My family and I try to visit the beach every year but there were times we didn’t always think we’d be able to pull it off. When you don’t have a beach nearby the cost can get outrageous, making it a borderline irresponsible decision to do it.
Over the years I’ve made it a point to learn the ins and outs of booking vacation and traveling to the beach, so we get the best family vacation at the very best price. With a little extra effort and know-how, you too can save a ton of money on your next beach vacation and I’m going to tell you just how to do it
Choose your dates wisely
With a little creative calendaring you can save a ton of money by booking in the off season. You may not be aware of this but usually, when traveling at off season you can oftentimes cut the cost in half. That’s a tremendous savings in your overall budget. Beach communities often stay warm much later in the season and you can still enjoy the water if you time it right. Think September after Labor Day, October or make it really special and book a beach Thanksgiving. If off-season doesn’t work for you, you can still shave some money by staying weekdays instead of weekends; Consider booking 5 nights instead of 7. If you’re willing to compromise and think outside of the box you can get substantial savings by being flexible with your schedule.
Always call before booking
It is so easy to book online these days that it’s simple to miss this critical step. Talking to someone directly allows you the opportunity to ask questions and they can give you some tips on best times for saving money to help you stretch that budget. Always ask if they offer a repeat renters discount or discount for offering online reviews; if you ask, they might give you a percentage off when paying in full. Don’t be afraid to ask, there are many rental companies out there for you to choose from and they expect you to do your due diligence to get the best price. Don’t hesitate, make that call!
Go for the almost prime location
Outside of bedrooms location of your rental is the other deciding factor when determining the cost of a rental. Beachfront is always the pricier option so consider other areas with water access. Across the street from the beach can save you a ton of cash, yet often you still have an ocean view and can hear the sound of the water from your rental home. Consider bay front properties, lake views if you’re a fan of the water. If you’re willing to travel a few blocks to get to the beach you can often enjoy rental homes with a lot more amenities for the same price; these amenities can provide more activity and entertainment for the kids and for us was a huge BONUS. Shop around!
Skimp on bedrooms
I know at first glance this might seem unrealistic but think about it this way; why pay for three bedrooms when a two bedroom with a loft will do? Most rental companies set their rates based on the number of bedrooms or how many it sleeps. For other options, consider whether they have a fold out couch or ask if they can provide a rollaway bed. Layout and extra features of the property can make a difference. Be creative in your search and you just might find the perfect one at the perfect price.
Find the hidden gem
Over the years I have found that the best deals aren’t found on the popular property rental sites. So how do you find them? Ask the locals. The people who live in the area or own property in the area can give you some amazing insight and might even know that guy that has a small beachfront property he rents etc. You can connect with these locals by joining a Facebook group for the area you plan on traveling too. Once you’ve joined the group just post a question, give it some time and I think you’ll be surprised at how much information the group will give you. Connecting with locals will give you the scoop you can’t find on the internet.
Plan for free activities
Popular vacation destinations usually offer a ton of activities but at a steep price. By the time you shell out twenty dollars each for a family of five, you’re out a hundred dollars. Instead, I like to plan a lot of free activities before we go so I know that the kids are entertained and it’s not killing our budget. The beach is a great opportunity to explore nature and all it has to offer. Here are some of our favorite free beach activities:
- Fishing; a wonderful pass time, fishing is an opportunity to learn and come together as a family. Really get the kids excited about going by making a do-it-yourself fishing pole at home before the trip.
- Sand Castles; you’re never too old to make a sand castle. Make it a family competition and talk it up before you go, you can even check out some of the world record sand castle pictures you find online. Have everyone study tips and tricks for making sand castles and really get them involved.
- Shelling; collect as many shells as possible, spend time that evening cleaning them off and let them air dry. Put together a craft made of shells and prepare gifts for those back home or bag them up and take home and use for craft activities all year long.
- Swimming and water sports are always a great time for the kids. Take along kites, a scavenger hunt and/or bean bag toss for a little more beach fun. Most areas have a nature center or museum in the area, check and see if they have free admission days you can plan for the trip. Google top free activities for the area you are visiting. You can manage expectations with the kids by talking to them ahead of time and sharing what activities you’ll be doing. We like to plan on splurging on one new activity that is only available on vacation and give the kids a couple of options; we give them the choice of ‘this’ or ‘that’ and let them choose.
Plan on cooking
Eating out on vacation accounts for the second largest expense for vacation next to lodging and transportation; that’s not including dining out for all three meals. Do NOT book a trip without having a kitchenette of some kind in your rental home, condo or hotel. Although the last thing I want to do is cook on vacation I’ve seen the difference it makes in our budget. It doesn’t have to be a well-balanced perfectly healthy meal every night, be creative and make it fun for the kids. Let them cook hot dogs over a fire on the beach (if allowed), let them make homemade pizzas, throw a roast in the slow cooker and make pulled BBQ sandwiches. I like to set out a bowl of snacks on the counter each morning so the kids can grab granola bars, fruit and crackers throughout the day. The trick is to keep it simple while still managing the budget. If you’re dead set on eating out some of the time remember breakfast is usually cheaper than dinner. The money saved is well worth a little bit of work, I promise!
Explore all your transportation options
Costs of fuel, airfare and rental cars change often. Just because it was cheaper to fly last year doesn’t mean it will be this year. Are you going to need a rental car while you are there? Would it make more sense to rent the car locally and drive to your destination? Can you catch a nearby bus or train? Take the extra time to consider the total expense and the pros and cons of each. For us, we save a few bucks driving and don’t mind making the eleven-hour trip. You’ll have to decide what works for your family but there is potential to save hundreds of dollars if you’re willing to compromise.
Other eligible discounts
Many rental companies will offer discounts for senior citizens, young children, military families or those with disabilities. If you are an AAA or AARP member you may also qualify for special deals and percentage discounts. Check for coupons for other activities and venues using online sites or apps such as Groupon.com or LocalFavor.com. Pick up free coupons at the visitor centers and call the places you’d like to visit directly and ask if they have special discount days that could save you money. You can still enjoy the area attractions; just make sure you’re doing it at the very best price!
When it doubt, pack it. Avoid countless trips to the store having to buy that ‘one’ thing you wished you’d brought. If at all feasible, grocery shop and take with you. Make sure to grab the first aid kit, water toys and entertainment items, chargers for all your devices. If you think through your list and pack everything you’ll need it’s less likely you’ll use up your budget on buying annoying little items.
I spent many years without a beach vacation because I simply couldn’t afford it, but I learned I was just doing it wrong. Spending a little time on research and making the effort to reach out to people will save you a ton of cash without sacrificing a great time. You deserve some R&R while making great memories and now you can afford it.