How to vacation in Myrtle Beach on the cheap

by Kristen on June 28, 2011 · 40 comments

in Vacation

As you long-time readers know, the FG family often vacations (frugally, of course!) in Myrtle Beach. Though I don’t usually do such area-specific posts, Myrtle Beach is such a popular destination, some of you readers are bound to be Myrtle Beach vacationers as well.

And even if you’re never going to set foot in Myrtle Beach, I think some of these suggestions could be applicable to other vacation spots as well.

I started to write this post and it ended up getting awfully long. So as not to stress your attention spans, I decided to break it up into two posts, and I’ll probably publish the second post next Tuesday.

At least, that’s the plan.

Go off-season

This may not be possible for everyone (homeschooling definitely makes this tip easier for us to apply), but if you can manage to avoid going to the beach between Memorial Day and Labor Day, you can save yourself enormous amounts of money on accommodations.

For instance, a beach-front condo that costs $1200 to rent in July will often cost $600 after the first week of September.

The cheap prices aren’t the only upside, though.

-The weather is still very warm but not too hot in South Carolina (we usually experience 80s in September, and in May, the temperatures are usually in the upper 70s)

-The water is pleasantly warm (warmer than the Delaware ocean water is in August!).

-The crowds are much more manageable (this makes the beach and pretty much any other activity more enjoyable, as you don’t have to stand in long lines for anything).

Bring your linens/Do your departure cleaning

We rent through Elliott Realty every year (their prices are the best we’ve found), and unlike a lot of rental agencies, they let us choose if we want to pay for linens and departure cleaning.

Linen rental for the condo can cost between $75-$100 for a week, so we bring our own. We bring towels, sleeping bags for the kids (we just lay them on top of the beds, so it’s super easy to pack them up), and sheets for the master bed (it’s a king usually, which is bigger than our bed at home, so we just picked up an inexpensive set of sheets and we bring them with us each year).

The departure cleaning is definitely harder than bringing linens, but you can save about $125 by doing it yourself. And if $125 is the difference between being able to go to the beach and not being able to, you may decide doing your cleaning is totally worth it.

I usually do our departure cleaning, but when my sister and I stayed in a condo for a week with 8 children, we decided that the stress of cleaning it ourselves while trying to pack up might possibly put us over the edge. So, we paid for departure cleaning and I think it was a very wise choice.

I’m not trying to say that everyone should clean their own condo, but just know that the option might be there for you if you really need to pinch pennies.

Rent a place with a kitchen

Dining out, especially if you have a family, can get insanely expensive. We could easily spend more on dining out than on our condo, actually.

If you stay in a kitchen-less hotel room, you’ll pretty much be forced to eat out for the duration of your visit. If you rent a place that has even a fridge, though, you can at least buy cereal and milk and eat breakfast in your room.

A full kitchen makes the most sense for us, so we always rent a condo instead of a hotel room. We eat breakfast and lunch in the condo (well, sometimes we pack lunch to take wherever we’re going) and we eat most dinners in our condo as well.

Now, cooking fancy meals is not my idea of a vacation, so we keep things super simple. We eat cold cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, and our dinners are easy, quick meals like tacos, frozen pizza, spaghetti,or grilled hamburgers (most of the condos we stay in have charcoal grills available, although I must say that trying to light charcoal near the beach does require a small pile of matches!).

Get coupon books

These are available free all over the Myrtle Beach area…at your check-in location, at grocery stores, at drugstores, and so on. In North Myrtle Beach, you can grab almost every coupon book available across from the Tricia Lynn hotel in the Windy Hill section (coupon book dispensers are by the newsstands).

Not every coupon in the books will be useful to you, but you’ll probably find a keeper or two. We always use the Del Sol coupon each year (if you buy $5 worth of merchandise, you get a free $20 color-changing canvas bag). I use these bags for my groceries every single week and I love them.

You can find lots of coupons for dining, mini-golf, real golf, shows, and shopping, so always check in the coupon book before you go spend any money.

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Ok! That’s it for today, but I’ll hopefully have a second set of frugal Myrtle Beach tips for you next Tuesday (those tips will be about frugal activities).

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Today’s 365 post: This one’s for my mother-in-law

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

1 RuthS June 28, 2011 at 7:51 am

I assume you mean a set of inexpensive king sheets, not expensive? ;)

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2 Kristen June 28, 2011 at 7:59 am

Oh no, nothing but the best for us! We thought we’d need top of the line since we use them once a year. ;)

Just kidding…definitely a typo. Thanks for pointing it out so I could fix it.

