Our Secrets to a Cheap Beach Vacation

Our Secrets to a Cheap Beach Vacation
Written by Oana Schneider

Whether you’re traveling solo, as a couple, as a group of friends or as a family, going on a beach vacation will cost you. In order to get to your destination, you have to either fly or drive, requiring you to spend money on gas or airline tickets. Then, there’s the accommodations, food and beach activities. For a cheap beach vacation, you’ll need to combine your bargaining skills with your creativity. We promise you, the results are amazing!

If you don’t watch how you spend your money, you could easily come home broke or even with credit – especially if you splurged on hotel rooms or pricey beach activities. The fact that you’re a tourist might also cause the locals to see you as a poor victim who can easily be ripped off your hard-earned money.

So what can you do in order to enjoy the sun, sand, and surf – but without breaking the bank? The good news is that there are plenty of ways that you can save money on your beach vacation, which we will learn more about here.

Ways to Achieve a Cheap Beach Vacation

The most important thing to keep in mind when planning a beach vacation is that you should plan it in advance. This is especially true if you need to fly to your tropical beach destination. Although there’s nothing wrong with going on a weekend trip on impulse, doing the same thing for a beach vacation might drain your wallet.

By planning in advance, you can look for great deals, decide which activities are worth your money and which ones you should not splurge on. You can also save money by taking advantage of early bird discounts and similar offers. In detail, here are the ways that you can save money on a beach vacation – starting from the planning stage to when you’re already at your destination.

Look for a beach that’s inexpensive in the first place.

Naturally, you need to decide exactly where to go. When deciding to try out for a cheap beach vacation, you will save money if you will choose an inexpensive destination in the first place. Those that fall into this category are beach destinations which do not charge tourists an arm and a leg for accommodations, food, and beach activities.

So how would you know which beach destinations are not that expensive to visit? For this, you would need to do a lot of research. In the US, for example, there’s a place called “America’s New Zealand”. It is Cannon Beach in the state of Oregon and it definitely gives you that New Zealand-y feel to it. The drawback is that it is not that packed with tourists, making it perfect for those who would like to enjoy a quiet yet on-the-budget vacation.

Aside from the beach itself, you can check out the Tillamook Rock Light House, Sandpiper Square and Ecola State Park. If you’re on a really tight budget, you can plan a road trip and use the local RV parks in the area. Who’s up for a cheap beach vacation?

Our Secrets to a Cheap Beach Vacation

Enjoy the Sunshine at a Reasonable Price!

If Hawaii is your dream beach destination, go to the Island of Maui. Specifically, it’s Lahaina that you would like to use as your vacation destination. The Ka’anapali Beach Hotel offers discounted airline tickets, free rental cars and low rates for hotel rooms, especially for early bookers. Other cheap beach destinations in the US include:

  • Cape Ann, Massachusetts
  • Cherry Grove Beach, South Carolina
  • El Capitan Canyon, Santa Barbara, California
  • Huntington Beach, California
  • Lake Casco, Maine
  • Outer Banks, North Carolina
  • Saint Pete Beach, Florida
  • Williamsburg, Virginia

Travel during the off-peak season.

When you travel to even the most popular beach destination during the off-season, you are bound to find great deals. If you’re a single parent with two kids who are making your ears bleed with their request to go to Disney World, it will definitely cost you if you will go during Easter vacation – because most of the other kids have the same idea.

When planning a beach vacation, consider traveling during the off-peak season, when not a lot of tourists are booked on flights. Having a cheap beach vacation is really not that hard!

After Labor Day is a great time to take advantage of lower rates, although you need to creatively fix your schedule to make room for the beach break. If you are flying off to an exotic beach destination somewhere in Asia, do your research about when the off-peak season is. In tropical countries, travelers flock year-round but there should be that pocket of months when the rates are not-so-high.

Look for cheap accommodations.

