Myrtle Beach on a Budget

Myrtle Beach Budget Travel

Off Season Travel

With a tourist destination as popular as Myrtle Beach, traveling off-season is a great way to save a ton of money. Renting a condo near the beach during the off-season can save you 50% or more on lodging alone.

When is off-season? Well, the answer depends on who you ask, but prices usually go down after the first week of September. The weather is still great, and summer activities are still in full swing for locals. Another benefit of traveling off-season is that you won’t have to deal with so many tourists!

Lodging

Renting a condo can be less expensive than a hotel all around, especially if you’re traveling with a family. Dining out for each meal adds up quickly! Stop at a grocery store or local farmer’s market and stock up on food for the week, for at least two meals a day. Breakfast is usually cheapest, so if you want to go out to eat, do breakfast, lunch, or even brunch. Dinner can easily cost $10+ more per person. Check Yelp for the best deals, and for menus and pricing.

Free Things to do in Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach has many free things to do, but most people choose to hang out at the beach, on the boardwalk, or go fishing. If you are staying for more than a few days, you might want a couple of other things to add to your itinerary!

Myrtle Beach Art Museum has eleven galleries, and always has free admission. The museum does have limited hours (10AM til 4PM most days), so be sure to check the website before planning your visit.

Vereen Memorial Historical Gardens is technically in Little River, but it’s less than 30 minutes from Myrtle Beach and if you’re exploring the coastline you’ll probably make it up towards Little River anyway. Vereen is a pet-friendly historical garden, perfect for learning a bit, bird watching, and taking photographs. You’ll find yourself very relaxed here.

Horry County Museum and the South Carolina Hall of Fame offer free admission, and the Hopsewee Plantation offers guided tours for about $10 each, keeping it affordable for everyone.

Beaches, Parks, and Festivals… Oh My!

Check out this Free Stuff in Myrtle Beach Calendar for 2017 to plan some free fun for your trip. Whether you attend the Regional Robotics Competition in May or enjoy a movie during the free summer concert series, Myrtle Beach has tons of free things to do to keep the entire family happy. There are several festivals year-round, especially during the summer, that aren’t largely advertised but are worth visiting!

“Where the fun, the view, and the music is always free!” … Marsh Walk is one of those places you can get up close and personal with nature. You will really enjoy this saltwater marsh, beautiful birds, and scenery.

Barefoot Landing is full of boutiques, restaurants and cafes, and year-round entertainment.

Myrtle Beach State Park has a $5 admission fee, but is perfect for shelling. Pack a picnic lunch and spend the afternoon enjoying the beautiful scenery.

Broadway at the Beach is a favorite for locals and tourists alike! Enjoy this 350-acre outdoor entertainment complex, surrounding a man-made lake. Experience popular attractions like the Backstage Mirror Maze, Dragon’s Lair Fantasy Golf, Hollywood Wax Museum, Myrtle Beach Pelicans, and more. Some attractions cost more than others, but saving money elsewhere means you can spend money on fun stuff like Broadway at the Beach!

May through December, Broadway at the Beach also has a free fireworks show.

What’s your favorite thing to do in Myrtle Beach? Let me know in the comments!


Previous Posts in the 2017 Traveling on a Budget Series:

Doing Maui on a Budget

Doing Key West on a Budget

The Orlando Area on a Budget




The Orlando Area on a Budget

Orlando Area Budget Travel

Bringing in over 50 million visitors each year, Orlando is most well-known for Disney, but there’s so much more to this great city than the Mouse! Orlando is a great city to visit year-round, whether you’re traveling solo or with a family. There are so many things to do and see! Vacationing in Orlando on a budget is pretty easy because there are quite a few free things to do.

You’ll spend the most money on lodging, and transportation to get here, plus transportation to get around if you rent a car. Orlando is not right on the beach, but there are several beaches within driving distance. What I like to do is map out each attraction I want to spend time at, and then map out each day so I can maximize my time (and money!). This means if there are three things in close proximity of each other, I’ll do those in one day. The next day, I’ll do others that are nearby. It helps save gas (and headaches) if you aren’t driving zig zag all over the place!

Beaches

Like I said, the beaches aren’t super close but they’re definitely worth a drive! The closest beaches are:

Daytona Beach: Located just above Cape Canaveral, Daytona Beach is one of the most visited on the East Coast.

Cocoa Beach: Not quite as popular or touristy as Daytona, it can be a bit more relaxing but does get busy during high season. Cocoa Beach is located just below Cape Canaveral.

New Smyrna Beach: Gorgeous beach! At low tide, the beach is up to 500 feet wide.

Clearwater Beach Morse Museum of American Art offers free admission for children under 12, as well as free admission for everyone on Fridays from 4PM til 8PM (November through April). Morse Museum is technically in Winter Park but is less than 20 minutes from downtown Orlando.

