I’ve been wanting to take a family vacation to Myrtle Beach for quite some time now. I used to live close enough that it was a day trip, and I remember always thinking, “Wow, this is awesome. It would have been so cool to come here when I was a kid.”
I had a blast there in my early 20s. There were concerts and restaurants and crazy entertainment. But there were also kid-focused attractions that channeled my inner-child. Since I’ve had my own children, I’ve wanted to take them to experience it, but in previous years it was kind of cost-prohibitive.
What changed this year? We got creative. We got so creative that we were able to do an entire 6-day vacation for our whole family, plus baby-sitter, for under $1,000. That includes lodging. That includes food. That includes gas. That includes everything. We didn’t stay in some shady hotel and only hang out on the beach all week, either. (Though we could have. We had such gorgeous weather the week we went!) We lived it up. We had the trip of a lifetime. And we didn’t come home broke.
Here’s how we did Myrtle Beach on a budget (all prices are rounded up to the next dollar):
We really wanted to make the trip in our smaller vehicle and save even more on gas, but when we decided to take a babysitter along at the last minute, that became impossible. We used our gas rewards locally when we filled up, and the price per gallon just kept getting cheaper the further south we went.
I got our hotel for free! It wasn’t a roach palace, either. It wasn’t five-stars, but it was a nice, mid-grade resort right on the beach. Every room had a full ocean view with at least one balcony. It was ridiculously clean. It had a full kitchen, and so many pools I don’t think we even saw them all. It was the Patricia Grand.
We got it for free using two methods. Half was paid for through credits I had earned at a booking site through referrals.
The other half was through credit card rewards.
The entire week would have been free, but we were having so much fun we decided to stay another night. The hotel staff gave us a decently low rate, I had some rewards points leftover, and we got to stay to have another day of vacation bliss. Hence the $120.00. That’s all I paid out of my bank account.
SO. MUCH. TO. DO. Six days didn’t feel like enough.
We went to Ripley’s Aquarium. I thought about using a promo code to purchase my tickets, but buying online “anytime” tickets was $6 more and let us dodge standing in line twice or being stuck to a strict schedule, so I splurged. This was the priciest thing we did, coming in at $98. It was so worth it. The aquarium is built for kids. We pet rays and horseshoe crabs. We took pictures with mermaid actresses. We went through their shark tunnel where they swim above and all around you. We crawled into a dark tunnel with a surprise of luminous fish at the end. We saw so many jellyfish, displayed with brilliant, multicolored lights. We made $98 worth of memories and then some.
Hollywood Wax Museum Entertainment Center
We also went to the Hollywood Wax Museum Entertainment Center. This was crazy fun, and we got free tickets for it through one of the blogging networks I belong to. I’ll write more about this next Wednesday, so check back! You can get discounted tickets here.
We went mini golfing for free as our resort had partnered with a place down the road. Two of us got a hole in one! We also could have gone to a water park for free, but didn’t quite find the time. Besides, we had the entire beach and the numerous pools at our resort. A water park visit felt like overkill, but it was a nice option to have.
Just the husband and I went to Medieval Times. Our kids are too little…I don’t think they all could have handled it.
But we had a great time! Our knight won! We only paid for one ticket. We went during one of our birthday months, so we joined the birthday club and got a free admission. Since we didn’t have the kids with us, we indulged in some adult beverages. They were over-priced, but they were also very generous. After all was said and done, we ended up spending $102 on the entire thing, which is less than what 2 adult tickets normally cost you after taxes and fees.
Did I say Ripley’s was the most expensive? I was wrong, I guess. By $4. Alcohol will get you like that.
Feeding the Fish and Popping Balloons
We went to Broadway at the Beach for a couple meals, and the aquarium, and spent 50 cents feeding the massive fish and ducks. The kiddos loved it. They also insisted on playing a balloon popping game where we spent $5 and won a stuffed dog. The smiles were worth every penny.
The Beach & Pools
We spent hours upon hours outside playing and swimming. All of that was free. All of that was so rewarding for the memory bank.
This is where our budget got out of hand. Because we had a kitchen, we bought food at Piggly Wiggly. I was reminded of how high our food prices are in Pittsburgh. We were able to get enough food for everyone for the week for $71. Usually we’re at around $100/week without buying food for the sitter, too.
Why, oh, why did we spend so much then? The long drive was part of it. We packed a lunch, but had to catch another meal on the way in at the drive-thru window. On the way back, too, coming to $61.
We also preemptively gave our leftover food away (we had a lot!) before we had decided on spending another night. We had found someone who wanted it, and we didn’t want to see it go to waste. So Day 6 was a mess. But such a tasty mess. We had really good seafood for lunch that ran us $150 for everyone. You just can’t get seafood that fresh in Pittsburgh, so I’m really not upset about it considering how many people we had. Plus we had a great time. The $30 we spent on pizza that night was starting to stress me out, though.
We also ate out at Shoney’s before Day 6. Because I love it. And it’s crazy cheap. And the best diner food ever. And little kids eat free. And it’s not up North. Thirty-five dollars for everyone. We also ate at one other pretty nice restaurant before Day 6 that ran us $101 for everyone.
All of these numbers include tips.
Every family trip we go on we pick up an ornament for the Christmas Tree. This one was a glass octopus from Ripley’s. The kids also convinced us to buy them each a little toy while we were in there. Darn them for forcing you to walk through the gift shop before exiting.
Total after tax to the next dollar was $37.
Trip Total- $970.50
I was extremely pleased with that number. I honestly thought we’d spend a little bit more while we were down there, and the fact that most of it was added because we decided to stay an extra day at the last minute just makes me happier. Because we had so much fun doing instead of buying during the week, we had the choice to stay another night. If we had been blowing money left and right that wouldn’t have been an option.
Here is the applicable take-away you can use next time you’re planning to go to Myrtle Beach on a budget:
- Eat at Shoney’s. (For real.)
- Utilize rewards points (if you can use credit cards responsibly, that is.)
- Check out discounts or promotional offers some of the pricier places you want to go may have. (Birthday clubs are awesome!)
- Be sure to find out if your hotel has any affiliations in the area. You can find free entertainment like we did with mini golf, or even discounts at local restaurants.
- Don’t give away your store-bought food until you’re stepping out of the hotel lobby. $180 mistake, plus sunk costs on the food I had bought.