The Best Frugal Tips to Save Money on Beach Holidays
Need to get away? Me too. It is always exciting to plan a fun beach vacation…until you start going over how to pay for it. I have personally had to cancel vacations due to empty pockets. From years of experience, I put together the best cheap beach vacations tips that will help you go on that much needed beach trip, and still be able to pay the mortgage/rent at the end of the month.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.
Tips for Best Cheap Beach Vacations
The beach is a popular choice for vacations.
Beach resort areas can be basic or complete with action-filled amusement parks geared towards college kids.
Whatever the size and type of the community surrounding the beach, there is no doubt that tourism and tourist dollars are part of the local economy.
Specialty restaurants may dot the countryside to and from the beach. The shoreline itself is likely packed with hotels and condos.
What does all that mean?
Inflated prices on accommodations, food, entertainment, activities, and more.
Depending on the time of year and other factors, a typical week-long beach vacation could break your budget.
There are ways to save money on your next beach vacation, without sacrificing the sun, surf or sand. Cuz you really want all three if you’re planning a beach holiday.
Related travel post: 18 Best Budget Travel Ideas to Explore the Wide World (Instead of the World Wide Web).
How to Get the Best Travel Rates for Cheap Beach Vacations
You can find great deals if you start looking now. The majority of your money will be spent on travel to your beach destination. Most travel sites will give great deals on packages that are far in advance. Many will have a 90 day minimum pre-order for tickets.
And stay with me because I’ll share the best two websites for deals on cheap beach vacations.
A lot of businesses lower the rates during the off season months to get more tourist influx. Try and look for those deals online. Every now and then there are a few great last minute deals. They are rare, but be sure to keep an eye out for those gems.
I have two favorite sites for booking flights and travel for cheap beach vacations, and other affordable trips. I’m surprised not everybody uses them, because you can save a lot of money on travel, especially if you use both.
I will share what they are so you can know for next time.
Two Sites to Use for Affordable Beach Vacations:
The first is Rakuten.
Rakuten is a cash back site that gives you a percentage back from your purchases on travel, clothing, electronics, toys, beauty, lots of things.
When you need to buy something, or look for flights for your cheap beach vacation, you simply go to the Rakuten site first, then click on the website you want to shop at. That could be Delta Airlines, Walmart, Target, Sephora, you get the idea.
I have saved hundreds of dollars on flights just by going through Rakuten. You are definitely overpaying if you don’t check them out, especially on bigger purchases like travel.
Sign up for free here and get a special sign-up bonus when you do.
The second is Hopper.
Hopper predicts the best time to book your travel to grab the lowest fares and save the most money. You can try it out here.
Room and Board Tips for Cheap Beach Vacations
There are many ways to save on money when looking for a place to stay.
The best and cheapest is to look for family member or friend. If that isn’t an option or you don’t want to be a burden, finding an inexpensive hotel can usually be found through the same website that you get your tickets.
Some websites give you discount rates on hotel rooms if you purchase through them. Warning: Be sure to find out where the hotel is located before you commit to staying there.
You don’t want to shovel an extra hundred bucks in travel expense to get to the beach, not to mention time, to save $50. Most of the time, hotels get cheaper as they get farther, so look for the happy medium.
I use Booking.com all the time to book our trips. You can search by rate and location, and I always find great deals. You can save more money than buying directly from the hotel, and their cancelation policies are great (make sure you double check when you are booking).
Plus you know exactly what the hotel is before you book, and where it is located.
Be Flexible When Choosing Location for Cheap Beach Vacations
Setting your heart on one place makes it much more difficult when searching for cheap beach vacations.
There are a bunch of “hidden treasures” out there so try not to be too set on one place.
You might be thinking Hawaii, but California is a better fit for your budget. Really look at your budget and let that help determine where you go on your beach holiday. Every place has something to offer.
Two popular cheap beach vacation destinations are Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
If you get an all-inclusive package, including airfare, hotel, and food, it can often be less expensive to fly further, than taking a beach holiday in the United States.
Another affordable beach vacation idea is to go somewhere fairly local.
Your travel expenses to drive to a cute beach town 4 hours away will be much less than flying a family of four across the country to a beach there.
Save Money on Food on Beach Vacations
Eating out in beach towns can cost a lot and really eat up your beach vacation budget.
Look for the hole in the wall establishments to save money on food.
There is also always the dollar menu at fast food places. If you want to eat out at a nice restaurant, ask some of the locals and find out where the best places are.
Try to minimize eating out as much as possible.
Reducing Expenses on Activities for Cheap Beach Vacations
Fun is a matter of attitude. Beach rentals for most anything is pretty cheap.
If you have them, bring snorkels, goggles, buckets, roller blades/skates, bikes, skateboards, surfboards, etc.
