5 Ways To Save Money On A Beach Vacation

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Going on a beach vacation can be fun, but it can get expensive. Here are 5 simple ways to save money on your next beach vacation and still have fun!

The following is a contribution from my good blogging friend Lance at Money Manifesto. Since I’m going on my own beach vacation next week I thought it would be great to have him share about his new site and ways you can save on your next beach vacation. If you’d like to contribute to Frugal Rules, please contact us.

Beach vacations are awesome! You get to go have fun in the sun at one of nature’s most beautiful scenes. If you play your cards right, you can even get a vacation at the beach pretty cheap. Here are a few ways you can save money on your next beach vacation.

Buy Supplies Before You Leave


You should definitely stock up on most of the supplies you’ll need before you head to the beach. The only exception I’d make is food, which you can buy at a local grocery store when you arrive at your beachfront destination city. Beach stores are at the beach to make money from tourists who are unprepared. Knowing that ahead of time will help keep you from getting suckered into wasting money on overpriced items.

Why pay higher beach prices on basic supplies you could get for cheaper at home? Don’t forget to stock up on sunscreen and any medications you might need, especially prescriptions.

Go For A Vacation Rental, Not A Hotel


One of the most expensive parts of your beach vacation will be your lodging. Fortunately, there are many ways you can save on this aspect of your trip. Rather than reserve a hotel room on the beach at insanely high nightly rates, opt for a vacation rental instead.

You have many options when you book vacation rentals. You can rent from local rental agencies or directly from rental owners on sites like VRBO. While these sites do provide a lot of information, you’ll want to make sure you know all about your vacation rental to make sure everything will suit your family well.

One thing a lot of people overlook when booking vacation rentals is the floor plans. In beachfront condo buildings, there can be many different floor plans. Make sure you pick one that suits your needs best and choose one that has the amenities you really want.

You’ll have to do some research to find the floor plans of units, but it’s well worth it if you can get a beachfront master bedroom rather that one on the highway for the same price. If you’re visiting Panama City Beach, Florida be sure to check out my new site to research floor plans of the condos on the beach.

Prepare Food In Your Vacation Rental’s Kitchen


Another big cost of many beach vacations is dining out for every meal because you don’t have a kitchen. By choosing a vacation rental, you eliminate the problem because you’ll have a kitchen at your disposal.

When you arrive at the beach, stop by the grocery store and stock up for the week. Making your own meals could easily save a family hundreds of dollars just for a one week beach vacation.

Split Costs With Friends


Want to go on your beach vacation at absolute rock bottom prices? The secret is selecting a bigger vacation rental for just a little bit more than the smaller one bedrooms. But what would you do with all of the extra space? Invite your friends and family!

Of course, you wouldn’t be inviting them to freeload on your vacation. Instead, split the costs of the rental and in most cases you’ll save a ton of money. Bigger vacation rentals aren’t that much more expensive than the smallest ones. Have a couple in every bed and your vacation cost per person will be significantly reduced.

Skip The Tacky Souvenirs And Beach Supplies


Everyone likes having great memories of their trips. I completely get it. Just don’t choose to remember your trips by buying tacky souvenirs. They’re cheap and poorly made. They’ll either break or end up in a yard sale in a year or two, so save your money.

Instead, take some pictures while you’re on vacation. Rather than just letting them sit on your phone forever, actually get them printed and put them up around your house. Those memories will mean so much more than a tacky souvenir.

I hope these tips will help you plan for your next beach vacation. Saving money on vacation is awesome, because it means you get to take more vacations. 🙂 If you ever find yourself in Panama City Beach on a beach vacation, stop by and say hi.


Where is your next vacation going to be? Have you ever used a vacation rental property instead of a hotel? What was your experience like? Would you do it again?


Lance Cothern is a local resident of the Panama City Beach area. He loves going to the beach and helping people learn about the area, especially beachfront condominiums through his new site He’s also a personal finance nerd and blogs about all things money at

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John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.

Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.

Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.


  • Amy says:

    This is very timely for me, as we’re heading to a beach vacation next week. Fortunately, we’re staying with generous friends and family members, who had already rented houses for themselves. 🙂 But I’ve been thinking a lot about what to bring with us to minimize costs. Thanks for the advice!