Also located in Winter Park, the Albin Polask Museum and Sculpture Garden is home to exquisite art and serene sculpture gardens. Admission for children under 12 is free, admission for adults is $5.

A one-of-a-kind Holocaust Memorial has both permanent and traveling exhibits to communicate the history of the Holocaust. Admission is free.

Chalk Artists in Orlando

Everything Else

Disney Springs (previously Downtown Disney) is a great way to get a Disney experience without the cost of the theme parks. With shopping, dining, and diverse entertainment, you’ll be able to spend an entire day here. However, you might want to pack a lunch because everything definitely has Disney pricing.

Orlando Brewing Company offers free tours. Call ahead to find out hours and other information.

Black Hammock Adventures offers air boat rides, alligator tours, and more. While the prices aren’t too high, it could get expensive if you have a large family. With that being said, it’s an adventure of a lifetime so it’s worth the cost if you can swing it!

What’s your favorite thing to do in Orlando that doesn’t break the bank? Let me know in the comments!


Previous Posts in the 2017 Traveling on a Budget Series:

Doing Maui on a Budget

Doing Key West on a Budget




Doing Key West on a Budget

Key West Budget Travel

When you think of budget travel, Key West is probably not one of the first destinations that comes to mind. However, there are tons of free and cheap attractions in Key West. Here are some of my favorites!

Lodging

Lodging is going to be your biggest expense in Key West. Whether you choose a Bed & Breakfast, a hotel, or a beachfront house rental, you want to save the majority of your budget for lodging. I was reading a post from the Florida Rambler about lodging in Key West. Their suggestion was to find a place with a shared bathroom. If that’s something you can handle, you could save a pretty penny!

Outside of sharing bathrooms, to save the absolute most money, your best bet is to book a Bed & Breakfast in the off-season. Watch out for resort fees, parking fees, and any additional fees they might try to tack on (regardless of where you stay). You’ll want to add these in to get your final total, and compare total to total instead of base price to base price. You’d be shocked at how big of a difference the final price can be, even when several spots have the same base price!

Affordable Fun in Key West

Admission to the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory is $8.50 for kids and $12 for adults. The whole family will enjoy this place!

The Harry S. Truman Little White House is great for history buffs and political fans alike. You can buy tickets online for $25 each.

The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum is another one for the history buffs, but everyone enjoys this museum. Admission is $5 for kids and $14 for adults.

Water Fun

Did you know many beaches in Key West have admission fees? If you’ve never visited before, you might be caught off guard! Here is a list of public beaches in Key West. Some beaches are dog-friendly, so be sure to check those out, too, if you brought your furry friend along.

Taking a jet ski tour for two can set you back about $200, but it’s 90 minutes of fun you can’t experience anywhere else. Pair it with a glass bottom boat tour or a snorkeling tour and save some money.

Kayaking is also popular in Key West. It’s more affordable than most people realize. This list of the Top 10 Kayaking Adventures can help you find the best option for your budget.

Oh, and you don’t want to miss the famous Key West Sunset.

Other Fun in Key West

Much like Oahu, Hawaii, Key West is home to many wild roosters and chickens. They’re very vocal, and adorable… until you’re trying to sleep and they’re outside your window crowing all night.

Can’t get enough of the animals? Visit the Key West Wildlife Center.

Take a free historic walking tour by printing this PDF.

What’s your favorite thing to do in Key West? Let me know in the comments!


Previous Posts in the 2017 Traveling on a Budget Series:

Doing Maui on a Budget




Doing Maui on a Budget

This is the first in a series we will now run on “Doing Travel on a Budget”. 

Maui Budget Travel

The island of Maui is the second-largest of the Hawaiian Islands. Known as the “Valley Isle,” Maui is dotted with quaint towns, artist communities and local favorites that have been around for generations. From shimmering beaches and sacred Iao Valley to migrating humpback whales and sunset on Haleakala, it’s not surprising Maui was voted the “Best Island” by the readers of Conde Nast Traveler for more than twenty years. 

Determine how you’ll get around

Once you land on Maui, will you be renting a car or taking the bus? You can get a Maui Bus Pass for just a few bucks a day, and it does stop at the airport (among other popular spots on the island). You won’t get the option of exploring as much if you just have the bus pass, so keep that in mind.

If you’re going to rent a car, consider an economy car instead of a 4WD. Everyone wants the 4WD so you’ll pay a premium for it. Unless you plan on off-roading (in a rental vehicle? Eek!), 2WD should be fine. Don’t skimp on the insurance, though! Check with your insurance company before you leave home, to see if they will cover your rental. Usually if you have full coverage back home, rental cars will be covered as well.

Maui Budget Travel

Plan, plan, plan

When you’re planning your Maui vacation on a budget, make a long list of things you’d like to do, places you want to see, and of course popular tourist attractions that everyone loves if that’s your type of thing. As you get closer to actually visiting Hawaii, your list can get chopped down to your favorites. Map everything out so you know where one stop is in relation to the next. Creating a plan will save you time, money, and headaches.

