For starters, avoid the big-name towns and seek out accommodations in smaller, nearby ones instead. For example, instead of Damariscotta, consider Waldoboro; instead of Camden, try Belfast or Searsport; in place of Bar Harbor, check Trenton or Southwest Harbor. Or simply explore the Down East Coast, where rates are generally far lower than in other coastal regions.Small, family-owned motels tend to have the lowest rates. Better yet, book a cabin or cottage for a week, rather than a room by the night.Small, family-owned motels tend to have the lowest rates. Better yet, book a cabin or cottage for a week, rather than a room by the night. Not only can you find reasonable weekly rentals—especially if you plan well in advance—but you’ll also have cooking facilities, allowing you to avoid eating all meals out.
Speaking of food, buy or bring a small cooler so you can stock up at supermarkets and farmers markets for picnic meals. Most Hannaford and Shaw’s supermarkets have large selections of prepared foods and big salad bars and bakeries, and many local groceries have pizza and sandwich counters.
Do check local papers and bulletin boards for Public Supper notices. Most are very inexpensive, raise money for a good cause, and provide an opportunity not only for a good meal, but also to meet locals and glean a few insider tips.
Of course, sometimes you want to have a nice meal in a nice place. Consider going out for lunch, which is usually far less expensive than dinner, or take advantage of early-bird specials or of the Friday-night all-you-can-eat fish fries offered at quite a few home-cooking restaurants.
Take advantage of Maine’s vast outdoor-recreation opportunities; many are free. Even Acadia, with its miles and miles of trails and carriage roads, and its Island Explorer bus service, is a bargain; buy a park pass and it’s all yours to use and explore.
Take advantage of free events: concerts, lectures, farmers markets, art shows and openings, and family events. Most are usually listed in local papers.
Avoid parking hassles and fees and save gas by using local transportation services when available, such as the trolley network on the Southern Coast and the Island Explorer bus system on Mount Desert Island.
Finally, before making reservations for anything, check to see if there’s a special Internet rate or ask about any discounts that might apply to you: AAA, senior, military, government, family rate, and so forth. If you don’t ask, you won’t get.
Excerpted from the Fifth Edition of Moon Coastal Maine.