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It’s officially time to start day dreaming and planning your summer vacation to the beach! This is a family favorite for us. If you are heading somewhere warm and sandy this year, check out these tips for a cheap beach vacation before you book and travel!
Timing really is everything when it comes to saving on vacations no matter where you are traveling. Consider traveling during off seasons or at least shoulder seasons. The weeks before school lets out in late May or even after schools resume in August can be almost 50% cheaper than peak summer weeks! If you can’t take off earlier in the year, at least avoid holiday weeks, as the rates will increase by 30-40% over holiday weekends.
Renting A House/Condo Is Cheaper
Gone are the days of staying in hotels at the beach. With many rental agencies plus great sites like VRBO.com (Vacation Rentals By Owner) and AirBnB, you can find houses with multiple bedrooms, a kitchen, washer and dryer, and many other perks that a hotel would never have. You can also find rooms in resort areas for a fraction of the price by booking through the owner. To compare prices, a 2 bedroom condo on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina starts at $97 on VRBO, while hotels in the same area are $110+ for just one room. In a condo, you can spread out and relax and cook your own meals! There are other ways to get the rental price even lower…
Be a Spontaneous Procrastinator
While you may plan your vacation dates long in the future, wait until a week or two out to actually the book a house. Yes, the top-of-the-line house may be gone, but plenty of houses sit unrented, so take advantage of the owner’s desire to rent. Work directly with the owner to get reduced rates to fill open spots on their calendar. You will find some rentals are already marked on sale, but for others, it never hurts to ask! If you haven’t picked your dates, just deciding at the last minute to head to the beach gets you the same discounts.
Negotiate Further Reductions
Before finalizing a rental booking, see if there are any other discounts possible. Can they waive or reduce cleaning fees? Are there discounts for return renters? Can you do any odd jobs while there and reduce the rental price? No one is above bartering, and depending on the skills you have, you may be able to work out a great deal. If they don’t have any other reductions, one more option is to also go with a larger house and split the cost with friends!
Share with Friends & Family
Many times a bigger house or condo is cheaper per room than a smaller unit. Consider adding in your favorite friends and extended family to help split the costs. To make things more fair, divide the house by bedrooms and have folks pay based on the rooms they are using (if someone takes the couch, that counts, too) rather than by person. Look for houses that have lots of living areas so that you don’t feel like you are on top of each other.
Consider State Parks
Most of the states in the Southeast all have one or more state parks that are right on the water. You need plan ahead to get a campsite, but if you do, you can camp for $15-$30 a night with direct beach access! Personally, staying in a tent at the beach doesn’t sound fun, but I’m all for it in a camper with some A/C. Many of these parks also have cabins available that sleep 6+ for those without campers (the cabins fill up very quickly for summer months), and they rent from $70-$120 per night. Remember that the rates change based on the time of year, so go back to tip #1 and be flexible to save more.
Use Travel Points
The beach is a great reason to join a hotel rewards program and start saving up your points! Speed up your earning by getting a credit card that goes with your favorite hotel chain too. Marriott for example is currently offering 75,000 points for new card members and that is enough to stay at some Marriott Beach resorts for free for 2-3 nights! Remember, availabilty during summer peak times can be tricky using points and your points go farther at off-peak times, too. The more you use the credit card, the more points you earn, so eventually you’ll have a free week every year (just remember it’s not free if you carry a balance and pay interest).
Shop for Deals on Outings
There are still great deals on daily deal sites like LivingSocial and Groupon for many beach activities. Go ahead and plan your outings before you travel and grab discounts online. Save on jet ski rentals, boat tours, kayak rentals, and many other things. Don’t forget about discounts on restaurants too for a cheap night out while are there. Another option for saving on eating out is Restaurant.com, look for coupon codes at all of these sites to save even more!
Meal Plan & Shop Before You Leave
Grocery stores in vacation areas have a markup that can be over 200% of the regular price. That means you are paying double for the same items. Plan ahead for any meal you want to cook, snacks, even paper goods and detergents. Buying it before you leave (hopefully on sale) can truly save you hundreds! Taking everything with you already planned out also helps to keep you from eating out a lot.
A Few Other Tips:
- Ask your home owner if they have beach toys, pack and plays or any other equipment you might need. Save yourself from hauling extra things down (it saves more room for your food). Also check if they provide a grill so you know if you can cook certain meals.
- Hit the library before you leave to save on all your beach reading material. Also check out travel books for the area you are going to to get special inside tips.
- Heading to the closest beach and skipping air fare saves you a ton. If you can’t handle it and want to go far away check out Skiplagged for super cheap flights.