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(MCT)—Beach vacations are popular with travelers at any time of year, but often come with a prohibitive price tag. Snorkeling, shelling and reading are some of my favorite ways to unwind at the seashore, and I always make sure I’m getting the best rate for my getaway. Enjoy frugal waterfront fun with these simple strategies.

Location: Lesser-known destinations frequently offer a similar experience for far less cash. For example, when I wanted an affordable waterfront nature experience in Ecuador, I passed on the Galapagos and opted instead for the rural village of Ayampe. While it was necessary to share the beach with a few chickens and the occasional stray donkey, my private beachfront cabana clocked in at a price of only $26 per night. The cabin tents across the street cost half that amount.’s Dian Emery is a fan of alternative locations as well, having just returned from La Paz, Mexico. According to Emery, this beachside getaway offers amazing snorkeling and serenity at roughly 20 percent less than the more heavily touristed Las Cabos.

Packages: For further deals, Emery also searches out package deals directly from the website of the hotel where she is planning to stay. Special rates are often available, saving precious travel pennies for other vacation expenses, such as adventure activities.

Season: One powerful option for working around the pricier rates at sought-after destinations is to vacation during the off season. If your travel agenda is more about the serenity of crashing waves and walkable stretches of sand, then booking accommodations during the chillier times of year should do the trick. Maine’s Old Orchard Beach is a fraction of the cost once the temperature begins to drop, and provides long stretches of sand that Rover can enjoy too.

Parks: Several national parks and seashores are available for affordable enjoyment in the United States. For example, Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida offers world-class birding, snorkeling and beach access, along with a 50 percent camping fee discount to those with a national parks pass. Similarly, Assateague National Seashore offers shelling, camping, kayaking and more.

Theriault is the best-selling co-author of the book “10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget,” and founder of, a website for independent travelers. She also founded, a website for teachers.

© 2011, McClatchy-Tribune News Service.