Greetings from Ocean City, NJ!

Ocean City, NJ

Good morning from Ocean City, New Jersey! We drove down yesterday along with half of Pennsylvania, I am pretty sure. The traffic was pretty gruesome. Beach rentals at the Jersey shore tend to be a Saturday to Saturday kind of deal, so EVERYONE who is renting for the week comes down on Saturday afternoon.

Then once we got into the house and unloaded the car, which was crammed to the max, we had to go grocery shopping. Oh, the humanity…

Because all those people who were driving to the shore with us? I think they were all at the Acme at the same time.

But we survived and got back to the beach house just in time for happy hour on the deck. Bliss!

We’re all pretty excited to be here. The kids have been begging to do a beach vacation for the past several years.

Paul and I used to come to Ocean City for a few days every summer and stay with his family during their beach week, but since they stopped doing that, we’ve only been down for a day here and there.

A couple summers ago we stayed in a hotel in Cape May for a few nights, but that was tight for our family of five and a lot to manage with all the sand and swimsuits and beach towels in such a small space, so this year we decided to go big or go home and rent a house for a week.

We went through Airbnb, in case anyone is interested. There are real estate agents you can work with, but we decided to try Airbnb and so far the experience has been great. We’re in touch with the owners via email/text, and anytime we have a question, they’ve been very responsive and gracious.

We’re located only a block off the beach so it will be easy to come and go throughout the day, and we can *almost* see the ocean from our deck. LOL! There are little glimpses between the houses across the street.

I’ve already learned a lot about vacationing this way, and I’m making notes in case we do this again. It’s a lot of work to pack up and bring all your linens and paper products and cleaning supplies, but once the packing and unloading is out of the way, it’s so much nicer than being in a hotel.

Here are my takeaways so far, in case anyone else is planning a similar vacation.

Tips for a Family Beach Vacation

#1. Bring everything from home that you can because the grocery store is MOBBED on Saturday afternoon because everyone in a weekly rental is arriving at the same time.

#2. Get a roof rack. (LOL!) That’s a personal problem, but we just got a new car and it does not have a roof rack. We didn’t think we needed it because we went to Maine without it and had extra room to spare, but we only had to bring our clothes. This time we brought all our sheets, bath towels, quilts, cleaning supplies, beach chairs, beach towels… gah! It’s a lot.

We had to leave some things at home (see #1) and that made things pretty hectic last night because we had to go to the store right away.

#3. Before shopping for basics like cleaning supplies and paper products, check the beach house. A lot of renters must leave their leftovers behind because there are odds and ends under the kitchen sink and in the laundry area, but we didn’t check first and ended up buying things we probably won’t need.

#4. Have a dinner plan for the first night. (Bringing one already prepared would be ideal.) Once we unloaded the car, got acquainted with our new space, put things away, made beds, went grocery shopping, and unloaded all of THAT, the last thing I felt like doing was making dinner.

Fortunately I got inspired when I saw a rotisserie chicken at the store, and I grabbed it along with Romaine lettuce, Caesar salad dressing, and a loaf of fresh Italian bread from the bakery. When I got back, I threw together a chicken Caesar salad with a side of garlic bread. Everyone was happy and cleanup was a breeze.

In the future, I think making a casserole or something we can reheat and serve with a side salad would be ideal. (Or go out to eat!)

#5. If you have room, bring your own pillows/blankets/etc. We knew we needed to bring sheets, but we also brought our own pillows and quilts. When I’ve been in rentals before, we’ve used their blankets and quilts and it always feels a little icky to me. I really like having our own. It was easier to go to sleep last night feeling like I was *almost* in my own bed.

#6. While I like being this close to the beach, I also have to say that being this close without a beach view seems kind of pointless. If we had young kids, maybe it would be worth it for the short walk, but with teenagers, I think it would make more sense to either spend less on the rental and be a few blocks back or splurge on a beachfront view. But maybe I’ll feel differently after a few days… I’ll let you know.

That’s it so far. We’ve been here for less than 24 hours, so I’m sure I’ll have more to share, but I think it’s the packing and getting settled in that’s the hard part. Now we can kick back and relax and enjoy being at the shore for a week.

My entire adult life, most of my family vacations have involved staying with extended family or friends — whether it’s been with Paul’s family on their beach trips or with my family at the lake in Maine or with friends in the Poconos… and those are fun, don’t get me wrong. But there’s something really cool about doing this by ourselves and having the whole house to ourselves. I feel like we’re finally grownups. Ha!

Fun fact: did I ever tell you that this is where Paul and I got engaged?

I drove up to join him and his family for a couple of days during their annual family beach vacation the September after I graduated college back in 1994. We went walking on the beach the night I arrived, and that is when he proposed.

That’s also when I was introduced to Tastykakes, boardwalk pizza, hoagies, and cheesesteaks — all of Philly’s iconic cuisine, haha! Oh, and Wawa. There’s no convenience store quite like a Wawa. LOL!

I guess it’s kind of fitting that our 22nd wedding anniversary is next week. In a way, that September night on the beach in 1994 seems like a lifetime ago, and on the other hand, I feel like the past 22 years have flown.

We have so many memories from here over the years, and I’m super excited to make new ones this week!

Alright, I guess I’ve rambled on long enough about this beach vacation. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!