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3 RuthS June 28, 2011 at 8:04 am

Haha, well maybe you found them at Goodwill? :) I just thought it was a super funny typo, considering the content.

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4 Kristen June 28, 2011 at 8:47 am

It’s weird what your fingers will do while typing, isn’t it? It’s like they have a mind of their own.

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5 arden June 28, 2011 at 8:05 am

We went off season one year and found the atmosphere unpleasant and the weather risk in August and September is worth mentioning .
Our solution to vacationing with a big family is to go every other year. Not ideal but that way mom and dad get some extras (like linen service and room cleaning) and honestly taking 8 kids on vacation is exhausting and it takes me some time to get my nerve up.
The cost of gas in our 15 passenger van is more than the groceries/entertainment budget combined. We pack our Aldi groceries and only shop at the beach (I love the local market in Cherry Grove) for little things. But you can only get it but so cheap.

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6 Kristen June 28, 2011 at 8:44 am

I’m curious what you mean by the atmosphere…do you just not like it to be quieter?

I really like that things are a little calmer in September and May, but that’s my personal preference. :)

August and September are indeed in hurricane season, but in 14 years of going at that time, we’ve never had a weather problem. Yay!

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7 arden June 29, 2011 at 4:11 pm

It seemed like they rolled up the sidewalks when we went the 1st week of August one year. It should have seemed peaceful but to me it felt abandoned. I love quiet beaches and would prefer Nags Head but dh will not swim in cold water and the surf is too rough there for our little ones.
I have only been forced out a few times and one was our honeymoon in mid August in Ocean City, Maryland. Guess it made an impression.

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8 Patti June 28, 2011 at 8:19 am

Hi Kristen,

For years I rented the same small condo in Crescent Bch. I also cleaned myself to save the fee. The owner liked how I left if so much he asked if I’d be willing to go over occasionally to clean to save him a trip. It was only 1 1/2 hours from Gainesville so I did a few times and it was great! Check-out was 11a on Saturday and check-in 4p on Sunday. I got there about 11:30. It normally took less than two hours to clean so I then had the whole afternoon, night and next day at the beach! All for free!

You might have done this already but if you haven’t, sign up for Groupon and Living Social for Myrtle Beach. You might get some great deals for dinners or activities. One of those services now has a family offering section.

Patti

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9 Kristen June 28, 2011 at 8:45 am

I’m planning on doing the Groupon/Living Social thing this year! Hopefully some good deals will pop up before we go.

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10 Ellen June 28, 2011 at 8:22 am

We thought about going there this summer, but as you point out the prices are a big high for the summer…
The link for the rental agency isn’t working… :(

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11 Kristen June 28, 2011 at 8:46 am

Try the link now…I redid it, and it’s working for me.

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12 Sharon June 28, 2011 at 8:32 am

Great ideas, and we do most of them when we go to the lake. Unfortunately we have to follow the public school schedule, but there are still bargains to be had! We do bring our own linens, towels, etc. I will pre-make some meals ahead of time so that I can have a break during the week too! Eating out is too expensive, but when you grill on your deck with a view of the water, it still feels like vacation!

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13 Kristen June 28, 2011 at 8:46 am

Oh, totally. Beach-front grilling is hardly torture. ;)

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14 Amy June 28, 2011 at 9:00 am

Next summer, we’re planning on a beach vacation to…somewhere, not sure yet. It’ll be the first year my family has been able to afford a real vacation, so these tips are definitely handy – especially for beginners. I had no idea that renting linens was an option! Thanks for the ideas!

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15 Lauren June 28, 2011 at 9:04 am

Off season saves so much money. My family does the Outer Banks not Myrtle Beach, but the house we rented for this September only costs $1500 for the week instead of $4000 for a week in July. The rental company we use includes cleaning and linens in their pricing which I really like. I wouldn’t mind brings sheets and towels, but I love not having to make beds when we get there and not cleaning on the last morning. This year we are going with my parents and my sister and her husband, so the rental cost gets sPlit 3 ways — even cheaper!

