It’s no surprise that I absolutely love the beach, and I always want to incorporate some beach time to any of our family vacations. Beach vacations can be expensive, however, and you can easily blow through your budget depending on the vacation destination. For family beach vacations, you are somewhat limited based upon school vacations and the weather at your preferred destination, making it even more difficult to save money. If you are looking to visit the beach, but want a budget friendly option, here are our tips for cheap family beach vacations.
Please note that we may have received complimentary or discounted trips to some of these locations, but all opinions are our own. This post contains affiliate links, and we may be compensated for a purchase/click through on these links.
Tips for Cheap Family Beach Vacations
Drive to Your Destination
Airfare can be one of the most expensive parts of your family vacation. So, if you can, consider driving to your destination. Not only will you save on airfare, but you also won’t need a rental car. You can also bring more things from home, like food, sunscreen, and beach gear, so you won’t need to purchase those or rent them while on vacation. Of course, this only works when your preferred beach vacation destination isn’t too far away from home, so you’ll need to research nearby options.
See our road trip tips and favorite road trip games here.
Find Affordable Accommodations
Some of the best beach resorts are absolutely stunning, but also expensive. If you are looking to take a cheap family beach vacation, you’ll want to find more affordable accommodations. Consider visiting a beach town with a number of small hotels or popular chain hotels. When I visited Virginia Beach, Virginia on a press trip years ago, I was so impressed with the number of affordable hotels in the nearby area. I always recommend looking at reviews online, so that you know you are getting a great place.
Check out hotels in Virginia Beach here.
Another option is to book a vacation rental home. There are so many affordable options available, and you can often find them right on the beach. You’ll have more space than you’d have in a hotel room, and you’ll also have kitchen and maybe even grilling facilities. Book through a vacation rental website, and you’ll even be able to find reviews and photos before you commit. It’s also a good idea to ask friends and family member if they have recommendations. Often, you’ll be able to find a place that a friend has already rented, so you know that it’s acceptable.
Look for vacation home rentals here.
One affordable beach destination with a number of gorgeous vacation rental homes is Destin and Fort Walton, Florida. A few years ago, I stayed at a huge, beautiful vacation home right near the beach. There was a ton of space, an outdoor pool, grill, full kitchen, and we were just steps from the beautiful white sand beach.
Travel Off Season
It might seem almost impossible to travel to the beach in the off season, because that might mean that the air and water temperatures would be too cold. But you might consider traveling to popular beach vacation destinations like Mexico and the Caribbean in the summer. They are less crowded and general have lower rates. Just keep in mind that it may be hurricane season, so get the appropriate insurance before booking.
Cook Much of Your Meals
I’ll admit, the idea of cooking isn’t exactly in line with my thoughts of a relaxing beach vacation. However, cooking many of your own meals can be a fantastic way to book a cheap family beach vacation. Consider staying at a hotel with a full kitchen, so cooking meals will be an option for you.
When I go on vacation to the beach, I usually try to visit the grocery store on my first day. Even if I don’t cook all of our meals, I do like to have some basics, like milk and fruit, for snacks. We typically eat a light breakfast, so it’s easy to prepare our own breakfast each day, rather than going out.
You can find kitchens in vacation rentals, suite hotels, and in select luxury hotels. My rooms at the Resort at Longboat Key Club and Lido Beach Resort in Sarasota both had small kitchen areas. Before booking, check with the hotel to see what is included – make sure that you’ll have at least a stove top, refrigerator, and pots/pans/plates/utensils. Also, some hotels don’t have these facilities in every room.
Bring Along Things From Home
Once you get to the beach, you’ll realize exactly how much you need while you are there. Beach hotels and communities generally sell these things, but usually at a premium. So, before you go, make sure you make a list of everything you need, and then bring it along with you. Some things you’ll want to be sure to bring are:
- Beach towels
- Inflatable rafts
- Sunscreen (bring more than you think you need)
- After sun lotion
- Lip balm with SPF
- Beach toys
If you drive, you’ll find it easier to bring along these things. While it is a good idea to purchase them at home and transport them with you, it probably isn’t worth the extra expense of paying for an extra bag if flying. So pack carefully. If you are staying at a hotel, see if they provide any of these things (like towels and snorkel equipment) so you don’t need to pack them.
Travel With Others
Multi-generational and multi-family vacations are becoming increasingly popular. If you are looking for cheap family beach vacation ideas, you may consider sharing a vacation rental home with another family. Not only will you save money on the accommodations, you can also share meal prep and clean up responsibilities. Just make sure that you talk about responsibilities and costs before leaving so you don’t have any disagreements during your family vacation.
Book Package Deals
When we wanted to visit Marco Island several years ago over spring break, we booked a package deal. Flights are often expensive during school vacation, but by getting a package deal, we saved a good amount of money. We booked through Jetblue Getaways, and it included our rental car, our hotel, and our flights. It was much cheaper than booking all of those things separately would have been.
Stay a Short Drive Away
While you may want to stay right on the beach, it can definitely be more affordable to stay a short drive away. For instance, if you want to stay in Newport, Rhode Island, but don’t want to pay Newport prices, consider staying in nearby Portsmouth or Middletown Rhode Island. You won’t be too far from the beach, but will be able to save money on the hotel.
In other locations, you may find that staying just a block away from the beach, rather than right on the beach, can be a good way to save money. Before you go, make sure you understand where the public parts of the beach are, so you’ll know that you are able to easily access them without staying right on the beach.
Look at Lake and River Destinations
Ocean and Gulf coast beaches aren’t the only ones that you can visit. Look at lake and river destinations where you can still have fun on the beach. There are a number of national park and state park destinations with lakes, rivers, and ponds that are affordable and fun for families.
Consider an All-Inclusive Resort
All-inclusive resorts can be a great way to budget for your vacation, because you’ll know how much you are spending for lodging and food. While you can definitely find luxury all-inclusives, there are also some that are available at a more modest price.
See our roundup of all-inclusive resorts here.
What are your favorite tips for cheap family beach vacations?