I'd like to give you tips from my personal experience which will make your visit to Venice more pleasant and save you some money as well.
Things You Will NeedDesire to enjoy yourself and save money in Venice, Italy
Step 1When to go: Summers are hot and crowded, winter and early spring is cold and wet. The absolute best time to visit Venice is May. It seldom rains and the temperatures are moderate. There are always tourists in Venice, but the crowds are manageable in May. Piazza San Marco and the tourist sites surrounding it are always crowded in the morning. School groups and cruise ship tours pack the Piazza until after lunch. The afternoons are the best time to visit these tourist areas with minimal crowds - and minimal waits. An added benefit in the afternoon is that the sun angle provides the best lighting for photography in the Piazza.
Step 2Where to stay: All hotels in Venice proper are expensive. If your budget allows, then certainly find a suitable hotel in Venice, especially on your first visit. However, here's a money saving tip. Stay at one of the hotels in Mestre. A good hotel can be had for around 100 Euros per night, considerably less than in Venice. And the taxi to Mestre from Marco Polo Airport is much less than transportation from the airport to Venice. But then how do I get to Venice, you ask? Very easily. There are busses every quarter hour that take you from Mestre to Piazzle Roma in about 15 minutes. The Vaparetto stop is just steps away and you're off on the Grand Canal to wherever you want to go. The cost? Since you will undoubtedly buy an all day Vaparetto pass anyway, the bus to and from Mestre is included in the fare! The only possible downside is that the last bus back to Mestre leaves at 11PM.
Step 3Where to Eat: Venice is full of restaurants, and prices vary from reasonable to sky high. I think it's best if I start by recommending places to avoid. Unless you like paying 15 Euros for a Bellini, stay away from Harry's Bar. Hemmingway loved the place, but remember he was wealthy and he probably got comped by the owner. Another group of restaurants to avoid are those on the Grand Canal near the Rialto Bridge. They are typical tourist trap places and the food is fair at best. Finding a neighborhood restaurant is the best and doing a random walk around Venice will uncover many of the tucked-away trattorias and pizzerias. A good place to start your walk is from the Ca' d'Oro Vaparetto stop. The first street paralleling the Grand Canal is the Strada Nova. It's one of the widest and longest streets in all of Venice and is lined with restaurants, shops and Gelato stands. You'll see more locals than tourists here.
Step 4Where to Shop: Upscale shops abound in and around Piazza San Marco. Small shops are scattered throughout Venice, and your random walk will lead you to many of them. One recommendation I have is a good place to start your shopping adventure. Just west of the Rialto bridge are shops and kiosks with the best prices we found in Venice. You'll find everything from Murano glass, pashminas, masks, crafts, and yes, t-shirts. If you are interested in watercolors, many artists sell theirs along the Grand Canal walkway between Piazza San Marco and the San Marco Vaparetto stop. Early evening brings out the string quartets that play at several of the restaurants within Piazza San Marco. For less than you pay for two bellinis at Harry's Bar, you can have wine and appetizers while listening to the enchanting music in this enchanting setting.
Tips & WarningsOn your random walk through Venice you will see a great many small canals and lots of gondolas! More photo ops than you can imagine. There is one canal from which you can also see the Campanile (See photo).
A sunset trip up the Grand Canal is also well worth your time. The changing colors and reflections make for a memorable experience.