Making Vacation More Affordable & Enjoyable

Navarre affordable vacation

Every day is an Occasion to be Celebrated!  And every Occasion is best when Organized! 

Especially Vacations!

Now is not the time for “oh, let’s just wing it” or “we will figure it out when we get there”.  Now is the time to plan and compare so that you can get the most value for the least amount of money.

Navarre Beach is a great place to visit anytime but even more so if you want “a beautiful beach vacation with nearby attractions that are affordable”.

Imagine going to a zoo for less than $20 admission fee—Gulf Breeze Zoo

Imagine soft sugar-white sand to walk for miles and hunt seashells.  Download a guide to check and see which ones you have found.

Imagine snorkel reefs and the longest fishing pier in the gulf to walk or fish for a small daily fee.  Navarre Beach Fishing Pier

And so much more…

Create a budget:

Just like any other event you are planning you need to determine what your budget is and stick to it.

Your major expenses will be:

  • Gas and any car maintenance needed before leaving for a road trip
  • Lodging
  • Meals
  • Attractions/Tickets/Rentals
  • Souvenirs

Before we look at some specific ways you can save money, I want to introduce a local business that provides financial coaching—Ideal Balance LLC

Shana and Vanessa are both Ramsey Solutions Master Financial Coaches and have provided the following information about budgeting for vacations.

Should you be funding a vacation right now? We say yes. We say yes, specifically, because we know you work hard. In fact, a vacation is one of our favorite ways to spend our hard-earned money. This is of course with the disclaimer that you can fund it out of your monthly budget! With that in mind, let’s dive into the how.

 One of the best pieces of financial advice we give is to “Fund your future instead of paying for your past.” This is an important concept that applies to every job your money does, but especially to your vacations! 

 Sometimes folks go on vacations and they are stressed about each purchase, each meal, each bill. In their mind, the dollars are ringing up and they don’t really know how they are going to afford it when they get home. This person isn’t much fun during the vacation because they’re stressed. The family with this vacationer may not have as much fun either as they’re worried about whether the super-sized meal they order will set our money-stressed person off. The family then returns home with a bill racked up that they’ll be paying off for another year.

 Contrast that with the family that goes on vacation knowing that all they have to do is enjoy themselves. They’ve made a plan, they’ve funded the plan and all they’ve got to do is show up and enjoy the vacation they’ve worked so hard for. When they get back from vacation, they start dreaming about and setting aside money for the next one!

 In this way, we can see how it’s possible to fund the future or pay for the past. 

 When advising clients on funding a vacation, we tell them to create a plan for the cost and then set up a sinking fund. A sinking fund is kind of like a savings account, but with a specific purchase. A sinking fund pays for the big expenses in life we know are coming but we don’t want to go into debt to afford such as vacations, Christmas, new HVAC systems, or even a new car. The way that sinking fund works is you take your expense and divide it by 12, the number of months in the year, and then you set exactly that amount aside in a special savings account. 

 We also sometimes advise clients to “cash-flow” a vacation. For example, you might set aside enough money in your budget in one month to pay for airfare. The next month you might cash flow lodging. Next up you might purchase your venue/entertainment reservations. The month after that, you might purchase your Organized Occasions Concierge package. Finally, you’ll set aside how much cash you imagine you’ll need to comfortably get through the vacation.

 With either method, you’ll be able to go and enjoy your vacation and bring back only memories rather than debt and stress. 

Lodging:  Heads in Beds

Maximum persons allowed—don’t go over and don’t get more than you need.  Most units have plenty of room for sleeping, eating and playing games or watching movies.  You don’t need a lot of extra space since you will spend most of your time at the beach, by the pool, or exploring in and around the area.  Get a unit with just enough beds for every head.

TIP:  The only challenge I have experienced with smaller units is the washer and dryer size—especially for beach towels.  I encourage you to bring 2 beach towels per person and to plan to wash them daily.  The stackable washer and dryers will only hold about 3 beach towels in my experience so that could mean needing to do 2 or more loads each day of just towels. Also, because of the high humidity, towels used for showering or baths can stay wet longer.  You may want to toss bath towels in the dryer after everyone gets cleaned up from your day at the beach.

