A beach vacation can oftentimes feel out of reach for many because of the budgetary restraints. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to make that dream a reality while traveling on a budget. Consider these free things to do and budget-friendly tips for visiting Gulf Shores, Alabama, and start planning your beach vacation today.
This post is sponsored by Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism. This post contains affiliate links. Opinions are all my own so that you can #KeepOnSummering
When To Visit Gulf Shores On A Budget
The best time to visit Gulf Shores on a budget is during the offseason which is from October-February. Crowds have vanished leaving hotels and condos with plenty of availability. Taking advantage of lower rates can save hundreds of dollars, making a beach vacation more affordable.
The fall is the ideal time to visit as temperatures are still warm enough to spend the day at the beach and swim. For even more savings consider arriving during the middle of the week to avoid paying multiple nights at the higher weekend rate.
Where to Stay For Cheap In Gulf Shores
There are plenty of budget-friendly hotels and accommodations throughout Gulf Shores. For those looking to save a little money consider renting a beach house or condo that has a kitchen. This will allow you to make meals and reduce the amount of money spent eating out.
When renting houses or condos keep in mind you may save even more money by booking directly through the rental company itself over Airbnb and VRBO. We discover this tip on our recent visit to Asheville.
Take a look at who is managing the property you are wanting to book. If it is a rental company search the rental company’s site for the same property you are interested in. It will likely be less because the company won’t be paying Airbnb fees. We saved over $150 on a three-night stay by opting to book directly through the company over Airbnb.
If you are looking at hotels considering staying somewhere that breakfast is included in your stay. For a breakfast treat that won’t break the bank, visit a local donut shop like the Sassy Bass and City Donut.
Never underestimate the power of eating a good peanut and butter jelly, fresh fruit, and chips in your hotel room as a lunchtime alternative. Think of it as putting money in your pocket to spend on another activity.
Another budget-friendly tip for staying at a hotel in Gulf Shores is making sure there is a fridge in the room. This way you can store milk, drinks, and other snacks without paying top dollar at a vending machine.
Look for places that have a pool. Attractions and outings can add up fast, while an afternoon lounging by the pool can be the perfect budget-friendly option.
Cook A Seafood Dinner
Gulf Shores is known for its stupendous seafood, but as we all know seafood does not come cheap. Save money by creating your own seafood feast in your rental. Visit one of Gulf Shores’ amazing seafood markets such as Gulf Shores Seafood or S&S Market to get your fresh catch to prepare at a fraction of the cost you would spend dining out. An added bonus is to have everyone cook dinner together to create a memorable experience.
Tips For Dining Out On A Budget In Gulf Shores
Part of any good vacation is sampling the culinary delights that a city or region has to offer, especially if it located directly on the Gulf Coast. Dining out can get costly, especially if you have a family in tow. Here are few hacks to help keep everyone happy, including your wallet.
- Opt to eat out for lunch instead of dinner. Lunch menus tend to offer cheaper alternatives and specials.
- Split a meal. This can go for children and adults. I can’t tell you how many times I end up finishing my daughter’s food or an entree comes out that is big enough to feed our entire family.
- No vacation is complete without pizza! Consider carrying out your pizza and taking it straight to the beach for a spectacular sunset dinner. You can even enjoy it on a balcony or in one of Gulf Shores’ beautiful parks.
- Look for coupons. Coupon books can be found throughout Gulf Shores and there are also plenty of coupons online! There is no shame in my coupon game, however, read the fine print. Nothing is worse than going to use that coupon only to realize it is expired!
Consider Traveling In A Group
It’s time to round up the whole family or rally a group of friends to make a big group vacation. While the logistics of traveling in a group can be difficult, the savings can be substantial. Splitting the cost of a vacation rental or getting a group hotel rate is a great budget-friendly way to experience Gulf Shores.
Dividing up meals prepared at home and beverages can save everyone money in the long run. Many attractions also offer group rates. Keep in mind, when traveling with big groups gratuity is often added to bills.
Take Advantage Of All The Free Things To Do In Gulf Shores
There are plenty of great activities to do in Gulf Shores that don’t cost a dime. Take advantage of beautiful landscapes, fun parks, and fascinating museums while saving your money for those special activities that you can’t do at home.
For those activities look for great deals at websites like Trip Shock. Get out your pencil and paper; here is a list of free things to do Gulf Shores.
It should go without saying that one of the best things to do in Gulf Shores is to enjoy the beautiful beaches. Spend your days basking in the warm sun as the turquoise waters glisten in the distance. A money-saving tip for beachgoers is to pack your beach accessories. Everything tends to cost more at the beach because you are paying for convenience. Pack those towels, sunscreen, beach toys, and swimsuits.
Great Free Things To Do Outdoors In Gulf Shores
Nature enthusiasts will enjoy exploring the many different parks and trails of Gulf Shores. From hiking in Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge to hitting the pavement discovering The Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail. Families oftentimes enjoy a Geocaching adventure that will take them on a journey through Gulf Shores great parks.
Birding is another popular activity as many follow the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail hoping to catch a glimpse of the local fowl. One of our personal favorites is Gulf State Park, which includes Gulf Shores Interpretive Center and Nature Center. Learn all about the ecosystem of Gulf Shores, preservation/conservation efforts and more.
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are full of many great playgrounds for kids to burn off that extra energy. We cover a few great parks in our Guide To Visiting Gulf Shores with Kids.
A money-saving tip is to bring reusable water bottles. A family can easily spend $20 on bottled water alone. Eliminate that cost by bringing your own reusable water bottles and filling them at the hotel or water fountains.
Free Museums In Gulf Shores Alabama
A rainy day doesn’t mean that you are going to have to pull out the pocketbook to pay for hours of entertainment. On the contrary, there are plenty of museums in Gulf Shores and the nearby area that offer free admission. Note, that while admission is free many do appreciate donations.
The National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola is a great day trip from Gulf Shores. The museum offers free admission, free parking, and free tours! Be sure to check to see if the Blue Angels are practicing because that is one free airshow that you don’t want to miss. The National Naval Aviation Museum is packed with fascinating history and planes that are bound to entertain the entire family.
Orange Beach Indian & Sea Museum is open on select days throughout the week. Admission is free and showcases a wide variety of artifacts and history about the Native American and fishing heritage of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.
Head over into the city of Foley to explore the Foley Model Train Exhibit and the Railroad Museum. This great museum not only is the perfect spot to hit with families but on select days they offer families free mini-train rides. While you are in Foley head over to another great free museum, the Holmes Medical Museum.
The Gulf Shores Museum and Butterfly Garden is always free to the public. Step back into history to learn all about Gulf Shores. Participate in one of their many programs or enjoy the serenity of the butterfly garden. One final museum to add to your list is the Baldwin County Heritage Museum.
Other Great Free Things To Do in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach
- The Public Library is always a great place to grab a good book to read on the beach or on a rainy day.
- Take the family to see the SPECTRA Light Show at the Wharf.
- Have a progressive history lesson as you follow the Civil War Trail.
- Try your hand at a round of disc golf.
- Unlock the secrets of Bamahenge.
That beach vacation is within reach and we hope with these helpful tips and ideas that soon it will be a reality. When we aren’t at Gulf Shores we are dreaming about it. Take a peek at the great attractions on our Gulf Shores Bucket List.
Free Things To Do While Visiting Gulf Shores, Alabama