Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- Beach House Vacations Make Lasting Family Memories
- When is the Best Time to Rent a Beach House?
- 1. Research Your Beach House Location
- 2. How Much Does it Cost to Rent a Beach House?
- 3. Make a List of Vacation Rental Must-Haves
- 4. Dream Big! Consider a Beach House Luxury Feature
- 5. Use Caution if Working Directly with the Owner
- 6. Real Estate Agents are Beach House Pros
- 7. Check Out Potential Vacation Rentals in Person, When Possible
- 8. Online Listings: What to Look for Beyond the Photos
- 9. Consider Shoulder Season for Vacation Rental Savings
- 10. Check the Fine Print in the Rental Contract
- 11. Don't Have Second Thoughts
Before you rent a beach house, read these tips. The perfect summer rental is out there, but finding the right one for your family, in the right place at the right price, can be a challenge. Here’s how to do it. You’ll be sipping a frozen cocktail at sunset before you know it.
Beach House Vacations Make Lasting Family Memories
Okay. You’ve decided to take a family beach vacation this year. Booking one or more hotel rooms is pretty easy to do. But, if you’re looking to have everyone gather together – ‘round a big kitchen island for breakfast, on shady chaise lounges for post-beach naps or atop the roof at sunset – then you’ll want to rent a beach house.
The vacations when we’ve rented beach houses rank right at the tippy top of our favorite family trips. Everyone has their treasured memories. I can still feel the wind on my face and the joy in my sister’s smile when we flew our first kites on the beach in front of our Outer Banks, North Carolina, rental house.
Join our NEW Facebook Community: Making Travel Easier. We promise to always tell you what we would tell our best friend -- what works for kids, what doesn’t and what you need to know before you go to have the Best. Family. Vacation. Ever. Our group of travel experts are ready to answer your travel questions!
My son will never forget the time he found a snake in his bed.
It may have made him scream at the time, but we laugh about it every time someone starts singing “Snake in the bed! Snake in the bed!”
When is the Best Time to Rent a Beach House?
You know when I start getting emails from real estate agents about summer beach rentals? October. Usually, I haven’t even bought a pumpkin yet. Is it really time to start thinking about my summer beach vacation?
The answer is “yes.”
When planning to rent a house in a popular beach destination next summer, fall is the perfect time to book it, at least in a regular year. This has been anything but a regular year. But the need for socially distanced vacations has made renting a beach house an even more popular family vacation option. A week on the beach with your pandemic pod? Yes, please.
Even in regular years, good houses disappear quickly. If you wait too long, the best houses will already be taken and you might get stuck with a beach rental that’s less than prime.
Is it too late to book one for 2021? Heck no! But you need to get moving…NOW!
Follow these 11 tips to rent the beach house that will make your family thank you — for a full week!
1. Research Your Beach House Location
The first thing to do is to choose your beach house destination.
Maybe you go to the same beach town every year. When I was a kid, we went to Cape Cod every year. In that case, you know the neighborhoods, the restaurants and where to find the yummiest ice cream (Day’s Ice Cream in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, is a personal fave!). You’ll have an easy time finding a beach house in a location that suits your family.
But, maybe you’re heading to a beach you’ve never visited before. One year we decided to give the Outer Banks in North Carolina a try for our summer vacation. Friends raved about it.
You know who I went to for info before renting a beach house? Those friends of mine. I quizzed them incessantly about the different beach neighborhoods, where to buy the most colorful kites and which restaurants would accept walk-in groups of 12 for dinner.
2. How Much Does it Cost to Rent a Beach House?
A weekly beach house rental can cost as little as a few hundred dollars to as much as a car. A really nice car. The price depends on several factors:
- Beach houses in uber popular destinations like Virginia Beach command top dollar.
- Beach house weekly rentals max out during the prime summer months.
- The closer you are to the water, the more you’ll pay for your beautiful beach house, especially if it is an oceanfront listing.
- A one bed/one bath cottage will always be cheaper than a 6 bed/8 bath mansion.
- High end amenities like a private pool, elevator and theater room will add $$ to your weekly rental fee.
Set a budget and (try) to stick to it. In my experience, renting a beach house is always cheaper than renting multiple hotel rooms. We generally travel as a pack of 10. Five rooms at a nice beach resort in high season can run $2000 a night.
Having access to a kitchen saves us money too. We always eat breakfast in our beach house and pack lunches for the beach. It’s another way to save money.
The key to not blowing your vacation house rental budget is to clearly define your essential house features and the high end add-ons you might consider.
3. Make a List of Vacation Rental Must-Haves
Consider the group that will be staying in your beach house and compile a list of non-negotiable items. For example, the first thing I look for in a listing is at least one bedroom with a king bed for me and hubby. It’s our vacation and I’m not cramming into a queen, no matter how nice the house.
If Granny’s coming and she has trouble with stairs, you’ll need an elevator or a one-story. Off-street parking is another must, especially if your group has multiple cars. Many beach towns restrict street parking to residents only.
Once you have your list of essential features, it’s time to dream about fancy upgrades like a hot tub or rooftop deck.
