Paradise on a budget

It was our little man’s first trip to the beach.


In preparation for Memorial Day weekend, Drew and I started trying to figure out what we wanted to do with his rare time off. We don’t get many free weekends and we didn’t want to squander the opportunity to have a great time with the littles. Our oldest fell in love with the beach two years ago when we took my mom for Mother’s Day and has been asking to go back for months. When we went back in 2015, we rented a condo and split the cost four ways between me, my two siblings, and my dad.

This year we wanted to do a family trip with just the four of us, however traveling isn’t cheap when you add gas, hotel stays, food, and miscellaneous travel expenses (forgotten flip flops, sunscreen, swimsuits, etc.). We are a family that has a budget and it is extremely important that we adhere to it if we want to accomplish our goals, (I will be covering some of those in an upcoming post.) as a result I came up with a travel plan that allowed us to have fun and NOT break our budget. I went to one of my favorite tools for gathering knowledge; the internet. I did a search for beaches near our home and the internet yielded a list that I then plugged into my navigation app to confirm distances.

My husband is not big on road trips and our children are fairly young so we didn’t want to do anything over four hours one way. We settled on Panama City Beach, which was about 3 and half hours from us. Once I knew the distance I estimated how long we would want to spend in the sand and the sun, and how many meals would need for the duration of the trip. I sat down and planned trip meals and then headed off to the grocery store (this part is tedious but necessary for maintaining your budget.) I spent $52.31 on food. I prepared all of our food the night before the trip.

Breakfast: blueberry muffins and sausage

Lunch: sandwiches (BLTTurkey), chips, and fruit

Snacks: fruit, cookies, and chips

I kept the meals as simple as possible. I bought an actual head of lettuce instead of a bagged salad mix, one large tomato, strawberries, watermelon, individually wrapped variety pack of chips (I usually consider this a no-no, but it made the most sense under the circumstances). I baked the cookies from scratch and the muffins were a box mix so they were both less expensive than buying them from the bakery.

The plan was to pull out at 6 am and arrive at the beach by 9:30 am, we failed. We didn’t wake up until 6:15 and we finally pulled out at 7:43. We made it to the beach by 10:45 which isn’t bad considering there was a 10-15 minute bathroom break about 30 miles away from Panama City. We expected to spend money on parking so we were thrilled to find free parking available right by the beach, this was a MAJOR win. By 11:05 we had the kids, the cooler, and an assortment of bags planted under an umbrella in the sand. With our little guys skin issues and our plan to be out in the sun all day we felt it was best to procure some shade so Drew splurged on one of those rental chair/umbrella combinations that cost us a whopping $45!

It started to get crowded closer to the time we left.


We stayed out on the beach from 11 am to 3:45pm and then we decided that it was time to call it a day. We gave the kids water bottle baths, because there wasn’t a shower or hose available to get the sand off of them. They ate snacks in the car before they each succumbed to the inevitable exhaustion that follows a day at the beach. Drew and I got to talk and enjoy each others company on the ride home and I consider that and added bonus.

Trinity kept saying “Look, coconut trees.”

Just to recap we spent: $52.31 on food, $23.27 on gas, and $45 on the umbrella for a grand total of $120.58. We only needed one tank of gas and I filled the car up Friday before we left for $2.04 a gallon. We agreed not to get gas in Florida because the prices sky rocket when you cross the state line. We saw gas for $2.49 per gallon in Florida, the price immediately dropped to $2.10 per gallon when we got back into Alabama.

Our trip would have been $75.58 without the umbrella. We are going to purchase a beach umbrella for future trips, they start at about $14 making one a worthwhile purchase that won’t break our budget.

We really enjoyed our day trip to the beach, it’s something we will be doing again soon.

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