If you don’t know what to do, check out what other people are doing and join.
The best part about the beach is that it is free.
If you are planning a cheap beach vacation in December, this post will help a lot: Travel for the Holidays: 10 Tips for Flying on Christmas Day (or around Christmas).
Save Money on Condos on your Next Beach Vacation
Condo rentals are popular alternatives for families looking to escape the ‘cookie cutter’ atmosphere of a large and expensive hotel.
But…you may not be saving as much money as you might expect.
While it’s true that condos offer more privacy and a more home-like environment than most hotel rooms, you also have a few more obligations. Without regular cleaning, a condo may soon become a sand-covered mess.
Some condo owners hire professional cleaners to restore their property to its original condition, but often pass this expense on to renters.
You can save quite a bit of money by offering to clean the condo yourself, subject to the owner’s inspection.
If you do choose this arrangement, bring your own cleaning supplies from home and spend a little time each day on floor maintenance and light cleaning.
It may add an hour or two to your last day, but the savings may be worth the effort.
You also may want to find owners who rent condos themselves, not through a collective management company.
These owners often spend more time on maintaining their property, and can offer more reasonable rates directly to you, since they are not obligated to certain fees charged by management companies.
Related travel tips post: Long Road Trips with Toddlers Can Be Fun! (Yes Really).
Talk to the Locals
Find out where the locals buy their groceries, and plan several dine-in meals.
Many of the restaurants around a popular beach area are notoriously expensive.
If you really just want to relax on the beach, avoid overindulging in these tourist money traps.
Plan an inexpensive barbecue or picnic on the beach.
If you do get a craving to try the local cuisine, consult the locals. Find out where they eat, and you shouldn’t be disappointed. A major chain restaurant on the beach may charge twice as much for the exact same dish prepared at a small family-owned café two miles away.
Another money-saving tip is to try other types of food beside the local favorites. A lot of beach communities feature seafood, naturally, but you may be surprised at the value and quality of the Mexican or Greek restaurant in town.
Since they are often forced to compete for business with the entrenched and popular tourist restaurants, alternative food places offer great discounts.
Saving Money on Entertainment at your Beach Vacation
Entertainment is whatever entertains you, and it doesn’t have to be the most expensive experiences.
Many of the more popular beach resorts offer amusement parks, water parks and midways filled with new things to try.
In moderation, these attractions can help fill the downtime of a cloudy afternoon or extra day of vacation. But they can also be very expensive, especially when travelling with kids who want to try anything new.
If you are on a tight budget, it may be best to avoid these areas entirely in order to remove temptation. This is your vacation, not merely a change of location.
Do what you personally feel is entertaining, not necessarily what others recommend you do while visiting that beach town.
If you enjoy watching movies, spend the afternoon watching a movie you’ve been dying to see. If you enjoy live music, scan the local paper for times and locations of bands playing in the area.
You don’t have to buy expensive concert tickets for a headliner at the main hall. You may have a better time at a smaller venue that features your favorite type of music.
The point is, you can decide what entertainment means for you, and choose less expensive ways to enjoy your time.
Tip: If you want to go to a theme park near your beach vacation, you can use Undercover Tourist to grab discount theme park tickets.
For Cheap Beach Vacations Go In the Shoulder Season
It is not always ‘Summer or Bust’.
The high season of any beach town is their bread and butter time, but you might prefer a less crowded scene on your next vacation.
Rental costs come down considerably during what is called the ‘shoulder’ season. In general, this is the time after Labor Day and before the cold air of late November and December. The bulk of the tourists have already gone home, along with most of the tourist-fed attractions.
What remains are uncluttered beaches and available hotel rooms.
The weather can be a little more variable in the shoulder season, but is usually fine for tanning and swimming.
While the more summer-oriented diversions may close for the winter, most restaurants are still open, and grateful for customers.
If you really want to save the most money on a beach vacation without sacrificing quality, choose the shoulder season.
While the winter rates in some seasonal beach towns are even better than the shoulder rates, the weather might not be as lovely.
If beach time and being in the water are important parts of your beach vacation, your best option for the combo of weather + price is the shoulder season.
I hope this helped you with planning your next cheap beach vacation. You can save a lot of money and still have a lot of fun if you just take the time to plan out your destination. Have fun!
If you are driving with kids to your beach vacation, this post will help: 10 Road Trip Hacks – How We Survived 28 Hours in the Car with a Toddler.
This article has genius ideas on what travel activities for kids to pick up for cheap from the Dollar Tree: Dollar Tree Haul – Cheap and Fun Travel Activities for Kids.
Pin this post on affordable beach vacations to save it:
What other tips can you add for cheap beach vacations?