8 Great Budget Beach Trips for a Last-Minute Summer Getaway

Aug 2, 2018

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Still hoping for a little summer fun before the season ends? It’s not too late for a last-minute escape — and booking a spontaneous beach trip doesn’t have to break your budget, either. Squeeze in one last relaxing beach vacation this summer without overspending by taking advantage of your stash of points and miles, as well as cheap flights with low-cost carriers.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Florida summers are hot and humid, and that’s precisely why you’ll want to head straight to the beach during a late summer trip to Fort Lauderdale. With plenty of activities for families, couples and groups of friends, this destination is cheaper than Miami, but still has a bit of the same South Florida style. Active travelers will enjoy spending the day on Fort Lauderdale Beach, which has an elegant brick promenade and gleaming skyline views. Visitors can also rent kayaks or canoes at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. Watch out for iguanas and tortoises while you paddle along.

TPG budget tips: It’s easy to catch an affordable flight to Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport (FLL), which is serviced by low-cost airlines like JetBlue and Southwest. It’s also the largest hub for ultra low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines. Staying at the W Fort Lauderdale is a way to incorporate a little ‘Miami glam’ into your trip, as the hotel features nightly events and live DJs. Room rates start at $188 or 12,000 points per night this summer (as opposed to rates at the W South Beach in Miami, which start at $359 or 30,000 Starpoints per night). Remember that Starpoints will become rewards in the new Marriott program, with the combined award chart launching on August 18th.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Photo by Art Wager / Getty Images)
Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Photo by Art Wager / Getty Images)

Big Sur, California

Great for families or adventurous couples, a road trip to Big Sur can easily be done on a budget — and the iconic stretch of Highway 1 that was buried in a 2017 landslide has just reopened. Day activities are cheap, as you can visit many hidden beaches or hike in one of the area’s three state parks. Camping at spots like Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park can cost as little as $30 per night. Travelers will also find a number of budget-friendly inns and rustic cabins near Big Sur. If you’re sunburned and need to change it up, a (free) visit to the Henry Miller Memorial Library offers a quick dose of culture, complete with a small sculpture garden and art center.

TPG budget tips: Fill up your tank before you approach Big Sur. With just a handful of gas stations in the area, prices get exponentially higher as you near this popular stretch of California coast. Also, use AutoSlash, which can help you save money when renting a car.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur, California. (Photo by Patrick Leitz / Getty Images)
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur, California. (Photo by Patrick Leitz / Getty Images)

Cartagena, Colombia

You don’t have to stay Stateside to find great deals on last-minute summer beach trips. While there may be some summer storms in Cartagena, this bright and colorful port town has something for everyone: the historic walled city, fashionable hotels along the Bocagrande beachfront (for unbeatable rates) and delicious seafood, especially ceviche. Dine after a day at the beach at no-frills, local joints like La Laguna Azul for just $8. Travelers can also take a boat to one of the islands off the coast of Cartagena, like Isla Mucura or Isla Grande, for an especially quiet beach day.

TPG budget tips: This summer, Spirit Airlines is offering round-trip fares from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to Cartagena’s Rafael Núñez International Airport (CTG) for under $300. Foreign visitors are exempt from paying sales tax on hotel rooms, making your stay even more affordable. Although a brand-new Sheraton Cartagena was slated for a July 31 opening, it’s still not bookable — but we’re hoping to see availability soon. In the meantime, travelers can stay at the Hyatt Regency Cartagena for 12,000 World of Hyatt points per night, or $149.

Cartagena, Colombia. (Photo by garytog / Getty Images)
Cartagena, Colombia. (Photo by garytog / Getty Images)

Wilmington, North Carolina

Just a 20-minute drive from Wilmington International Airport (ILM), Wrightsville Beach is a relaxed, easygoing place to spend a long, late summer weekend. With water sports (paddleboarding, kayaking and world-famous surfing) and loads of seasonal events like concerts and festivals, there’s always something to do in this rising destination. Affordable restaurants can be found along the beach as well as throughout Wilmington. For a more family-friendly stretch of beach, head instead to Carolina Beach, which is best known for its boardwalk and state park.

TPG budget tip: Use Marriott points to stay at the Courtyard Marriott Wilmington/Wrightsville Beach. Summer rates can plunge as low as $99, or 20,000 points, per night.

