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!

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91 thoughts on “Greetings from Ocean City, NJ!

  1. What a beautiful picture!! It looks like you could just get lost in thought and step back for a moment. I agree with having your own linens vs. using someone else’s. I also agree with how the proposal seems like so long ago but flew by at the same time…..I could see sitting back on the shore line with those thoughts in mind as you look at your children/young adults now. Enjoy these God given moments and have a beautiful vacation!

  2. Your trip sounds like it’s going to be fabulous. I think renting a house is the way to go on the beach. Enjoy every relaxing moment, and Happy Anniversary early!

  3. I live in New Jersey and just finished our annual beach vacation in Long Beach Island….just a little corner of paradise!!! You going to love being on the beach block, it is so much easier carrying all you chairs and beach gear. Your family is going to love being able to make a quick run back to the house during the day for the bathroom, food or a “drink”! So fun Enjoy your week!

  4. What a great vacation & great memories too! Beach vacations are the best but also SO much work. Our family has been going to the Alabama or Florida gulf coast for most of my life & renting condos or houses. As a kid, I was blissfully unaware of how much work it was. As a mom, I am very aware! 🙂 Still, I love it so much and try to go every summer if we can manage it. I do wish summer rentals would ease up on the Saturday-Saturday requirements though; totally agree that traffic is a nightmare. Hope your week is wonderful!

    1. Yeah, when we were moving in, I was like NEVER AGAIN, but then once it was done, I realized that it didn’t take THAT long in the grand scheme, and now it is so nice having a house to vacation in. I like it much better than a hotel.

  5. Have a wonderful vacation! Reading your post is like “being home”. I’m a south jersey girl myself married to a philly boy (married on the beach in cape may). We’ve lived in San Diego for the past 12 years now. I miss going “down the shore” and I really miss Wawa!!! Lol – thanks for your post! Love your blog. Hope you all have a wonderful week!

  6. Welcome! We spend our summers in OCNJ and love it! Saturdays are rough (and it was Night in Venice so it was especially crazy yesterday)! Hope you enjoy the rest of your trip!!
    (My husband and I met down here – as did both my parents and my husband’s parents – so Ocean City holds a special place in our hearts as well! )
    Any questions – let me know! I’m here! ????

      1. Spadafora’s (8th and Atlantic) has great seafood. Small place and could be long wait. (They also have a market that you can order and pick up at 9th and Haven)
        Crab Trap in SomersPoint (right over the 9th St Bridge) also has great food however the wait can be long there too. (See a theme?) We LOVE Crabby Jack’s which is located on the Bay behind The Crab Trap.. Many get a drink there while they wait for their table at Crab Trap but Crabby Jack’s has food and music and is right on the water so we tend to go there for a quick, easy dinner.)
        Also in Somers Point, Smitty’s Clam Bar (910 Bay Ave. Somers Point) is also supposed to be great – although I’ve never been. Not fancy and small but a local favorite!
        Hope these help! Enjoy!

  7. Like you, the first time we rented a house at the beach Cape San Blas, FL), we had lessons to learn, but it was fun. The house had a pool which was nice for the others, since I’m not a swimmer. We worked with the home owner for our second rental. They were dog owners themselves, so there was no issue taking our two big boys. We were right on the beach, both times, which was fabulous. My only complaint is having to climb so many stairs to get into the homes.

    Happy Early Anniversary! Maybe will the kids will plan something special for y’all. I know you are going to have a very relaxing week. At least your kids are old enough to get themselves ready for the beach and don’t require you to hold their hand on the walk to the beach.

    1. Yes, they are quite self sufficient. It’s nice. And I sort of wish we’d brought our dog, but the only place we found that fit our criteria and budget was not pet friendly. I think she’d love the beach.

