Today, I’m going to talk about how to go on a great beach vacation without breaking the bank. I am well aware that it’s the beginning of October, and 97% of the world is excited for fall (including me!), but I thought I’d make one last summer post for the people who already miss it and are looking forward to their 2018 vacation already.
My boyfriend, Dominic, and I went to Destin, Florida at the beginning of May, and we had so much fun! For a little background, I should start by saying the whole idea of going on a trip was Dominic’s. He wanted to surprise me with plane tickets on Valentine’s Day, but wasn’t sure where we should go since I’ve talked about visiting dozens of places. In the end, he just surprised me with the idea of going on a trip, which was perfect! We tossed around a few different locations, but we ultimately ended up on Destin, Florida because it was an economical choice and going to a beach seemed like a great way to end our junior year of college and begin the summer.
I’m going to try and keep my tips general so they can apply to any beach vacation, so if you have any tips on any specific beaches, or any other general tips, feel free to leave them in the comments below!
Tip #1: Use Airbnb
This will come up again and again in the rest of these tips, so I wanted to start with it. Dom and I booked a condo through Airbnb and it was much cheaper than going through a normal condo rental company. Airbnb’s website makes the pricing very clear, and a lot of condo owners give discounts if you stay a certain number of nights. Unfortunately, some condo buildings and/or owners have age restrictions, so you have to be above a certain age to stay some places, but there are plenty that don’t. Airbnb’s site easily lets viewers see the amenities available for specific properties and buildings (kitchen supplies, towels, beach chairs, gym, restaurants, etc.), and read reviews that other people have left about their stays.
Tip #2: Drive
There are pros and cons to both driving and flying, but with the combination of being college students and going to the beach, driving is the way to go, if at all possible. As far as cost goes, with the combined plane tickets and rental car / Uber charges, gas and an oil change will almost always be cheaper (especially for college students – fees are high for drivers under 25 or so). You can also save money on the Airbnb by staying a mile inland from the beach, in which case, you’ll want a car to get to and from the beach at your own convenience. Driving also gives you more freedom to travel 20 minutes to a recommended restaurant or attraction, and a car will also be helpful when it comes to tip #3!
Tip #3: Cook
This is a big money saver, but it’s sometimes difficult to stick to. Eating out for every meal adds up very, very quickly, especially in vacation towns. So, on your first full day at the vacation, take some time away from actually being on the beach (probably during midday when the UV index is highest) and hit up Walmart. Get snacks, fruit, drinks, ice cream, pasta, a few favorite frozen entrees, and sandwich supplies. Airbnb’s should have everything you need to cook and store everything! If you eat just half of your meals at the condo instead of eating out, you’ll save a significant amount of money.
Tip #4: Buy a beach umbrella (and umbrella anchor)
Dom and I did bring sunscreen, but we didn’t get a beach umbrella until the second day. This was a mistake. We reapplied sunscreen every 45 minutes, and we still got burnt to a crisp on our first day there. So! Buy a beach umbrella. They aren’t super expensive, and you can store it and reuse it for years. Also, don’t rent a beach umbrella from the little huts on the beach- they overcharge and it’s not worth it, as tempting as it may be.
Tip #5: Go in early May
This is a good idea because the beach isn’t as busy and Airbnb rates are much cheaper than in late May, the entire summer, or Spring Break! It’s warm enough that you’ll still want to swim, unlike what I’ve heard about Spring Break, which is a plus. Most of the people in Destin were just families with little kids that aren’t old enough to be in school yet, which was super cute and probably more relaxing than being around a ton of college students or families with older kids.
Tip #5: Bring friends!
Dom and I didn’t do this, but the Airbnb condos we looked at typically have a lot of sleeping space because of fold out couches, 2 bedrooms, etc. So, if you have friends that are interested, invite them! Lodging and gas will more than likely be the two biggest expenses you have. Naturally, the more people you can split it between, the better. You don’t have to hang out together the whole time.
Tip #6: The beach is free. Spend your time there.
As tempting as it is to hit up malls, souvenir shops, and tourist attractions, the costs add up. Choose a few favorites (Dom and I did a helicopter ride, a dolphin WaveRunner tour, bowling at a unique bowling alley, and a small arcade & put-put course) but don’t go overboard. Bring books, Sudoku and crossword puzzles, some adult coloring books, and spend your time on the beach. It’s free, it’s beautiful, and it’s relaxing.
Hope these tips help, and the summer-lovers out there are looking forward to next year’s beach trip already! As for everyone else, enjoy the millions of fall posts out there.