Planning for your first family beach vacation can be both exciting and overwhelming. Beaches vary coast to coast (and in between), so finding a good match for your family is important. In addition to when and where to travel, things to consider include surf (calm water versus waves for boogie boarding), water quality and kid-friendly beach amenities. Follow this planning and packing guide for a fun, stress-free first family beach vacation.
When to Travel to the Beach
The ideal travel dates depend on your family’s schedule and desired destination. If you’re scheduling a trip around your kids’ traditional school schedule, then you’re probably thinking summer. But that’s usually peak tourist season on the West Coast, when beaches are more crowded and lodging and airfare rates are higher. It’s also typically more expensive to travel during busy holidays, such as Memorial Day.
Instead, think shoulder or off-peak season, which can save you money while avoiding the beach crowds. Do your homework and check your school district’s calendar for holidays and other days off in the fall and late spring, after peak spring break season (usually from March through mid-April). Want to be sure you avoid the college crowds? Check when local universities are on break and plan accordingly. If your kids are on a year-round schedule allowing you to travel in the fall, then consider warm-weather places like California. September and October are prime time to splash around Southern California’s sunny beaches after crowds have thinned out but the weather is still warm.
Likewise for year-round sunny destinations like Hawaii. It’s cheapest to fly to the islands in April, May, September and October. But if your heart is set on summer and you don’t mind a little heat and humidity, think Florida. Though the Sunshine State’s winter months are popular with snowbirds, its hot summer months — especially July and August — can present good lodging deals for a first beach trip.
While planning your family beach vacation, remember to also check your destination’s tourism or visitors bureau for discounts, tips and other helpful information.
To get your best rates on airfare, start monitoring flights about 70 days before your trip. Airfare changes constantly, so when you see a good price, jump on it. It could go up in a flash. Though landing a cheap fare is not an exact science, some research suggests ticket prices are less expensive when booked on Thursdays and more expensive on Sundays.
Reserve a rental car in advance and plan to pick it up upon arriving at the airport. To save even more time and money, prepay online for a discount.