How to afford a last-minute beach getaway.

This post is was done in partnership with Visit AL Beaches.

I hate writing about money.

Bleh. Money talks and trip discussions don't go hand-in-hand for me. I like to dream big, then figure out how to afford it, rather than let my pennies dictate my dreams. You know what I mean, right -- champagne tastes, Bud Light budget? Yeah, that pretty much sums us up.

It's a reality for most families who enjoy travel: trying to get the most for as little as possible. 

The problem

So many times people just dismiss traveling outright because they assume they cannot afford it.

"Travel to the beach? Yeah, no way...too expensive."

But is that really true? Have you looked at the numbers recently? If your budget can't handle a beach trip this fall, that's totally understandable. To know your fiscal limits and stick to it is the epitome of superior adulting. I'm applauding you from my kitchen counter right now. But it would be a travesty if you assumed you could not afford a beach vacation without ever looking at the cold, hard numbers.

As a frequent traveler, I can help you break down a travel budget pretty easily. I can recommend what to do and where to stay to give you a starting point for what a beach trip could cost you. Let's take a look together.


A travel case study

Sample destination: Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, AL

Trip time frame:  fall, 3 nights/4 days

Expenses Calculated: Lodging, Attractions, Food


Where to stay: Your accommodations budget

 How to afford a last-minute beach getaway, Thosecrazynelsons.com, Photo: Samantha Nelson Photography

How to afford a last-minute beach getaway, Thosecrazynelsons.com, Photo: Samantha Nelson Photography

Do you want to stay in a beach-front condo? Or are you willing to sleep a few streets away from the beach? These types of questions will affect your accommodations budget greatly. So will your day of arrival; some mid-week and Sunday arrivals often have the lowest rates!. All of those details affect the pricing, sometimes by hundreds of dollars. I'll give a few examples below to give you an idea of what I found during a recent search for a 3 night/4 day getaway, Sunday-Wednesday. The totals given are for the entire stay, not nightly.

Beachfront condo: $708

Pet-friendly house with a pool, 30 min to the beach: $285

House, Walking distance to beach: $458

Tip: If you have a pet, consider booking pet-friendly accommodations and bringing him/her along. This could end up saving you money on boarding or pet-sitting. 


Money saving deal: If you've never tried Airbnb, let me give you $40 off your first stay! That definitely could help with your beach budget!


What to do: Your fun budget

 How to afford a last-minute beach getaway, Thosecrazynelsons.com, Photo: Samantha Nelson Photography

How to afford a last-minute beach getaway, Thosecrazynelsons.com, Photo: Samantha Nelson Photography

This area is completely based on preference. When you hit the beach are you a:

Sit and Relaxer: believe that beach trips are only for sitting on the beach, eating, and sleeping, on repeat?

Festival Seeker: come to the beach for the lively activities like National Shrimp Fest or Oyster Cook-off?

Family traveler: have kiddies to entertain, so need a good mixture of entertainment?

Obviously, the fewer the activities, the less money spent. I'm a firm believer that the beach is entertainment enough. But for those who disagree, here are a few activities with ticket prices. Prices given are per ticket and subject to change.

Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

(add lemur encounter for $10/ticket)

$11 adult/$8 child 3-12

Fort Morgan State Historic Site

$7 adult/$4 child 6-12

Cetacean Dolphin Cruise 

(with online coupon)

$12 adult/$10 child

Pirate Ship Adventure 

(coupon on site for $3 off)

$33 adult/$29 child 2-12

Adventure Island

Mini golf: $7.50 adult/$6.50 child

Laser tag: $7 each

Go Kart: $7 each

Annual Hangout Oyster Cook-Off and Craft Beer Weekend

$35 each, includes taster ticket + admission

So, let's say that a family of four decides they want to do a round of mini-golf and a dolphin cruise while at the beach. Their fun budget for the getaway would be: $74.


Get a FREE pet sitter every time you travel? Become a member with our 20% off discount.


Where to eat: Your food budget

 How to afford a last-minute beach getaway, Thosecrazynelsons.com, Photo: Samantha Nelson Photography

How to afford a last-minute beach getaway, Thosecrazynelsons.com, Photo: Samantha Nelson Photography

For some, part of the allure of getting away means not worrying about cooking!! If that's you, the Gulf Coast is full of savory options. We have 12-insider tips for Gulf Coast restaurants just for folks just like you. For others, saving money and eating-in means more money for other things like attractions or lodging! Whatever your preference, you can work the food budget in variety of ways. For the sake of making a budget though, we've compiled the following averages for a family of four on a 3 night/4 day getaway. 

Purchase groceries, prepare every meal: $200

Sit-down dining option: $45/ meal

Fast food option: $20/ meal

The bottom-line

The least expensive route would be to stay at an Airbnb a little further from the beach, hang out at the beach or find free activities to do, and eat in for every meal for: $485

The most expensive route would be to stay at a beach-front condo, eat out for every meal, and choose a variety of activities from the list above for: $1200+

Will you go?

During the months of September through November, beach destinations will be full of off-season deals and warm weather. We hope that we've provided you with a few options to fit a quick beach getaway into your budget. 

Whether you're doing a refreshing girls' retreat, a guys' fishing trip, or a last-minute family escape before the frost of winter hits, if you're looking for a beach, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach is one of our favorite destinations to keep on summering this fall. 

 

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 It would be a travesty if  you assumed  you could not afford a beach vacation without ever looking at the cold, hard numbers. Read more...ThoseCrazyNelsons.com #familytravel #GulfShores #oranagebeach #beachgetaway #Beachvacay

It would be a travesty if you assumed you could not afford a beach vacation without ever looking at the cold, hard numbers. Read more...ThoseCrazyNelsons.com #familytravel #GulfShores #oranagebeach #beachgetaway #Beachvacay