Unless you’re taking advantage of all-inclusive travel packages, it will save you a lot of money if you will skip the chain hotels and look for alternative accommodations. There are budget bed-and-breakfasts, inns, hostels, villas, mom-and-pop hotels, guesthouses, apartment rentals, vacation cottages and similar accommodations that you can book.

If you’re open to roughing it, you can even look for RV parking spaces or a place where you can setup camp. The adventurous ones can look for couch surfing setups or house sitting services – there are many websites where you can find great deals for that. Enjoy your cheap beach vacation and take pride in the discount you got!

Make a budget for the whole trip – and stick to it.

How many people are going on the trip? If you’re travelling with the family, have a rough estimate of how much the entire trip is going to cost. Decide on an approximate amount of how much you’re going to spend per day for each person, and you should have an idea about what your budget should be. Once set, stick to your budget although it does pay to make little room for souvenir items to bring home and other unexpected expenses.

Save money on food and drinks.

One of the biggest expenses that vacationers have to make room for is food – but only because they think that they need to eat out three times a day. If you’re booking a hotel, look for deals which offer free buffet breakfast, lunch or dinner. There are similar deals for alternative accommodations like inns and bed-and-breakfasts, especially ones which are managed by small entrepreneurs.

Our Secrets to a Cheap Beach Vacation

Try Not to Eat Too Much on Vacation, No Matter How Delicious the Food Is!

If you are living in an RV or camping out, buy your own staples at a grocery shop or superstore. It will save you a lot of money along the way. The same thing holds true for drinks, have a cooler where you can store cans of beer and soda.

If you can stay somewhere with a kitchen, you can simply cook your own meals and save lots of money in the process. If you’re going to have a cheap beach vacation, it doesn’t mean you’ll feel deprived, just more aware of every penny you have in your pocket.

Save money on water sports and other outdoor activities.

Renting a jet ski, zip lining, going on an ATV ride – all these are beach-related activities that will cost you a lot of money during your vacation. Again, research is key if you want to enjoy the beach without having to spend too much.  After deciding where you are headed, do a quick search on free or nearly free activities that you can do in the area.

During your first day, you can simply enjoy the sun, sand and surf which are of course free. Other cheap activities that you can plan are nature walks, exploring caves or light houses, fishing, snorkeling or following a bike trail. Ask the proprietor of the establishment you’re staying if they can recommend free activities or places that you can visit near the area.

You can also buy a cheap map or guide book at the tourist center of the place you’re visiting to have ideas about where you should head to in between soaks at the beach. A cheap beach vacation is so much rewarding than an expensive one!

Use your credit card reward points, apps and discount vouchers.

If you’re in a foreign country and you have no idea where everything is, you might think about paying for a guided tour to get you from one sightseeing attraction to another. This will take a significant chunk out of your travelling budget, so why not download a map on your phone instead? You can use it to navigate through the city or town that you’re visiting.

You can also download apps that will let you know where the nearest restaurant, ATM or hotel is. Other apps like GasBuddy lets you know which gas station offers the cheapest gas rates – even a 10 cent difference in the price will go a long way. Travel apps and apps that will help you pass the time during long drives are a must-have. A cheap beach vacation must contain…a beach to begin with, so make sure you have access to one, but without paying a lot of money.

Also, you can use credit card reward points and discount vouchers to cut back on what you have to pay for restaurants, hotel rooms, entrance tickets to sightseeing attractions, etc. If possible, look for a travel-related credit card that will give you plenty of rewards once you are already starting with your beach vacation planning.

If possible, use public transportation rather than hailing a cab at your destination because taxi fare can also put a big dent on your travelling budget.

As you can see, there are many ways for you to have a cheap beach vacation. So what are you waiting for? Pack those beach outfits, sunglasses, sunscreen and flip-flops – then head over to your ultimate beach vacation destination!

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About the author

Oana Schneider

Oana Schneider is a published author located in Chicago, Illinois and was part of our team as a communication specialist and blog editor. She writes about lifestyle, family budget and has a degree in Communications.


