Best Budget Beaches

Living on a budget, but still craving a beach vacation? Luckily, the 2 are not mutually exclusive — but you do have to plan wisely. Here’s how to get the most bang for your buck.

Shop discount booking sites such as Liberty Travel, Apple Vacations,Cheapcaribbean.com and Priceline.com

Buy a package of air, hotel and rental car. You usually pay less than you would if you purchased the components separately. Check the companies listed above for deals, plusExpedia, Travelocity, Orbitz and individual airline sites. Just be sure to do the math before you click.

Check the official tourism sites of the state, island or region you want to visit. Many feature sections offering discounts on lodging, dining, activities and more.

Think outside the hotel box. Vacation Rentals by Owners and Craigslist eliminate the middleman, and B&B-cum-social-networking sites like Airbnb.com and iStopOver offer wide selections of rooms at bargain rates. Many hostels [www.hostelworld.com] now offer private rooms and cushy amenities, and some are located in prime beach destinations. For the truly frugal, there’s Couchsurfing, GlobalFreeloaders.com andHospitality Club, whose members offer up their sofas or spare bedrooms for free. Checking references is key.

Focus on towns or regions that feature low-key cottages and motels, or are near state and national seashores. Instead of Miami Beach, for example, try the Florida Panhandle; instead of Santa Monica, try California’s Huntington Beach; instead of Cape Cod, try Rhode Island’s South County. Info on each is below, along with a couple more of our favorite budget-friendly strands.