Save Money at the Beach

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For anyone looking to take a beach vacation, it’s important to think about how you can save money at the beach. Not just because you don’t want to be foolish with your money. But also so you can save money at the beach on silly things so you’ll have more money to spend at the beach on the things that matter to you.

For example, maybe you’re looking at New Jersey shore vacation rentals this summer. With people less comfortable with staying in hotels, getting a beach house rental for your vacation makes more sense. But I know that renting a house at the Jersey Shore–or Myrtle Beach or any other popular beach destination–isn’t cheap.
save money at the beach

Save Money at the Beach

So this blog post on how to save money at the beach will help you keep more money in your pocket so you can afford that house rental. I know that if my family and I were planning a beach vacation this year, we’d definitely be looking at renting a house. The only caveat to that would be if we went to Wildwood, New Jersey. There, there tends to be more motel-like hotels. You know, the kind that opens to the outside. I would feel better staying in a hotel like that, because there are no indoor hallways.

By the way, when I say the “beach,” it doesn’t have to be a beach on the ocean. There are plenty of lovely beaches along the Great Lakes, for example, where you can enjoy a proper beach vacation. The video in this blog post was taken at Presque Isle Beach in Erie, Pennsylvania. Doesn’t Lake Erie look like the ocean?

How to save money on a beach vacation

Anyway, with regards to how to save money at the beach so you’ll have more money to enjoy the things that are important to you, here are my tips.

1. Save money on souvenirs

Everyone loves to come home from a vacation with a souvenir or two. If you’re beach trip is to a tourist trap, here is one of the best ways to save money at the beach. Don’t buy your souvenirs on the boardwalk–unless they’re super unique, of course. However, you will pay premium prices.

Later in the afternoon, when you’re done swimming and sunning, head into town. Check out the local mom and pop shops or groceries stores for your souvenirs. Even chain pharmacies. These will usually carry town-branded items, like t-shirts and mugs, at lower prices.

2. Bring your own booze

Stock your car with your preferred drinks before you drive to your beach location. This will come in helpful if your vacation in a town where restaurants are BYOB and you decide to eat out. Dine outdoors, of course. It’s the only way to go.

Additionally, some towns are dry–meaning no alcohol is sold there. You can imagine how much alcohol might cost is towns that neighbor the dry ones. Don’t waste your cash on liquor mark ups. Plan ahead, buy ahead and you’ll be all set with this money-saving suggestion.

Never run out of wine. We signed up for the Winc wine club subscription so we never would.

You can save $20 on your first order when you subscribe to Winc. Hint: try the Rose. It’s amazing.

winc wine club subscription box

3. How to save money on food on vacation

If you’re traveling to a beach town, chances are the grocery stores there are going to be a bit more expensive. Case in point: we lived in Point Pleasant, New Jersey for many years. There was a Stop and Shop in downtown Point Pleasant Beach, which was walkable to our house. There was also a Stop and Shop a five-minute drive away in Point Pleasant Boro–a little farther inland.

I learned quickly that while the Stop and Shop at the beach was convenient, the other location was much cheaper. It was also bigger and had a better selection. Truth is, once I discovered this, I started using Peapod grocery delivery again. I found that Peapod tended to have prices that were comparable to the cheaper Stop and Shop anyway.

Here is my review of Peapod called “Is Peapod Worth It.”

This is a long way of saying this. If you’re wondering how to save money on food on vacation, buy as much as you can before you leave. Use your coupons, get your savings and bring your food with you to your beach vacation. 

4. Don’t pay to go to the beach

We lived at the Jersey Shore for three years. Like many Jersey Shore towns, ours did not have a free beach. You had to pay to get on the sand. As native New Yorkers, where our town beaches were always free, it was hard to get used to the notion of having to pay to get on the beach.

Paying for parking? That’s OK and something I’m used to.

