WE DID IT! The warm, sandy beaches of the gulf better be prepared, because we are headed their way soon. We were first considering NYC, but ultimately decided we were looking for a more relaxing vacation experience as opposed to a busy, large city. After long summers at work, the beach provides the type of break we need right now. To ensure I was getting the best value for what we want to spend, I spent some time researching options for multiple aspects of the trip. Keep reading for how and what I researched – plus a handy spreadsheet to compare all your options side by side!
If you missed part 1, catch up here before continuing!
Wrapping up the details of your trip:
How will you get there? There is only so much research you can do here. Plane, car, bus…those are your options. Certain airlines offer cheaper rates to specific destinations, making flying more budget-friendly than it once was. Consider the time and money required for each option to decide what is best for your time frame and budget.
Where will you stay? Hotel vs. Airbnb. We opted for a hotel mainly because of location (we wanted beachfront with a pool), but depending on where you go Airbnb could be a great option. They give you an opportunity to stay in more unique places, as well, and may feel more home-y and comfortable to you than a Howard Johnson. Hotels will have specials periodically, so if you’re more budget-conscious look for these, too. When I was researching I found several hotels were booking a fourth night for free when you paid for three up front. There are more details to look at between the lodging options, which will be detailed later on when I show my spreadsheet example.
What will you do? If you’ve got any destination-specific activities planned, budget for them up front. We know that we’re interested in going deep sea fishing, so I’m prepared to set aside a little chunk to put towards that once we get there. Think about museums, aquariums, sporting events, or anything else that requires an admission that you need to account for.
Where will you eat and what will you buy? Okay, this is a hard one for me because I love food so much. I also consider shopping an activity, and at the very least a challenge to find the best deals out there at any given point in time. If you’re staying somewhere with a kitchen and want to save some money, go to the grocery store and make your meals at least once a day, if not twice. If you want to make all three, go for it. I personally like to enjoy new restaurants and eat things I don’t normally get to eat in my daily life while I’m away, but I’m all for saving some money, too. For this reason, I specifically wanted a room with a kitchenette. We will eat breakfast and lunch in the room, and for dinner we’ll wash off the sand and head out to explore and eat dinner. If you plan on shopping while you’re there, again, make a budget, even if it’s a loose one. While we’re out, I know I’m going to want to buy a souvenir or two. I’ll add some money for that, too.
Now comes my favorite part… the spreadsheet! I love a good, simple spreadsheet. A lot of trip planning/discount website will let you compare their deals on the screen, but what if you’re comparing several different options from different sources? I came up with this so I would have something organized and easy to reference for Bryan and I to see the best options we came across when browsing around. Here is an example of what ours looked like (edited for privacy):
As I mentioned earlier, there are more specifics to consider past the AirBnB rental or hotel choice. Some factors to consider are:
- Type of room (1BR suite, double queen, etc.)
- Entire home, private room, shared room (Airbnb)
- Proximity to destination draw (city center, beachfront, etc.)
- Included perks (fitness center, breakfast, towel service)
- Proximity to transportation centers
These are of course all suggestions, and you can totally make it your own based on what your priorities are. Here’s a blank, printable version to download that can be customized for your own trip.
I had so much fun making this spreadsheet and hope you find it helpful during your planning process. Happy planning and safe travels, everyone!