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16 Linda June 28, 2011 at 9:06 am

We just came back from a beach vacation to Ocean City, MD. We shared a condo with another family (4 bedrooms, 3 baths). There were 11 people in the condo and it was certainly big enough to fit all of us comfortably. We were a short walk (less than a block from the boardwalk with no crossing streets). We had some young kids, so that was important. We paid $750 each family for the condo (Thurs-Mon). I think we probably spent about $1400 with gas from Massachusetts for 5 of us. Not bad! We cooked breakfast each morning, packed snacks and water, cooked one full meal of spag and meatballs, ate leftovers for lunch and went to 3 really great restaurants for dinner. I don’t think that’s bad for $1400.

I really like the condo rentals because we save so much on food and have more room. For spring vacation we went to Kiawah Island, SC and had a great time. We spent signifiantly more money but we stayed for a week at the beach/resort. We probably spent about $3000 total but it was worth it! We went out for only 3 meals during our weeks stay. The savings allowed me to say “yes” when the kids wanted smoothies by the pool.

You can also save big by bringing/buying a case of water or bring a refillable water bottle. Bring all snacks and stuff for breakfast. Refridgerators and microwaves in the room really help cut down on the cost.

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17 jestjack June 28, 2011 at 9:11 am

Any hints on savings while vacationing in Rehobeth Beach Delaware? They have raised the parking fees…again. And it seems everything there has gotten more and more expensive. Sad as we had enjoyed going there for the last couple of years. Thanks in advance for your help.

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18 adventuresindinner June 28, 2011 at 9:16 am

Thanks so much for the tips. That kitchen idea is key. Eating out three meals a day is crazy. You would arrive home with an empty bank account and no clothes that fit.

We did a similar trip to that in Scotland and had the most fun just touring the grocery stores as they were “different”.

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19 Sarah June 28, 2011 at 9:22 am

We just got back from MB about a week ago, oh well. Thankfully, we did a lot of the things you advise and it did save a ton of $$. We went to breakfast the first morning we were there because we hadn’t gone grocery shopping yet, and were floored to pay $40 for a very modest breakfast for our family of 4. The only advise we cannot use is go off season since our kids are’t homeschooled.

We went with my mother and her friend, so sharing the costs of a condo made it much less expensive. We also got a fantastic deal ($600 total for the week) for our 2 bedroom condo, with full kitchen, linens, cleaning and washer/dryer) because my mother agreed to hear a 90 minute timeshare talk. Because our condo rooms weren’t as promised (2 rooms with 2 queen size beds each), she didn’t eve have to go to her timeshare meeting-so yay for us!

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20 EngineerMom June 28, 2011 at 9:31 am

We rented a condo on the North Shore of Lake Superior for our honeymoon so we could save money on food, too! My parents had given us $2000 as a gift to use towards our honeymoon, and we only ended up spending $300 of our own money. The total cost included the gas to get to/from the Twin Cities, eating out every night, going horseback riding, going on the alpine slide, and enjoying a few lunches out. We made French press coffee, homemade oatmeal, and OJ for breakfast every morning, something we still make occasionally to remind us of that wonderful first week of our marriage.

In comparison, my best friend from college spent $2000+ just on her plane tickets to get to/from Spain, another friend spent $3000+ on a week in Cancun, and another friend spent almost $5000 on an expensive all-inclusive resort in Mexico.

Not traveling far for our honeymoon had two benefits, too – it was so much more relaxing, since we weren’t tied to an airline schedule, and we went somewhere we can go again, so we didn’t feel pressured to do absolutely every activity offered. In fact, we returned a year later with my in-laws, and got to do a few of the things we’d skipped on that first trip in favor of spending more time together.

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21 Renee June 28, 2011 at 10:42 am

We vacation every year in Estes Park, CO and do so many of these same things! I felt really sorry for myself the first year that we did it, having to cook (and clean before we leave) on vacation etc. But after other vacations spending $50 for our family just to have hot dogs and sodas, the pity party was over (if I’m going to spend $50 eating out, it sure better not be on hot dogs!)

I use the crock pot a lot, which makes it feel like I’m not really cooking – we come home after hiking & dinner’s ready. I also have found that my kids love that we have mostly the same meals every time, they like the tradition of that (there’s even one meal that I rarely make other than vacation, and they look forward to that every year.) And I let them pick cold cereal that I won’t ever buy at home (hello, Cocoa Puffs!), which they love.