If you want a large beach house, see if you can share the expense with another family.  Two families of 5 or 6 people can easily share a house that sleeps 12 or 14.  And it may be fun to see friends and family again after so much time in our own homes during the recent COVID Crisis.  (Be sure everyone that will be staying in the house has completed a health check—no fever, cough, or body aches for at least 2 weeks before traveling.)

Book directly with the property management company, not through a booking service like HomeAway or Airbnb, VRBO.  Booking directly can save extra fees as well as give you a possible promo code to save even more.  I have several local property management company links on my website—check the blue section at the bottom of each page.

Be sure to review the cancellation policy.  Hurricane season is June 1st to November 30th with most major storms happening after August 1st.  When booking be sure to know the number of days in advance of check-in you can cancel and what if any fees are refundable.

Groceries & Supplies:

The most effective tool to save money on food is A PLAN.  I am going to give several ideas on how to save money on groceries and when dining out or getting carry out.

Pre-plan your meals before leaving for your trip—and write down everything you need for each meal and menu item.  Use my Vacation Meal Planner to help.

If you have never done meal planning—here’s a good article:

Once you know all the ingredients you will need, you can “shop your pantry”.  There is no reason to buy non-perishable items like spices, coffee & tea, and household items when you have several weeks’ worth in your pantry already.  For example, dryer sheets can easily go in a Ziplock and they make your suitcase smell good too.  Laundry or dishwashing pods can be tossed in a bag or pour the liquid detergent in a smaller bottle or jar to bring with you.  For spices, either bring the whole jar or portion some out into small “snack size” Ziplock bags—be sure to label them!  You don’t realize how often you use salt & pepper until you don’t have it!

On my website I have a basic set up list– many of these items can be gathered from your current household inventory and brought with you.  If you were to buy everything on the list at Dollar Tree you would be spending over $25 if you buy the smaller sizes.

I encourage you to read the blog post about Traveling After Covid-19 to determine any cleaning or sanitizing items you want to bring with you.

FOOD:  Buy in Bulk ONLY IF YOU WILL USE IT!  This applies to food and beverages.  But don’t buy everything in the biggest size—I can’t tell you how many families have thrown away half-full bottles of ketchup, mustard, and relish they picked up at Costco or Sam’s for a week vacation.  If you are only planning to cook hotdogs or hamburgers one time, you will not need 32oz of ketchup and mustard!

Here’s a cost comparison on Chips:  Lay’s Classic Potato chips in a 13 oz bag:  $3.98 1 oz serving would be .31 cents/oz.  The same Lays’ Classic Potato chips in a 10 ct single-serving bags are $4.48 or .45 cents/oz.  If you wanted to compare 10 servings to 10 servings the bulk bag still comes out better—10 servings from $3.98 is a .40 cent per serving cost and you get more chips!

TIP:  If you are concerned about everyone sticking their hands into the bag of chips, buy a box of sandwich bags (100 ct cost about $2) and have one person that has washed their hands, pre-portion the chips into individual bags.  The addition of the sandwich bags is only going to increase the per-serving cost by .02 cents, still less at .42 cents/serving.

Be open to buying the “store brand”.  Recently I was buying different flavors of Kettle Chips (we had been locked up too long with Corona Virus and I was looking for something different to snack on and to enjoy with my lunch!).  While looking at different brands of Kettle chips the prize ranged from #3.69/bag to a store brand being on sale for 2 bags for $3.00. And both the national brands and the store brands had all the different flavors.  I wanted variety so I went with the store brand on sale and bought 4 different flavors!!

Plan to spend some time doing prep to save money.  Buy whole fruits and cut instead of already cut fruit.  Buy ground beef to make burgers, not preformed patties.  One exception to this is if you are on a weekend couples getaway—it is often just as cost-effective to buy small containers of pre-cut fruit for variety.  Families that are buying for an entire week may want to buy smaller “snack” size fruits (apples, oranges, pears)-these often come in bags and have 6 to 12 in them.