  8. I just finished reading Same Beach, Next Year and in the book the main character always brought a lasagna for the first day of checking into their condo. I now see why that’s necessary! Lol We tried the house rental once in Ocean City, MD and it’s not for us. We found it far too much work to “move in”. For our beach fix, we now stay a few days at the Hotel Rehobath in Delaware. We just love that they provide golf cart service to and from with beach with beach chairs and towels complimentary included. It’s life changing!! Your photo is stunning! Enjoy your week at the shore!

    1. Okay, first, should I read that book? It sounds right up my alley. And second, I love Rehoboth. I got to stay at the Bellmoor one year on a press trip and it was soooo lovely. I’ve always wanted to go back with my husband for a weekend. I’ll look into Hotel Rehoboth for a shorter stay sometime.

      1. Yes! “Same Beach, Next Year” is a wonderful beach read! I highly recommend it. The Hotel Rehoboth is perfect for a weekend getaway with the hubby. It’s a boutique hotel with full club level services. We enjoyed the morning breakfast and evening wine and snacks. To have the beach chairs provided sealed the deal. It was so nice not to shelp all the beach stuff. It’s remained one of our all time favorite shore hotels. Have a wonderful time. I love reading about your travels.

        1. The hotel sounds awesome, and thanks for the book recommendation. 🙂 I am currently devouring The Hypnotist’s Love Story and then I’m going to download that one.

    2. I’m with you Maria. We did a week at Corolla OBX and said “never again”. Give me a hotel please. However my daughter loves going to LBI every year and is there now. She always takes at least 2 prepared dinners. Usually baked ziti is one.

  9. Fun! We’ve only done the beach vacation with extended family too so I totally get what you mean about having just you five there. I know you are going to love it! Looking back I really treasure those vacations that were just our four. I hope you guys have a super, safe and sunny week!! ☀️ ???? ⛱

  10. Love this post! I’ve spent nearly my whole life renting houses at the beach for a week with my extended family. I love having a whole house to spread out in, especially if we rent with my siblings so our kids can all hang out together. And we always get one big enough to include my parents. It’s a great way to vacation, in my opinion! I completely understand the struggle of packing all the linens and dealing with the first-day set up and that first awful grocery trip. But once it’s all set up, it will be a great week, especially with your age kids, who (ostensibly) need less help and supervision. 😉 I love when everyone can pack themselves, carry their OWN chair and towels to the beach, and pretty much take care of themselves. That’s how a MOM can take a vacation too! We usually take turns cooking dinners in a few of the nights and plan a few dinners out in advance to try new restaurants (We usually go to Rehoboth Beach, DE which has GREAT restaurants) I hope you have a wonderful and relaxing week!
    Oh, and I got engaged on the Ocean City beach as well, and just celebrated anniversary #24!!

  11. Thanks for the great tips. We just came back from a 4 day trip to the Texas coast. We rented a fully stocked condo but there were still a few things I wished I had packed from home. Have a wonderful time!

  12. Have a great trip and take the time to focus on the memories you are making not all of us blog followers! 🙂

    1. Haha, they’re not even awake when I’m on my blog. 🙂 That’s another great thing about teenagers. They sleep late and I’m an early bird so it works out perfectly.

  13. Have an awesome vacation! 🙂 I used to think it was a plus if the house provided all the linens and things. But then I find myself washing everything before we use it anyway! And that’s just what I want to do while on vacation==laundry and cleaning everything in sight that looks a little iffy. Ha!

    Enjoy a break – you and your family worked hard this past year! 🙂

    1. Yeah, I’d be a little wary to use them without washing but then again, I do it in hotels all the time. I am always tempted to wash all the dishes before using, but I don’t. LOL! I guess we’ve never had a problem so it’s probably fine.

  14. Sounds like a perfect family vacation (despite all the work)! Happy Anniversary to you and your husband! The time certainly does fly! My older son just turned 21 and I swear I feel like he was just in little league. 😉
    Can’t wait to read more about your trip. Your morning view is beautiful!

