How to Vacation at 30A on a budget

Do you want to visit 30A but are worried about the cost of a beach vacation there? I understand your concerns and am here to help you plan a fabulous trip to 30A on a budget.

My husband & I discovered this beautiful stretch of white sandy beaches in 2008. It quickly became a favorite place, especially once we had kids. Over the years, we’ve watched the area explode in popularity and noticed a significant increase in the prices of vacation rentals.

You may be worried about how to afford a trip here, especially since nearby Panama City Beach has more affordable options. Lucky for you, I have extensive knowledge of this area, and I’m excited to show you rentals at a reasonable price point and activities that won’t break the bank.

Follow along for my excellent budget-friendly guide to visit the beautiful beaches of 30A.

30A sunset

Short on time? Check out my budget-friendly vacation rentals
Rosemary Beach

Seacrest Beach Condo
Seagrove Condo with Ocean Views
Blue Mountain Beachfront Condo

Beach Supplies

30A

30A is a stretch of beaches between Panama City and Destin known for large high rises and massive complexes. 3OA is a series of towns dotting a scenic highway. Each has its own unique style, but all have the most beautiful beaches. Sometimes, you’ll hear the region referred to as the Emerald Coast.

Seaside Community

Tips for a Great Vacation

Over the years, I developed some cost-saving strategies for visiting popular areas. In particular, there are several steps you can take to reduce the cost of visiting 30A.

Meals

As tempting as it is to eat out each night, it’s not the most savvy financial decision for some families. Don’t get me wrong; I love eating out, especially at places with fresh seafood, but it adds up quickly. So, I want to offer some suggestions to save money.

  • Go to the grocery store before you leave home. In the weeks before the trip, watch for sales and stock up on breakfast and lunch items.
  • If your drive is long or you are flying, several Publix grocery stores exist. I love Publix, but it’s not cheap. Plan to shop at the Walmart on Highway 98 as it is a great option to save money (they are building another one closer to Rosemary). 
  • Plan to eat several dinners at home. We usually bring BBQ with us to eat the first night. It’s easy to heat up, and we don’t have to worry about a big cost on the first night of the trip.
  • Goatfeathers is our favorite fresh seafood market. You can pair shrimp or fish with pasta, and viola!
  • If you want to eat out, consider going at lunch as many places offer good deals. Some local restaurants have happy hour specials or early bird dining. You can still enjoy a wonderful meal at a fraction of the price. 
  • Try some of the delicious brunch restaurants!
Goatfeathers

Timing

One of the best ways to save money is to avoid peak seasons such as summer or spring break. These are hands down the busiest and most expensive times to visit. Avoid peak season!

Our family loves the shoulder seasons of late spring and early fall. Kids are back in school, and rates have dropped significantly. Now, as a side note, many metro Atlanta school districts have adopted a fall break that runs anywhere from mid-September to mid-October. 

Look into less popular times, as it is a great way to find better prices on rental properties.

30A views

TIP: Sometimes, rentals drop their prices a week or two before the event, especially if they are desperate for renters. If you are flexible, consider looking at the last minute for a great deal.

We just did this for a beautiful trip to Watercolor. We wanted to go for the kids’ winter break and waited until the weekend before. We booked a gorgeous condo on Sunday and arrived Monday. It was a steal and totally worth the last-minute decision.

Beach Gear

Bring your own towels, beach chairs, and umbrellas. Although renting beach gear is super convenient, it is also expensive. Bringing your supplies is a great way to save some money.

Another option is to look specifically for rentals with 2 chairs and an umbrella. This perk will enhance the value of your rental.

The same is true of a golf cart rental. In the last few years, this has become a favorite accessory of renters to get around town. Unless your rental has a complimentary golf cart, skip it or look for a last-minute deal.

Bike Rentals

Biking on 30A

Riding bikes while on a beach vacation is one of my favorite activities, but it can be costly if you have a large family. Here are my best tips based on years of experience-

  • Look for rentals with complimentary bikes.
  • Consider renting for an entire week as it is usually a better value versus one day.
  • If you have space, bring your bikes. Even if you only have space for the kid bikes, it will save you money.

Free or Cheap Activities on 30A

While vacationing, you may want to take advantage of the area’s low-cost free events. You can take a break from the beach without spending much money.

State Parks

Grayton Beach State Park is an excellent idea for 30A on a budget

Grayton Beach State Park

South Walton is home to some amazing state parks that capture the natural beauty of North Florida. Grayton Beach State Park is gorgeous, with direct beach access, walking trails, kayaking, and birding for a small entry fee. Kayaking is an additional cost, FYI.

Topsail Hill Preserve is another great option on the west end of 30A. Visitors can swim, hike, bike, and picnic.

Farmer’s Market

A cheap and fun activity on 30A is browsing local farmer’s markets. Rosemary Beach holds a market from 9-1 every Saturday morning in their town center. 

Watersound also hosts one from 10-2 at the Watersound Town Center. If Saturdays are difficult, consider visiting the Seaside market on Tuesdays in the Amphitheater from 9-1. They also hold one on Saturdays too.