Buy fruit and veggies that are in season.  This is not as big of an issue as in the past since we get fruit from around the world in our grocery stores every day, but generally, the items that are in season are less expensive because they are more plentiful.  Sometimes you will find “locally grown” items are less expensive as well.

Buying local items is also a great way to taste the flavors of the area—locally caught seafood is often a cheaper protein source and a nice change of taste.  And even seafood has a season—so if a certain fish is cheaper, it may be because it is “in season” and the fishermen have brought in a large catch that day!

Plan meals that use the same ingredients—Rotisserie Chicken can be used for Fajitas (primarily the breast meat), and then the tortillas can be used for breakfast tacos or pizza crust for making your own personal pizza.  All the rest of the chicken can be turned into chicken salad (every family has their favorite chicken salad recipe—instead of canned chicken, use the left-over Rotisserie chicken).

SNACKS are important on vacation.  Kids get hungry after swimming and jumping waves all day.  Adults want snacks with cocktails, and everyone wants popcorn or chips while playing games and watching movies.  So plan LOTS of variety-SWEET, SALTY, SPICY, CRUNCHY, CHEWY, CHOCOLATE, FRUITY.  Again, bulk packaging is going to be the cheapest and re-package if you feel necessary for health reasons.

BEVERAGES are also important.  Especially water—the Navarre Beach Lifeguards post the conditions of the beach each day on Facebook (look for their daily posts around 10 am each morning) and often remind everyone to drink plenty of water on hot days.  It is easy to become dehydrated in the sun and saltwater, so be sure you drink plenty of freshwater!

If you are concerned about the taste of “tap water” and you have a Brita or PUR filter and pitcher at home, pack it in the car.  You know how much money you save each month and you’ll do the same while on vacation.   Also, bring your own reusable glasses (YETI or other brands) for other beverages so that you don’t have to buy paper or plastic cups and they keep your beverage nice and cold.


          Cost comparison for Alcohol—750 ml bottle vs 1.75L bottle

Tito’s Vodka (priced at ABC Liquors online)

750 ml bottle (16 servings—1.5 oz=serving)        $16.99 or $1.06 per serving

1.75 L bottle (39 servings-1.5 oz=serving)             $29.00 or .77 cents per serving

Please drink responsibly and do not drink & drive. 

TIP:  Vacations are not the time to get into power struggles with your kids over food.  One week of eating only microwaveable Mac & Cheese for dinner is not something I would normally tolerate, but while on vacation I think it is better than buying and preparing items that are not going to be eaten.  Of course, always offer different choices to the picky eater, and encourage fresh fruits and veggies, but if in the end, a bowl of bright orange noodles satisfies (and quiets) allowing the rest of the family to enjoys chicken or shrimp alfredo, THEN DO IT!   (Rotisserie Chicken 3 options.  If substituting shrimp, cook in butter before adding to the sauce.)

Once you have your complete list of items for meals, snacks, beverages, and non-perishable items ready, you can send me your list or you can download and submit a Grocery List along with your Questionnaire to let me know when and where you will be vacationing.  I can save you money because I don’t stray from the list and add impulse items.

Eating out—Part of your planning may to be determine the best days to “eat out”.  Several establishments offer “free kid’s meals” on specific days.  Here’s an article that was updated in May 2020

(locally check out Culvers, TX Roadhouse-Milton, Chik fil A-Gulf Breeze, Ruby Tuesday-Gulf Breeze, and Dickey’s BBQ-Gulf Breeze)

And don’t be afraid to ask for a to-go container and take some of it back to enjoy another time.  Many restaurants give large portions and with a little creativity, the extra can become something new and wonderfully “free”.

For example, let’s go to Dickey’s BBQ on Sunday (kids eat free) and order a 2 or 3 meat adult entrée with chopped beef.  Save the chopped beef and make your own loaded potatoes back at your unit the next day for lunch.  Or if you get smoked turkey, you can save it and use it on a salad the next day.  Or if you are not a fan of leftovers, perhaps you can share an entrée with your spouse and order extra veggies. The point is to not waste food when you choose to go out to eat!


