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A few years ago, we set out from New Orleans to find the perfect family vacation for under $1000. Could we do it and visit Destin, Florida, and the Northwest Florida Coast and have fun?

Of course, we could. It took a bit of work, but we ended up with a week on the beach in Destin having a fabulous time. Here’s how we did our Destin family vacation on a budget.

kids playing on Destin Beach

Go In The Off Season

One of the advantages we had as homeschoolers is that we can pick the time of year we travel. Traveling during the off season helps us save money. If possible, try and go to Destin during the off-season. Prices tend to drop after Labor Day when all the kids are back in school and go back up again around spring break time.

Don’t Stay On The Beach

We all have dreams of staying on the beach and falling asleep to the sounds of the waves, sitting on the balcony with our coffee in the morning.  However, condos on the beach are pricey and can take a big chunk of your vacation budget.

Instead, opt for a condo that is a short walking or driving distance from the beach. They are just as nice and are cheaper in price.

Research Condos and Hotels in Destin

I spent a good day or so researching our options for condos and hotels vs just picking the first one I saw. Doing this allowed me to price out condos and find the one that gave us the best value.

We eventually settled on a big property management company vs a small one that had extra perks such as discount codes and free DVD rentals. YAY for saving more money.


Prepare Your Own Food

Going out to eat on vacation costs a ton of money.

I know just breakfast at Waffle House for my family is $60, multiply that times three and you’re looking at $180 a day just in food.

One of the ways to save money on food while traveling is to prepare your own meals. You can do this by getting a hotel with a microwave and fridge and pack cereal, sandwiches and frozen dinners.

Or you can get a condo with a kitchen and cook full meals that are easy.

One thing I did was shop my pantry at home to see what I had that we could take with us on our trip. Then I made a meal plan of easy meals – pizza, hot dogs, spaghetti, tacos etc.

When we got to Destin I went to Publix and shopped their sales and was able to get all of our food for the week for under $100.

Find Inexpensive and FREE activities in the Destin area

My kids would play on the beach or in the pool all day and that’s usually enough for them. But sometimes it’s too much sun or it’s rainy or everyone needs to find other fun. Here are some FREE and cheap things you can do around Destin, Florida.

  • Gator Beach – stationed at Fudpucker’s restaurant, Gator Beach is a free gator habitat that you can visit to learn about alligators. You can even pay to feed the gators and have your picture taken with a live gator.
  • Emerald Coast Science Center – starting at $10 per person, this would be an excellent rainy day activity.
  • Ft. Walton Beach Heritage Park & Cultural Center – For the admission of $5.30 for adults and $3.18 for children, you can visit four museums. Cheap and educational!
  • Air Force Armament Museum – this museum is located on Eglin Air Force Base and FREE to the public.

Bring The FUN With You

Don’t wait until you are at the beach to purchase beach gear (it’s more expensive in those beach shops).

Bring your sand and beach toys and such from home. If you’re going to purchase it at the beach, stop by Walmart on the way in where you can get it a little cheaper.

You may also want to think about bringing items to entertain the kids in the condo, especially if there is a rainy day or two. A few special toys and coloring books are great options. You can also bring the kids devices so they can play games. If you have a streaming device such as an Apple TV, I would bring it with you to give you a way to watch your favorite TV shows or have a family movie night.

Have a great time! Do you have any tips on how to vacation in Destin on a budget? Share them with me in the comments.

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