Johnnie Mercer's pier in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. (Photo by Chad_Talton / Getty Images)
Johnnie Mercer’s pier in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. (Photo by Chad_Talton / Getty Images)

Puerto San Jose, Guatemala

Another international getaway where travelers can find incredible value on a last-minute summer vacation is Puerto San Jose in Guatemala, just a two-hour drive from Guatemala City. Not your typical beach trip, travelers will discover miles of volcanic black sand beachfront. It’s also a great place to revive your high school Spanish. Sport fishers can experience some of the best sailfishing in the world here, and early August is known for being less rainy than the fall months — so plan that last-minute getaway ASAP.

TPG budget tip: Flying to Guatemala City’s La Aurora International Airport (GUA) nonstop is actually pretty easy from the US. And flights can be cheap, too, especially if you have miles, as all three major US carriers, among others, fly to GUA. American flies from Dallas (DFW) and Miami (MIA), Avianca from Los Angeles (LAX) and MIA, Delta from Atlanta (ATL), LAX and New York (JFK), Spirit from Fort Lauderdale (FLL), and United from Houston (IAH), Newark (EWR) and Washington-Dulles (IAD).

(Photo by JOHAN ORDONEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
(Photo by JOHAN ORDONEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Saugatuck, Michigan

An easy two-hour drive from Chicago, Saugatuck, Michigan, was once a hippie artist enclave. These days, it attracts travelers of all kinds, but still retains its laidback charm. Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, spend easy days lounging at chill spots like Oval Beach. Or, explore the 200-foot-high dunes or hike the trails at Saugatuck Dunes State Park. Thanks to all the surrounding farms, you can eat locally-grown produce at a solid price. Visit a farmer’s market to pick up fresh jams and veggies, or spend a perfect summer afternoon berry picking.

TPG budget tips: Some cabins and B&Bs offer amenities like free canoes and bikes, so make sure to pay attention when booking your stay. And if it’s too pricey to fly into Chicago, try Detroit Metro Airport (DDTW) instead. Just a three-hour drive away, Detroit also made the TPG hotlist for budget destinations this year, so you can combine both a beach and a city break without overspending.

Saugatuck Chain Ferry, Saugatuck, Michigan. (Photo by ClatieK via Flickr)
Saugatuck Chain Ferry, Saugatuck, Michigan. (Photo by ClatieK via Flickr)

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

While summer is technically hurricane season, travelers will mostly just experience hot, muggy days on the beach with the occasional afternoon downpour or tropical shower in August. And though it’s one of the high seasons for this Caribbean nation, travelers can still find excellent hotel rates — and there are plenty of Starwood and Marriott properties on the island. Dining and drinking is relatively inexpensive, too, as are excursions like zip lining, canyoning and waterfall rappelling.

TPG budget tips: Southwest flies to Punta Cana (PUJ) daily from spots like Atlanta (ATL), Baltimore (BWI), Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and Chicago (MDW), and Spirit flies from Fort Lauderdale (FLL). If you have miles to burn, American, Delta and United all fly there from various US hubs. Once you’ve arrived, rooms at Starwood’s Westin Punta Cana start at $194, or 10,000 Starpoints per night.

Pacific City, Oregon

Sandwiched between Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area, Bob Straub State Park and Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Pacific City is a beach town with plenty of nearby nature. Camp sites can be reserved for as little as $20 per night, and nearby cabins and small B&Bs are available if you’d rather not sleep outdoors. Pacific Beach’s light winds and waves are also ideal for surfers, and after a long day of beach lounging, visit one of the only beachfront breweries in the Pacific Northwest, Pelican Brewing Company, to sip a Tsunami or Breaker beer while admiring the painterly sunset skies.

TPG budget tips: A two-hour drive from Portland, the Pacific City area is best explored by car, so if you’re renting, make sure to use a credit card with primary rental car insurance coverage like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. Also keep in your wallet a card that an help you maximize your gas purchases, like the Citi Premier Card.

Hay Stack Rock at Pacific City, Oregon. (Photo by deebrowning / Getty Images)
Haystack Rock at Pacific City, Oregon. (Photo by deebrowning / Getty Images)

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