    1. It is really nuts how fast things change. I feel like decisions that used to be really simple – like, we need a minivan because we have 3 little kids, are now all up in the air. With kids growing up, driving, getting ready to move out, I feel like my lifestyle changes every couple of years. Every time I get used to a stage, it changes, but I guess it’s sort of always been that way. Parenting definitely keeps you on your toes.

  15. These kind of trips are a lot of work to prepare for but so nice to have the space. Have you tried VRBO? We have used that when we go to the mountains and usually the cabin is managed thru a property manager where they provide things like garbage bags, paper towels, toilet paper, etc. They require you pay a cleaning fee which we don’t mind because we don’t want to clean the whole place but do eave it tidy. They also have an optional linen fee which we have paid for instead of hauling sheets and towels. We used VRBO again for our Maui trip and stayed in a 3 bedroom condo in a really nice resort. This was basically like being in a hotel except no maid service. Was great to have the washer and dryer. My parents had a room, my 3 kids shared a room, and my husband and I had one. We got home late last night.???? Enjoy your vacation!
    PS I think it is great to have the ocean view.

    1. I’ve never heard of VRBO but you are at least the 2nd person to mention it so I’m going to definitely try that next time. It would be nice to have more stuff provided, but all of the rentals I’ve ever been in have required you to bring your own linens and garbage bags and paper products and things.

  16. We’ve rented houses on cape cod many times and I never thought to bring my own quilts because I’m with you on the I k factor. The one year I did all my grocery shopping at home and packed it was bliss! Have fun!

    1. I just brought mine and one other to have on the beach. The kids are on their own. Haha. One decided to bring her sleeping bag, though, rather than sleep in the sheets. That works too.

      I would love to know where you have rented houses on Cape Cod. We want to do that sometime! Any tips or suggestions?

  17. November 1994 on panama city beach FL is where my husband, then boyfriend first told me he loved me guess there is something about a moon lite walk on the beach.
    we got married in march of 1998 because of him being away so much with the military
    Happy up coming anniversary

  18. Enjoy! We’ve been renting houses in FL for over 10 years. We do not ever bring our own linens our towels as the houses always have a service and everything is clean and new when we arrive. We have found some houses are better stocked than others but have found most pretty good with the basics. Of course we go to the store and stock the fridge with stuff. Usually eat breakfast and lunch at the house and go out for dinners ( unless Hubs grills) but we really enjoy these kinds of vacays as with 5+ people, hotels just aren’t an option for us. We love the privacy and space of our ” own” place for a week! Have a wonderful time!

  19. AAWWW, your post brings back so many memories. I am from Cherry Hill, NJ. But moved away 27 years ago. I currently live in Tampa, Fl. So the Jersey shore and Philly have a very special place in my heart. Especially all the “ironic cuisine” you have mentioned. Luckily we got Wawa stores a few years ago. I now get my Tastycake and hoagie fixes any time I want. hehe. Enjoy your vacation. There is nothing like a beach vacation.

  20. I loved reading your post and since I’m only 50 miles from the Jersey Shore, we have visited Ocean City many times! Love the family atmosphere there! My favorite time is early morning, before the boardwalk gets crowded, and rent bikes!! Now my daughter and her husband bring their 3 kids to OC for family vacations (they live west of Philly, probably near you!) and we drive down for the day to join them (and get some Manco and Manco pizza). Looks like the weather will be good this coming week, have fun!!

    1. My girls can’t stop talking about Manco and Manco (I will always call it Mack and Manco’s, lol) so we definitely need to get over there. We have bikes here at the house so I definitely want to take one out to the boardwalk a few mornings. My daughter wants to go too so that will be fun.

  21. Great informative post on vacationing at the shore in a rental home. And congratulations on your upcoming anniversary. How nice that you are all together at the same place where it all started! Enjoy!