    • Lance Cothern says:

      Glad I could help Amy! That’s awesome that your generous friends and family have taken care of the biggest cost already! Go relax and have some fun 😀

  • Shannon @ Financially Blonde says:

    These are great tips! We just got back from a beach vacation, and we were fortunately able to pack in advance and bring everything with us. I was so glad that we did because the cost of food and supplies around the beach area was 40% more than what we paid for it. They really take advantage of their locale and you could end up spending way more than you budgeted for if you are not prepared. John, I hope you enjoy your vacation and your time in the family truckster. I can’t wait to hear about all of the tales.

    • Lance Cothern says:

      It’s crazy how much they mark stuff up at the beach stores that market to tourists. If you do get stuck needing something, make sure to check out where you think the locals would shop for better deals.

  • Deb @ Saving the Crumbs says:

    Thanks for your post! Agree with and practice just about all of these!

  • Kipp says:

    These are some good tips. I did a beach vacation in June but ended up going the hotel route. I know I did look at some rentals and I did not see a huge difference between that and a cheaper hotel, BUT if you are vacationing with someone then a rental would have been a much better deal. I think we could have gotten some of the difference back by cooking our own meals if we had a rental, but we kept our food cost low by preplanning with deals from and getting some leftovers that we nuked for lunch.
    Prebuying supplies is a plus, don’t need to pay extra for sunscreen or anything. Plus we got some snacks and drinks for our drive as well and a lunch in our cooler so we didn’t need to stop on the way for that. It is the little things that add up!

    • Lance Cothern says:

      Hotels do have their own advantages, like daily cleaning, that condos/vacation rentals don’t have. It’s all about weighing the costs and benefits 🙂

  • Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter says:

    I’m not a huge beach person, in that my trips usually aren’t to places where I’d lie on the beach but I think that AirBNB is great for all sorts of trips and vacations.

  • Andrew@LivingRichCheaply says:

    Vacation rental is a better idea than a hotel like you mentioned…can save on food by cooking instead of eating out all the time. Plus there’s just more room in a rental compared to a hotel room…usually enough room where you can split the costs with other people to share the place.

  • Grayson Bell says:

    We have always saved the most by cooking meals in our accommodations. That is the easiest and best way to save some coin!

  • Ben @ The Wealth Gospel says:

    Preparing your own food is my favorite. We’ve saved literally hundreds of dollars over the past few vacations by doing that. It’s ridiculous to think that you have to eat out every meal just because you’re on vacation. There are even cheap, long-term stay hotels (depending on how long your vacay is) that have a nice kitchenette to use.

    • Lance Cothern says:

      The one time I don’t make food on my vacations is when I’m on a cruise ship. You’re not even allowed to 😀

  • E.M. says:

    Great tips! I’ve done all of these when taking a trip to the beach. Cooking in a rental saves on cost, big time. The souvenir shops kill me – there’s dozens of them lined up on every single street, and somehow they stay in business. Tacky souvenirs are definitely not worth the money.

    • Lance Cothern says:

      Lots of tourists do support the tacky shops. It helps our local economy :D. I just prefer my friends don’t waste their money.

  • AverageJoe says:

    Good stuff, Lance!

    I’ve used vacation properties many times for vacations. I was surprised by how affordable they are. I stayed in a two bedroom condo for less than the local hotels were charging. Cha-ching!

    • Lance Cothern says:

      It definitely can be a lot cheaper. Even during peak seasons and especially during shoulder or off seasons.

  • Jason B says:

    I used homeaway a few years ago to book a studio apartment in Miami during Memorial Day weekend. It was perfect. The studio was located in South Beach. It was also $300 cheaper than the hotels in the area.

  • Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life says:

    I’ve started forgoing souvenirs almost altogether. Unless it can serve as something practical in addition to being a memento- I find it just turns into clutter over time.

    • Lance Cothern says:

      I totally understand that! The only souvenirs that we have bought recently are t shirts and jewelry that we know we’ll wear or artwork for the house.

  • DC @ Young Adult Money says:

    Good tips, Lance, and that’s a great new website. I’ve never gone the rental route except for the last time I was in Hawaii where my sister-in-law rented an estate in Maui for all of the wedding guests to stay at. My next beach vacation will be Hawaii in January – can’t wait!

  • Jefferson says:

    Great stuff, Lance.

    We just got back from a Florida vacation ourselves, and the beach will be calling to us again at some point in the near future.

    I love the tip about skipping the souveneir shops and taking photos instead. That has always been our strategy. Altho we DID buy a $7 boogie board from one of those crappy stores for the day, and gave it away to someone else when we were done.

  • debs@debtdebs says:

    Great tips, Lance. We had a great Florida vacation once where we rented a time share on Jensen Beach. Steps away from the beach, so we could go back to our suite for lunch. Great view too!

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