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How hard can it be, right? You’ve decided to rent a place at the beach for the summer, so all you need to do is make a call and boom—it’s yours once your vacation week rolls around. If only things were that simple. Renting a place at one of New Jersey’s shorefronts is a bit more complex than you may think, but it’s totally doable. There are important factors to consider, but once you’ve gotten them down you’ll be well on your way to sun, fun and great family memories.
START PLANNING EARLY
Many families who rent at the shore have rented before, so they typically renew their house stay and pick their week right after summer vacation ends. Anyone renting for the first time needs to know that the sooner you begin looking, the more choices you have. Fall or winter are good times to start. If you haven’t reserved yet, February is about the deadline on getting a great home rental. Even for hotels and motels, you want to have the best shot at the kind of rooms and setup you need, so start looking right away.
RESEARCH YOUR DESTINATION
If you don’t already have a specific area in mind, go online and look at family-friendly locations. Consider what’s important to you, suggests Mary Cericola, manager of the Lavallette office of Crossroads Realty. Do your little ones want to be close to the beach, or do you have older kiddos who wouldn’t mind a bit of a walk? Do you want to be near shops? Do you need a town with a boardwalk? Do you like to be in a quieter area and drive to activities, or the other way around? What about a place that’s pet-friendly? Know what you’re looking for and pick a town that caters to that. Lavallette, for example, may be best if you’d like things within walking distance. Ocean City might fit the bill for families looking for a boardwalk.
If you already have a town in mind, be sure you know what you’re in for. What’s the beach like? Is there a better area of town to stay in? How will you get around? What kinds of eateries and activities are nearby? What’s not nearby? Taking the time to put yourself in the area before you go will make a huge difference.
KNOW WHAT YOU WANT
Are you flexible with your vacation week(s) or can you only go on certain dates? Do you have just a few family members or are you bringing extended family, too? These things make a difference when you start searching. You may also want to remember that the busiest times of the summer include holidays (Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day) and the month of July. You may have more flexibility by planning your stay for a different month (or even off-season), and you may pay less and enjoy fewer crowds, as well. Be sure to look at hotels, motels and homes on airbnb.com to find a price and length of stay that best suits your family.
KNOW WHAT’S INCLUDED
Many times, folks end up disappointed because they didn’t understand what exactly was—or wasn’t—included. For example, some places don’t include linens. Beach tags are also oftentimes not part of the deal. Be sure to ask where to buy them if that’s the case. Inquire about the parking situation on your block. You don’t want to show up with two vehicles if there’s no parking allowed on your street. If you have questions, ask your realtor or homeowner before you leave.
Locals know the area best and can steer you towards places that meet your needs, says Mark Viggiani, a realtor at Gloria Nelson & Co. in Monmouth County. They can also refer you to other local agents should they not have what you’re looking for. Remember, many places rent from Saturday to Saturday with a one- or two-week minimum.
Should you be looking for something other than this kind of a stay, you may want to consider hotels and motels in the region. See reviews, pictures, amenities, costs and locations on sites like hotels.com, booking.com and tripadvisor.com. Sites like vrbo.com or airbnb.com may offer you more flexibility for a shorter time frame. Local real estate agents are also a great resource for home rentals in the shore spot you’re interested in. Planning a vacation at the shore can be a great way to create lifelong memories. Taking these points into consideration when planning your vacation will go a long way.
The Best Beach for You:
Want Fun for the Whole Crew? You’ll want places like Beach Haven, Belmar, Bradley Beach, Brigantine, Cape May, Lavallette, Long Beach Island, Manasquan, Ocean City, Point Pleasant, Stone Harbor and Wildwood.
Want a Boardwalk? Head to Asbury Park, Atlantic City, Ocean City, Point Pleasant or Wildwood.
Need a Free Beach? Options include Atlantic City Beach, Strathmere in Cape May, William Morrow Beach in Somers Point and the Wildwoods.
Looking for Dog-Friendly? Run over to Asbury Park’s 8th Avenue Beach, Fisherman’s Cove Conservation Area in Manasquan, Island Beach State Park in Seaside Park and Longport Dog Beach in Egg Harbor Twp. Just be sure to check local policies for specific rules and regulations.
Angling for the Best Fishing? Toss your rod in at beaches in Barnegat Bay, Belmar, Brigantine, Island Beach State Park or Seaside Heights.
Craving a Quiet Escape? These are often viewed as the most peaceful beach towns in the state: Avon-by-the-Sea, Lavallette, Seven Mile Island or Sunset Beach in Cape May and Spring Lake.
—Sharon Rigney is a freelance travel writer, photography dabbler, cyclist and mom of three teens who are (mostly) fun to travel with.