How to Have a Long Weekend in Sanibel, Florida on a Budget

Labor Day weekend has been a great time for me to reflect back on our recent long weekend getaway in Sanibel Island. We actually went in early celebration of Mr. ArtSea Chic's 29th birthday, but it also happened to be perfect timing for a break from city life.

We couldn't take off of work too long for this trip, so we decided a Friday morning through Monday evening trip was the best length of time and use of our budget.

From having been to Sanibel three times in the past, I knew we wouldn't want to spend over $2,000 total (including airfare and transportation) for a four day getaway. So I created a duel travel itinerary budget to help us plan out our total expenses before getting to the island - then the expenses left to pay when we arrived. This way, we were prepared and could relax even more!

Here's a breakdown of our actual key expenses that I over budgeted before the trip to make sure we were go to go:

- Efficiency suite for 3 nights atGulf Breeze Cottages $582.75

- Non-resident Florida fishing licenses $17

- Grocery shopping at Jerry's Supermarket $119.30

- Eating breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert out at a restaurant $210.41

- Parking at public beaches $23.50

Captiva Cruises Cayo Costa beach and shelling cruise (half day) $89

- Shopping at Periwinkle Place $13.77 (I know I can't believe we spent that little!ha)

- Leaving our car at the airport $80

Southwest airlines round-trip airfare and food at the airport $676.79

- Rental car via Budget car rentals (and gas to fill up upon returning) $124.68

TOTAL SPENT = $1,937.20

We came in under budget! After paying closer attention to how we could cut back even more, we could probably significantly cut the eating out budget by more than half and lower our grocery budget as well. We actually ended up having to give some of our groceries to the Gulf Breeze Cottages office when we checked out because we had too much left.

Now on to the more interesting stuff... what we did on the island keeping within our budget!

Note: I unfortunately dropped my phone in the water during the trip and won't have some key photos to share, but you'll see what I was able to recover and from using Mr. ArtSea Chic's phone.

Day 1 we had a 6 AM flight connecting from Houston to Atlanta, then flew to Fort Myers and arrived on the island around noon. We picked up our little rental car and then zoomed off to Sanibel. We couldn't wait for that feeling you get while your driving down the causeway! :)

To make the best use of time in the car, we first stopped to get fishing licenses at Norm Zeigler's Fly Shop and then went down the road to Jerry's Supermarket for groceries for the weekend. To save some money, we planned to eat at the cottage for lunch and then explore the beach that would be outside our cottage door for the next four days.

Gulf Breeze Cottages was our favorite find for a place directly on the beach, steps away from the water at an affordable price. In the past we had always stayed in a condo, so spending our weekend in an old Floridian cottage was definitely a new experience. Basic necessities - that's all we needed!

The property had grills and picnic tables, a place to rinse your feet when coming off the beach, and parking spaces marked with cut-outs of fish. We even saw one of the rare green iguanas. :)

After spending an afternoon at our beach, there was nothing better than coming back to our cottage suite and being able to prepare burgers on the grill right outside. Mr. ArtSea Chic was quite the grill master that evening! We had dinner on the porch of our cottage and watched the sunset with a beautiful sunset and rainbow to top the night. We went to sleep early so we'd be all rested for our cruise to Cayo Costa in the morning, beachin' and shelling for half the day - we couldn't say no to that.

On the morning of Day 2, we arrived at Captiva Cruise's HQ inside McCarthy's Marina on Captiva Island. We loaded up and then headed out on the water.

Note: This is the adventure where my phone died from salt water, so from here on out I used Mr. ArtSea Chic's phone when possible. :)

The cruise was about a thirty-five minute sail to the island of Cayo Costa, notorious for it's pristine waters, shelling, driftwood and fishing. Once we arrived we had about 1.5 hours to explore the shoreline before heading back to the boat. Mr. ArtSea Chic snorkeled and found a couple sand dollars, whelks and got to swim near a school of snook. As I was mainly beachcombing on the sand (expect for wading once and killing my phone :( ugh) I saw two southern black racer snakes in the brush, found some nice sand dollars and a relatively big lightning whelk.

When heading back to the marina, our captain stumbled upon a mother and baby dolphin swimming near the side of our boat and we slowed down to watch them play in our wake. They were so cute!

Being out in salty water and under a sunny sky can really slow you down - but it feels so AmAzzzing to be relaxed on the island! We were super hungry after arriving back at the marina, so we decided to walk straight across the street to The Bubble Room for a late lunch. They're atmosphere is so fun, don't mind us acting like kids again. ;)

When we walked out, two older ladies offered to take our picture, so nice of them. :) Everyone is so nice on the island!

Now in a food coma... we drove back to our cottage for a little down time before more beach time at Lighthouse Beach just before the start of sunset to see how evening fly fishing might be. Got a couple nibbles before a fierce storm rolled towards the island and starting pouring.

The storm that blew in was really nasty, rockin' the palm trees and blowing sheets of rain on top of the island non-stop. We took shelter at Zebra Frozen Yogurt, - seemed like the best place to be in the midst of a storm. :) Best frozen yogurt on the island.

Eventually things calmed down enough for us to run back out to the car and head for our cottage. We arrived back, and all the cottages had lost power; no lights, no air conditioning, freezer/fridge were out... so we were left with Mr. ArtSea Chic's phone as our light to get us through taking showers and getting ready for bed. It was an interesting night that's for sure! We figured being in Florida, everything would be back to normal in the morning and there would be some nice shelling, so we'd wake up at 5:30 AM and go fishing too. :)

When we woke up to the sunrise on Day 3 - it was absolutely beautiful, filled with vibrant colors. We walked down to the shoreline and let's just say I was in shelling heaven!

Around noon we set off for Blind Pass near the Captiva and Sanibel split to see how the fishing would be. Didn't catch anything but we got to try out Cantina Captiva for lunch and then get back to beachin'. :)

After Blind Pass, we headed back to the cottage to get ready to go to dinner at Matzaluna Italian Kitchen with Jen, owner of Happy Seahorse Designs and her husband, who are recent new residents on Sanibel Island!

After dinner, we decided to stop by Pinocchio's Ice Cream for some scoops of the famous treat on the island to wrap the night. We then headed back to the cottage to do a little packing-prep since we'd have to checkout of the cottage by 10 AM in the morning.

Day 4 we wanted to get as much out of our last morning on the island, so we fished starting at 5:30 AM. :) It was quite the start to the morning with a beautiful sunrise and up to 9:30 AM Mr. ArtSea Chic had caught a dozen fish! Only one was a keeper, but since we were leaving we couldn't keep it.

We said goodbye to our beach, and packed up all our bags in thirty minutes. Our flight didn't leave till 6:15 PM so we still had time to do a couple things on the island. We hadn't done any shopping (imagine that) so we headed down to the shops at Periwinkle Place after eating breakfast at The Lighthouse Cafe, then went to Lighthouse Beach to stroll near the fishing pier. While on our way out from the cottage Mr. ArtSea Chic slammed the breaks to save a little turtle and help him cross the road. He was a cute little guy. :)

After all our last fun in the sun, we cooled off by stopping at the Sanibel Marina to checkout the Thriller and the rest of the boats, then went down to the Lazy Flamingo for a late lunch before heading towards the airport.

Just kidding... we made one more stop before the airport. :) A couple of final casts before we reached the causeway.

Every time we leave the island, we say we're coming back again and instantly miss the island life feeling. It was a great trip, and I always say, one day maybe we'll retire here - or better yet maybe live close enough to be a frequent visitor. We'll see! But we know one thing, Andi sure was happy to see us when we returned home. :) Until next time Sanibel!

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