Ocean City on a budget: 22 ways to save money at the beach - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Ocean City on a budget: 22 ways to save money at the beach

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OCEAN CITY, Md. - Growing up, a friend of mine used to refer to Ocean City as “Malibu of the East.” It was just a joke, but we truly are fortunate to have such a nice beach only a few hours away from Washington, D.C.

Of course, Ocean City is more than a beach. There are plenty of family-friendly activities, including rides, arcades, laser tag and miniature golf—my personal favorite. 

Recently, I made the trip ‘down the ocean’ in search of ways to have a great time without spending a lot of money. I hope you'll read through these 22 ways to save and then share your own money-saving tips!


ACCOMMODATIONS
Paying for a place to stay will probably be your biggest expense. Some luxury oceanfront properties in Ocean City charge $500 a night during the summer, but there are deals for those willing to do a little homework.

Susan Jones of the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association provided four tips to save on hotel and motel bookings:

•  Travel Sunday through Thursday for the best rates. Some properties are offering discounts, free night stays and vacation packages, which can include complimentary meals or admission to theme parks.

•  Another good time to find reduced rates is at the end of August. Designed to mimic Restaurant Week, Ocean City Hotel Week runs August 17 to August 28 and offers special savings for visitors looking to squeeze in one last trip before school starts.

•  Not a fan of the crowds? Travel in September or October. The weather is still nice and rates are reduced due to less demand. Most places remain open through Columbus Day.

•  Book directly with the hotel or motel for the lowest rate. When you’re doing a web search, make sure you’re visiting the official site for the property, not a third-party online travel agency.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you don’t want to stay at a hotel, consider renting out a condo for the week. Check websites such as vrbo.com and airbnb.com for rates. Many of these condos offer the same amenities as a hotel, plus a fully-equipped kitchen so you don’t have to eat out every meal.


FOOD AND DINING
The great thing about Ocean City is that there’s something for every price range when it comes to eating out.  Sure, a seafood or steak dinner won’t be cheap. However, some of the most popular bites along the beach will only cost you a few bucks, including Thrasher’s French fries, Fractured Prune’s hot doughnuts and the caramel popcorn at Fisher’s Popcorn.

Here are a few other ways to stick to your dining budget:


•  Early Bird Special – Some of Ocean City’s most popular seafood restaurants open at 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. and offer discounts or special menus.
•  Happy Hour – Ask your bartender about food and drink specials.
•  Kids Eat Free or ½ Off – Many restaurants offer reduced or no-cost meals for children under a certain age.
•  Skip Dessert – Instead of adding it to your restaurant tab, indulge in dessert at a place that specializes in sweet treats.
•  Use Coupons – The front desk at your hotel can direct you to money-saving offers.


ENTERTAINMENT
When you’re not lounging on the beach or at the pool, there are lots of activities to keep the whole family entertained. Speaking from personal experience, you’ll want to ride the Crazy Dance at Jolly Roger at the Pier, play skee ball at Marty’s Playland and hit the links at Old Pro Golf’s dinosaur-themed miniature golf course.

Over the years, Ocean City has increased the number of family-friendly attractions. Now, it’s adding OC SandFest, which will feature master sculptors creating enormous sand masterpieces on the beach along the boardwalk. It runs August 18 to September 1.

In the summertime, there are free activities most nights of the week.  I asked Jessica Waters with the Town of Ocean City to highlight three favorites:

OC Beach Lights – Free show features a five-story tall inflatable sphere with visual laser lights, special effects, audio/visual production and fireworks.

Details:
Sundays, June 1 - August 31, 9:30 p.m., 10 p.m. & 10:30 p.m.
North Division Street

Sundaes in the Park – Enjoy an ice cream sundae for a small fee, plus a free live concert and fireworks show after sunset.

Details:
Sundays, July 13 - August 24, 7 p.m., Fireworks at 9 p.m.
Northside Park


Movies on the Beach – Grab a beach blanket and cozy up on the sand while you watch a free summer flick under the stars.

Details:
Mondays and Fridays, June 23 – August 8, 8:30 p.m.
27th Street

Thursdays, July 3 - August 28, 8:30 p.m.
Princess Royale, 91st Street

Wednesdays, June 4 - August 27, 8:30 p.m.
Carousel Hotel, 118th Street


TRANSPORTATION
Maybe you've noticed that getting to the beach is getting more expensive. In addition to the $6 toll to cross the Bay Bridge, you’ll probably have to fill up your gas tank along the way. I noticed gas prices were about the same from Easton to Salisbury on my recent trip, but the price went up a few cents per gallon once I reached Ocean City.

I reached out to Jeanette Tejeda de Gomez with AAA Mid-Atlantic for some tips to help save fuel on the ride to the beach:

•  If you have a choice of vehicles, take the one that gets the best gas mileage.
•  Choose a route that enables you to travel at constant speeds and bypass congested areas as much as possible.
•  Start trips early in the day while traffic is light.
•  Don’t overload your vehicle because increased weight in your vehicle can reduce your miles per gallon.
•  Keep luggage inside the vehicle, rather than strapped on the roof, where it will create wind resistance.
•  Drive responsibly because aggressive driving wastes gas.

EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s important to realize that tax rates vary depending on where you are, which can affect what you pay at the pump.  For the lowest gas price, check out the interactive map featured on myfoxdc.com or download a price-tracking app.

After a long trip to the beach, you may want to park your car and take the Beach Bus. You can ride all day for $3.


FINAL THOUGHT
In addition to following these money-saving tips, sit down with your family and make a list of the things you want to accomplish on your vacation. You’ll have a lot more fun if you know everyone’s expectations ahead of time.

Make another list before you start packing. Forgetting your swimsuit, phone charger or medications can be costly and time-consuming once you reach your destination. Don’t forget to withdraw enough cash to avoid possible ATM fees.

And before you hit the road, check the latest weather and traffic conditions. Consider packing a cooler with food and beverages for the ride. It’ll cut down on the number of stops you need to make along the way and you can use the cooler for beach snacks.

Do you have a tip to save money on your summer vacation? Share it in the comments section below or on our FOX 5 DC & MyFoxDC Facebook page!

Michael Timmermann produces the 8 a.m. hour of Fox 5 News Morning. In his spare time, he writes money-saving articles for his personal website, Save on (Almost) Everything.


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