Plan something special each day—and communicate those plans!  It can be as simple as going for donuts at the local Donuts In Paradise food truck, or as big as renting a Jet Ski or taking a fishing trip.  When you determine what you want to do then you can cost compare and look for discounts and coupons.

Local companies to check out:
Navarre Family Watersports:
Coastal Life Charters & Adventures:

If you are going to the Gulf Breeze Zoo (admission $15-$20) or the Gulfarium in Fort Walton Beach, then plan to pack and take a lunch to help keep your budget in line.  Depending on the age of your family members you may want to figure out who is responsible for carrying water bottles or snack bag.  Let the kids know if you are budgeting for souvenirs or not.  There is nothing worse for other visitors than to hear a child having a meltdown about not getting to buy something from the gift shop—also, observe physical distancing guidelines while in the gift shop.   Both of these attractions are open-air and provide lots of space to see the animals and still maintain safe distances between guests.

Board or Card Games, and Movies
Bring games everyone can play.  Depending on the ages of your family or group, host a poker tournament or other games where money is won.  The winner gets to spend on souvenirs or whatever they want!  If traveling with another family, be sure to check beforehand if this is okay.

Be sure the movie choices are age-appropriate as well and if you are planning to hook up a system to a unit’s TV, be careful when moving or plugging in cables.  Paying for damages is not good for the budget.

Have “rainy day plans”—it rains at the beach so have a plan.  Make a Popcorn Bar and watch a movie or just let everyone read, play video games, cards.  Sometimes doing NOTHING is exactly what everyone wants to do!

Popcorn Bar at the Beach

Set Up on Countertop or Table

Items Needed:

  • 2 large bowls for Butter Flavored and Kettle Corn Microwave Popcorn
    • Small bowls for the mix-ins (list below)
    • Spoons
    • Brown Paper Bags or Paper Bowls

Mix In Ideas:


  • Ranch or Italian Dressing Dry Seasoning
  • Seasoning Salt (Lowry’s, Tony Cacheries)
  • Taco Seasoning


  • Cheese Balls
  • Pretzel sticks
  • Funyons
  • Spicy Peanuts
  • Flavored Goldfish (nacho, pizza, bbq)


  • M&M (plain, caramel, peanut butter, minis)
  • Recess pieces
  • Honey roasted peanuts
  • Yogurt covered raisins and other dried fruit
  • Cereals (fruit loops, cinnamon toast crunch, cocoa puffs)
  • Cookie pieces or minis

Everyone gets a bag or bowl and fills with popcorn and whatever mix-ins they choose.  Be creative!  Try new combinations!

Vacations can be both affordable and enjoyable with a little planning. Go into it with a grateful attitude and you will enjoy yourself even more.  Wishing you the most relaxing vacation in Florida’s most relaxing place—Navarre Beach!

If you would like to learn more Organized Occasions Concierge, please visit my website:

If you would like to learn more about Ideal Balance, please visit them at

Organized Occasions Concierge, Navarre, FL:  I created Organized Occasions to help others make positive changes in their lives.  I focus on three areas:  Nutritional Coaching with Meal Planning and Grocery Delivery; Home Organizing; Event Planning with Wine Tastings from the Boisset Collection.    As a concierge service, I am committed to helping my customers shop for supplies, provide guidance on quantities needed, and introduce local merchants and products while suggesting easy to prepare recipes and ideas.  I believe every day is an occasion to be celebrated.  And every occasion is best when organized!

Gretchen Carter

Owner & Creator of Organized Occasions Concierge
Nutritional Therapist
Personal Shopper
Professional Organizer

1 thought on “Making Vacation More Affordable & Enjoyable”

  1. My family has rented beach condos for years, and I consider myself to be pretty good at planning for these vacations. However, your logical planning suggestions and tips have given me new and better ways to prepare. I have always found that the better I plan, the more relaxing the vacation. Thanks for all of your useful ideas and information.

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