Beach house rentals at America's top coastal resorts, such as Florida's Gulf Coast, make planning and enjoying a small family reunion easy and fun.Beach house rentals at America's top coastal resorts, such as Florida's Gulf Coast, make planning and enjoying a small family reunion easy and fun.
If your family members are scattered between Portand, Maine and Portland, Oregon, as well as points in between, you may be planning a get-together at one convenient location to commemorate that special birthday or anniversary. Renting a house that will accommodate several generations under one roof is not only economical, it enables your extended family to spend time together and have privacy as well.
Here are my six top beach destinations, chosen because they are easily reachable, have enough varied activities to please most kids, parents and grandparents, and offer fair weather almost year-round.
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Newport Beach, California
San Diego, California
Sanibel/Captiva Islands, Florida
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Tips for Planning Your House Rental
Once you've reviewed the "virtues" of each of my favorite destinations, discuss them with other family members, determine how convenient they will be for all parties, and decide whether you're heading East or West. Then you can determine with other family members how many bedrooms and bathrooms everyone will need. (Most rental vacation homes have one or more sofabeds and roll-aways for extra kids.) Allow as much flexibility in your rental dates as possible.
Several real estate agents I interviewed for this story mentioned that since large rental homes (5-6 bedrooms) are rare, they are often booked far in advance. However, they also mentioned that many families register their homes for rental only after the January 1st deadline each year. That means you'll have the most choices of rental homes if you call the recommended agents early in the year.
What's Special About Sanibel & Captiva Islands, Florida
Don't forget to bring your pails and magnifying glasses to the "Shelling Capital" of the Western Hemisphere. Sanibel is one of the world's few barrier islands which run perpendicular to the coast, and its east-west orientation in the Gulf of Mexico allows more than 275 different kinds of shells to wash up on the island's beaches. Also of interest to all ages in the family are the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum and the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, a 5,000-acre home to more than 200 species of birds, as well as alligators, turtles, otters and manatees. Sanibel, lined with low-rise condos facing the tropical Gulf Coast, and Captiva, dotted with wealthy private homes, don't offer night life or thrills, but you're guaranteed a chance to relax, stroll or rent a bike and enjoy cycling along the numerous bike paths through mangrove forests.
You may also avail yourselves of the wonderful children's program (for kids ages 4-12) at The Sundial Beach Resort. They accept non-guests on a first-come, first-served basis. Call (866/565-5093) to check availability.
Sanibel/Captiva Chamber of Commerce: at (239/472-1080)
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