We also got a tip to look for restaurants in the area that are on restaurants.com, and so this year the one time we did eat in town we got a ridiculously good deal.

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22 Patti June 28, 2011 at 4:18 pm

I’ve used restaurant.com in 4 different cities while on vacation. Worked out great! I made the mistake and pre-printed one that we didn’t get to use in Boston. When I called customer service they put a $25 credit on my account.

Patti

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23 Kayla June 28, 2011 at 11:04 am

My husband and I have rented a condo for two of our vacations – one on the Oregon coast on our honeymoon and again in Hawaii. We made our own breakfast and lunch and ate out for dinner. It’s really nice to be able to save some $$ and have a few options for meals without leaving the condo! It’s especially nice if you want to remain in your pajamas for a while. :)

I didn’t know about the bringing your own linens or cleaning yourself, though. I’ll have to look into it for next time.

I love your suggestions – keep them coming! :)

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24 Marcia B June 28, 2011 at 11:07 am

We did all this just this May, staying at a 2 bedroom condo in North Myrtle Beach for $600. We did discover though, that every mid-May is Bike Week in Myrtle Beach, so there were thousands of people on Harley-Davidsons roaring all through town all week. Beaches were pretty empty though, and the water was warm, but you still might want to avoid that week if you prefer quiet!

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25 Kristen June 28, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Oh, good point! I booked our May week purposely to avoid the bike weeks (there are two in May).

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26 Tracey June 28, 2011 at 11:27 am

We are very lucky to live 5 minutes walk from the beach here, in the Algarve (Portugal) but this does mean that we are very aware of “out of season” differences.
We rarely, if ever, visit the beach and other local attractions, despite its proximity, during the summer season because it is crazy busy.
But, of course, we’re also lucky enough to live close enough to it that we can do it after school or at the weekend off-season (and, when we can get 70+ temperature days even in November to March, this helps too!)
Definitely, out of season is the way to go. I’d rather do a weekend off season than spend a fortune on a week in the crowds.
There’s so much more fun to be had :-)
Oh, and I just LOVE the 3-white-dresses photo of the girls!

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27 Christine June 28, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Thanks for the info. We’ve been wanting to take a vacation there. :)

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28 Diane June 28, 2011 at 12:27 pm

What a perfectly timed post for me! We will be venturing to MB with our 3 kiddos for the first time in September! Like you, our kids are young “enough” that even missing their school schedule isn’t a huge deal and the condo deals are amazing. Now, how about tips on riding in a car with 3 kids from here to South Carolina?! :)

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29 Rachel June 28, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Thanks so much for the tips!!!

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30 Tara@riceandbeanslife June 28, 2011 at 3:03 pm

I, too, love that homeschooling allows for off season vacationing! Definitely a great benefit! Your post makes me so want to head for Myrtle Beach. We should have done it when we lived on that side of the country and never did. It looks lovely!

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31 WilliamB June 28, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Some general tips:

1. Stay a few blocks away from the big attraction. The rental cost of being right next door is quite high.

2. Get a kitchen or at least a fridge & microwave. If you’re in a hotel, book at one with free breakfast. (Good idea for business trips as well as vacations.) Staybridge Suites offers suites (BR + LR + kit) for about the same price as a room, has a good free breakfast, and has meal-sized “snacks” T, W, Th. Holiday Inn Express offers fridge, microwave, and decent free breakfast.

3. Do your shopping outside the tourist area.

4. Ask for a discount for using cash.

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32 snailmailfan June 28, 2011 at 3:45 pm

My gosh, whatever happened to camping? You know, in a tent? With a Coleman stove and a cooler as a kitchen? With a shower block shared with fifty other people? And with sand everywhere?

Perhaps it’s just not possible in Myrtle Beach, I’ve never been there, but I really have to say that reading this post and the comments, reminds me that as a kid, it was super-exciting and RARE for us to stay in a hotel/motel/cabin/condo while on summer vacation. (And even on winter vacation, once we got to some place warm enough, we usually pitched the tent.)

We had a big family sized tent, our passenger van, and we rocked across (a lot of) North America. Never thought of us as deprived kids because we were staying in a tent! In fact, the “inconveniences” became part of the fun – how fast can we throw up this tent? Who can carry the most fire wood? How many peas will boil over from the pot tonight? Although in recent years, I have noticed that there are fewer and fewer tenting-campers, and more and more camper vans and RVs in the parks and at vacation destinations, and in order to accomadate this change, the fees at camping sites have gotten higher as electricity is now provided to most sites…

Anyways, my number one “frugal” suggestion for cheap(er) family vacations is – don’t fear the tent! My family managed it when we were quite young – making some trips when my youngest sister was still a baby-in-arms!

