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10 Tips For Vacationing Long Beach Island on a Budget

Long Beach Island, New Jersey is a beach vacation destination for people on the east coast of the USA. It is especially popular among people driving down from New York City looking for a cheaper alternative to The Hamptons. When I say “cheaper”- I mean it’s still really expensive. So you probably need all the help to save money you possibly can!

Houses on the beach in LBI can cost over $1,000 a night. Credit: Shutterstock

10. Book Your Accommodations Off the Island

Not everyone is lucky enough to have access to beachfront property. When you book a large house on Long Beach Island, it costs roughly $650 to $1,000 a night, and many of the hotel rooms are $300 or more. If you bring a big group of friends to stay in a house, you may be able to get away with spending $100 to $200 a night if you split the cost. However, if you are trying to go for a family vacation, you need to pay for it all on your own.

Yes, there are budget motels, but even they are expensive, too! The only way to save a lot more money on your accommodation is to stay on the mainland, and drive into LBI. Check out the AirBnB listings of the nearby towns of Manahawkin, Tuckerton, and Eagleswood. Homes in those towns typically only cost $100 to $200 per night, which is far more affordable for anyone looking to stay an entire week. 

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The ferry takes people from the Tuckerton seaport to Long Beach Island. Credit: The Tuckerton Seaport

9. Take The Ferry From Tuckerton to LBI

For years, Tuckerton was a tiny retirement community. In recent years, more and more young people have been moving in, and they brought an artistic community with them. Today, there is an adorable cafe, brewery, concerts in the park, food truck festivals, and more- And it’s all just a few miles away from LBI.

In 2019, The Tuckerton Seaport began offering ferry rides across the bay, so for just a few dollars, you can avoid the traffic and go over the water to LBI. Of course, the one and only problem is that if you take the ferry, you won’t have a car on the island to get around. It’s perfect if you are staying on the mainland, and the only thing you want to do is walk to the beach for the day. Tickets are $5 per person, and there is a discount if you have a membership to the Seaport. Check out their schedule for dates and times.

Long Beach Island requires you to purchase beach passes. Credit: Pexels

8. Buy Your Beach Pass Off-Season

During the summer, a beach tag on LBI costs $7 per person, or $20 if you plan to stay the entire week. If you live close enough to go every weekend, a season pass is $40 per person for the entire summer. The best value for your money is to spend $30 for an off-season pass. This is good for the whole year.  Check out their website for the full chart of pricing.

Pro tip? If you go to the beach later on in the day after 5PM, you can usually get away without paying anything at all. Beach tags are only enforced during certain hours. And, if you decide to go in the off-season in the spring or fall, you can usually get on the beach for free, too.

LBI is a great place to go surfing. Credit: Pexels

7. Rent Your Surfboards Instead of Buying

There are some people out there who get this idea in their head that they can justify the price of buying a surfboard, because they will definitely learn how to surf by the end of summer vacation. Sadly, this is almost never the reality. Then, you are stuck keeping a surfboard in your garage for years. (Yes, I speak from experience.)  Other people run into issues when they buy a surfboard from somewhere like Ron Jon without actually knowing which board would suit their height, weight, and skill level.

Your best bet is to sign up for a local surf class, and rent a board for at least your first session. If you truly do fall in love with the sport, you can always buy one later. And if you hate it, you have saved yourself a couple hundred dollars, and the hassle of trying to bring it home. There are several different surfing schools on the island to choose from, and they are available to all age groups. Some even offer a week-long program for kids. Prices will vary depending on what you get, but expect to pay between $50 to $100 per lesson.  

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The “Great Wheel” at Fantasy Island LBI. Credit: Fantasy Island

6. Get Discounted Rides and Games at Fantasy Island LBI

One of the greatest places to take kids on Long Beach Island is the Fantasy Island amusement park. They have great rides, games, magic shows, and a huge arcade. The one and only downside is the fact that one token is $1, but you might need 3 to 5 tokens per ride. If you have more than one child, you’ll easily blow $100 per kid by the end of the night if you aren’t careful.

Join the Fantasy Island e-mail list, because you can get e-mailed offers for discounted season passes. These are usually sold during the winter months. Check out their calendar of events for select “guest appreciation days”, where unlimited rides are just $10 to $20 per person.

A beer flight from the Pinelands Brewing Co. in Egg Harbor, NJ. Credit: Shannon Quinn

5. Find Entertainment on the Mainland

One of the great things about LBI is just how much there is to do. However, since everyone goes there on vacation, prices are inflated to take advantage of the tourists. Lucky for you, there are loads of amazing restaurants, bars, amusement parks, movie theaters, and so much more in the towns on the mainland that are more affordable. And, of course, LBI is not too far away from Atlantic City. This is a great place to go for gambling, concerts, and food you can’t find anywhere else in NJ, like Gordon Ramsay’s Pub & Grill in Caesar’s Palace. 

If you have kids, check out places like Calloway’s in Eagleswood. They have a driving range, go karts, rides, and an arcade, and it is much cheaper than Fantasy Island. They might also enjoy Ripley’s Believe it or Not and The Rainforest Cafe in Atlantic City. 

When you go to LBI, take advantage of happy hour. Credit: Shutterstock

4. Take Advantage of Happy Hour

If you go looking for a drink in the evening on LBI, expect to pay between $10 to $20 per drink, plus tips. (Yikes)  According to Yelp, there are plenty of dive bars scattered throughout the island, if you know where to look. There are also usually Happy Hour specials at many of the bars, restaurants, and hotels on the island. If you are looking to save money, get started early. If you really must got at night, you can try to strategize, too. Before you go anywhere, check their Instagram or Facebook to see if there is a drink special going on that day. 

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The Barnegat Lighthouse State Park. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

3. Check Out the Barnegat Lighthouse

One of the most iconic places to visit on LBI is Barnegat Lighthouse State Park. Parking is free, and you can choose to just walk around the park, have lunch on one of the picnic tables or gazebos, and check out the water without spending any money. Many people also stand along the peer fishing, so you should bring your gear, if that’s your thing. Lighthouse tours costs $3 per person above the age of 12, $1 for kids age 6 to 11, and free for kids 5 and under.

It’s okay to be at least a little bit fancy on LBI. Credit: Shutterstock

2. Feeling Bougie? Splurge Wisely

It is way too easy to accidentally spend a ton of money on Long Beach Island. Between the restaurants, shopping, and entertainment, you may get caught up in the fancy lifestyle, only to check your bank account later and feeling like you’re going to faint. It is best to have a budget in your mind at the beginning of the day, and try to find places that are actually worth spending a bit extra, because it will end up being an amazing experience.

My favorite place to go is Daddy O’s Hotel, restaurant, and bar.  In the daytime, you can arrive in casual attire and enjoy their luxurious outdoor patio bar area. At night, it’s best to dress up to sit inside, go to the fire pit, or the rooftop terrace. Best part about the hotel? It’s mere steps from the ocean. 

There are fewer people on long beach island off-season. Credit: Shannon Quinn

1. Visit The Island Off-Season

One of the best times to visit Long Beach Island is in the off-season. Tourists are home for the summer, which means that there is no major traffic, and far less people trying to find a parking space. If you go in the spring and early autumn, you can still catch plenty of warm days to lay on the beach with a good book, or even take a dip in the water. Just keep in mind that a lot of the businesses will be closed during the winter. When in doubt, always check the website of a restaurant or store to see if they are open in the off-season. 

If you enjoyed this list, check out our advice for Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

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