Family of 6 Spends a Week at the Beach for Under $2,800 total!Dec 31, 2021
After the 3rd round of stimulus checks this past March, we decided last minute to travel as a family this April instead of in July. I absolutely love a week at the beach with nothing to do but sit there. I’m not a vacation adventurer and a list of places to visit or tour is the exact opposite of a vacation to me.
The last time we were on the ocean was the summer of 2017. We had half the kids we do now and we travelled with all of Kyle’s family. This April we decided on a week in Navarre Beach, Florida in the panhandle close to Destin. It was a magical week! Sure a 14 hour road trip with 4 kids under 6 is exhausting and sleepless and crazy. But anything - even staying home! - with 4 kids under 6 is going to be that way so let’s hit up the beach!
I know the idea of traveling with little ones can feel so overwhelming or seem so expensive that we are tempted to just write it off “until they’re older” or “until we have more cash”. My goal with this blog post is to convince you that those 2 hesitations don’t have to be true regardless of budget or age or distance. There are many details that go into travel that for the sake of brevity I’m leaving out of this post. This is simply meant to be a travel log of expenses to spur you on to try out a trip for yourself - even if it’s 4 hours away instead of 14 and 2 days instead of 8!
This is the condo I booked for 6 nights. We paid $1692 including all taxes and fees. This is significantly lower than the peak season price for this same condo which worked in our favor! This same unit can run upwards of $3400 in the summer! So there’s a tip right off the bat: be flexible with your dates and willing to travel on off-peak weeks to save $$ if that’s doable in your schedule. Our kids did miss a week of school but they are in Kindergarten and preschool and we decided it was worth it.
Day 1 Travel
We decided to split the 14 hour drive over 2 days on the way to Florida and then drive it all in one day on the way back. We stayed in an Embassy Suites in Nashville, TN to take advantage of the suite setup for our kids, the pool, and the included breakfast. We had 7 hours of road time. It took us from 8:45pm to 5:45pm so 9 hours including stops.
McDonald’s breakfast $21.26
Lunch (2 adults @ panera, had $10 GC) $13.4)
Taco Bell $2.11
BJ chicken $24.31
Day 2 Travel
We had to add oil to our van before hitting the road on day 2 so we got a bit of a late start and hit the road for our second 7 hours at about 9:30pm. We arrived in Navarre Beach, FL at around 6:00pm so another day of almost 9 hours total on the road. While we were driving I scheduled a Walmart grocery pickup at a location only a mile away from our condo. I included snacks, breakfast, lunch and food for one dinner so that the next day when we were all tired of driving we would not have to leave the condo!
$53.24 Walmart p/u (bfast, lunch, 1 dinner)
$14.18 oil for the van
$12.18 McDonald’s for boys
$14.57 Arby’s for us
$27.24 culvers dinner
Day 3 Beach Day
Exactly as we had hoped, we did not leave the condo at all on our first full day there! It was a gorgeous sunny day and we spent as much time as we could at the beach! All 3 meals in the condo with groceries.
$0 spent 😎
Day 4 Beach Day
Another gorgeous sunny day spent at the beach! We started the day hitting up a local donut shop and eating them at a playground with an ocean view! We picked up more groceries for more meals in the condo and ended the day with pizza on the condo balcony using some gift cards. That’s the amazing thing about paying a premium for your location: you have a view and entertainment built right in! I could spend extra money and time at a restaurant (which is highly exhausting with small kids) OR we could keep it simple, order pizza for the balcony, and soak in every bit of our balcony with a view which is exactly what we did!
$62.27 Walmart grocery pickup
$3.44 dominos pizza (had $20 gift card from Easter and $10 from Fetch Receipt scan app)
Day 5 (Mis)Adventures ☔️
This day was a little rough. We wanted to watch the Blue Angels Navy planes practice, but it was difficult to find a spot with a view so we ended up with lots of time driving for a very little amount of enjoying the show. So we grabbed Chick-fil-A ice cream to recover our spirits and went back to the condo. We got a bit of beach time in between rain and the boys continued enjoying the sand even in the rain! We ordered dinner pickup for Kyle and I at a highly recommended local taco shop and grabbed Happy Meals for the boys. Everybody will have a different take on this and that’s ok: but for us, the vacation and travel is enough of a disruption to the kids’ routines and comfort zone that paying extra money for random restaurant food that they’ve never been to before almost always ends up with food that isn’t even touched. So to keep everybody at peace in what’s already a rough week for them and save $$ we just stick to the food they know and allow ourselves the food adventures we enjoy!
7.40 Chick-fil-A ice cream + shakes
23.36 Burrito Del Sol dinner
Day 6 Fun, but Rainy Day
We had to keep ourselves occupied in the condo for most of day 6. We blew bubbles on the balcony, played with toy sharks in the jetted tub, watched movies, and built legos! The rain let up towards the end of the afternoon so we went out to walk the long pier close to our condo. It was $1 per person over 5 coming in to a whopping 2 bucks for our whole family! While out on the pier we got up close and personal with a very large crane and spotted lots and lots of dolphins! This was a highlight of the trip for sure. All meals eaten in the condo. :)
$2 Pier Walk
Day 7 Museum & Beach
For our last full day in Florida, we thought we wouldn’t see anymore quality beach time but we were wrong! We started the day with a mid-morning drive over to neighboring Fort Walton Beach to walk around at the US Air Force Armament Museum. This place was so cool and I highly recommend. They have lots of historic planes and helicopters parked outside on their grounds to look at and learn about. The inside museum is geared more towards older kids and adults, but had interesting historical artifacts like uniforms, weaponry, etc. While we were there, the forecast started to clear up even though it wasn’t supposed to so we headed home and hit the beach! For dinner we cleared out whatever food we couldn’t travel with.
$31.73 whataburger for lunch (Kyles choice; we obliged 🙃)
$28.86 3 souvenir blue angel airplane toys
Day 8 Travel Home
Time to head home! This was a loooooooong day. We knew everybody was tired and ready to get home and it’s cheaper to travel in one day to avoid a hotel and a second day of meals on the road. We were all tired and just wanted our own beds! One of the advantages of travelling with a newborn (Ruby turned 2 months old while we were there!) is that we are very used to being up at all times of the day and night. The night before we left, we packed as much as we could into the van and had everything else ready to walk out when we woke up. Ruby woke up like usual to eat around 2:30am and once she was done, we loaded up the sleepy boys and hit the road! We stopped whenever we needed to, trying to be patient for the long day! We arrived home about 9:45pm which is a total of 19 hours of travel time for 14 hours of driving. Certainly wouldn’t describe this as a fun or easy day, but then the worst of it is done quickly and we wake up the next morning at home. :)
$33 Chick-fil-A breakfast
$3.09 Walmart hot wheels
$24.81 Panera lunch
$13.78 Barista Parlor coffee
$33.04 chipotle dinner
$21.96 additional phone data for GPS and travel
Costs per Category
Extra Phone Data $21
Average per day for 8 days: $342.50
Average per person: $456.67
You can travel too!
Hopefully this travel log helps you get an idea of what a fun, full, and frugal week on the road and playing in the ocean can look like for a family! There’s obviously lots we could have chosen in the way of excursions, tours, and entertainment that we chose not to. By putting the bulk of our budget into a premium location with amenities like direct beach access, a large balcony with a view, and a fabulous pool, we drove down the cost in other categories making the total for our big family very manageable!