This year we took our kids to experience the beach for the very first time. I am so grateful that I was able to give them this experience. I hadn’t even been to the beach until 2 years ago, as a grown 25 year old adult, so it was quite emotional processing how big of a deal it is to financially be able to stay at the beach with my family for an entire week. I cried on the drive there y’all, an ugly cry.
Now even though I was able to financially to do it, doesn’t mean we had to go on a spending spree upon arrival. The key to weatlh building is planning. For starters, we chose a place with a reasonable driving distance, so we could road trip it. We picked Panama City Beach because it’s family friendly, but not boring. We went after most college spring breaks were over so it was packed with highschoolers. They also recently banned drinking on the beach, so it was STILL PRETTY LIT, but not innappropriate for my kiddos.
Here’s how we planned to save as much money as possible while on vacay.
Skip the Hotel, Go for the Condo– Renting a condo is going to be a lifesaver, especially if you are traveling with kids. You can book through websites like VBRO.COM , Homeaway, etc. Our condo was CHEAPER than many hotels on the Front Beach strip. We booked in a resort community that had all of the amenities of a hotel (pool, parking garage, luggage carts, on site restauruant and coffee shop). We had all of the conveniences of beach access, but with a huge savings. We saved $600 in comparison to a hotel (even on hotel deal sites) in our same resort building by renting through an owner. The best part was having a washer and dryer (I hate traveling with dirty clothes) and full kitchen.
Meal Planning- You guys know I do this at home, and I didn’t stop when we got to the beach. When you have small kids, going to restaurants can be EXHAUSTING, not to mention EXPENSIVE.I know you may feel like the point of vacation is relaxing, why would you want to cook on vacation???!!! And look, I get that. But the cost benefit analysis will convince you. I swear. We went out to dinner twice while there and it was $100 each time. So having breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner for 6 of those nights planned out saved us about $500. We went to Walmart to get all of our groceries for the week to pass the time while we waited for check in.
We had yummy full blown breakfasts nearly every day. Pancakes, sausage, eggs- THE WORKS. And y’all know I love my coffee. But, I even drank my store-bought, glass-bottled Starbucks each day, instead of going to the on site Starbucks with the extra expenses of activities in mind. GO ME!
We did splurge on the best burger spot in the Universe though. When we found out there was a WHATABURGER in Panama City Beach, we knowed there was a God. (My Texas people know what’s up.)
FREE FUN- Every “must do” in a city’s tourist guide is a trap to get your tourist cash. BEWARE. We definitely did our share of cheesy tourist things but it can get PRICEY FAST, especially for a larger family. Usually zoos, mini golfs, etc run $75-120 for all 5 of us. That’s not the kind of money I wanted to drop every single day on the trip. The point of vacation is to relax, so avoiding debt or over-budget spending that you will stress about later is KEY. We split our vacation days in half by FREE FUN and PAID FUN days. We had family join us for the last 3 days of the trip so we saved our paid-fun days for when they joined us. Our picks for free fun included the BEACH…because duh, and the local parks. We even used the Park to BBQ some of my meal prep menu, which was a double win. Money and MOMMY BREAK, because the hubs did all the work.
Because the kids are the best, some more FREE FUN cuteness…
COUPON CHECK- Even though the beach is majestic and glorious, the sand and salt water can get old, even to kids. So when you’re looking for paid activities on vacation be sure and look for coupons online or in those free travel magazines provided. Businesses are in comeptition for customers and are always offering some kind of deal to get you in the door. Even if it’s just $10 or 10% off here and there, that really adds up over a couple of days. We were able to save almost $100 on all the activities by searching online so it was definitely worth the extra step. We used TripShock.com and TripAdvisor.com.