We recently took a week long trip to the beaches of the Florida Panhandle region.
This has long been one of my favorite places to take a vacation. As a child, my parents used to take my older sister and I (see picture) there at least once every other year it seemed. Because I grew up in northwestern Louisiana, this region was really our closest opportunity to go to the beach.
It wasn’t until later on in life (after extensive world travel) that I discovered that these gulf beaches in Florida (and especially into Alabama), are some of the best beaches in the world. Nice water, plenty of activities and/or solitude (if you want), and the whitest of white sandy beaches. I’ve since brought Mrs. PT, a native southern Californian, to this area and she approves. If you ever get a chance to visit this area, definitely go for it.
I recommend Destin, FL and Orange Beach in Gulf Shores, AL as two of my favorite spots. If you’re in Destin, you need to swing by Seaside, FL as well, if only to have a bite to eat and see the beach there. If you have older kids (teens) then a trip to Pensacola or Panama City, FL might be more your style. Both have great beaches and more activities (putt-putt golf, water sports, etc.).
Expenses of Our Florida Beach Vacation
To give you an idea of what this type of vacation might cost you, I thought I’d lay out some of our expenses.
For this latest trip of ours, our biggest expense was the condo. We shared a two-bedroom place with friends, who also have a little one. It came out to about $100 a night, which actually will beat some of the hotel prices in the area.
Since it was a condo, we had our own kitchen, which was a huge benefit to keep costs down. The pool and beach were both within walking distance, as were other amenities of the resort area.
Tip: Review the latest travel rewards credit card offers to see what kind of cash back you can earn on your next vacation.
We spent $100 on groceries for the week, and spent about double that in dining out costs, which is about double our weekly food costs at home. Because we had the kitchen, our breakfasts and lunches were all pretty much done there in the condo. It was nice because we could cook a big breakfast and then walk to the beach or pool with our lunches packed.
The thing that I love about a beach vacation is that the beach is pretty much free. Once you get there, you can just hang out on the beach. If you can chill out enough, or if you enjoy reading, then the expenses are almost nothing. For the more active, bring along a boogie board and a frisbee and you are set for the day.
We usually bring our own “beach canopy” (as I call it), along with some folding chairs, and so we don’t need to pay for chair rental. I don’t mind the chair rentals, but if I’m going to be on the beach more than 4 hours it usually makes things easier if you have your own base camp, which the canopy (around $99) provides.
This area is about 12 hours from where we live. So driving made the most sense for our family of four. I definitely felt the higher fuel prices. It was about $75 for each tank of gas, which last year this time was more like $50. We filled up around 3 times in each direction. That’s almost $500 in gas costs. If you don’t have a whole truck load of baby equipment and supplies like we do, you could consider flying here to reduce transportation costs.
In total, this trip cost around $1,200 = $600 (condo) + $450 (gas) + $150 (food).
There are some little things you can do to save money on your vacation, but overall, a trip like this is going to come down to the cost of the room and the transportation. If you can keep those within reason, then this can be a really affordable trip.
Have you vacationed to this part of the country? Are you a fan? If not, where is your favorite vacation spot within driving distance?