So, how did we enjoy the beach? We would go after hours. Or if we really wanted to spend prolonged time at the beach, we would go to the dog beach in the neighboring town with our dogs. That beach was always free.

Dog beaches are usually free

To save money at the beach and be able to spend time on the beach without your dogs, you want to target beach destinations that are free. Again, you may have to pay for parking but you won’t have to pay to get on the beach.

Want to vacation with your dog? Here are some tips. 

dogs on the beach

Where you’ll find free beaches

In New Jersey, you’ll find the free beach in South Jersey. Specifically, Atlantic City and Wildwood. Many beaches in Delaware are free. In Maryland, the Ocean City beaches are all free. From what I can tell, Myrtle Beach in South Carolina has a free public beach.

And so on as you go down the coast. Plenty of other states have free beaches, too.

  • Florida
  • North Carolina
  • Oregon
  • Texas

5. Vacation in a walkable town

I’d mentioned that I could deal with paying for parking but not for the beach. But I would hate to have to pay for parking each and every time I wanted to go somewhere on my vacation.

So a great way to save money at the beach is to book your vacation in a walkable town. If it’s a tourist friendly destination, park the car and walk. Or better yet, leave the car where you’re staying and walk everywhere anyway. Finally, not only will you save money on gas, but also you’ll save wear and tear on your car.

Want a new beach towel for your vacay? Check out this deal from Life is Good: You’ll get a free beach towel with $99 purchase at Lifeisgood.com!

life is good beach towel striped

6. Look for a last-minute vacation rental

And finally, one of the best ways to save money at the beach is to book last minute. This may sound counter intuitive, but booking last minute can work in your favor.

People’s plans change. They cancel reservations for a house rental. Then, the person renting the house is desperate to fill that rental slot. Therefore, they’ll often end up dropping the price.

It may not always work, and you may not always get the house or the town you want. However, you will likely get a good price. A friend of mine always calls last minute and asks for the “procrastinator’s special.”

Here are additional tips on saving money on a vacation rental.

7. Ask about a “pandemic” special

I mention asking for the procrastinator’s special. But you’ve got to wonder if this summer there will be plenty of pandemic specials to help you save money at the beach.

Tourism has been hit hard with people staying home. So I wouldn’t be surprised if those in the hospitality industry start rolling out incentives–and savings–to get people to take a vacation.

In fact, here are some deals I’ve recently spotted.

Deals on a beach vacation

Motel 6 can definitely help you save money at the beach. How? Kids and pets always stay free. Free is my favorite price.

Start your search for the perfect beach vacation, such as New Jersey shore vacation rentals, on TripAdvisor. I always read the TripAdvisor reviews before booking a trip! 

VRBO says it has tons of vacation rentals that offer flexible cancellation policies so you can book your perfect beach house. Want to educate yourself on these cancellation policies? Here is a link to VRBO’s cancellation policy page. 

Make money from renting your home

While it’s fun to get away to your vacation rental, there are likely times during the year when you’re not using it. So why not rent it and make extra cash?

The VRBO website has a calculator tool you can use to figure out how much you can make from renting your home. First, you put in the number of bedrooms and the number of bathrooms. Next, you put in the home’s address. Finally, you’ll need to make an account on VRBO.com so you can get your estimate. 

We own a two-bedroom cottage in a small college town. Once I made my account on VRBO, the site let me know that I could make almost $6,000 a year from renting it out when we’re not there. That’s pretty low. I’d heard that people with homes in highly desirable areas could make up to $1,500 per week from renting their home. Talk about a lucrative side hustle where you don’t have to do any hustling at all.

Final thoughts on a beach vacation

Of course with all this talk about how to save money at the beach–or where ever you decide to vacation–be smart about your health, safety and well being. Bring your masks, don’t go to crowded places and maintain your social distancing when around strangers.

In addition, here is a great packing list for a beach vacation from my friend Michelle’s blog.

Finally, here is some additional advice on saving money on holiday rentals.

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