4. Dream Big! Consider a Beach House Luxury Feature
Once you have a list of what you need, consider indulging in what you want.
Maybe it’s a beachfront porch with a sunset view. Or a firepit for making s’mores at night. A pool table will keep the teens busy if (when) it rains at the beach. A plunge pool is super for quick dips between trips to the beach.
If you can dream it, there’s a beach house that has it. Just remember – those high end features come at a price. Remember your budget and be on the lookout for deals that look too good to be true.
5. Use Caution if Working Directly with the Owner
I’ve booked vacation rentals directly, using Airbnb and VRBO. And I’ve worked with professional rental agents. I’ll give you the pros and cons of both.
The one piece of advice I’ll give you is to tune out public opinion advising you to rent direct from owners to save money.
Case in point. Last summer, I asked a co-worker who owns a summer beach rental at the Jersey Shore if he had availability for the 4th of July weekend. He did and we settled on an extremely low price – a “friends and family” discount.
We have a dog; I asked if we could bring him. The owner said we could. He assured me the unit was pet-friendly. At the last minute, we decided to board our pup.
And it’s a good thing we did. The house was filled to the brim with breakable objects. Our furry fellow would have trashed the place. A rental agent would have steered me to a different location.
6. Real Estate Agents are Beach House Pros
Using an experienced agent, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the beach town, can be the smartest decision you make. If you clearly list your wants and needs, a good agent will pick a spot that suits you perfectly. It’s the equivalent of hiring a personal shopper to put together the right outfit. It may cost more, but it’s worth it.
The process works even better if you can meet the agent in person and tour properties in advance.
7. Check Out Potential Vacation Rentals in Person, When Possible
The primary reason I like working with a real estate agent when choosing a summer beach house is that they can give you tours of the houses if you visit in person. This works particularly well when you head to the beach in the off-season.
I recommend heading to the beach you’re considering for your summer vacation in the fall and booking your rental on the spot. Autumn is a great time to head to the beach. Tourists are nearly extinct. There are no waiting lines for restaurants and the locals are happy to tell you why they love their slice of paradise. The sunsets are as beautiful as those in July. You can’t swim in the ocean, but, hey, no sand in your shorts. Lose some. Win some.
And I recommend you go solo on the reconnaissance trip. You’ll move quicker and you won’t be hampered by the kids whining that the vacation rental you think is perfect is too far from the beach. Or listening to your husband complain that the 65″ TV is too small.
8. Online Listings: What to Look for Beyond the Photos
Although I enjoy working with professional rental agents, I also have rented summer beach houses online. Airbnb, VRBO and other 3rd party sites are filled with houses ripped from the pages of Coastal Living magazine. One’s prettier than the next and every one seems to have a sunset water view.
But they don’t.
Here’s what to look for in an online listing to get a more realistic picture of potential rental homes.
- Check the map to see how close the house is to the beach and the grocery store, restaurants and other amenities.
- Read the reviews. Be particularly wary of noise complaints and unresponsive owners.
- Count the beds and bodies. Twice. Your 10-year old won’t mind a sofa bed in the loft. My 25-year old? Uh. No.
9. Consider Shoulder Season for Vacation Rental Savings
Beach house rental prices are highest during peak summer months. That varies by location. Houses along east coast beaches, will be most expensive during July and August. Check out prices during that time in New York’s Hamptons. You’ll swoon! But beach house rentals in Florida might be a bargain in mid-summer.
If you have any flexibility to your travel schedule, try to book your beach home for a week before or immediately after the prime season. You’ll get a lower rental rate and it will be less crowded but the weather is likely to be just as beautiful. The same beach weather, but a shorter wait in line for an ice cream sundae? Win-win!
10. Check the Fine Print in the Rental Contract
Sure. It’s a lot of words crammed onto too many pages. But there’s a ton of information included in your summer rental contract. Cindy Carter of Historic Key West Vacation Rentals says that the primary reason there’s a disconnect between an agency and a client is because the client hasn’t read the agency’s cancellation policy.
Be sure to read the rental contract before signing. The whole thing. Some items to look for include:
- Check the dates…twice. Most weeklong rentals go Saturday to Saturday or Sunday to Sunday. You want to make sure you arrive on the right day.
- Be sure you’re clear on whether linens are included or not. It would be a tremendous drag to have to head to Target to buy a bunch of sheets and towels.
- Make sure you understand the cancellation policy. Stuff happens. Sometimes you might lose a deposit if you cancel; other rentals might demand 50%. Consider travel insurance if you’re risking a lot of money.
11. Don’t Have Second Thoughts
Renter’s remorse is a real thing. The minute you commit to a vacation home rental, you’ll come across 7 others you wish you’d booked.
In the words of Disney’s Princess Elsa: let it go.
You will have a good time, even if the house doesn’t check every box on your list. We arrived at one rental to find it dirty and small. Ocean view? Uh. No. Our unit faced the parking lot. There were slugs in the shower and two fewer beds than advertised.
Guess what? It was 30 years ago and hubby and I still laugh when we remember the vacation when we had to sleep under the kitchen table.
What are YOUR tips for finding a family friendly summer beach house?