This is a sponsored post on behalf of Shell, in which I was compensated. All opinions are my own.
8 Tips for Saving on a Family Beach Vacation
We recently took a fun trip over to Clearwater Beach, Florida and it was amazing. Growing up in New England, I was more of a lakeside traveler or an up in the mountains girl. However, when we moved to Florida my salty side came out and I’ve found myself craving the ocean more and more. Unfortunately, the idea of staying on the beach for a week was giving me and my wallet anxiety attacks. I decided to search for some hotels that I had driven by in the past to see how out of reach a beach week was. Well, I think my credit card laughed at me.
We had already taken several road trips over to Orlando, have a trip to Kiawah Island booked for Thanksgiving, and back to school shopping is something I guess needs to be done. So, my gypsy soul was not working in my favor when it kept putting a beach vacay in my mind.
Then one morning, I realized I could still wake up to ocean waves and have my toes in the sand for a week, I just needed to get into the right state of mind. I needed to do it on a budget and plan it right.
Here are my 8 Beach Vacation Budget Tips that made my Family Beach Trip Possible
- Skip the hotel! Sure there are perks to staying at a luxury hotel, but there are also perks to staying at a vacation rental. Like a kitchen and more space for starters. We found some beautiful 2 bedroom beach cottages for as low as $50 a night.
- Eat Meals In! With a beach rental, you most likely get a full kitchen, which means there is no need to eat out 3 times a day all week. This is a huge money saver! We did easy breakfasts in the house each morning. French toast bakes, cereal, and bread I cooked ahead of time, all took about 5-10 minutes to serve. We also made lunches and packed a cooler each day for the beach. We brought sandwiches, chips, veggie, and dips. Plus, all our drinks, a soda on the beach is usually at least $3.
- Eat Out Early! When we did go out to eat, it was usually for dinner because after a long beach day everyone was tired and hungry. However, we tried to get off the beach and to dinner early to beat the rush and to take advantage of any early-bird specials that restaurants were offering. Plus, this is usually when the sun is starting to get incredibly hot anyways, especially the Florida sun, so it was nice to be able to cool off inside. Our favorite restaurants on Clearwater Beach are Crabby Bills for their amazing king crab legs and full kid’s menu and The Pavilion for their delicious hotdogs. The Silverking Tap House also is a great place to relax and listen to live music while enjoying a beer and some delicious appetizers.
- Bring Your Own Beach Gear and Supplies! In the Florida sun during the middle of summer, my family has gone through a bottle of sunblock in one day. So, we brought a case. I’ve seen sunscreen at the beach stores that cost about $20, the same bottle that costs $6 at home. Same goes for beach toys and floats, every beach store has isles of them but they feature a hefty markup. Plan ahead and buy the stuff you don’t have at home. Also, consider bringing your own beach chairs and umbrella, or plan to sit on a blanket from home. Clearwater beach like many Florida beaches offer chairs, umbrellas, and cabana rentals, but for almost $35 a day, you can save a ton by bringing your own.
- Stop at the Visitors Bureau! On Clearwater Beach, there is one right by the playground on the beach. This is the perfect place to see what free and inexpensive activities are happening. Clearwater Aquarium let’s their rehabilitated sea turtles free off of Clearwater Beach so if your visiting at the right time you may get to witness an amazing experience. The Visitors Center is able to give you all of this information plus they have coupons for almost every major attraction. Our favorite free things on Clearwater Beach are walking Pier 60 at night to watch the performers, watching the Sunset Cinema’s outdoor movie under the stars on weekend nights, and of course relaxing on the beach and catching a glimpse of dolphins jumping in the ocean as the sunsets.
- Try to Book Off-Season! If your traveling south, the weather will allow you to book offseason. Try booking for a long weekend once school vacations are over, or into the fall or spring. In the Clearwater area, the water stays pretty warm through part of December. Plus, if you’re traveling from up north, like New England, even the mid-winter temperatures down here aren’t as bad as some summer days on Old Orchard Beach.
- Skip Buying Souvenirs! In every beach town, souvenirs are everywhere. You can get just about anything imaginable with the local beach printed on it, from t-shirts to shot glasses. Instead of racking up a hefty tab at one of the beach shops, bring a mason jar (or a plastic bag) and bring home a cup of sand and a few seashells. Once you get home, clean off the shells and write the beach and date on them with a permanent marker and arrange the sand, shells, and picture or two from your vacation. You likely already own a mason jar and finding seashells makes for a fun afternoon with the kids. Our favorite place to find seashells near Clearwater Beach is to take a short drive up to Honeymoon Island Beach, where the surf is a little stronger. We have found amazing shells there. If you’re adventurous, rent a kayak and take a short ride out to one of the small islands on the gulf coast.
- Use the *Fuel Rewards® program! As I have said in prior posts, my favorite way to save on travel this year is with Shell and the Fuel Rewards® program. The current offer, “Instant Gold Status”, rewards members with an automatic 5 cents a gallon savings on every fill-up (up to 20 gallons/visit). Plus, when linked to your credit card, you earn rewards on everyday spending at participating merchants. I earn additional rewards when I buy my weekly groceries at Winn-Dixie, which is right next to a Green Market Café that the kids love to stop at for lunch. There I earned a reward of 10 cents for every $50 spent. When my rewards are stacked, I save big time on fuel. While on our beach trip I continued to earn rewards at the Palm Pavilion, Silverking Tap House, and Five Palms Rental. All the places I would visit anyways, however this year I’m earning some amazing savings at the pump, which allows me to continue to plan more amazing road trips!
Have you signed up for the Fuel Rewards® program and earned “Instant Gold Status” yet? What are you waiting for? It’s free to sign up and you can start saving immediately! Head over to the Fuel Rewards® site to register and take a look at the long list of online retailers, stores, restaurants, travel locations that let you earn rewards. These are places you likely already shop and eat at, why not put some savings in your pocket while you’re at it?
Plus, once you’re signed up, you can send your referral link to friends and family so they can join the Fuel Rewards program. The first time a friend uses the program by earning a reward or using their card at a participating Shell station, you will instantly earn 25¢/gal. And there’s no limit to how many friends you invite or how many times you earn.
Tips to Remember:
There’s a 20-gallon limit on fill-ups. Get the most out of your rewards by filling up when your tank is low.
*Fuel Rewards® savings earned through linked credit card offers could take up to 5–7 business days to post to your Fuel Rewards® account