Because you’ll be on vacation, it’s also important to understand that things do come up. Traffic gets crazy. There are road closures. Having a long list of things you want to do while on the island can make your stay less stressful, because you’ll always have a backup plan.

Avoid tourist traps

Some tourist spots are okay because they are parks, or beaches, and completely free. But other tourist spots like luaus get expensive… fast! You can easily pay $100 for one luau. Visit Whaler’s Village for free lei making classes, hula classes, and live music at night. Check the website for their complete schedule.

Book your lodging carefully

When you start planning your vacation, ask around to see if any friends or family members have timeshares or condos on Maui. You’d be surprised at what you’ll find if you start planning early enough! In Hawaii, food is very expensive, so booking a condo rather than a hotel room is one way to save quite a bit of cash. If you calculate 3 meals a day, multiply that by $15-$25 per person, you’ve definitely blown your budget rather quickly! While grocery stores aren’t going to be super inexpensive options – it is Hawaii, after all – stocking up on snacks, drinks, and quick meal options will save you a lot of money.

Maui Budget Travel

Must-sees that won’t break the bank!

The Banyan Tree is the size of a city block and nearly 60ft high!

Snorkeling is one of the most affordable things to do in Maui! You can rent snorkels for just a few bucks!

Haleakala National Park is home to the world’s largest dormant volcano, and some of the most beautiful waterfalls you’ll ever see!

The Road to Hana is one of the most scenic highways in Hawaii. This highway is one good reason to rent a car!

Whale watching in Hawaii is one of those things you have to do if you’re visiting during mating season. Whales migrate from Alaska, to mate in the warm waters Hawaii offers. Whales arrive in the winter and head back to Alaska in the summer; peak whale watching season in Hawaii is during February and March. Whales can be spotted by land, if you don’t want to shell out the cash for a whale watching tour. I did some research to find the best place to whale watch from land. I found that McGregor Point (at mile marker 9 on Highway 30) is the spot to catch a glimpse of the whales migrating, anywhere from December through April. Another good spot is Papawai Scenic Lookout.

Maui Budget Travel

What’s your best tip for enjoying Maui on a budget? Let me know in the comments!




6 Tips to Help Maximize the Disney Dining Plan

chef-mickey

I admit I never buy the Disney Dining Plan. I do, however, use it to its fullest when it is offered through a “Free Dining” promotion. I have lots of little tricks I like to use to get the most benefit from the plan. I never use the dining plan credits (table service or quick service) for breakfast. Breakfast is the least expensive meal you can purchase so that’s the meal I chose to pay for when using the basic Disney Dining Plan which gives you 1 table service, 1 quick service and 1 snack per day.

The Disney Dining Plan can help give you the opportunity to eat at some of the restaurants you wouldn’t normally choose because of the cost. Based on how your family likes to eat, only you can decide if the dining plan is worth purchasing for your family. If you are a frequent visitor buy the dining plan – or the next time you get a “Free Dining” promotion – keep all of your receipts that show what the meals would have cost versus what you paid for the dining plan to do your own comparison. If you do purchase the plan or get it free under a promotion, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Don’t use your snack credits on drinks. The cost of a drink is much less than the cost of a decent snack. If visiting during a festival like the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, I often save all my snack credits for my Epcot day and use those snack credits to purchase my food samplings from the many kiosks open during the festival. If there is no festival happening during your visit, you can use a snack credit for a light breakfast (muffin for example) or to pick up a late night before bed snack on your way back to your room. Always use your snack credit for the most expensive snack items allowed.

Don’t use your table service credits for two-credit dining.Two table service credit meals are always a better value if you pay for them out of pocket. Check all of the menus on-line when planning your meals and do the price comparison. I would recommend skipping these types of meal when you are using the dining plan since you won’t want to pay out of pocket for a meal when you have already paid for the dining plan. However, if you do get dining during a free dining promotion, that’s a different story.

disney-dining-planEat things you normally wouldn’t eat because of price – order those expensive meals/entrees.The easiest and quickest way to get the most of your dining plan is to order all those expensive entrees you normally don’t order because of the price.

Use your table service credits for dinner – not lunch.Dinner costs more than lunch so use your table service credit for the most expensive meal of the day and your quick service meal for your light meal. I will sometimes switch around my meals and eat my large meal (table service) mid-day and then a quick service meal before heading back to the hotel in the evening.

Don’t order pasta or vegetable plates.If you and your family are vegetarians, don’t buy the dining plan. Vegetable plates and pasta dishes are usually the least expensive items on any of the menus and you definitely will not be getting your money’s worth. 

Extra Tip: If at the end of your stay you find you haven’t used all of your snack credits, head to the shops and pick up Mickey Rice Krispie Treats or Disney candy to take home!