  22. Wawa!! ???????????? I’m lucky to live in Lewes where I have TWO Wawa’s a few miles apart.
    My grown sons moved to Portland, Oregon several years ago, and the first thing they do when they come back east is hit the Wawa ????
    Tastycakes! My hubby is from South Philly and yes, I know Tastycakes .
    Enjoy your beach vacation with your family, Jo-Lynne–Happy Anniversary ❤️❤️

    1. LOL, isn’t it funny how a region gets known for a certain thing? I haven’t had a Tastycake in years – I’m gluten free these days, but they still call my name when I’m in a Wawa. 🙂

  23. Happy Anniversary and happy vacation week! Hope you get some much needed R&R with your family. Thanks for this post. Besides all the info on renting a beach house, I enjoyed reading the sweet story of your engagement. Congratulations on 22 years! P.S. I love WaWa too!

  24. You have to try Jon & Patty’s on Asbury while you’re there. They do have good food but we like to go for their coffee drinks & even bought some to brew at home 🙂 Enjoy your vacation!

  25. We are on vacation right now also. One tip that someone shared with us and we did. . . use Amazon Fresh to order your groceries and have them delivered either right before you arrive or right after (they offer 2 hour delivery windows). We arrived and our groceries were all here waiting for us. It was AMAZING!!! If your area doesn’t offer Amazon Fresh you could at least do Amazon Pantry and have staples like bottled water, snack bars, etc waiting for you after the trip!

  26. I agree, house rentals are a lot of work, but they are so worth it for a long family trip. Enjoy your week!!

  27. Love, love, love OCNJ! I grew up spending a week every summer there and now we take our kids every couple years. We’ve discovered that pulling the kids out of school for a week in September (still so early in the year they aren’t missing anything!) means a beachfront house for a fraction of the price AND we have the beach practically to ourselves. And the weather is amazing!

    1. Yes, my husband’s family used to always go in September. Now my kids are too old to pull out of school, but I am looking forward to being able to do the beach in September again.

  28. We just returned from Ocean City two weeks ago! You are correct that ACME is always packed on Saturday. Just a tip if you go back again, there is a Shop Rite grocery store about seven minutes from ACME (and two minutes from the Garden State Pkwy). You can order your groceries from Shop Rite online before you leave home and pick it up on your way to the beach house. When you get off the highway, stop at Shop Rite, they have a place to drive right up and they have your order ready. You don’t even have to get out of the car, they load it for you. If your car is already packed with all your stuff you can unload at the house then swing back and pick up your groceries. It makes for a much smoother beginning to your vacation. Have a great week! I’m looking forward to some posts from the beach!

  29. Oh my goodness I loved this post as I do all your post!! Enjoy your time there! We too are doing a VRBO in Wisconsin on Lake – rental is Friday to Friday. We leave this Friday and yes, I feel that I am packing EVERYTHING!!! My husband is already annoyed but we have done this before he forgets!!!! We are stopping on your way up at a COSTCO to get most of the food – my sisters family and my family, and our Mom will be there— 16 total (just missing one of my sons who has to go to on a business trips) (He has only been employed since March 2017 and felt he needed to do this) I get it but this Momma will miss him. I look forward to hearing more. Rest, relax and soak it all in!!! Kids grow up so quickly!!!

  30. Congratulations on the upcoming anniversary and have a wonderful week at the beach. We just did a beach rental in a condo on the beach in Orange Beach, AL for the first time and it was absolutely wonderful. We found it through vrbo and all of the linens were provided, a couple of trash bags, a roll of paper towels, a small bottle of dawn dish soap and a packet of dishwasher detergent. Our rental was managed through a property manager but even ones that the owners handled themselves came with linens. They all just asked we didn’t take the bath towels to the pool or beach; to take our own pool/beach towels. I would love to do a beach rental again. For cleaning they all had cleaning fees; they just ask you do a few tasks like leave the dirty towels in the tub, start the dishwasher and take out the trash. It’s funny reading your experience at the grocery store. We had a similar experience. Check in time for the houses and condos is 4pm on Saturday so I think everyone is getting into town, settled in, etc. so the stores aren’t that busy; I know we just went out to dinner that first night. It’s Sunday when everyone went grocery shopping in our experience. In fact when we were checking out the you could tell the store was prepared for it by having two people at every checkout; one sacking and one checking. My husband and I even overheard the lady doing our sacking saying something to the checker about the vacationer schedule of everyone coming in to town late Saturday then they come in the store Sunday and do their grocery shopping for the week. Now I’m ready to go back.

