At some point, four people sharing two double beds and one bathroom gets old. The maid service doesn't compensate for the stale muffins in the lobby and coffee you have to make on the desk. It's time to look into renting a house or condo at the beach.
"Having a house makes all the difference," says Samuel Penn, a retired executive from Pikesville who rents a house in Rehoboth Beach, Del., for two weeks each year. "It's a home, as opposed to a room."
Most vacation rentals require reservations for a full week, but they may cost less per night than a hotel room. Having a kitchen enables vacationers to make (at least some of) their own meals. And the additional space allows friends and family to vacation together.
Penn and his wife invite their two sons and their families to join them over the two weeks.
"It's a tradition," says Penn, who has been renting beach houses for more than 15 years and who — like many renters — usually reserves the same house each year.
Those without a favorite spot will find a vast selection of rental houses and condos in Ocean City, Dewey, Bethany and Rehoboth beaches.
Bayside with a boat slip? Ocean-block with extra parking? Ocean-front with a pool? Balcony or deck?
"That's the beauty of Ocean City," says Donna Abbott, the town's tourism and promotions director. "There's something for everyone."
But sifting through tens of thousands of rental listings may be daunting. How do you chose?
We've consulted with real estate and tourism experts, property owners and renters from Ocean City to Rehoboth Beach for tips to help navigate the listings.
Start the process immediately. Reservations for this summer's rentals were taken starting in October, says Jo-Ann Bacher, rental manager and agent at Jack Lingo Realtor in Rehoboth Beach.
"For some families, it's a tradition to rent the same house the same week every year," she says.
But all is not lost for last-minute vacationers.
There are also occasionally houses that are new to the rental market. And if a house hasn't been rented two weeks before the date, property owners may allow guests to rent a partial week. "If you can wait until two weeks before your vacation week, there's a possibility," Bacher says.
There are more openings this year in June, because many schools have extended classes to compensate for the excessive number of snow days, Bacher says.
And because colleges and some schools begin classes in mid-August, weeks later in August are also sometimes available.
Location, location, location
If you aren't intimately familiar with the area, get very specific information about the surroundings. Is the house on a busy street? Is the cottage next to a bar? Is the condo in walking distance to the beach?
Research addresses carefully, says Bacher. In Rehoboth, for example, there is a Rodney Street, a Rodney Avenue and a Rodney Road. And there's a Rodney Street in Dewey Beach, known for its party scene.