Seaside

Seaside Amphitheater

Public Beach Access

If you stay in a rental without beach access, you need to know the best spots. As mentioned earlier, it’s a cheap fee to enter Grayton Beach State Park, but there are some public access points dotted throughout the region—you just have to know about them!

The easiest access points are on the west end of 30A. There’s a public parking lot in the heart of Santa Rosa Beach, right across from Gulf Place. Remember, the lot is small, so come early during the busy season or on the weekends.

public beach access point in seaside

public beach access in Seaside

Further down 30A heading west to 98, there are several public spots with parking lots in Santa Rosa and Dune Allen.

There are numerous access points in Seagrove, but there is no parking. This is ideal if staying in Seagrove. Seaside has a handful, but parking here can be a nightmare in the summer. I would NOT suggest using these access points for a day on the beach. 

Concerts

30A boasts some fantastic venues for live music concerts. The Seaside Amphitheatre, the Big Chill on 30A (formerly the Hub), and Grand Boulevard in Sandestin offer free concerts at times.

Many local restaurants have live music, too. The Red Bar, Old Florida Fish House, and the Bay are just a few of the numerous spots on 30A with music at dinnertime.

enjoy a fantastic meal at the Red Bar with live music

The Red Bar in Grayton Beach

Budget-Friendly Vacation Rentals

I’m sure you’ve come across some outrageous rental fees on 30A. Some neighborhoods like Rosemary Beach, Seaside, and Alys are wildly popular, and their rates reflect this. But don’t be discouraged- some amazing rentals in these desirable beach towns. 

Rosemary Beach

Rosemary may seem out of reach for your budget and only a dream option. Here’s a little tip- some of the large houses have carriage houses available for rent at an affordable price (for Rosemary).

Remember, carriage houses are small and ideal for couples or families. I’ve found some that would sleep my family of 5, but it would be tight. If you are determined to stay in Rosemary, this is a great way to do so.

Book your Rosemary Carriage Rental by clicking HERE!

Rosemary Beach is a desirable beach community for guests
Rosemary Beach

Seacrest Beach

Also, some affordable Seacrest condos are within a short walk of central Rosemary. This is also a perfect place to have more living space than a carriage house and proximity to the community, but not the price point. With this condo complex, you are close to the white sand beaches and can access a private pool. 

Book your Seacrest condo by clicking HERE!

Seacrest is also a terrific location between Alys Beach and Rosemary. You can be in either community quickly without the price tag. There are some dining options and coffee shops. For instance, our kids love Pizza by the Sea. Ordering pizza one day would break the monotony of cooking without a hefty bill. 

I’ve spent a lot of time in Seacrest and enjoy its ideal location. 

Seacrest Beach is a great place to stay on 30A

Seagrove

Seagrove is a fantastic option for low-cost rentals. It blends massive new homes, older quaint homes, and many condos. Some condos have beach views at a moderate price.

Book your Beachfront condo by clicking HERE!

If you are looking for a low-cost opt, consider one of the older condos a little further from the beach. You may even need to cross 30A; however, plenty of public beach access points exist.

Book your low-cost condo across 30A by clicking HERE!

Blue Mountain Beach

We love the quietness of the Blue Mountain Community, where there’s something available at every price point similar to Seagrove. Plus, there’s the adorable Blue Mountain Creamery, one of the best spots for ice cream.

Check out this beachfront condo with complimentary bikes.

blue mountain Creamery

Santa Rosa Beach

Santa Rosa Beach is a gem on the west side of 30A. Gulf Place is a town center with shops, restaurants, and ice cream, which is a popular venue. The community has impressive dining options like Shunk Gulley and affordable lodging options.

Within Gulf Place are smaller condos that sleep 4-6 and have a quick & easy walk to the beach.

Book your Gulf Place condo by clicking HERE!

Gulf Place

FAQ: Visiting 30A

Why do people like 30A so much?

Guests love the charming and unique communities, excellent restaurants, and beautiful white sandy beaches. The absences of massive high rises is also appealing to many.

What is the least crowded beach access on 30A?

Your best bet is to visit one of the state parks with beach access, such as Topsail Preserve or Grayton Beach State Park. 

Is 30A worth visiting?

30A is most definitely worth visiting. Once you go, you’ll start planning your next trip.

What is the difference between Destin & 30A?

Destin is a significantly larger town and beach community. There are more restaurants, entertainment options, and an outlet mall. However, many guests find 30A as more charming and picturesque.

In Conclusion: How to Vacation at 30A on a budget

I hope my guide on a vacation at 30A on a budget helps you plan your next great adventure at a beautiful beach without the stress of spending too much.

30A Resources
Best 30A Beaches
Best 30A Tours
Breakfast in 30A
Ice cream in 30A
Best Seafood on 30A
30A State Parks
30A Winter
30A Fall
Christmas in 30A
Spring Break on 30A
How to Vacation at 30A on a Budget
Vacation Rentals on 30A for Families
Beach Packing List for Families
The Best Review of Seaside vs Watercolor, Florida
Ultimate Guide to Watercolor, Florida
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