Monday, June 15, 2009

Save On Your Beach Vacation - Part 2

Saving Money Tip #154 - Save On Your Beach Vacation – Part 2. In the first part of this series we talked about how to save on travel and hotel for your summer beach vacations. Today let’s discuss saving on eating out and entertainment.

Food - Eating is part of everyone’s budget whether on vacation or at home; so some of your money from your food budget can be diverted here. Of course, being that it’s vacation, many people like to splurge a little if they can afford it. When picking your accommodations, keep in mind your food needs and wants. Hotels with refrigerators are great for keeping snacks and drinks. Suites, efficiencies, or apartments that have full kitchens are perfect if you want to cook most or all of your meals. But again, then it might not seem like much of a vacation. And if that’s the only reason you are getting a bigger place to stay, you have to figure out if it’s worth the extra cost. You can also do a combination of eating breakfast and lunch at your hotel/condo and eating dinner out which will give you a break for the big meals but will save you money on the easier ones.

Since most people drive to the beach, you can bring groceries from home at prices that you are used to paying. Most supermarkets in beach towns will be higher priced, adding to your food cost. Another option is to go grocery shopping on the way to the beach before you hit the tourist area. If you decide to eat your meals out, then shop around. Many hotels or apartments that cater to tourists carry menus of surrounding restaurants. Compare prices. Ask other hotel guests around the pool. When you walk around, look at menus posted outside of windows. Also, most beach towns have discount coupon booklets at hotels, the Chamber of Commerce, and outside other venues. Pick them up and go through them the first day you are there. You may find some valuable coupons inside. Food doesn’t have to bust your budget on vacation. Pizza, sandwiches, and burgers are all great options for lunch and dinner. If you want to treat yourself, pick out one or two nights where you go to a nicer dinner for seafood, Italian, or other great meal that you like. A last option is to do take-out. Many hotels have seating near the pool where you can eat a meal. Getting food to go at a restaurant avoids you from paying tip. Also, you can supplement your meal with your own drinks and other goodies.

Entertainment – The great thing about the beach is that the entertainment that you come for is, well, the beach. And other than in New Jersey, most beaches are free to access (you need beach tags to enjoy the beaches in most New Jersey towns). Besides the beach, there is the pool at one’s hotel or condo, walking on the boardwalk, and people watching that rank right up there with great beach activities. The best part is that all of these activities are free. Then, of course, there is miniature golf, the arcade, and amusement rides that many kids expect to do on vacation. Boat excursions, hang gliding, parasailing, and other adventurous activities are also popular (but expensive) at beach resorts.

Decide in advance how much you want to spend on these extra activities. If they are not in your budget, then don’t do them. Make sure you tell your family in advance that you won’t be doing those sorts of things. If they know in advance then they won’t be disappointed. Spending time away from home, swimming, and walking around in a different town should be vacation enough for most people. If you have the money in your budget, then decide whether you are going to do miniature golf, arcade, and amusements every night with your children or if you can do each one once. Alternatively, have a dollar amount that you can spend and let them decide what they want to do. And you can always ask them to bring some of their money if they want to do more than you are willing to spend. Many people can get away without doing the more adventurous activities on a beach vacation. But if you are not one of those, then plan for it and budget for it. Keep in mind, though, that when you spend money at the beach on extra activities, you are taking time away from some free activities that are available. Don’t forget to look in the coupon books for discounts on many of these types of activities.

Lastly, don’t forget about souvenirs. If you are not going to be buying them, tell your children in advance. Again, they won’t be disappointed if they know up front. If you are going to let them pick something, shop around the whole time you are at the beach, so your children can make a wise choice at the end of the vacation. Don’t let them buy the first thing they see.

In Real Life (IRL) – As we are coming up on our annual beach vacation, I will share some of the things that we do to save money. As I mentioned in the last post, we stay in a hotel with an efficiency kitchen. It’s not big enough to cook meals in, but there’s a fridge and a microwave, and a stove. To cut down on costs, we eat breakfast and lunch in our room. We bring groceries from home and buy some things at the local supermarket. Cereal, bagels, and deli sandwiches are perfect breakfast and lunch options for this arrangement. We eat dinner out every night. Sometimes, it’s just pizza. Other times it’s a bit fancier. By eating out just one meal each day, we cut down on our expenses, but it’s also more convenient for our family with three young children to just eat in our room or around the pool.

For entertainment, we spend the majority of our time on the beach or at the pool. After all, that is one of the main reasons we go to the beach – to swim. We have found other free and cheap activities where we go to the beach. There are nice bike rides to go on (we bring our own). There is a lighthouse that is inexpensive to climb, and a nature museum that is free. My husband takes our oldest fishing off the pier with gear that they bring with them. We generally take them to the arcade a couple of times – each time with a dollar limit that they can spend. And we do miniature golf usually once. Most of the time we just walk in the evenings and enjoy an ice cream cone. Frankly, just being in a new environment is vacation enough for us.

We have found that we can spend almost half of what another spends for virtually the same vacation just by incorporating some of these tips discussed here. And while we might not be dining on lobster tail and sleeping in a luxurious hotel, our experience is just as much fun. How do some others save money on a beach vacation?

1 comment:

The Happy Housewife said...

Great post! We are going to the beach in Sept. We are renting a house with another family so we can cook to save $$. Because we are going the week after labor day the house is only $950 for the week, instead of $4000, which is what it costs during the summer. Each family pays about $500 for the week, which is significantly cheaper than getting hotel rooms.