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After my “fancy pants” post on Tuesday (the overwater bungalow in Tahiti! Park Hyatt in Sydney!), let’s get back to reality, shall we? And the reality is, many families in America can’t afford any sort of travel beyond visiting relatives in a neighboring state. So, if you are that family, I hope you don’t get discouraged by the barrage of posts on exotic trips you are unlikely to be able to afford for years to come, if ever.
Instead, let me highlight a strategy on staying near the most affordable beach in Florida, if not US. I’m talking, of course, about Daytona beach. But wait, what about wet t-shirt contests and drunken college students? As long as you avoid the months of March and April, you don’t have to worry about any of it. In addition, even if you decide to go during spring break season, there are areas that have a reputation for being less rowdy during that time period. A safe bet (relatively speaking) is Daytona Beach Shores, the southern portion of this famous stretch of Florida coastline.
Daytona beach is where my husband and I spent our first wedding anniversary. Why? It was all we could afford! I wanted to stay near the water, and I found a hotel listing in one of my travel magazines, called Dream Inn. It cost us $55 per night during hurricane season and promised a room with an ocean view. The room turned out to be right by the pool, with a glimpse of the ocean, but oh well. I felt it was a good enough deal that I ended up bringing my mom and her friend when they visited us here in US.
My husband and I were broke, so we just stayed one night in Daytona beach, went to St. Augustine the next day, and drove 3.5 hours back to our apartment in central Florida. Those were the days. We also all shared one room. Keep in mind, my husband had just met my mom and her friend few days prior. He did NOT like it and asked me to please get our own room from then on.
I remember my mom hinting how she sure would like to spend another night in Daytona beach, but we just couldn’t swing it. I still feel bad about it, but hopefully I made up for it after taking her to many beachfront hotels in Florida. So, here is why you should consider taking your family here as well.
1) Location, location, location
I’ve already mentioned being able to visit St. Augustine which is only one hour away. I honestly believe every family in US should go here at least once (see my short trip report). Can’t afford to go to Puerto Rico? This is the next best thing. You can tour a real fortress and wonder the old streets dating all the way to 16th century.
Daytona beach is also only one hour from Orlando, so you can tack on few nights on Atlantic coast after your visit to Disney. Since MCO airport is close, you don’t need to worry about missing your flight as long as it doesn’t leave early in the morning.
2) Affordable price (points wise) on oceanfront properties
If you decide to visit during spring, using points may be your best bet. Here are a few decent options:
The cost is 25,000 IHG points per night. In exchange, you get an oceanfront room with two queen beds and a free breakfast. Most IHG properties will add rollaway for around $10 per night, so be sure to call and ask. If you happen to have a Chase IHG co-branded credit card, the cost will come down to 22,500 points per night due to 10% rebate.
The card to get: Chase IHG MasterCard.
It costs 12,000 points per night and comes with free breakfast. The rooms fit up to 6, but it would probably feel cramped. Sure, 12,000 points isn’t exactly cheap, but it could make sense to redeem them at this place during holidays and high season. The rooms go for at least $200 per night in March. Nancy wrote a review of this property on her own blog, with lots of photos.
The cards to get: Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Business Preferred and The Hyatt Credit card (with new offer of 40K points).
Oceanfront Hilton properties in Daytona Beach
There are several options and the price varies according to season. In general, you’ll get about 0.5 cents per Hiton point. Here are the rates for November of this year:
Spending Thanksgiving holidays in Daytona beach, anyone? Hampton Inn Daytona Shores-Oceanfront property seems like the best deal, and you’ll get free hot breakfast. If you happen to have a co-branded Hilton credit card, you’ll get fifth night free. So, 88,000 points will take care of 5-night getaway for your whole family.
The cards to get: Right now I would only consider Hilton Honors Surpass Credit Card from American Express. You can apply before 7/27/2017 via my personal referral link Earn 100,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership. The annual fee of $75 is not waived. See more details on this and other hotel cards here
Other hotel programs are represented as well, but these IMO are the best options.
3) Affordable vacation rentals, even during high season
Daytona beach is overbuilt with condos and timeshares, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a semi-affordable place. While most 2 bedroom/2 bath beachfront rentals in Florida will set you back $300 per night or more during March, in Daytona, you can usually find something decent for less than $175 all-in.
There are many options, and I recommend sites like Skyauction, VRBO.com or AirBnB (my referral link, you’ll get $40 off your first $75+ booking). Last week I saw a really good post on DoC site: Complete guide to renting timeshare properties on the cheap which you should check out if you intend to go that route. Remember, you don’t have to attend a timeshare presentation.
In general, if you avoid spring months, you should be able to score a bargain no matter which site you use. Here is just one example from Leisureloyalty (Skyauction affiliate):
Yes, it’s a studio and yes, the kids are in school during that time period. But still, $299 for a week at a beachfront hotel with a pool and a hot tub? Come on. There is definitely an opportunity here for those who have some flexibility in their schedule. Homeschooling families, I’m looking at you! Note that you usually don’t have to stay the entire week if you don’t want to (though YMMV, of course).
Cards to get: Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard, Capital One Venture Rewards and Wells Fargo Propel World are all good options. You can read more about them in my Hot Deals page. Reportedly, AirBnB and Skyauction are coded as travel, while VRBO is not. However, you can always call your card issuer and ask them to apply points manually. At least one of my readers was successful in doing so. Of course, YMMV.
Note that many of the mentioned offers currently happen to pay us commission. Thanks for your support!
While I don’t think Daytona beach is the prettiest location in Florida, it’s a good place for families on a budget. If you love waves and laid back atmosphere, this is the beach for you. Check this TripAdvisor page for top tourist attractions in the area.
If you can come during off season (which you probably should anyway), you can score some crazy bargains on lodging. And historic city of St. Augustine is just a stone throw away. How can you beat that?
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.