Friday, June 12, 2009

Save On Your Beach Vacation - Part 1

Saving Money Tip - #153 - Save On Your Beach Vacation – Part 1. Summer is almost here and many people are planning vacations to the beach. Beach vacations can be expensive. Travel, hotel, eating out, and activities all add up. But you can save money on a trip to the shore if you plan well. As with everything else, creating a plan is usually your best bet to keeping costs down. Let’s break down vacations into four: location, accommodations, food, and entertainment.

Location: First you must decide where you are going. If you live on the coast, you probably have many options available to you. If you live farther away, you may not have as many choices. But either way before you decide where you are going, look into as many locations as possible. Be aware that each beach town is not created equal. Some have a more family feel to them, while others seem to cater to teenagers and a partying crowd. Read up on your choices before you decide and talk to other people as much as possible to get their opinions of different seashore towns. Keep in mind the difference in flavor often means that some beach towns are more expensive than others, even if they are literally next-door. For example, in Delaware, Rehoboth Beach is generally more expensive than neighboring Dewey Beach. But Rehoboth Beach has a more family-friendly atmosphere, while Dewey has more of a college-kid vibe. Also, some whole areas have more expensive beach towns while others are much cheaper. For example, the North Carolina beaches are much cheaper than the New Jersey beaches. If you live in between the two, you can choose a North Carolina Beach if you want to save money. Even if North Carolina is a bit farther for you, it still might make economic sense to make the longer drive.

Accommodations: After you decide where it is you are going, you need to figure out where you are staying. Many people automatically think hotels as a place to stay at the beach. But you can also rent a condo or house, stay in a bed and breakfast, camp, or choose another accommodation. Look into all of your options and take in to consideration location, maid service, amenities such as a pool, kitchen facilities, washer/dryers, etc.. If you have kids a pool might be a necessity. Sure, there’s the beach, but it’s nice to have the option of swimming right outside your hotel room, too. If you are going for a longer stay, a rental home or condo might be cheaper than a hotel, especially if you have a large group. Renting a bigger place for more people is often cheaper than renting several motel rooms. If you want food as part of the package, a B&B might do the trick and may even be cheaper than a hotel with a pool and other amenities that you might not use anyway. Keep in mind the type of vacation you want and which amenities offered you would really use.

Once you decide what type of property you want to stay in, make sure you shop around. Accommodations even within a certain locale can have wildly different pricing. Furthermore, if you are staying on the cusp of the in-season rates, you might find that hotels have differing opinions of what is considered in-season. Staying at an out-of-season hotel will often be much cheaper. Book early. Hotels that are good deals often fill up first. Sites such as Trip Advisor will give you an idea of which hotels are ranked well. Remember, though, that people are more likely to complain than compliment, so don’t be too put off by negatives that you see in your choices. And once you are on your vacation, shop around for next year’s beach vacation. It will help you immensely to see accommodations in person. Even if you decide to check out a new beach town for the following year, it may be worth it to take a short drive while you are already nearby to check out the accommodations that you want.

In part 2 of this segment, we will discuss food and entertainment at your beach vacation.

In Real Life (IRL) – Growing up, we went to Atlantic City ever summer. This was well before gambling came in. We stayed in the same hotel year after year. Then the area started getting a bit seedy (which is why gambling came in the first place), so my parents moved our summer vacation down a town to Ventnor, which is a quiet beach locale that few people outside of New Jersey or Philadelphia probably ever heard of. Problem was, there wasn’t a whole lot to do there, so a few years later we decided to scout out a new location. Farther south “down the shore” was a seashore resort called Wildwood. I don’t know how my parents concluded we should check that one out because Wildwood really was “wild”. There were teens everywhere. Although, I will say that there was a lot to do. We stayed there one summer and my parents decided it wasn’t for us. Finally, someone at my dad’s work with recommended Cape May. Today Cape May has almost become a household name, but back in the late 70’s, it was unheard of outside the South Jersey area. We took a short drive from our home in the Philadelphia suburbs to check it out. And we fell in love. Quaint Victorian homes lined the streets. A picturesque shopping plaza centered the town. And although there were no rides or a large boardwalk, we found the town very charming. Pricewise, it was more expensive than other Jersey shore locales, but we found it to be worth it.

Once our new summer beach location was decided upon, we checked out various hotels. And what my parents came up with was an old Victorian hotel that served meals in the their old-fashioned dining room. Hotel rooms lacked air conditioning or televisions, but that was part of the charm. We were staying there to go to the beach, not to watch t.v. And we figured the ocean breezes would suffice for air. We stayed in that hotel summer after summer until one year when the owner decided to sell the place and the new owners fixed it up, raised the prices, and stopped serving meals. Since then we have stayed at four other locations in Cape May. We’ve stayed in standard hotels and condo-tels with full-service kitchens and washer/dryers in the apartment. As our family has branched out, we have decided to each get our own accommodations in Cape May. To that end, my family has found a hotel that has out-of-season rates at the end of June, while other hotels we previously stayed at are considered in season. The one we picked is two blocks from the beach, but near the pedestrian shopping mall, so it is less expensive, but also convenient. And while it doesn’t have a washer/dryer like the condo-tel we have stayed at, it has a baby pool that the condo-tel didn’t have. That is important to us. The room has an efficiency kitchen. And for nearly half the price of the condo-tel, the price difference is worth it to us even without the washer dryer and full kitchen. Each summer, my family discusses the possibility of checking out cheaper beach locales in other states, but we really like it in Cape May and by learning the area, we have found out not only a bargain hotel but we know where to eat and what to do for entertainment on a budget, too. For other frugal ideas, check out Frugal Fridays.

1 comment:

lisbon said...

Nice post!

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