Friday, May 23, 2014

Planning is Key to Successful Beach Vacation

This is what beach vacation is about!!!
Unfortunately this year, finances will not allow my family to enjoy our yearly beach vacation in the Outer Banks, but that shouldn't keep you from benefiting from my experience in planning for the beach as you get ready to enjoy the surf and sand. If you search "beach"  on  this site there are several posts that will help you find a beach house, plan meals and pack for a week-long trip. Here are my tips for finding and selecting a home that will be a haven for your family for summer vacation:

1) Know your family -  Are you headed to the beach with a crew of young children? Do you have teens and young adults?  Are you a multi - generational group? Does your family expect all the bells and whistles, or are they happy just to be able to walk to the beach?This will guide you as you select a home to stay in, for example, choosing a home with five bedrooms may sound great on the surface, but if two of those have bunk beds and your kids are grown and coming with their own families, it won't work. Do you have teens who need their own space?  Look for a house with an extra den or game room.
Crab night!!!
2) Know your area -  I have always used a realtor to rent a vacation home.  They usually know the area and the owners and know who has flexibility. But be forewarned -  realtor sites can be deceiving. Your semi-oceanfront home may mean  you have to cross a busy thoroughfare that is fine if your party is adults and teens but not so great with a crew of toddlers. By the same token, your oceanside house may have the same views and even better access than some semi-oceanfront homes (i.e. if your SOF is in the middle of a block and the access is at the end of the block). Google earth and aerial photos can help you determine what location makes the most sense for your family.
3) Shop smart -  Arrival day is crazy and beach grocery stores are their own special kind of crazy, so
I usually make sure to carry enough food to get us through the first night so we can do the bulk of our shopping after we are settled and when the crowds have died down. For us- we carry many of our proteins with us because we buy at Costco to feed a crowd, we buy a lot of produce and small stands that are local, and that  leaves not much that has to be bought up front. We usually have a planned meal that can cook while we unpack that first day- frozen lasagna, a pre-baked ham, or barbecue made at home and brought in the cooler.
Buffet is easy for everyone!
4) Spread the load - When we head to the beach, I plan meals and then families coming can contribute by buying drinks, bread, deli meat, fresh produce, snacks or can provide a meal by buying pizza, or steamed shrimp or steamed crabs.  Breakfast and dinner are common meals but everyone is on their own for lunch- that means that I am not cooking all the time.  Also all guests take turns doing dishes, if you cook, you don't clean.While I love cooking and impressing guests I try to keep beach meals simple, grilled chicken, burgers, or barbecue.  Our most popular meals have been steamed crabs and taco salad!!! Focus on simple foods and lots of local produce. If  you have other cooks in your family, let them take a turn being responsible for a meal- a vacation means that even the cook needs a break
5) Buffet- We never serve food at the beach- everything is put out on the ample counters and everyone serves themselves.  That makes mealtime simple and casual.

Beach vacation has to include a vacation for the cook as well, and these are just some of the tips that will make your vacation go smoothly and make memories that are about fun and family, not stress and drudgery!

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