Economic woes may continue throughout the summer travel season, but life can still be a beach with all the deals out there waiting for you. If you’ve been dreaming of sand castles and cresting waves, but haven’t firmed up your plans for fear of sticker shock, now is the time to think about booking. Here are six suggestions for budget-friendly beach vacations in the U.S., all for under $500.
Galveston might still be recovering from Hurricane Ike, which hit the island hard last September, but hotels are currently open for business and many are offering 20 percent off room rates. Several properties listed in the sale will fit nicely within the $500 budget, from the Super 8 for $50 per night to more luxurious properties like Hotel Galvez starting at $130. The best rates are available Sunday through Thursday, and the discount is valid through July 4 with the possibility of being extended.
By visiting Galveston and spending precious tourism dollars, you’ll help with the rebuilding efforts, which have already come a long way. Many of the main attractions like Moody Gardens amusement park and the Schlitterbahn Galveston Waterpark are now enhanced and open for the summer season. Plus, since Ike, the city has invested $12 million into a beach nourishment project, adding new sand to a 2.5-mile stretch of beach at the Seawall, which is free to the public.
Cost breakdown: $130 x three nights at the Hotel Galvez = $390 for two, or $195 per person. You’ll have a little over $300 left in the budget for taxes and fees, as well as for transportation to the island. Or, pick an alternative property with even lower rates to save even more.
Charleston, South Carolina
While known primarily as a historical destination, Charleston also has plenty of nearby beaches to draw sand lovers from all over the U.S. And to make things more affordable, the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau has launched a Family Fun value promotion, which features discounts at several hotels. Budget-friendly options range from $89 per night at the budget-class Sleep Inn North Charleston to $159 at the historic Francis Marion Hotel. Most packages contain extras like breakfast and tickets to the South Carolina Aquarium. Available dates vary, but most offers are good for spring and summer travel.
Cost breakdown: $159 x three nights at the Francis Marion = $477 for a family of four, or $119.25 per person. Taxes and fees are extra.
Santa Barbara, California
Who needs a car at the beach? Especially in Santa Barbara, where you can get discounts and perks for leaving your wheels behind and walking, biking, or even taking the train instead of driving. In an attempt to be more eco-friendly, the city has initiated a Car Free promotion that includes a host of savings on hotels and activities when you take the train, a 20 percent discount on Amtrak tickets, and special packages even if you do arrive by car.
For example, anyone can stay at the Old Yacht Club Inn B&B for rates starting at $99 off-peak/$139 peak per night (with a three-night stay), and also receive a full gourmet breakfast, a wine social in the evenings, and complimentary use of bicycles, beach chairs, and towels. The inn is located right near the bike path around East Beach, as well as an open-air electric shuttle stop (rides cost just 25 cents), so you can enjoy your stay completely car free and almost cost free in regard to transportation. As a reward, you’ll receive $50 for your ride back home.
Cost breakdown: $139 x three nights at the Old Yacht Club = $417 – $50 = $367 total for two, or $183.50 per person. Taxes and fees are extra. Plus, the savings can add up when you consider the train discounts mentioned above.
In celebration of the 40th anniversary of its “Virginia is for Lovers” campaign, Virginia is offering a state-wide promotion throughout the year that includes $40 or 40 percent off a variety of hotels and activities, some of which are available in beachy locales. For instance, you can save $40 off room rates at the Inn & Garden Cafe located in Onancock on the Eastern Shore. Rates range from $110 to $130 per night, so that’s only $70 to $90 with the discount. When making reservations, just be sure to mention the “Virginia is for Lovers 40th Anniversary” promotion.
Cost breakdown: $70 x three nights at the Inn & Garden Cafe = $210 total for two, or $105 per person. Taxes and fees are extra. Other beach destinations in the offer include Cape Charles and Chincoteague Island.
Oregon’s Adventure Coast
Oregon’s Adventure Coast, made up of Coos Bay, North Bend, and Charleston, is an area filled with sand dunes, beaches, and activities like whale and bird watching that appeal to nature lovers. You can find great deals on budget hotels, inns, and B&Bs through the Adventure Coast or Travel Oregon tourism websites.
As listed on Travel Oregon, rates at the Victorian This Olde House B&B range from $95 to $165 per night and include daily breakfast and complimentary wine. Shops, restaurants, and the boardwalk are within walking distance, and the beach is a short drive away.
Cost breakdown: $95 x three nights at This Olde House = $285 for two, or $142.50 per person before taxes and fees. For other lodging options, also note that many area properties (including vacation rentals and campgrounds) are affordable even without special deals or discounts.
St. Petersburg/Clearwater, Florida
Beachgoers who like it hot will love Florida this summer. Located on the state’s Gulf coast, St. Petersburg/Clearwater is home to several powdery white-sand beaches that consistently rank as some of the best in America. The deals, which you can always find online, are pretty nice, too. Most come in the form of free hotel nights or flat-out rate discounts.
According to the deal listing, rates at the Bilmar Beach Resort start at $99 per night for a gulf front studio through August. Although I could only find rooms for $139 per night on the hotel’s website for the summer dates I checked, a stay at Bilmar still fits within the $500 budget.
Cost breakdown: $139 x three nights at Bilmar Beach Resort = $417 for two, or $208.50 per person. Taxes and fees are extra. Also look for deals in nearby Tampa Bay.
Come across any great beach deals lately? Please share them with other readers by posting a comment below.
If you’d like to learn about other Escapes Under $500 destinations in between columns, follow me on Twitter @AnneBanas.
We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.