting rocks on the beach
Collecting rocks on the beach

15. Utilize Free Parking – The ferry company will offer a variety of parking, including indoor, gated, valet, etc. But they almost always have a free parking option too.

16. Buy your ferry tickets on Valentines or Black Friday – On the day after Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day the ferry companies have had sales that includ a Buy 1 Get 1 free offer.

Horse Stables on West Bluff
Horse Stables on West Bluff

17. Don’t make hotel reservations in advance. Instead, wait until you arrive and negotiate deals for hotel vacancy. But this might not be a guarantee, especially because hotels sell out. As a front desk agent, I sold many discounted rooms to walk in guests who came by late in the day.

18. Bring your bikes. Renting bikes is pricier than bringing bikes on the ferry. Rentals rates are usually per hour and up, while bringing a bike on the ferry is a one-time charge. It is more affordable to bring a bike, if you plan on riding more than just an hour or so.

View from the East Bluff
View from the East Bluff

19. Buy ferry tickets online. The ferry lines offer online deals, packages for families, and multi-day passes. There are 2 ferry lines – Starline and Sheplers.

20. Park you car in St. Ignace. The parking is cheaper, and you might even find some free parking.

Inn on Mackinac

21. Get your souvenirs at the Big Store. If you are looking to take some goodies home, save a little money by buying them at the Big Store, the prices are lower than the other souvenir stores.

22. Ask what discounts are available, when making hotel reservations. Use AAA/AARP discounts, can save you anywhere from 10-25%, depending on the hotel.

Tulips at Grand Hotel
Tulips at Grand Hotel

I have some other blogs to help you plan your Mackinac Island trip! Take a look!!

Mackinac Island’s Best Kept Secrets

As soon as you arrive to Mackinac Island, a map will be your best friend. They’re easy to find at the Visitors Center, Tourism Bureau, your hotel front desk/concierge, stores and restaurants. Unless you’ve lived on the island your whole life, you’re going to be lost without a map. I highly recommend getting one before…

A Visit to Mackinac Island in the Winter

Did you know you can visit Mackinac Island in the winter too? It is everything you love about Mackinac Island, plus so much more. Imagine downtown without the crowds, no bicycles, just peaceful and quiet.

How to Plan a Mackinac Island Day Trip on a Budget

Mackinac Island is as incredible as everyone says, but it can be pricey to visit. Between food, accommodation and transportation, the costs can add up quickly.  It doesn’t have to break your bank to visit Mackinac Island. Here are some tips to stay within a budget and see this amazing island! Stay Off Island Unless…

12 thoughts on “Mackinac Island on a Budget – 22 Ways to Save

  1. Jeff Shaffer says:

    Number 13 is wrong, don’t buy food at Island grocery store. Bring groceries with you. Douds is 2.25% higher then off Island. Everyone that live on island year round buy food off island. Pack in a box or plastic tote .


      • clay says:

        i always found it interesting that faygo pop was on sale at douds it was premarked 99 cents but on sale for 1.19. 1992 prices


    • David Freeze says:

      I’m not sure your numbers are right. If it’s only 2.25% higher that’s so relatively small of a number who freaking cares? I for one would rather support the local grocery store by paying 2.25 more on a 100.00 of groceries. And they said it’s cheaper than eating out which is 100% facts so not sure why you would disagree on anything.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Van Shteffy says:

    Families can camp stay on Round Island for FREE.
    They just have to get there. Great Turtle Kayak might get a family over for the night or longer.


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