  • I totally agree that the less expensive vacations are more fun. It’s hard to have a nice time if you’re seeing dollar-signs everywhere you look. I need a vacation so badly – these tips would definitely make it more doable. Nothing sounds better than sitting on the beach just doing… absolutely nothing. 🙂

    • I’d say you should take a vacation (an affordable one) as soon as possible! It’s nice that beaches are often less expensive than other destinations if you know how to save money. I love going to the beach and just relaxing, but the average person doesn’t live on the coast within a few minutes of the water!

      • I agree. I live a 10 minute drive from a beautiful beach and I guess you take it for granted sometimes but you cant get more affordable than that can you? A deck chair, some home made cocktails and a nice book on a sunny beach sounds perfect!

  • Luckily, I live right next to the beach. Well, it’s a 20 minute drive, but I can go there whenever I want, including when there are only a dozen or so people on the sand and none in the water. I know that not everyone has the same luxury, and the beaches are pretty expensive to visit when you’re not a local. I’d have to say that most of these tips are spot on for making a beach vacation cheaper than normal.

  • Having beach vacations really apply to me, because I live very close to one of the Great Lakes (I’m about 1 hours drive from it) so I often take my family to the beach on weekends, and I don’t even stay the night because it takes so little time to drive there. One of the perks of it is that it’s free! I don’t have to count any expenses from staying there. I do sometimes go during the off-season when there’s less people, so that’s always a plus. I think I’ve only ever stayed overnight there once or twice during a vacation, but it was horrendously expensive. Next time I’ll definitely look for a budget hotel. I do try to always make a budget, but I spend a lot of money on food and drinks because, hey, a vacation is a vacation, and it should be ok to splurge a little. We only ever go walking or swimming, so we don’t really spend a lot of money on activities. And of course, I try to apply as many rewards and discounts to my trip as possible! Sounds like I’m already on the road to spending a little less on my beach vacations.

  • These are all good tips for saving money. I would also consider a possible house swap, and of course, if you have close family or friends, coordinating vacations where you could rent a slightly larger place and share accommodations and meals, as well as rental vehicles, would help with budgeting. I used to live in the Boston area, and would take day trips up to Cape Ann, as well as down to Cape Cod, which were great. I currently live down the street from a small private beach, which I love, but if I were planning a vacation, it would probably still be to one of the areas mentioned above, since I love nature and coastal destinations so much.

  • These are excellent tips for keeping it cheap and fun. If it’s feasible, I would also recommend trying to make friends with some local people. I myself live within driving distance of many beaches, and I know of some great spots people might not otherwise seek out or find, all of which are completely free and quite peaceful. Some of my more beach-inclined acquaintances can probably point out many more.

    • Definitely. The locals always know better spots on or near the beaches compared to the general public. Far too many people follow the main attractions, and then they wind up missing out on better opportunities. That’s why it always pays to have friends in a given area.

  • We are a large family. Really! I’m not kidding. But, our love for the outdoors is kept alive every year, every season, every wedding anniversary, and every birthday. ‘Money is no issue’ when we WANT that beach holiday or ski season holiday. And then, worry payments later when our bank statement arrives. Funny, but sometimes reality after the fun and holidays hurts. Your practical suggestions look perfectly good for us– big family.

    “Travel off peak seasons” works best for us. When everybody is back to school and work, we, my family, check out our inexpensive options. And enjoy the quiet pleasure at the same time. 🙂

  • I always book my vacations six months ahead, and I get a ton of discounts by doing just that: airplane and boat fares, room and lodging discounts, free restaurant meals, and so on. Try to find a secluded beach that’s not too built up and commercialized, they usually have lower prices.

  • Most of our trips are to the beach and half the time we just do a bonfire and cook hot dogs or marshmallows. Other times we bring the BBQ. Either way it usually is a cheap trip for us.

  • I’ll second what Isabella said–the Great Lakes are a really affordable beach destination! Wide sandy beaches, an umbrella overhead and frosty ice cream in your hand–it’s amazing, and it won’t break the bank!

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