Well, here it goes, my first real blog post. As some of you might have seen on my Instagram, my hubby and I recently returned from a week long vacation in Exuma, The Bahamas. I’ve been getting some questions on how much we paid to vacation there and how we are able to travel as often as we do. I’m going to let you in on my travel secrets, are you ready?! Grab a snack, get cozy, and follow these simple tips on how you can travel on a budget. Before you get to the deets, you should know that nothing in this post is sponsored, these are just my personal thoughts and preferences.
For the past two years, we had The Bahamas on the brain. We decided that 2017 would be the year and were beyond excited. I could not wait to lay my eyes on that crystal clear water in real life. But truthfully, we were unsure about how we were going to afford it with our other travels, and well, life.
The key to travelling on a budget is being flexible with your travel dates. When I started pricing out flights, I was unsure about when we were going to travel. I busted out Google Flights to determine the cheapest time and found that December is when we should go… hello, early Christmas present! I was able to track flight prices for various days in December over a period of time. For me, that was about three months before I found a deal that we couldn’t pass up. The great thing about Google Flights is that it highlights the cheapest travel dates on the calendar, allowing you to make the best decision, and brings you right to the airlines website for easy booking.
Now that you’ve determined which dates you’ll be travelling and have found an awesome deal on your flights (yay!), you can decide where you want to stay. If you’re looking to stay at a resort, be prepared to pay the resort price and keep in mind that a lot of them are not all inclusive. I’m sorry if this makes you sad, but I promise that it will all be okay!!
Using April 6-12, 2018 as a reference point for pricing out resorts, the cheapest rate for two people, per night, at Atlantis in Nassau is $263.94 USD. If you’re interested in going to Exuma, Hideaways at Palm Bay’s rate is $237.64 USD. On the plus side, these prices do include resort fees and taxes. If you’re interested in saving half of what you would spend at a resort, you should consider using Airbnb. I looove Airbnb! You can filter for all your needs; desired price range, whether you want a single room or an entire place, do you want parking? a kitchen? a pool? to bring your pet? You name it, there’s probably a filter for it. I also find that staying at an Airbnb forces you to immerse yourself in the local culture and allows you to see more than you would staying at a resort. I priced out the exact Airbnb that we stayed at for the above mentioned dates, and the price per night for the entire place is $130.08 USD including all taxes and fees.
You can check out the Airbnb we stayed at here. If you’re interested in staying, the host will give you a discount on the half day swimming pigs tour which is an added bonus! You definitely can’t go to The Bahamas without swimming with the piggies. A little piece of advice, watch your back because they might bite you in the bum…
If you didn’t grab a snack before, now is the time because we are going to talk food. In order to save extra on our vacation, we chose to buy groceries and cook our own meals. We also packed some yummy snacks and dried goods from home such as oatmeal, protein powder, almonds, granola bars, pasta, and chips. For a week long vacation, we only ate out for dinner on two nights. I know, how boring? But, the groceries we bought went a long way and saved us a lot of money. For the week, groceries cost us approximately $120 USD and we even had some leftover at the end which we left in the fridge for the next guest. If you’re going out for dinner, expect to spend between $15-30 USD per person. Although a little pricey, the food is delicious and you won’t be disappointed.
Car Rentals and Transportation
Since we selected an Airbnb within walking distance to a beach and a grocery store (both recommended), and were out on the water for two days, we didn’t find it necessary to rent a car for our entire stay. Car rentals are pretty expensive in Exuma and are honestly all crap boxes.
We rented from Berlies Car Rental which cost us $60 USD per day. At first, we thought that it would be an easy process but we ended up wasting half a day chasing the rental around the neighbourhood. We started the process by filling out the online web form and had requested delivery to the Airbnb. Yeah… no, that didn’t happen. When the car didn’t arrive at the requested time, we called Berlies to confirm our order. Turns out, they misread it and were under the impression we were picking the car up at the rental place. This wasn’t even the annoying part. Once the car was on it’s way to us, we received a call saying that they didn’t want to drop it at our Airbnb. Instead, they were going to take it to the daycare around the corner. Long story short, they weren’t at the daycare and we spent the next while running around in the heat, hoping that we could locate the rental… super fun. We received a little beater with no shocks, most likely from driving up and down the pot hole ridden roads. It was also an adjustment driving on the left side of the road and the right side of the car.
We chose to rent the car for our last two days so that we could drive ourselves back to the airport. I should mention that when we received the car, it had a full tank and only cost $20 USD to fill before returning it. Having a rental was super convenient since there is no public transportation and Taxi’s are basically non-existent on the island. If you’re planning on getting around, you will definitely need a car. Even though it was a pain in the butt to rent the car, it really did turn our relaxing vacation into an exciting adventure.
Excursions and Activities
This was the part of our vacation where we broke the bank but also had the most fun! We took two boat tours (unnecessary), a half day and a full day, and spent an afternoon at the Chat n’ Chill.
The half day swimming pigs boat tour, as I mentioned above, was discounted by the hosts of our Airbnb because they own the tour company, Exuma Water Sports. The regular price of this tour is $150 USD per person, without tax. For those of you who are wondering, tax in The Bahamas is 7.5%. Since we were staying with them, the discounted price with transportation was a flat $125 USD per person. If you have your own transportation, the cost of the tour is even cheaper at $100 USD per person.
The full day swimming pigs boat tour (to a different pig island) cost $180 USD per person, including tax. The tour company that we went with for the full day tour is Exuma Water Tours: Four C’s Adventure. This tour ends up being more costly as you also stop for an authentic Bahamian buffet for an additional charge of $20-$25 USD per person, and if you want to swim with the nurse sharks, it’s again, an additional $10 USD per person. The day we went on this tour, the price of lunch was $22.50 USD per person. With all the add-ons, you’re looking at a total cost of $215 USD per person, assuming lunch is priced at $25 USD. I should add that this tour included transportation as well, but with the lack of addresses in Exuma, arranging the pickup location was also difficult and another story in itself.
Although each tour stopped at different cays (the little islands comprising Exuma), it is certainly not necessary to do both. There were pros and cons to each, which I have reviewed here. Fun fact, Exuma has approximately 365 cays and the ones we saw were ah-mah-zing!
Chat n’ Chill – It costs $15 USD per person to catch a round trip boat ride from the Government docks to the island where Chat n’ Chill is located. There is an awesome pig roast at the Chat n’ Chill on Sundays which cost $15 USD for a plate. You can also enjoy a fresh conch salad… if you can ignore the fact that they killed it, and ripped it out of it’s shell right in front of you (ha, clearly I did not enjoy the conch salad). If you like cats like I do, you’ll be happy to notice a couple cuties running around. The bay is speckled with dreamy yachts and the beach is stunning, totally worth a visit!
Well there you have it! Now you can travel to The Bahamas, or anywhere else, for a reasonable price. The Bahamas are amazing and I definitely recommend making the trip.
Things To Know Before You Go
- There are no addresses in Exuma
- Don’t expect the same quality of car rental as you would at home
- Be prepared to dodge pot holes when driving
- Be prepared for left hand driving
- Access areas to beaches are not obvious
- Be mindful when walking near roads, especially at night
- Best Beaches to visit in Exuma