Doesn’t everyone love a good beach vacation? Splashing in the surf, building sandcastles, maybe getting in a little pool time, eating dinner overlooking the water, and enjoying classic boardwalk rides are quintessential summer beach vacation activities. Sadly, many beach destinations are expensive. So, so expensive! How does a frugal family enjoy an ideal beach vacation? By choosing their location carefully. There are plenty of hidden budget beach getaways around the country that offer loads of family fun and beautiful beaches.
Wrightsville Beach, NC
Wrightsville Beach is just over the South Carolina/North Carolina border and offers white beaches and the Atlantic Ocean at affordable prices. Along with beautiful beaches, the town features Crystal Pier, a 475-foot walkout over the Atlantic. The pier includes access to fishing and free public events to be enjoyed. The boardwalk is home to many inexpensive bars and restaurants perfect for frugal vacationers who want to enjoy the nightlife. There are also plenty of spots to rent kayaks, paddleboards, and boats. The Fred and Alice Stanback Coastal Education Center offers a variety of educational programming at affordable prices.
Wildwood Beach stretches for five miles along the New Jersey coastline. The city often hosts beachside movies and sandcastle building contests. It also boasts an active boardwalk, which includes Morey’s Piers, a classic beachfront amusement park containing a large water park. Other nearby, family-friendly attractions include the Seaport Aquarium. Why is Wildwood so affordable? Because it was built as a middle-class family destination back in the mid-20th century (when Morey’s Piers first opened) and some of that ethos and infrastructure are still enjoyed today. Many people visit Wildwood for its mid-century modern architecture. Those original motels still make for affordable family vacations. Try the classic Jolly Roger Motel if you are looking for affordable, vintage beach trip experience!
Daytona Beach, FL
23 miles of white beaches bordering Florida’s Atlantic Coast make up Daytona Beach. Affordable motels, hotels, and condos abound. Staying slightly away from the beach is made more accessible by the fact you can load your car up with floats, coolers, chairs, and toys and drive right up on the beach. Daytona is also close to both Orlando and Cape Canaveral, so frugal day trips to typically pricier destinations (like Disney!) may be doable. There’s plenty at Daytona to keep you busy, though! Free concerts are offered at the Bandshell, or you can check out the pier that stretches 1,000-feet into the Atlantic Ocean and features a restaurant and a rooftop bar. Don’t forget the historic Boardwalk, which houses two different arcades offering classic games and rides, along with restaurants and gift shops.
Rehoboth Beach, DE
Delaware’s largest beach resort offers a mile-long boardwalk featuring Funland, an affordable amusement where. Free concerts are a weekend staple at the bandstand. Cape Henlopen State Park charges a small fee, but the walking dunes trail is a must-do on your trip and will provide plenty of Instagram-worthy backdrops. Getting around Rehoboth and visiting other Delaware beaches is easy with Jolly Trolley, the mass transit system of Delaware’s beach communities. Not only is it transportation, but many kids (and some adults!) will consider riding the Jolly Trolley a fun outing.
Pensacola Beach, FL
Pensacola Beach sits on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and offers a great budget beach vacation from April-October. Sam’s Fun City offers families the chance to enjoy an affordable amusement and water park. Everyone will enjoy the opportunity to play on the classic Goofy Golf mini-golf course, although some people might have a hard time leaving the white sand beaches lined with family-friendly restaurants and affordable hotels. You might also consider staying in Downtown Pensacola and driving to the beach daily to save money on lodging. Looking for something unique? Unlike other beach destinations, Pensacola offers air shows by the Blue Angels and the floating museum the USS Alabama is an easy drive away.
Long Beach, WA
Long Beach covers 28 miles of Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula. This affordable hidden gem offers clam digging, surfing lessons, biking, kite flying, bonfires, and hiking. Discovery Trail, an 8.2-mile hike, features markers from the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Visitors are allowed to drive their cars directly on the beach at no charge. The nearby Cape Disappointment State Park offers even more beaches and the ability to hike up to the lighthouses. Other activities include the International Kite Museum, Marsh’s Free Museum, and the Fun Beach Speedway.
Huntington Beach, CA
California beach vacations in places like San Diego or Santa Monica can be prohibitively expensive! Worry not; Surf City is the perfect destination for budget-minded vacationers. Huntington is known for its incredible surfing friendly waves. Those traveling with their dogs will especially love Huntington’s dedicated dog beach. Other than surfing and sunbathing in Pacific waters, other affordable activities include hiking, whale watching, and horseback riding. Enjoy dining out? There’s a variety of inexpensive restaurants to enjoy. There are also plenty of affordable, classic beach accessible motels available.
Cannon Beach, OR
If your idea of the perfect beach vacation includes seals and sea lions playing in the waves, dense fogs rolling in, and rugged beaches, then Cannon Beach might be perfect for you! During the busy season, hotels can be pricey, but Oregon allows beachside camping. That’s right-you can camp surfside! If you prefer your campsites with running water, Nehalem Bay State Park offers campsites starting at $11. Ecola State Park and Hug Point State Park are also nearby. The town of Cannon Beach offers unique shopping experiences, like the Yuletide Christmas Shop if you desire a little Christmas in the summer!
Lake Champlain, NY and VT
Lake Champlain is a natural freshwater lake with an 8,234 square mile catchment area that borders New York, Vermont, and Canada. For a few weeks in 1998, Champlain was considered one of the United States’ Great Lakes.
Travel + Leisure
named Lake Champlain one of America’s best lake vacations, citing its rich history and beautiful landscape. The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum is an affordable way to learn about the lake’s rich history, including the role it playing in the Revolutionary War. Boat tours of the lake are available. Economical lodging options include camping at one of the many campgrounds surrounding the lake, or you can rent one of the many lake-adjacent cabins offered to vacationers around the area (frugal tip: when you have a kitchen in your vacation digs, you don’t have to eat out as much!).
Minocqua is known as “Nature’s Original Water Park” due to being practically surrounded by the 1,339-acre lake that shares its name, but also because of its proximity to Kawaguesaga Lake, Mid Lake, Bullhead Lake, and Clawson Lake. Are man-made water parks more your family’s speed? Not to worry, The Waters of Minocqua offers a variety of slides for about $15 a day. Canoeing, kayaking, and paddle boarding are favorite activities in the natural lakes. Opportunities for birdwatching and hiking abound. Several vintage lake resorts, like Estrold Resort, offer affordable lodging and the chance to experience some vintage lake charm.
If financial emergencies should arise, it’s important to understand all of the lending options available to you. Personal loans and car title-secured loans/pawns are among the variety of lending options that may be available.