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8 Simple Ways to Save on Your Beach Getaway This Summer

With these smart planning tactics, cost-conscious travelers can still snag a bargain.

U.S. News & World Report

8 Simple Ways to Save on Your Beach Getaway This Summer

Family playing with a beach ball by the sea.
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(Getty Images)

Cut travel costs without sacrificing comfort.

With summer in full swing, you may be wondering whether it's still possible to pull off an affordable beach escape. Well, with a little research and flexibility, industry experts say you can still clinch a deal – if you know where to look. And while you've probably heard of highly publicized travel hacks, such as seeking out alternative airports and buying your flight tickets on Tuesdays, there are many lesser-known insider tricks for landing a deal. Whether you've dawdled on making plans or you enjoy taking spontaneous trips, here are eight smart ways to trim costs on your coastal vacation.
A woman makes travel arrangements with a laptop.
Credit

(Getty Images)

Compare, compare, compare

When searching for deals on accommodations, flights and activities, it's key to conduct plenty of research. "Our data shows that prices vary widely for popular beach destinations like North Carolina and Florida, where the nightly rates can range from $25 per night to over $10,000 per night depending on location, quality, amenities and number of bedrooms," says Jen O'Neal, founder and CEO of vacation rental startup Tripping.com. It also pays to check rates across booking aggregators such as Kayak and Expedia in addition to individual hotel and airline sites to nab the best deals. Keith Nowak, director of marketing communication at Travelocity.com, also suggests picking out your activities before your trip. "Often, you get a discount by prepurchasing … and you will know your out-of-pocket expenditures before you leave," he says.
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Cut travel costs without sacrificing comfort.

With summer in full swing, you may be wondering whether it's still possible to pull off an affordable beach escape. Well, with a little research and flexibility, industry experts say you can still clinch a deal – if you know where to look. And while you've probably heard of highly publicized travel hacks, such as seeking out alternative airports and buying your flight tickets on Tuesdays, there are many lesser-known insider tricks for landing a deal. Whether you've dawdled on making plans or you enjoy taking spontaneous trips, here are eight smart ways to trim costs on your coastal vacation.

Compare, compare, compare

When searching for deals on accommodations, flights and activities, it's key to conduct plenty of research. "Our data shows that prices vary widely for popular beach destinations like North Carolina and Florida, where the nightly rates can range from $25 per night to over $10,000 per night depending on location, quality, amenities and number of bedrooms," says Jen O'Neal, founder and CEO of vacation rental startup Tripping.com. It also pays to check rates across booking aggregators such as Kayak and Expedia in addition to individual hotel and airline sites to nab the best deals. Keith Nowak, director of marketing communication at Travelocity.com, also suggests picking out your activities before your trip. "Often, you get a discount by prepurchasing … and you will know your out-of-pocket expenditures before you leave," he says.

Consider whether location is a top priority.

Deciding whether to stay on the beach or in an off-the-beaten-track location should depend on your budget, your desired beach locale and the time of year. If seizing the best value is a higher priority than an ocean-facing room, look at accommodation options away from the sands. While transportation costs will likely be higher, you'll optimize savings by staying at a less popular spot, O'Neal says. That said, if you don't want to contend with peak-season traffic and spend your vacation hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic, it may make sense to stay closer to the beach, she explains. You should also confirm whether parking is easily accessible from the beach, how quickly spaces fill up and note the daily or hourly rate ahead of time, she adds.

Rely on public transportation.

An easy way to cut costs is booking a hotel or vacation rental that offers convenient public transportation options near the shore, O'Neal says. "If they're all booked up already, your best bet is to look for accommodation along one of the popular transit routes. You can find bus and metro schedules online, which will help you plan accordingly," she adds, pointing out that many popular beach towns offer shuttles to and from the beach to inland areas. Nowak also advises scoping out available airport transfers via Google Maps. In Miami, for example, a South Beach Express bus offers service from Miami International Airport to South Beach every 30 minutes for just $2.65 per person.

Hit the road.

With this summer's low gas prices, down 42 cents per gallon from last year, according to AAA, now is an advantageous time to plan a road trip. Taking your car offers you greater flexibility, and it's more cost-effective than flying, taking the train or the bus or renting a car, O'Neal says. Still, it's important to crunch the numbers ahead of your trip. As Nowak points out, you could be devoting hours to driving in slow-moving traffic lanes rather than hopping on a quick flight, taking away from time spent on the beach.

Leverage loyalty points and perks.

For the best value, maximize your rewards currency, says Tammy Lucas, vice president of marketing at Best Western Hotels & Resorts. Often, "when booking on the rewards site, members get automatic discounts for booking direct," she explains. Beyond special promotions, you can easily redeem your accumulated points for other perks, such as rental cars, dining expenses or even fuel costs, through the Best Western Rewards program's loyalty partners. A variety of other hotel loyalty programs are offering special promotions throughout the summer, so it's key to do your research. The Marriott Rewards program, for example, is offering members the chance to earn 2,000 additional rewards points per stay at an affiliated property through September 5 for a maximum of 10,000 bonus points through the season.

Seek members-only deals and promotions.

If you're a rewards member, keep in mind that loyalists can often snap up great deals directly from individual websites, Lucas says. Still, availability is key. Over prime holiday weekends, for example, prices will spike. If you can schedule your vacation away from holidays, you'll increase your chances of better availability and better rates, she says. Nowak also suggests signing up for email alerts from booking sites and hoteliers to receive exclusive members-only deals. He also advises scouting social media accounts for flash sales.

Factor in fees and extra amenities.

Before booking your stay, it's important to look out for hidden fees, including charges for Wi-Fi access, parking and breakfast, Lucas says. Parking rates can be especially high, O'Neal says. She suggests asking the hotel concierge for safe, easily accessible nearby neighborhoods and parking garages with the best rates. Alternatively, vacation homes often offer free parking, making them a good option for travelers planning to drive to the beach, she adds. Vacation rentals also come with the bonus of access to a kitchen and the chance to cook, not to mention towels, boogie boards and beach umbrellas, she explains. Another top money-saver is a vacation rental with a kitchen and outdoor space, says Laurel Greatrix, associate director of communications at TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals. "Rentals offer a wide range of choices – think living spaces, multiple bedrooms or private outdoor amenities like a backyard or private pool – that are typically not available or affordable at a hotel," she says. A kitchen and backyard could be necessities for larger groups looking to cut dining and lodging costs, she adds.

Pack strategically.

One of the best ways to avoid overpaying is stocking up on essentials before heading to the beach. Nowak advises tossing extra items in the car, and if you're planning to fly and you're concerned about exceeding baggage weight restrictions, "consider leaving some spare bottles of sunscreen in the rental as a gift for future visitors who may have forgotten," he says. O'Neal echoes similar sentiments, noting that sunscreen tends to be much pricier at beach resorts, so it's best to bring your own. She also suggests picking up an inexpensive pair of shades. "It's easy to lose your sunglasses at the beach, and it's better to lose a $10 pair than a $100 pair," she adds.
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