Of all people, Alan Holden has probably heard just about everything when it comes to questions regarding renting a beach home.
He’s a sixth-generation member of the family that developed Holden Beach and has owned Alan Holden Vacation Rentals for decades. Still, there are always one or two questions that take him aback.
For instance, there’s nothing unusual about someone wondering if a home features an outdoor shower for rinsing off all that beach sand. And, OK, maybe it’s even a good idea to ask whether the outdoor shower is enclosed. “I’ve actually had people ask if it will fit two people,” Holden said.
Then again, when it comes to finding that perfect place to call home for a week or a long weekend, it’s best to know in advance if your favorite amenities are available. Even if your favorite amenity is a shower for two.
“No question is a bad question,” said Heather Hill, of Alan Holden Vacation Rentals. “You don’t want to get there and it’s not what you envisioned.”
We hope these tips we compiled will help you spend more time dipping your toes in the sand and less time heading off to the store in search of a decent paring knife.
Speaking of paring knives, it’s smart to bring along a couple of good ones if you plan to do any cooking, unless you are certain the home you’ve selected has a well-stocked kitchen. After all, one person’s idea of a good knife might be the same ol’ trusty one they use to filet fish. Same holds true for a good pasta pot or cast-iron skillet. If those things are important, bring them along.
Here’s a handy tip: you can wrap knives, spatulas, tongs, slotted spoons, kitchen shears and any other significant kitchen tools together inside a couple of dish towels. Speaking of dish towels …
Ask before assuming any towels and linens are provided.
During the peak season, most rental agencies provide linens. But though beaches may be packed over Labor Day, it’s nevertheless not considered peak season.
That means you need to find out the size of each bed and bring sheets and pillowcases for each. Comforters are usually already in place, but it’s a good idea to bring along a couple extra lightweight blankets in case Aunt Agnes likes the air conditioner yanked down to a setting fit for polar bears.
And that means you need to bring your own bath towels, beach towels and washcloths. And dish towels and dishcloths, too.
Pillows also usually are provided, but if get a wry neck if yours doesn’t have a certain firmness, by all means bring your own. Neck pain does not go well with relaxing in a beach chair with a good book.
And it certainly does not go well with sitting on a towel on the beach, which is what you may find yourself doing if you forget to bring your own.
Some rental owners are happy for you to tote their chairs to the beach, but others will lock them up out of sight as if they were Blackbeard’s treasure.
If you are the antsy type and reading for you is as fun as a sunburn, you might like to bring along a boogie board or raft for playing in the waves. You might also want try out a beach game. Most everyone knows about cornhole, but one of the newer games is known as spikeball, a combination of volleyball and four-square.
Whether you’ve had a day relaxing in a beach chair, playing spikeball or breaking up a lot of arguments between the kids and Aunt Agnes, many of us find it’s nice to watch the sunset with a cocktail or a nice glass of wine.
Now, where is the corkscrew in this place?
Of course, it is among the handy kitchen tools you wrapped up in your dish towel. And, since some of us are a bit peculiar about glassware, bring sturdy wine glasses and highball glasses from home if you don’t want to find yourself relegated to Solo cups.
Entertainment for the little ones.
But before you can have that cocktail, you must be sure the youngsters are happy. Many parents recommend packing a container of baby powder in your beach bag, since a sprinkle or two works magic to remove sand from little (and big) feet.
For indoor entertainment, one of the beach rental houses we checked out had an actual pool table. That’s awesome, but not customary. Lots of beach rentals, however, provide a supply of board games for everyone’s enjoyment, but it’s a good idea to bring a few things to keep family members occupied, such as jigsaw puzzles, a deck of cards, coloring books, crayons and gerbils.
Just kidding about the gerbils! Because, of course, pets are not allowed unless specified. Some beach rentals are specified as pet-friendly, but usually that requires a nonrefundable pet deposit. It also pays to note that each North Carolina beach has its own regulations regarding pets, including restricted hours and leash laws.
Something pet owners may wish to consider is bringing pets along, but dropping them off at a kennel near the beach. That way, you can spend some time with Fido on the beach, then return him to the kennel in the evening. It’s advisable to reserve kennel space early. Oak Island has Greenwood Pet Camp for boarding pets and Holden Beach has an off-leash dog park.
After you’ve had your fun day on the beach, returned Fido to the kennel, had your outdoor shower for two and enjoyed a cocktail, it’s time for dinner.
The last thing you want to realize is that there’s no salt and pepper in the house to provide the perfect finishing touch to that shrimp boil. That’s why you should bring along your own condiments, sugar, cooking oil, coffee and Silk French Vanilla Soy Coffee Creamer, because that’s the absolute best and some of us despair if we have to use any other coffee creamer, or regular milk. (Also, be sure to ask whether the coffee maker is a Keurig or brew type.)
A good tip is to fill one of those plastic storage bins before you leave home with nonperishable kitchen necessities and a cooler with your Silk French Vanilla Soy Coffee Creamer and other things that must stay cool.
Finally, relax. You’re at the beach, for goodness sake.
Staying cool is the ultimate tip. And we aren’t just talking about Aunt Agnes and her thermostat settings. Keep in mind that there will always be little problems that arise, but most of them are easily resolved. Keep in mind, too, that everyone has their little personality quirks, but that it’s best to be calm and assure that everyone has a good time. Because, after all, it might be next summer before we all get the chance to ride the waves of a beach rental vacation again!