Think you can’t afford a beach getaway? Here’s how you can

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The beach is a dream destination for those looking for a relaxing escape. But it can also be an expensive vacation, especially as travel costs keep rising. If you want a beach getaway, these tips can help you plan a low-cost trip without sacrificing your favorite beach activities.

Two blue lounge chairs on the beach with an umbrella.
Enjoy the sun and sand without breaking the bank. These tips make dream beach getaways on a budget a reality. Photo credit: Depositphotos.

Where to find savings on beach vacations

Sun, waves, ocean activities and peaceful relaxation — a beach vacation offers something to please every traveler. But prices have increased with recent inflation, which has travelers rethinking their options.

According to a recent survey by Forbes, 46% said they would change their travel plans in 2024 due to rising costs, potentially shortening travel, choosing less desirable destinations and canceling trips altogether.

Before you cancel your beach trip, look for savings instead. Food, accommodations and travel are the biggest expenses on a vacation. With some planning and research, you can find savings on these expenses.

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Tips to save money on beach accommodations

Accommodations are a significant cost on most beach trips. Hotels, resorts and vacation rentals with easy beach access are often in high demand and are priced accordingly. Cut your accommodation expenses with these tips.

Choose a budget-friendly destination

You’ll find low-cost beaches on both U.S. coasts. Beach towns like Daytona Beach in northeast Florida and Carlsbad, CA are great choices for affordable beach vacations. Daytona Beach is a year-round destination packed with things to do, including a boardwalk, speedway, museums and more. Carlsbad, located 30 miles from San Diego, offers beautiful scenery and a laid-back vibe.

Travel during the shoulder season

Beaches are generally busiest at the height of summer and hotels will cost more. Opt to travel in the two months before or after the peak season, often called the “shoulder season,” when AAA notes that hotels lower their prices. You’ll also see fewer crowds, but the weather will still be nice while you enjoy the sun and water.

Camp at the beach

Beach camping offers some of the cheapest beachside accommodations you can find. With national parks, state parks and private campgrounds at many beaches, you can find options for beach camping for both tents and RVs. Some beach campgrounds will even let you camp right on the sand for unbeatable ocean access.

Opt for a shorter trip

Each night’s accommodation can add a few hundred dollars to a trip. Cutting a few days off of your trip — turning a week-long trip into a five-day trip, for instance — will reduce costs, yet give you plenty of time to enjoy the vacation. 

Plan ahead

The other top way to save on your beach getaway is to start thinking about your trip as soon as possible. Anitria Roberts, travel advisor and owner of Travel by AJ, LLC, notes that, “The key to planning an affordable beach vacation is to book in advance. Planning at least nine months to one year in advance of your desired travel dates will provide the best rates as well as availability. If your plans are flexible, consider travel during the weekdays when hotel and airfare prices are lower than during the weekend.”

Travel affordably with budget-friendly transportation

Getting to your destination is another expense for a beach vacation. Airfare costs can leave you spending a large portion of your vacation budget on travel.

If you are traveling by plane, these tips can reduce the cost of airfare to popular beach destinations:

  • Find the dates with the best fares: If your travel dates are flexible, plan your trip when flights are most affordable. Travel apps can often help you pinpoint these dates. Kayak, for example, has a best time to travel tool that will find the best prices based on your destination and trip length.
  • Fly midweek: According to data compiled by Google Flights, the best prices on plane flights are for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday flights. Booking your flights for these days can save you 12% on airfare.
  • Travel light with a carry-on: Many airlines charge for checking a bag. Plan your packing list carefully to fit everything you’ll need in a carry-on to avoid those checked bag fees.

Turn a beach trip into a road trip

If you are within driving distance of the coast, you can save on travel by driving instead of flying. Driving is often significantly cheaper than airfare, and it gives you the opportunity to make your trip into more than just a beach vacation. As you plan your road trip, look for interesting stops and overnight stays along the way to break up the drive.

Save on food and dining on a beach vacation

Limiting what you spend on food will help you stick to a budget on your beach getaway. Eating meals at restaurants can add up quickly, so reducing the number of meals eaten out is a great opportunity to save.

  • Book a hotel with a free breakfast: With your breakfast included in your accommodation cost, you’ll only have to pay for two meals per day.
  • Get a room with a kitchenette: If your hotel room has a refrigerator and microwave, you can keep some snacks and quick lunches on hand. Stock up at the grocery store at the beginning of your trip and limit how often and how much you have to eat out.
  • Get a vacation rental with a full kitchen: When traveling with a group, renting a condo can be more cost-effective than hotel rooms. Having a full kitchen means you can save money on your meals. Try fresh, local seafood in this quick cioppino recipe. Easy and delicious, it will taste as luxurious as a restaurant meal without the cost.

Enjoy a beach getaway without breaking the bank

If you want to get a beach vacation on the calendar this year, don’t let the cost deter you. Escaping to the beach can be an affordable trip with some advance planning and a few steps to save on travel, food and lodging. Without having to worry about your budget, you’ll be free to enjoy the sun and sand.

Lisa Wells is a food and travel writer and photographer with extensive experience exploring the U.S. coastline and traveling through 37 countries. As the founder of Coastal Wandering, she shares her love for laid-back beach living with stories, recipes, and tips for a relaxed coastal lifestyle.

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