Planning an Affordable Family Beach Vacation: Part 2

June 29, 2011

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Before we had children, we traveled to Europe and often headed south to Mexico and Belize. Just before MacGyver turned two, we packed him up, jumped on an airplane and took him to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. The trip was fabulous; however, we were not so gently ushered into the reality of vacationing with children. It’s much different traveling with someone who requires naps and gets cranky for bed at 8:00 PM.

Since that trip to Mexico, we’ve revised our thoughts on vacationing. We now plan relaxing, family-friendly trips to the sandy beaches of the Florida Gulf Coast. The drive is much loooooonger than an airplane flight to Mexico, but being able to pack-up our house and move into a family-friendly condo is much easier in the long run. In Part One of Planning an Affordable Family Beach Vacation, I highlighted many of the beautiful beaches where we’ve vacationed and some tips for getting your planning started. Part Two is a bit more on the nuts and bolts of enjoying a hassle free vacation. FREE printable packing list for Mom and the kiddos at the end of this post.


Is a Condo Vacation For You?

  • If you’d like to stay in a beautiful 1500 sq. ft., three bedroom, three bathroom condo, right on the ocean, with a full-size kitchen and a laundry room for the price of a hotel room, a condo is for you.
  • If you’d like to do a little cooking while on vacation in a full-size kitchen, a condo is for you.
  • If you need daily maid service, a condo is NOT for you.
  • If you’d like to be served a tropical drink while lounging by the pool, a condo is NOT for you.
  • If you’d like a restaurant and bar onsite, a condo is NOT for you.

Finding a Condo

  • Consider sharing with another family
    • You can save loads of money if you split the cost of a three or four bedroom condo. It’s really a bargain.
    • If you only need one or two bedrooms, you can find that as well.
  • Do your research
    • I put in quite a bit of time searching for the perfect condo complex and then the perfect unit for our family.
    • I like using vrbo, Vacation Rental By Owner. It is very easy to navigate and has many pictures. I always get an immediate response from the condo owners. I’ve never been disappointed with our condo rental.
  • Ask questions
    • Do you have any specials?
    • Do you have any specials for a two week rental?
    • Do you have any last minute specials?
    • What is the total price with cleaning fees and taxes? (Be careful, these can really add-up!)
    • Is beach chair rental included?
    • Do you have WIFI in your unit?
  • Know your priorities
    • Beach Front - We spend every day, all day at the beach so it is a must that we stay directly on the beach.
    • Budget – My niece set a budget and decided staying directly on the beach during high season was out of the budget. She did her research and rented a gorgeous condo on a golf course across the street from the beach. It worked out great as the guys played golf for FREE every day.
    • WIFI - We own a small business and it is a must that we have WIFI while on vacation.
    • Clean! Clean! Clean! I don’t need luxury but I must have a clean condo.
      • When researching, I quickly screen condos by their photos. If it looks like they decorated in the 1980’s with garage sale furniture, I move-on. Old decor says, millions of people have stayed here and we aren’t concerned about keeping things fresh and clean.
      • On the other hand, if it looks like the condo owners put time, money and thought into their decor, it tells me they will make sure the condo is well kept.
      • We’ve NEVER had a problem with a condo not being immaculate. And I’m picky!

What You’ll Find in Your Condo

  • All bedding linens and bath towels.
  • Kitchen stocked with basic pots and pans, plates, glasses and silverware.
  • Usually a coffee maker and blender.

What You Won’t Find in Your Condo

  • beach towels
  • paper items: toilet paper, tissues, paper towels, napkins, garbage bags
  • kitchen cleaners: liquid detergent or dish-washing machine detergent
  • laundry detergent
  • food items or coffee
  • toiletries

Island Princess 215, Okaloosa Island Florida Beach Front Condo

Be Our Guest at the Island Princess 215!

  • We have been vacationing along the Florida Gulf Coast for over 20 years. For many of those years we have dreamed of purchasing our own beach condo and sharing it with other families. Well, we’ve finally done it and now we are ready to share it with you!
  • You can find more information and pictures of our Beach Condo listed on #673339.


What to Pack

  • Print this FREE: Beach Planning & Packing Guide
    • We’ve been to the beach so many times, that I have a packing list on my computer. You’re welcome to use it as a starting point. I like being organized! I like no hassle vacations!

  • Print this FREE: Vacation Packing List For Children
    • I have a packing list for each child. With some supervision, they are responsible for packing their own clothes and toys.
    • This post is too long so I’ll come back to the children packing on another day.
  • Pack light, you’ll be able to conveniently do laundry right in your condo.
  • Pack or shop when you get there?
    • I’m addicted to the beach so I pack as much as possible, including groceries. The last thing I want to do while at the beach is shop for groceries!
    • I make a menu prior to our trip. I pack all nonperishables and measure out spices so I don’t have to buy an entire bottle at the beach.
    • Again, ask the condo owner questions: How far is the grocery store?

One Last Thought

  • Burris Farm Market
    • This will sound crazy, but if you’re traveling from the west on I-10, you’ve got to stop at Burris Farm Market for fresh, local produce.
    • After driving 10 hours, overnight, this is the first stop we make. I buy pounds of their big red tomatoes and have them EVERY day for lunch while we’re at the beach. Delicious!
    • It’s located about 5 minutes off I-10.

For more planning tips visit: Part 1 of Planning an Affordable Family Beach Vacation

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Gabe June 30, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Thanks for linking up, great post! Great advice on affordable family vacations! Having the kids pack up makes life so much easier!
We used to live on the gulf coast near Destin Florida, we loved the beaches there.

Jeannine July 1, 2011 at 4:31 pm

I am so jealous. Oh, how I dream of living near the beach. And the beaches and water in Destin is so amazing!

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