The Big Day Coming family is back from a weeklong vacation in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I promised my wife I’d stay away from the computer, so that meant no posts! But rest assured, I made plenty of foolish money decisions on vacation that I can learn from and share with you.
Renting Beach Chairs
I hadn’t run into this before, but apparently in places like Myrtle Beach the lifeguards set up pairs of beach chairs and a parasol (aka umbrella) that people can rent by the day. They get set up at 9am and taken down at 4pm. It’s a nice thing to try out, but having rented it for two days I can tell you: do not rent the lifeguard’s beach chairs!
The rate is $30 for the first day, $50 for two days and $70 for three days. I didn’t get a long enough peek at the guy’s clipboard after that. My mother-in-law gave us a small “go crazy” gift before we left, so we used that to rent the chairs for a couple days. It was a nice luxury to have, but all I could think of was that after about a single day of beach time you’d be better off buying chairs and an umbrella and even an umbrella “anchor” and still come out ahead. Which leads us to the beach stores you find all over…
Beach Stores are a Ripoff
Seriously, if you think you can buy any item in those stores elsewhere, please do. They’re all over the place down there going by various names: Beach Bums, Pacific Beachwear (aren’t we on the Atlantic?), Wings, Eagles, Whales, Kings… Here’s the thing: There are so many of them because they survive by charging ridiculous margins on their products. If you need beach chairs, a bathing suit or body boards they’re the easiest place to grab some, but your wallet will be much happier after driving around and finding a Target to get whatever you can. A good example? We bought some sunscreen at one of these places and it was $11.99. It lasted us two days (we’re really white). When we went to a CVS – another type of store known for ridiculous overpricing – it was $7.99. (as a baseline, Wal-Mart sells it for $6.97)
Ask About Drink Specials
My wife and I agreed to loosen the reins a little on our spending this vacation. We never had a honeymoon or “babymoon”. No fancy anniversary presents or dinner (we got her favorite local burger and fries mid-diet as our anniversary splurge). So while we were down in Myrtle Beach we tended to have a few drinks with our meals. What’s a vacation down south without some Margaritas, Daiquiris, and Hurricanes? I made the ultimate mistake the first night of just ordering drinks off the back of the menu. Come bill time we found out those drinks were $9.00 a piece. Having learned my lesson we asked about specials a couple nights later at another restaurant: $3 margaritas! They tend not to let you know these things at restaurants hoping you’ll buy plenty of unpriced drinks and pay for it later. Bars tend to be much more upfront about Happy Hour specials. Our last night we managed to get pizza slices, a pitcher of beer and quesadillas for about $15 as our full dinner because we took advantage of their daily and happy hour specials (while I sadly watched my NY Giants get mercilessly beaten).
Tune in later this week for some more lessons learned about avoiding bigger bills on vacation. Believe me, I learned the hard way…