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Stay in Boston or just outside Boston?

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Stay in Boston or just outside Boston?

Me again..

Four ladies (medicare age) 5-6 nights in Boston area.We want to see Boston, but also some outlying areas. Would it be better to stay just out of Boston and use public transportation to get into the city.. thus avoiding driving in Boston or better to stay in Boston closer to things we want to see?

what is transportation like from Cambridge into Boston?

You can tell that I know NOTHING about Boston area.

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1. Re: Stay in Boston or just outside Boston?

Driving in Boston is unnecessary. Anywhere you want to go, if you can't walk, you can use public transportation... most often by subway. If you are driving, you will find parking to be quite expensive, even at your hotel (usually). Even if you stay in Cambridge, you can expect to pay roughly $35 a night (that's what I paid last year to park at the Hyatt). On top of that, simply driving around town can be daunting if you aren't familiar with the streets and traffic patterns... like swimming in a shark tank.

Cambridge is close and readily accessible by public transportation, but, as I said, expect to pay to park a car there.

Bottom line, if you're renting a car, do so only if you plan to drive to or stay in outlying suburbs, and then take the commuter rail into town.

If Boston is just one stop on a grander tour, suggestions may be different.

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2. Re: Stay in Boston or just outside Boston?

If you can possibly get a hotel in Boston proper (Beacon Hill, Copley Square, Downtown, etc.), do so. It's much easier. Don't rent a car unless you absolutely have to (i.e. to go to Wrentham or see Cape Cod, etc.) and if you have to, rent it only for the day or days you'll need it as parking is exhorbitant.

Harvard Square to downtown Boston is about 15 minutes by T. Central Square is a little closer, etc.

Staying downtown is most convenient. If you want to see outlying areas, maybe rent a car for a day and go tooting around then, returning the car at the end of the stay. You don't need/want a car downtown.

Boston, MA
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3. Re: Stay in Boston or just outside Boston?

regarding cambridge ... SOME hotels are near subway lines, but not all. Those that aren't may have a shuttle bus to subway stations.

Personally, to get the whole 'Boston experience', I think you are better off down town. Since you are in California, I'm assuming you won't be arrivng by car unless Boston is just part of a bigger trip.

My suggestion is stay downtown for a few days and THEN rent a car if you want to explore outlying areas.

Houston, Texas
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4. Re: Stay in Boston or just outside Boston?

I'd like to add a second question to this topic.

We are in the early stages of planning our first trip to Boston. Aside from the outrageous (by our experience) cost of hotel rooms in Boston proper, our other issue is what to do with our impedimenta while we are out walking, sightseeing and eating. I have to bring my laptop and would like to bring my camera and bag. My wife would like to bring her binoculars for a ride down Cape Cod.

The alternatives seem to be:

1.A bed and breakfast or apartment as discussed in other threads. We would just have to leave the our stuff and wouldn't be too comfortable with that.

2.Our preference, if we can get a deal, staying in a downtown hotel assuming they have a safe to check the items. (Or am I just showing my age remembering such things?) Then we could just rent a car for a few days for the day trips.

3. Renting a car for the whole stay, staying in a less expensive outlying town and driving into one of the park and rides or whatever they are called in Boston and taking public transportation in. Then we could leave our stuff in the trunk.

Does anyone have a comment on these ideas? Specifically,

1. Is it realistic to expect a downtown hotel to take custody of a laptop and binoculars for safekeeping?

2. Are the park and ride lots safe to leave valuables in the trunk? We would have a rental car which I imagine could be easily identified by a thief.

Any other ideas on solutions would also be appreciated.

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5. Re: Stay in Boston or just outside Boston?

On whether to use Cambridge or Boston as a base, first, as others have said, not every Cambridge hotel is within walking distance of the subway, and yet parking is expensive at all of them. Second, Boston is a better base anyway, because the subway lines all come together underneath downtown Boston, so you have good service in every direction. Cambridge is served only by the Red Line, so to reach any attraction that is not on the Red Line, you would need to take the Red Line to downtown Boston, change there, and then make the simple journey that you could have made from downtown Boston.

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6. Re: Stay in Boston or just outside Boston?

I agree that staying in town will be more convenient and enjoyable. If you want to go to Harvard Square in Cambridge you just get on the Red Line.

What is your motivation for thinking about staying outside of town, saving money? If you stay in Cambridge near a subway stop hotels are likely to be just about as expensive as those in town.

Depending on what "outlying areas" you want so see, you may be able to do that by taking sightseeing bus trips. Otherwise get a car when before or after your Boston stay and get rid of it when you are staying downtown. You don't want it there.

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7. Re: Stay in Boston or just outside Boston?

I would definitely vote against renting a car. Driving in Boston is very difficult as there is a lot of ongoing construction and many of the streets aren't clearly labeled. Have you considered staying at a hotel in Brookline around the Coolidge Corner area? It might be a bit cheaper than staying downtown, and it would definitely be convenient as it's located very close to the city (and downtown Boston is easily accessible via public transportation).

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8. Re: Stay in Boston or just outside Boston?


Most hotels have a safe in the room, although it might be hard to fit a laptop in there. I've never left any items at the desk in the care of hotel staff, but I imagine they would do that for you.

However, if I were you, I wouldn't worry about it. I leave my laptop, camera, etc. in hotel rooms all the time. It's not easy to break into one of those rooms, and while it would of course be possible for someone from the housekeeping or bell staff to rob you, they're usually honest and are trained not to do that sort of thing.

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9. Re: Stay in Boston or just outside Boston?

To take a stab at some of MikeNO's questions...

I don't know how big a safe at a hotel would be to hold the items you want to hold. It has been a while since I used these types of things but I remember they were more like safe deposit boxes at banks - small & narrow only holding things like important papers, passports, money, jewelery etc. So too small for laptop, camera bag etc. May be I am wrong about the newer hotels and what they offer for these items.

As far as cost of rooms, have you ever tried some of the discount web sites to book rooms? Some people on this forum recommend these places to get really good prices on downtown hotels. Such as Hotwire, Priceline, etc. When you use such sites they don't identify the hotel until you book but there are 'cheat sheets' published by users of these sites that let you figure out what hotel it is by its star rating and ameneties. If you'd like to try one of these sites search for 'using hotwire'... etc. Lots of good tips.

As far as traveling outside the city, some places are reachable via subways or commuter rail (fixed rail lines) that goes out into the suburbs. Such places like Salem, Rockport, Newburyport, Cambridge, etc. so it is possible to visit outside Boston without renting a car. But if you want to go to a place like Cape Cod you'll probably have to rent a car.

Houston, Texas
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10. Re: Stay in Boston or just outside Boston?

Thanks for quick replies. I suppose I'm not the only one without a real day job :)

I'm still a little leery of leaving the laptop. I suppose I could just encrypt the drive and take a chance.

I have been looking at the discount sites, like Kayak and Sidestep, which can include the other discounters you mention. Will look some more.

I have also been looking at some vacations from Travelocity which offer some discounts for a combining air and hotel. Some in-town deals are tempting, but others are just irritating, like the Holiday Inn offering only Smoking rooms with a King. I guess the tradeoff will be commute time v. price.

Looking at the commuter rail, I notice one line going up the coast. My wife and I really like rocky seacoasts and the idea of staying in a coastal town and commuting in carries a certain attraction. Are there any coastal towns along the rail line that would be worth looking into? We had planned a trip to Salem anyway before I knew we could catch the train there.

Thanks again for the help.