PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Lots of people from our area will head to the beach this summer, and it’s not too late.

Even if you don’t have anything planned, you can actually save money.

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We went to Virginia Beach, a very popular destination for Pittsburghers, but we also looked at places like Myrtle Beach, Rehoboth Beach, Ocean City, Maryland, and Cape May, N.J.

Many people prefer to drive to these destinations, but if you are planning to fly, there are some things to remember:

#1 – Sign up to get fare alerts from AirFareWatchDog.com. You can select airports closest to the beaches you’re interested in, and for free, they’ll let you know if there’s deal. And if Myrtle Beach is your preferred destination, keep in mind that Spirit Airlines out of Latrobe flies direct and parking is free.

#2 – When it comes to where you stay, it might sound strange, but you may want to go big. Jim Moffatt from Sandbridge Realty in Virginia Beach says you can get more bang for your buck by going for a bigger rental house and sharing it.

#3 – If you’re going with a hotel room, consider one with a kitchen, so you can cook meals in. And, if you go that route, be sure to buy your groceries before you go to the beach, where prices are generally higher.

#4 – Check out AirBNB. It’s a website where you can rent just a room, or a whole house, directly from a property owner. For example, we found a Craftsman style barn in Virginia Beach for just $90 a night in late June.

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#5 – Call the hotel directly. The hotel staff knows their inventory much better than someone on the other end of a 1-800-number.

#6 – Remember to ask about military or AAA discounts, if applicable. One hotel in Virginia Beach quoted us $239 a night, but that became $209 for a AAA member.

#7 – Look for brand new hotels offering Grand Opening deals. For example, we found a Hilton in Virginia Beach opening this month, and if you stay four nights, they’ll throw in the fifth night free.

#8 – Be flexible with your travel plans. When you go the beach can make a difference. For example, you can save a ton of money if you’re willing to wait until after Labor Day to go. Peak rates are usually from mid-June to mid-August, with the priciest time being the July 4 holiday. You can also save additional money if you go mid-week instead of over a weekend, sometimes as much as 30 percent.

Once you’ve got your dates picked and places to stay, freebies and things to do under $20 can really keep your grand vacation total lower. For instance, in Virginia Beach, the Military Aviation Museum has one of the largest private collections of military aircraft, and it’s only $12 for adults and $6 for kids. Most beach towns have coupon books designed to help you find things to do on a budget.


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David Highfield