Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice when it comes to a relaxing beach vacation filled with fun in the sun. It does mean you might have to think outside the box or do some extra research when searching for the perfect sun-soaked destination, though. When planning a budget-friendly vacation, avoid peak season or pick destinations slightly off the beaten path, as oftentimes the most well-known beach vacation spots don’t also end up being the most affordable for travelers to visit. To help you get started, we’ve provided info below on some of our favorite affordable beaches and tips for staying within your budget.
Finding your beach:
Picking a location for your family vacation is often the most difficult part. With a seemingly endless array of beaches to choose from, it can be hard just to pick a starting point for your vacation planning. Before you begin looking at exotic locations across the world, start by looking at beaches within driving distance to keep your budget intact. Travel costs like plane or train tickets add up quickly when you’re paying for the entire family, so avoid this expense to have more money to spend on your dream beach vacation rental.
If there are no local beaches to visit, the Florida Panhandle has many affordable beach vacation spots to choose from for your getaway. This region stretches for 200 miles along the Gulf of Mexico and with Florida Panhandle vacation rentals that start as low as $50/night, it is a great place to consider for a family beach vacation. One of the most popular cities in this area is Panama City Beach. Here, you’ll find emerald waters and soft, white sand that is easily accessible to the public. Families will enjoy City Beach where lifeguards are stationed daily from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. from April to September, and can take a stroll along City Pier, the longest pier on the Gulf.
Other budget-friendly destinations in the Florida Panhandle include Fort Walton Beach and Blue Mountain Beach. Fort Walton Beach boasts picturesque beaches and many commercial attractions, such as parasailing and boat tours that families can splurge on. You’ll have no trouble finding beachfront condo rentals for only $50/night here. Meanwhile, Blue Mountain Beach is a quiet residential community with charming beach rentals starting around $75/night that are scattered near blue-tinged dunes and powdery quartz sands. This is where you should go if you’re looking for private relaxation since the beach is the main attraction here and there are no tempting expenses in the area.
Just because you’re looking for an affordable beach vacation doesn’t mean that your toes need to be in the ocean, which is where thinking outside the box comes in. Plan a trip to Saugatuck, Michigan for an affordable beach vacation on majestic Lake Michigan. It is one of Michigan’s premiere beach towns, and families can spend the day surrounded by towering sand dunes at Oval Beach. The beach can be reached by a hand-cranked ferry that takes vacationers across the Kalamazoo River. It boasts a number of seasonal amenities, including restrooms, showers, a concession stand, picnic tables, a playground and ample parking for visitors. With lifeguards on duty during the summer and the feeling of being on the coast of Florida without the high-rise buildings, this sleepy town is an excellent choice for a budget-friendly vacation. Many Saugatuck vacation rentals are available for only $100/night and offer copious amounts of space for active families.
On the West Coast, San Diego beckons to beach lovers looking to experience the essence of Southern California cool. With many San Diego vacation rentals available from $80/night, families will enjoy an affordable beach getaway right on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. There are a number of unique neighborhoods within the city, so families can choose from laidback beach bungalows in Mission Beach, upscale homes in La Jolla or Old West-style homes in Old Town. Temperatures in San Diego are mild year-round, making it a great place to enjoy sand and surf any time of year. There are nine permanent lifeguard stations open year-round, and the beaches here are wide and expansive for vacationers to spread out and enjoy. Active families will love participating in beach volleyball games in the sand and can even try out surfing waves coveted by some of the area’s best surfers.
The East Coast has a number of picturesque beach destinations in New England, including Cape Cod and Portland, Maine. For a more budget-friendly beach vacation though, try visiting Narraganset along the shores of Rhode Island. Although not as widely known, it offers wide beaches with ample room for vacationers looking to make a day of it at the beach. The Narragansett Town Beach covers nearly 19 acres and yet it remains one of the cleanest and most accessible beaches in New England. Along the beachfront, patrons will find lots of parking as well as food, restrooms, a surfing area and a first-aid office. Lifeguard chairs line the long stretch of beach where swimming is permitted, and they are on duty from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. during the summers. Rent a nearby Narragansett vacation rental for less than $100/night to have easy access to the local beaches and save money on parking.
Tips for staying within your budget:
There are many ways to stay within your budget and make your vacation more affordable. To start, plan to take your trip during the shoulder-season. This time falls between your destination’s high and low season and is when you can find the best travel deals and fewer crowds. Visit Hilton Head or Myrtle Beach during the fall when the rates for many beach vacation rentals in these locations fall to less than $75/night. Temperatures remain pleasant in both locations, and booking during the shoulder-season is the first step in planning a budget-friendly vacation.
In terms of accommodations, book a vacation rental for the most budget-friendly getaway. Vacation rentals offer space and give you the comforts of home all for a lower nightly rate. You can fit more people in one rental, so invite friends or additional family members to go on the trip with you, so you can split the cost of the vacation rental between more people. This will save you lots of money on your vacation, plus, the more the merrier!
In addition to the benefits of low nightly rates, families can avoid the expense of eating out each day by cooking meals at their rental. The cost of going out to eat can add up quickly, so stock up on groceries once you arrive and then prepare meals at home during your vacation. Pack snacks and sandwiches for the beach to save money and precious time during the day, or enjoy a leisurely dinner with your whole group in the comfort of your vacation rental.
Ask the owners ahead of time if they provide beach essentials, such as chairs, toys and towels. Many vacation rentals come stocked with beach gear, but it’s helpful to know this information ahead of time. If beach gear and toys aren’t provided, buy beach supplies ahead of time. Items like sunscreen and toys are often significantly marked up at local souvenir and beach shops, as they are there to make money off of unprepared tourists. You can usually buy supplies for much cheaper prices at discount stores before going on vacation, so don’t get stuck paying extra for inexpensive items.
For things to do, stick to what you came on your budget-friendly vacation for: the beach. Scope out your perfect location in the sand, unravel your towel and spend your days basking in the sun at a pristine beach. Swimming, sunning and sandcastle building are the perfect, free activities to enjoy with the entire family during your vacation. If there are a few local attractions that you know your family will want to see, plan ahead and use cash to purchase tickets. Paying for entrance fees in cash will allow you to easily keep track of money you spend and help with staying on budget during your beach vacation.
Finally, take pictures instead of buying tacky souvenirs to commemorate your trip. While purchasing a new key chain or a mini bottle of sand from your beach vacation spot might seem like a good idea at the time, these souvenirs are often poorly made and will break or be lost in a matter of time. Taking a few photos during your vacation will help you remember your stay better and will last a lot longer. Save them on your computer or print them out when you get home as a less costly souvenir.
When planning your next vacation, just remember that you don’t have to break the bank to have fun. There are many budget-friendly vacation options to choose from, and while they might require a bit more research, the extra planning will always be worth it.