Surf, Sand and Savings - The Affordable Beach Vacation

An affordable beach vacation is within your grasp.

There's no denying it, summer is the time of the year to go on a vacation, preferably with family. And the number one vacation destination for many families has to be the beach since it has something for all ages. But while everyone is having fun swimming, tanning or digging for buried treasure, it's easy for your time at the beach to eat into your “treasure” chest of money. Here are some great tips and tricks to help you have an affordable beach vacation.

Book early

Decide when you want to go and book early. If you're planning a long getaway at a beach destination, plan a couple of months or even a year out. I have already talked to a number of travelers who have booked a vacation home rental on a beach for 2015. Owners may be willing to negotiate a lower price since it is so far in advance and they don't have to worry about finding someone to rent at the last minute. Some owners also offer a discounted rate during the off-peak season which not only means you are saving money, but also that the nearby beach may not be as crowded.

Walk a bit

If you're planning a day trip, avoid high parking fees by using cheaper or free lots that are a short walk away from your destination. Unload all your bags, coolers, chairs and toys beachside, then have one person drive and park your car in the nearby affordable lot.

BYOS (Bring Your Own Stuff)

While it might be tempting to rent umbrellas, chairs, boogie boards, toys, etc. at the beach, those expenses can add up. For example, at popular Jones Beach on Long Island, NY, umbrella and chair rentals are $10 each plus a $10 deposit. Multiply that by the number of people in your group, and then add on extra purchases like Frisbees, balls, sand toys and sunscreen from local convenience stores, and your spending can reach triple digits. Plan ahead, bring items from home, and you've just freed up that money for other purposes.

BYOF (Bring Your Own Food)

While it's tempting to get a burger or a hot dog at the concession stand, it's more affordable to bring your own food, plus you don't have to wait on line when hunger strikes. Bring lots of fresh fruits and veggies, sandwiches, and water from home. Avoid salty foods, like chips and fries, which can dehydrate you. If you decide to bring some alcoholic drinks for the adults, check the beach's rules in advance and keep in mind that alcohol and long exposure to the sun's rays are never a good mix.

Cash rules everything around me

Bringing cash can help make an affordable beach vacation a reality. Not only is cash accepted everywhere, but it will creates a budget for you and your family, and it provides a great opportunity to teach your kids about the value of money and how to spend it. My parents taught me that if they get me an ice cream or a frozen fruit bar, they won't be buying me something else while we were at the beach, so I would need to choose wisely.

Take advantage of free things

Instead of buying a new book to read, swing by your local library to pick up a book. Are you an avid beach volleyball/frisbee/football/can jam player? Make friends with other players that you meet at the beach and share sports equipment. Use playgrounds/skate parks/water parks that are at the beach as well. There are usually lots of land activities to be had if you do a little searching.

Spending the dog days of summer at a beach with family and friends can be one of the best things about summer, and making it an affordable beach trip puts the icing on the cake. Now that you know some great tips and tricks, you can kick back, soak in the sun and the waves, and not worry about your wallet taking a huge hit! Surf's up!