In just a few short weeks, I will be turning 33. So far, my 30s have been amazing, even though it was scary to think of leaving the 20s behind. There is still a youthfulness in this decade, coupled with some extra wisdom & maturity that comes with just years of life. But, each year around my birthday, I get an itch to go to the beach.
See, I grew up in Naples, FL, living there from ages 2- 14. My parent moved us to Detroit, MI (culture shock but some of my greatest life friendships are there), then for college, I went to Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach. This year will officially tip the scales & I will have lived out of the state of Florida longer than having lived in it. Sadness….
One other thing. When we still lived in Naples, my dear Aunt Sandy would come down every year for the Florida Tomato Commissioners annual conference in September. It was held at the Naples Ritz Carlton on the beach. Now, my parents had very little money, given my Dad was a pastor. Yet, every year during this week, we got to visit my Aunt, swim in the Ritz pool, dress up, eat in the fancy restaurants, and eat the delicious peppermint chocolate sticks they had at that time. My birthday always makes me reminisce about those weeks & feel thankful for those small luxuries.
As you can see, beach life is in my blood! Yet, we’ve lived in Atlanta our whole 9 years of marriage. We have been able to go on some great vacations, but only if they are really budget friendly. For that reason, typically do not go to the beach during the summer. The hotel or condo rates are so high, the weather is very hot, and we just can’t justify spend twice as much as our mortgage on a week of vacation.
This is why the Fall season is the best time to visit the Florida beaches!!
- Fantastic weather
- Small crowds
- Less traffic
- Return refreshed & ready for the winter months
After tons of researching over the years, here are the best spots I’ve found for an affordable Fall Beach Trip (in no particular order):
This hotel is 3 blocks from the beach, has a free daily breakfast, and suites so you can cook your own meals. Rates are often under $200/night, and remember it includes breakfast! Located about 5.5 hours from Atlanta, it’s an easy destination for a long weekend.
Located 1 block from my Alma Mater, this hotel is right in the heart of downtown West Palm. We were able to secure a special alumni rate of $99/night (but if you message me, I could send it to you also.) This includes breakfast & parking in their garage. You can walk to the amazing shops at City Place, drive, bike, or walk across the inter coastal bridge to famed Palm Beach & the Atlantic Ocean. The Palm Beach International Airport is 10 minutes away, and one of the easiest airports to get in & out of. The rates to PBI are usually under $200 round trip; I’m sure you could find even cheaper flights! This hotel does NOT have a pool, but does provide beach towels. This was a perfect 3 night couples getaway location. We had the best time! And it was affordable.
We LOVE this rental property located near Seaside in Blue Mountain Beach. It has 4 pools (1 zero entry), and it is on Redfish Lake. They have a boat charter in season (through October) that takes you on a 5 minute boat ride from the dock to the beach. Or you can take one of their many canoes or kayaks and paddle across yourself. There is a boardwalk, but it’s probably a 15 minute walk as it is alongside another property. Almost all units include beach chair & umbrella setup. We’ve only stayed in 3 bedroom units, which are all newer, have full kitchens, living room, laundry room, and balconies. My husband loves to fish so this is the dream location for us! Expect to pay about $200/night, plus taxes, cleaning fee, etc. Shhh…. don’t let this secret hidden gem get out….
A close second to the Sanctuary at Redfish is just across the street at Redfish Village. The condos are upscale, typically have 2-4 rooms & possibly a bunk room, balconies, close to Blue Mountain Creamery, great pool, boardwalk to the lake, fire pits, and playground. It is a very short walk down the street to the beach, or they have golf cart shuttles that are almost always available. We loved staying here & it is even less expensive than Sanctuary at Redfish. You may be able to get a rate of $150/night. Don’t worry about not staying right on the beach– it’s easy to go back & forth, even with kids!
This final destination actually is directly on the beach. There are several condo options here that are slightly older but have many updated individual units. The pools are perfectly fine, and you can walk out directly onto the beach. The sand here is wonderful & width of the beach is perfect for setting up your daily tent or volleyball net. I will say that if you choose to drive on the beach (which is permitted here), don’t go too close to the incoming tides or you could get stuck & have to wait for a truck to tow you out. I just know a guy (or 2) that this has happened to… Ahem… Anyway, nightly rates in these condos are under $200.
Finally, a couple of tips I’ve learned after many hours researching beach vacations:
- Staying 1-3 blocks off the beach can make your trip actually affordable. I know schlepping gear & kids isn’t the most exciting or easy thing, but it can allow you to actually go to the beach. Also, you get some exercise in & tire your kids out even more!
- VRBO is a great resource, but don’t just go by the posted nightly rates. Some units might have extra fees or higher cleaning rates that you don’t see reflected in that nightly price. It’s best to click on “Get Instant Quote” to see your total. Same goes for hotel rates as well.
- Look for places that have additional freebies such as breakfast, beach set up, beach towels, bikes, golf carts, movie rentals, kayaks, etc. These give more weight to your choice & take the burden off of what you need to bring on your trip.
- Plan your meals and grocery list before you go. Shop for everything beforehand & bring in a cooler. We have done this for almost all vacations & it has allowed us to actually go. Choose easy meals so you aren’t spending tons of time in the kitchen. I promise though, that $10 dinner is going to taste way better than a $50 dinner at a restaurant.
Any other beach places you’ve found that are affordable? Please share!