Going to the Beach on a Budget

Chair, flamingo float, and paddleboard set up on the beach.

Beach trips don't have to burn a hole in your wallet. Read on to discover some of the best ways to soak up the sun without overheating your budget.

Finding a Spot

  • Check the local calendar before you book. A quick online search will let you know when special events are happening in the town you're planning to visit. Avoid traveling to your destination on these dates, as prices are likely to be higher during events that draw a lot of tourists.

  • Shop around for the best-priced accommodations. In addition to hotels, consider renting a condo, apartment, or even a whole house. Sometimes renting a larger space from an individual or through an agency can be just as affordable as a single hotel room. What's most affordable will depend on many factors, such as your group size and the exact location of your space.

  • Consider the price of parking. If you're driving to your destination, don't forget about possible parking fees when planning your trip. Some hotels include parking in your overnight price, while others charge an additional fee. Some rental homes have parking onsite, while others have limited space. Make sure you include any parking costs when looking at your overall booking costs.

 Before You Go

  • Pack nonperishables. It's not uncommon for prices to be higher in tourist destinations, even at the grocery store. Stock up on things you'll need while you're away before you leave home to avoid paying a premium. Shop for both food items (i.e., cereal, snacks) and toiletries (i.e., sunscreen, shampoo, and conditioner) before you head out.

  • Plan your route. Weigh your route options before you get behind the wheel. Know where there are easily avoidable tolls and, if there are tolls you can't avoid, look into programs like E-ZPass that are accepted along your path. Electronic toll collection generally means a faster trip through the tolling area and savings for your wallet. Often toll roads give discounts for paying by transponder. For example, the Pennsylvania Turnpike charges E-Z Pass customers up to 60% less than those who pay cash.

  • Know what's provided. Especially at rental homes, there are sometimes items guests can use during their trip at no additional cost. For example, sand toys or a beach wagon. Before you purchase these for your trip, reach out to your host to find out if there are any helpful items available to you.

Once You're There

  • Dine out once a day. You can check out the best-rated restaurants without breaking your budget. Instead of eating all your meals at a restaurant, choose one a day to explore the local food scene. Get creative. Dinner is a popular time to head out for meals, but it can often be the most expensive. Many restaurants offer delicious breakfast and lunch menus, as well, which can let you check out must-try spots for a lower cost.

As far as your other meals, not dining out doesn't mean they have to be boring. Instead of going to a restaurant, pack a picnic-style lunch or dinner and dine al fresco. Take your meal along to the beach or take advantage of any decks or outdoor spaces at your rental.

  • Stick to a list (and a budget!). If you're headed to the local grocery store to buy perishable goods for your "at-home" meals, make a list in advance. This will help you stay on track with your spending. Plus, if you overbuy perishable items, you'll likely have to throw them out at the end of your trip, so sticking to a predetermined list can help you avoid food waste, as well.

  • Scout out low-cost or free activities in the area. Prepare in advance for times you may need or want a break from the beach. Search deal sites for reduced-price tickets to local attractions. If you don't have any luck there, look at the attraction's website, as sometimes simply buying online can help you land a lower price.

Find free activities in the area, as well, such as cool playgrounds, hiking spots, or town-sponsored events, like free movie nights or concerts in the park.

Get Rewarded for Your Vacation Spending

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