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33 Kristen June 28, 2011 at 3:50 pm

I think Myrtle Beach has a campground down in Surfside, but I’m not sure if it’s set up for tent camping or just for RVs.

My family camped and camped and camped and camped when I was a kid (the real tent camping too, often in places with no real campsites!), but I have to say, for a relaxing vacation, I really like having a condo. And electricity. And a sink. And a washing machine. And AC.

And besides that, Mr. FG is even less fond of camping than I am. We do plan to take the kids on some shorter camping trips (they’ve gone on a couple of overnight camping trips with my parents too), but neither of us is desirous of doing it for our whole vacation.

To each his own, though! If a family enjoys camping, I say go for it. :)

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34 Lindsay at www.clothingloop.com June 28, 2011 at 8:46 pm

FYI- as a native S. Carolinian and avid camper, there’s a GREAT state park called Huntington Beach State Park just outside the hustle of Myrtle and right across from Brookgreen Gardens, I think it books up really fast though. Also, try Hunting Island State Park for an even quieter experience. You should consider pure deet your perfume of choice for the week at Hunting Island, though ;)

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35 Janknitz June 28, 2011 at 5:04 pm

We just went to Disneyland. It’s frugal for us because one of my husband’s siblings works there and we get in for free as his guests ;o). He can also get us a discount on hotels/motels but we found something even less expensive on our own.

There was a microwave and a fridge in the room and “continental breakfast” included. The breakfast wasn’t very good, but we were able to supplement with what we brought with us. Sandwiches were fine for lunch, but we did splurge and buy dinner both nights we were there, looking for bargains such as they are in that place. (Some of the restaurants in Downtown Disney have an outdoor dining option with a smaller, less expensive menu. There are also the usual chain restuarants all around the town near the resort.)

I was impressed by some fellow travelers, though. 17 family members were staying over the course of a few days. For dinners, they brrought along a little hibachi grill and made grilled skewers of meat and vegies one night, hot dogs the next. One night they got take-out pizza. Between all the fridges in their rooms, the microwaves, and the little grill, they had all their meals covered and saved a ton of money instead of eating out. What a good idea!

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36 Janelle June 28, 2011 at 6:15 pm

We always rent from Elliott when we go to MB! I like that they don’t require you to buy travel insurance and will refund for mandatory hurricane evacuations (unfortunately from experience). We haven’t been in a few years because flights out there have gotten so expensive.

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37 Katy June 28, 2011 at 8:55 pm

Great ideas! I love going to the beach, and we always try to go off season, less crowds, and we have been able to get great deals off season at B&Bs, its just me and my husband though, and we have trouble finding places small enough/affordable enough that also have kitchens for us, so we end up having to eat dinner and lunch out :(

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38 Danielle@sixtasteschef June 29, 2011 at 12:57 am

I completely agree about the kitchen. The last two ‘big’ vacations we’ve taken (Europe included!) we saved so much cash by renting vacation apartments with a kitchen. One thing I especially love about having a kitchen is the more leisurely morning; there’s no rushing to shower and change before heading out to a restaurant for breakfast!

We also do a lot of tent camping, and as one of your readers already noted, that saves even more money :)

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39 Lynn D. July 21, 2011 at 10:03 am

Love all of your tips and actually use a few of them myself. We have rented cabins quite a few times in TN. We have found them to be more reasonably priced than hotels and they have the kitchen. We always go grocery shopping before leaving home. We bring along our food for breakfasts, lunch and some dinners. We also bring snacks, cases of water and also our pop. I also bring ziploc bags to put leftovers in so that we can have them the next day for another meal. Thanks for all your great tips.

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40 Jay M September 29, 2014 at 10:49 am

I have been going to a place south of Myrtle Beach called North Litchfield Beach for 28 years now and when my children were younger we would always go right before Memorial Day and it was great. Everything was open getting ready for the tourist season and it was like we were the only ones there. If you ask the locals though they can tell you where you could go out to eat that wouldn’t strain your budget. There are lots of little places to eat that are very affordable there.

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