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Charleston Stays: Spend the Night for Less

Libby Wiersema Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 38 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.
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Charleston is renowned for its historic beauty, world-class dining, stellar shopping, arts and entertainment, luxury hotels and more. It is also a well-known fact that a visit to the Holy City can set you back a pretty penny (or two, three, four …) While dining on a budget and enjoying low-cost activities can easily be accomplished without a lot of footwork, finding accommodations that fit a modest budget can seem like an effort in futility.

Don’t let travel sites scare you away with their lists of top-tier hotel tariffs; a great place to lay your head can be had in the area without canceling the kids’ ballet lessons. Experience a Charleston getaway that is both memorable and affordable by checking out these fabulous finds and following tips for getting the best lodging deals for your dollar.

For out-of-the-ordinary stays that won’t rattle your budget-conscious sensibilities, consider these cool options, all within close proximity to the city:

Beachside Boutique Inn, Folly Beach 
Named by Travel + Leisure magazine as one of the 40 Best Affordable Beach Resorts in the World, this operation is full of surprises, not the least of which are the low rates. Just a few minutes’ drive from the heart of Charleston, you’ll find the fun and laid-back town of Folly Beach as well as good deals at this “anything goes” clutch of cool digs. First, choose from beachside or riverside accommodations. Then, narrow your choices down to “stand-alone” cottages, “quirky” cottage rooms or “wooden castle” rooms. Beachside accommodations consist of four buildings: a main house and three cottages. Riverside lodging is offered in restored old-school beach houses and an inn with views of the Folly River. Every option will delight with whimsical decor and plenty of creature comforts. Bonus: No matter which you choose, you’re just a short walk from the beach, eclectic cafes, and best of all—a mere 20 minutes by car to Charleston.

NotSo Hostel, Cannonborough/Elliotborough Neighborhood 
Charleston is home to a vibrant hostel offering private rooms, dorms and suites geared specifically for travelers. Capturing the spirit of European hosteling, these accommodations—whether private or dorm style—are comfortably outfitted and creatively themed. Who wouldn’t want to stay in a room named for Monet? A main house and annex give lodgers a host of options and everything needed to feel at home. There are rooms for everyone here, many of them touting bright colors, comfy beds, shared and private sparkling bathrooms, wood floors, kitchen privileges and more, all for a ridiculously affordable price. Bonus: Guests can snag a 10 percent discount from a dozen or so nearby Charleston restaurants and businesses.

Plantation Oaks Inn, Mt. Pleasant 
You’ll fall under the spell of this bed and breakfast inn surrounded by 300-year-old live oaks. Once owned by Charles Pinckney, politician and signer of the U.S. Constitution, this historic, beautifully restored log home is warm, welcoming and brimming with all kinds of small touches that elevate a good stay to greatness. The grounds are just as pleasing with postcard-worthy scenes of mossy oaks and the ethereal Boone Hall tidal creek that borders the property. Guests will love the elegance and spaciousness of their accommodations, private baths and the home-cooked breakfast. After a full day of Charleston sightseeing, you’ll be happy to retire to the comforts of this inn. Use the money you’ll save for more Lowcountry fun. Bonus: Don’t miss the chance to take a shady snooze on the Pawleys Island hammock out back or on the upstairs porch overlooking the tidal creek.

Follow these tips when planning a “Charleston on the Cheap” vacation:

Tip No. 1: For lower rates, visit during the week or in the off-season, which is generally December through February. Charleston is gorgeous and exciting any time of year and any day of the week, so give it a go. Bonus: Fewer events means smaller crowds, so you have a little more elbow room walking through the Charleston Market or shopping on King Street. Another bonus: It’s oyster season in the Lowcountry, so come ready to do some shucking and slurping.

Tip No. 2: Cross the river or bridge. That’s right—a quick jaunt over Charleston’s rivers and bridges will set you on a path to savings. You get all the expected service and amenities from these operations, but at prices that run far less than their downtown counterparts. The majestic Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, which has become a modern-day symbol of Charleston as well as a vantage point for stunning vistas of the city, will lead you into bustling Mt. Pleasant—a town rich with restaurants and a host of tried-and-true hotel standards like Red Roof Inn, Days Inn, Best Western, Holiday Inn Express and Hilton Garden Inn. The Inn at I’On, a Southern-charm-infused boutique hotel near Patriot’s Point, is a favorite of the cost-conscious crowd, so reserve early. Or take the Don Holt Bridge via I-526 to lovely Daniel Island where you’ll find the reasonably priced Hampton Inn as well as good eats, waterfront parks and recreational opportunities. In the other direction, cross the Ashley River for water/marina views at the Holiday Inn, Residence Inn, Springhill Suites and La Quinta. Bonus: These hotels are all within sight of the historic downtown, so you still feel that Holy City connection—minus the higher prices.

Tip No. 3: Deal with inns and hotels directly. While you think you’re saving cash by booking through a travel site, it’s a fact that many hotels will beat those prices when you inquire personally. Pick up the phone, give them a call and get the real “best price guarantee.” Have a special need or questions about the area? Talk to the friendly innkeepers and hotel staff, who are more than eager to be of service.

Tip No. 4: Reserve now. Whether it’s lodging, dining or entertainment, a delay in making reservations or securing tickets will likely end in disappointment. Remember that Charleston is a major global destination that roughly 7 million people show up to experience each year. While last-minute action often leads to savings in other locales, it’s not a technique that tends to work well here.


Additional Hotels &Inns

Red Roof Inn 

Days Inn 

Best Western Patriots Point 

Holiday Inn Express, Mt. Pleasant 

Hilton Garden Inn, Mt. Pleasant 

Inn at l'On 

Hampton Inn, Daniel Island 

Holiday Inn Riverview 

Residence Inn Riverview 

Springhill Suites, Riverview 

La Quinta Inn and Suites, Riverview 


Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 38 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.