  31. How fun! Man, having to bring all of that stuff, I didn’t know that. We are going to our first AirBNB next month, I should ask if we need to bring that sort of stuff too. So cool that you get to stay there for the week! And man weird that everyone does Saturday to Saturday, I would think Sunday to Sunday…or maybe change things up a bit per owner. Weird. Anyway, have a blast, can’t wait to see more pictures and hear about your adventures!

    1. The Saturday to Saturday thing isn’t an Airbnb thing – it’s a Jersey Shore rental thing. 🙂 For some reason, it’s been that way for as long as I can remember. But yeah, check into your Airbnb situation re: linens and things. I am sure they’re all different, but definitely something to be aware of. All of my inlaws’ Jersey shore rentals over the years have required us to bring our own.

  32. Have a great vacation. I have to say, as a Jersey girl, we travel to the Outer Banks for a beach week. I am sure you must know people who do. . In reading your post, I will comment that what I like is that they provide linens and bath towels and as you probably know, you get a really nice house (pool, central air) closer to the beach at a better rate. We are always up for a good road trip!

    1. Yes, a lot of people say that. We talked about it and then ended up coming here. The shorter drive is compelling, plus we knew my son wanted to have friends down for a couple days and that wouldn’t work if we went further away. It’s still on my bucket list for future though!

  33. Do try VRBO. We rented a house in Fl through them and linens and cleaning and paper products were all furnished. The linens were all white hotel type provided by a linen service. Of course quilts and comforters were the owner’s. We flew in so couldn’t bring all that stuff. We were 5 adults and 3 kids and everyone had their own room with 4 rooms 3 baths. Would never have worked in a hotel. Hope your family has a great time making memories. Love your blog.

  34. Enjoy your vacation in OC! I live in a residential neighborhood in OC year round. My dinner recommendations for you – Mike’s Seafood in Sea Isle City – BYOB and enjoy fresh seafood on the dock; Baia in Somers Point – have dinner on the deck if it is not too hot!; Charlie’s Bar in Somers Point – known for their wings and tenders – so good!; The Clam Bar in Somers Point – BYOB – expect a long wait and beware if it is hot – no ac; Deauville Inn in Strathmere – eat outside if you can – great view; Twistie’s in Strathmere – legendary; La Fontana in Strathmere or Sea Isle City (Strathmere is BYOB) – excellent Italian! ENJOY!

  35. Hope you’re having a great beach week! We’re at a cottage in northern Michigan this week and I appreciate your packing post.. We’ve rented cottages every summer for many years and every time we change cottages we have to start all over as far as what we need to bring. I pack from a master list and add/subtract as I talk with the owners about what’s there and what’s not. This year we had to change cottages and the description said three bedrooms, one is a walk through….well define bedrooms!! They have no doors but a curtain makes it private! We laughed and regrouped and we’re all settled in and having a great week! Our whole family is under one roof and that makes this mama so happy! Enjoy your beach time and your family!
    PS: I totally agree about taking your own bedding!!

    1. Yikes! That sounds challenging but you’re obviously making the best of it. 🙂 I have a master packing list as well, and I’ve been making notes for the next time we rent a house. Live and learn, right?

  36. Thanks for the tips! We are renting a house in the Outter Banks the end of August and I wasn’t sure what I would need.

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