“Affordable” and “Tahoe” are not usually in the same sentence when people are talking about vacations and last minute mountain getaways. Most people believe that Tahoe vacations are only for the wealthy or once in a lifetime big budget holidays. However, there are ways to travel to South Lake Tahoe on a tight budget. You’re probably thinking, “I can’t afford a fancy Tahoe ski trip” or I wish I could afford a summer Tahoe vacation.”
Well guess what? South Lake Tahoe isn’t just for the well-off travelers and wealthy adventurers! Real people live and work in Tahoe, and most came by way of budget-friendly trips and decided to make Tahoe home. Most Tahoe locals enjoy the many outdoor adventures this historic comstock-town-turned-ski-town has to offer.
Lake Tahoe Travel Hacks For When You’re Broke AF
How to buy cheap lift tickets in Tahoe? Well, there aren’t a ton of discounted lift tickets/ski passes, but we have put together the best deals we could find for budget minded skiiers and snowboarders.
In April, as ski season winds down and spring break visitors are leaving, is the best time for tight-budgeted snow sport enthusiasts to visit because there are amazing deals on everything from lodging, gear rental, shopping, and dining!
- Every once in awhile you can find deals on lift tickets at Costco in the gift card section.
- Some ski resorts will occasionally offer discounted tickets for specific dates. So check with their ticket office and ask about any last minute deals.
- SAC Ski Days – Support a great cause and get a deal on lift tickets with the Sierra Avalanche Center’s SAC Ski Days! Tickets are limited so check every season early on to take advantage of the deals.
- Fly and Ski For Free – Heavenly, Sierra and Kirkwood all have a “You Fly and We Buy” deal. You have to be willing to ski/ride the same day you fly though, so book a red-eye flight and ski for free!
- Some local ski shops offer discounted lift tickets when buying at their shop. If you are in the market for new gear ask if they offer discounts on lift tickets if you make a big purchase.
- Also, don’t forget to look at Liftopia’s website to see if they have any deals going for your favorite mountain.
- REI – Did you know your REI membership entitles you to discounted lift tickets? Well, it does, check these deals out!
- Lastly, Mountain Sports Club’s annual $35 membership often offers BOGO tickets and savings on gear and clothing.
Here’s how to do South Lake Tahoe on the cheap, spring break style, without the spring-break hangover. Well, you can get that too with $3 drinks at Lakeside Inn and Casino!
Travel During Off-Season
Avoid traveling during the big school/bank holidays and major local events (Concerts/Celebrity Golf Tournament), this is when the local shops & travel industry raise prices to take advantage of families who prefer to travel during these dates. Research the best time to visit Tahoe (for your activities), and then travel just before or after these dates. This is called the ‘shoulder season’ or ‘off season’, you will still have a great trip and you won’t be fighting the traffic, crowds, and high prices! Vacation rentals, rental stores, and airlines lower their prices to attract customers during this time.
Check out our list of affordable Tahoe Vacation Rentals, many of the rentals have budget travelers in mind with bunk beds, trundle beds, and fully equipped kitchens (save money by cooking at “home”).
The cute little Tahoe Bungalows has been owned and operated by the same local couple in Tahoe who both started out as cliche’ Tahoe Ski Bums and now they offer two cozy “cabinas” for people on a budget. The rentals are friendly, hip spaces with easy access to the mountain and Lake, decorated in “modern-rustic-cabin-chic” Both homes feature full kitchens with everything you need to cook meals at “home”, #4 has a king bed with one sleeper sofa and #3 a queen with two sleeper sofas, both have a private bath, washer/dryer and TVs with Netflix and Cable. Bonus: It’s less than a five-minute walk to the Lake and neighborhood beaches!
If you like to travel in style and have a little bit more money to spend – Then rent the one-of-a-kind Mountain Water Tahoe GuestHouse with sweeping views of the mountains and Lake Tahoe. The home backs up to a Tahoe Conservancy Wildlife Preserve and is a custom-built home that will bring the true “Tahoe” vibe to your vacation.
Travel with a group of friends
Don’t underestimate the power of cost-sharing. Many Vacation Rentals come equipped with sofa beds, foldout futons, trundle beds, and bunk beds.
If you are still within the legal occupancy why not share a small condo/home? You and your travel companions can share in the costs of the home, groceries, and gas! If you are willing to share a bunk you can save 100s of dollars a night, You probably need the room for sleeping only and you’ll be out sightseeing most of the time anyway.
Eating and drinking
Tourists and second homeowners are willing to spend $$$ for fine dining, they are on vacation and want to splurge, but locals know where to get great meals on shoestring budgets. Living like a local means you need to be able to be thrifty like a local too!
- Lakeside has $6.99 breakfasts
- Check out the locals’ coupon book for off-season two-for-one meals
- There is a visitor’s edition too of the coupon book
- Blue Dog Pizza (owned by some local friends) has some happy hour specials and full moon deals
- McPs TapHouse and GastroPub has terrific happy hour specials
- The Best Way to Eat like a local is to cook your own meals in one of the fully equipped vacation rental kitchens. Get your discount groceries at the local South Lake Tahoe Grocery Outlet.
Activities and events
Get a dose of history at the free Lake Tahoe Historical Society, In 1968, a group of volunteers gathered artifacts and started a small museum in the city of South Lake Tahoe, In 1983, the museum moved from our Log Cabin into the former county library that was remodeled in 2009, giving it a fresh, new museum experience. The museum is operated by volunteers.
Go hiking! Get outside and explore Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains. It’s free to hike and GOOD for you. Checkout AllTrails to find the perfect hike for your group and skill level.
Free Summer Concerts – Live at Lakeview – Every Thursday night (during the summer) Come enjoy live music, unique local vendors along the shore of beautiful Lake Tahoe! Stunning views, Stand up paddle board rentals, a beautiful sandy beach, amphitheater seating, and fun for the entire family!
Tahoe Heritage Foundation activities: Tahoe Heritage Foundation Store offers last minute gift ideas and tours of the Historic Tallac Site, don’t forget to checkout the Summer Gatsby Festival and the Taylor Creek Visitor Center.
Ski programs and free on-mountain tours: Did you know that you can go skiing with a US Forest Service Ranger for free?! Yup, during Ski Season get a free guided tour (about an hour) and learn about Tahoe history, wildlife, forest health, and hit the slopes with ranger at Heavenly Ski Resort. For more info checkout “Ski With a Ranger” program.”