March 24, 2009

Dear TBS: From Dear Reader, bmichelle...Budget Vacation Help Needed!

Dear TBS,

I sooooo need your help!

Eleven of my closest friends and I take a summer trip together each year. This year, our money happens to be a tad funny and I was hoping that you'd be able to give us budget travel ideas so that we would not be forced to forgo our reunion.

Most of us are live in the southeast (GA, LA) and the others live in TX and Chicago. Unfortunately, a trip to the Carribbean (this was our initial thought) seems to be out of the don't worry with going there!

Where should we go? Should we cancel?

What would should we do?,


Dear bmichelle,

Hello, Doll! Have no fear...TBS is here!

I have juuuuuuuuusssssttt the thing for you and your friends!

TBS recommends that you and your posse save costs but maximize fun this year by renting a beach house in the panhandle of Florida and on the Gulf Coast.

While it's not the Caribbean, your state of mind can change that all very quickly! First off, for those who must fly, I recommend flying AirTran to Pensacola (based on travel dates June 20-25, the current discount airfare is approximately $250 from Chicago, $165 from Atlanta and $350 from Dallas or Houston).


When you arrive in Pensacola, rent a couple of mini-vans (approximately $125 for 5 days)and make the 1 hour drive toward the Beaches of South Walton.

To save a little more cash, you might ask everyone to fly into Atlanta (if it's even less expensive) and you all can drive in a caravan to Florida. Those who are not fans of the road trip, be warned: it IS nearly a 5 hour drive. But can play games such as I Spy or create a road trip playlist on your iPods and sing to the top of your lungs whilst traveling! Share on gas and call it a day!


There are miles and miles of beautiful homes for rent on Florida's Gulf Coast. There are quaint inlets with delightful shopping and great restaurants. To find a home that will accommodate a group of your size, check out Vacation Rentals By Owner. You can choose which area you prefer (TBS fancies Seaside or Seagrove Beach), view the homes (most all have photos), check availability and work directly with the owners or property managers. Since fewer people are actually vacationing, be certain to ask the house manager if there are any additional discounts or if the rental rate is negotiable. Likely, they will be pliable.
Properties usually rent for $2500-5000 for 5 days. The median cost is about $300/person for the entire stay!


TBS recommends that you plan your menus and shop for groceries before leaving for the beach. Markets and package stores in resort areas can be pricey during the peak season. Save money by pairing up and cooking meals for dinner. Consider continental breakfasts and sandwich and salad lunches...who wants to eat heavy foods and be exposed to the sun all day? Your savings on meals might lend to being able to go out to a local restaurant on the night before you leave. It'd be fun to have theme dinner nights...perhaps a seafood boil one night and burgers on the grill for another! I can't recommend planning, planning, planning more in this regard. You might even want to designate a couple of people from your group to coordinate the dining efforts. Discount warehouse clubs such as Sam's and Costco are great for bulk shopping.


Ummmmm...the beautiful water and beaches of the Gulf Coast? Alas, even TBS can not indulge on the beach alone. This is the perfect opportunity to catch up on the books you've been meaning to read. Designate a movie night. Game night never disappoints. You've even enough people in your group to have a talent show. This is another area where I'd designate a coordinator to ensure that everyone is prepared when you arrive at the beach. If you get a little bored throughout the day, window shopping is always free! Treat yourself to an ice cream cone as you stroll the boardwalks.

I hope I've given you some food for thought. I do not think you should sacrifice your annual owe it to yourself and your friends to make this work. After all, different economic times call for a bit more creativity. I encourage you all to set a budget and stick to it. Dividing the costs by 12 can seem inexpensive, but the cumulative cost can sneak up on careful!

Let us know what you decide!
Dear Readers: Any Other Tips/Ideas To Share?

Here's to fun in the sun,



  1. That's some great advice. I've road tripped to Florida many, many times. Being in Alabama, it wouldn't even occur to me to fly to Northern Florida! LOL

  2. Hey, I'm from Pensacola and live in Houston. I've never paid over $200 for airfare. I would suggest that any Houstonians try Continental first for a lower fare.

  3. You are the best! Where else can you get a tailor made vacation laid out for you on a platter!

  4. You're better than a AAA Triptik! Keep being fabulous.

  5. WOW - I don't think I've commented before, but I have to say this - You are amazing!!

  6. @Bridgette: thanks so much for sharing that inside tip!

    @Fergie, Erica, Sissy and imafishey: *blushing* Thanks for your kind feedback!

  7. This is perfect for the gals on the go within a budget!

  8. My girlfriends and I have put off our usual trip for two years now because of money but I think this idea is really wonderful. From where we are we could rent a van and all drive down!

  9. This article was just put up on our favorite messageboard and we LOVE IT! This will also work for our family trip with four different families. We can't go to Disney World anymore because the prices are just too much for a family who is being responsible in this economy.

  10. Candice R. StimmonsMarch 26, 2009 at 7:18 PM

    Wow! And this way we could probably take our pets too! Do you know if they allow dogs at these type of places?

  11. Do you know if there is any fishing in the area?


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