Shore Up Family Togetherness With a Beachside Rental

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in her bestselling book “Gift From the Sea,” says it so eloquently: “One learns…in beach living the art of shedding; how little one can get along with.” Having personally spent every summer at the beach — even before I could walk — I agree wholeheartedly!

Beach life frees the mind, body and soul and, once you experience its uniqueness, you’ll crave it again and again. The sandy shoreline becomes your family’s playground and dressing up equates to a pair of sandals and a lightweight outfit. Appetites ripen for lighter fare including fresh seafood (perhaps your own catch-of-the-day?). Hectic everyday life is stored away for another time and place.

If you long for this simple summer experience, here’s a thought: Find a convenient seaside retreat, let the sand nestle between your toes and watch your kids play along the water’s edge.

An Emerald Nearby

To make it happen, you don’t have pull out your passports or even get on a plane because, within driving distance, you can lay down your towel on the soft, sugar-white sandy beaches of Florida’s panhandle. Fondly referred to as the Redneck Riviera or the Emerald Coast (due to the gem-colored waters), the beach communities of Northwest Florida offer an easy and affordable way to soak up the sun.

Destin, Florida, ranked by USA Today as the Best Beach in America, is a favorite of native Tulsan, Kathy Elliott. Her family has vacationed there for nearly a decade. In fact, when presenting other ideas to her children, they decline, begging to return to Destin, where their fond memories run deep.

Close to Destin, there is South Walton, known for its upscale yet casual environment. Another option is Pensacola, which offers some of the best fishing and boating in the area. In addition, Santa Rosa is close to Destin but is a less populated alternative with an even more relaxing environment than its neighboring villages.

Lastly, consider Seaside, a quaint and quiet community, where walking and biking are the preferred means to get around. Vickie Kelley, a beach-loving Tulsan who has vacationed in Seaside says that you can hang up the car keys — bikes are even delivered to your doorstep!

Resorting vs. Renting

Staying at a luxurious resort can be fabulous, with oodles of amenities at your disposal. But, with that comes a certain lack of privacy, which can distract you from spending quality family time together.

In contrast, a beachside rental provides a secluded and virtually carefree atmosphere, void of cookie-cutter hotel rooms and expensive menus. In your private quarters, you can load up the fridge with your favorite foods and enjoy each other in peace.

This “home away from home” can become a place where the time on the clock is less important than intimate family time. You can easily hop on and off the beach, play games when you feel like it, take leisurely walks together, and eat whatever, whenever.

If you must venture out from your own private setting, the Emerald Coast is also famous for its fabulous deep-sea fishing, many laid-back restaurants, selection of water sports and championship golf courses. But, please, don’t let anyone talk you in to paying Mickey Mouse a visit. Save that totally different vacation experience for another time.

Secure Property that Suits You

Throughout the Emerald Coast, there is a wide assortment of accommodations, from seaside condos to cozy cottages to large beachfront homes. Prices vary from as little as $1000/week for a two-bedroom condominium to several thousand dollars/week for huge homes with private pools. To find the best fit, be sure to do the proper research.

Money Magazine’s May 2007 issue featured an article, “Beach-Rental Bingo,” which gave sound advice on how to find a suitable and affordable beachside property. It stated that “…the sooner you start shopping, the better choice you’ll have in terms of quality, location and price.” Vacation rentals may seem like an expensive endeavor at first, but many can comfortably accommodate several families, making them an ideal getaway for an extended family reunion.

Right now, summer rentals are abundant. And, with the housing market in a slump, there is likely more wiggle room for negotiating a fair price. To uncover what’s out there, check out,, and, just to name a few websites. Some afford you direct contact with the owner, which might give you more opportunity to reach a comfortable price and timeframe. You can also contact the local Chambers of Commerce for further information.

Take the Plunge!

Good luck as you plan out your seaside retreat experience. A relaxing seaside vacation can make you become closer and more connected as a family as you share time and space together—-free from a lot of the things that tend to bog you down and distract you from what truly matters.

Trust me, once you get a taste of the simplicity of this style of vacationing, your family, like shorebirds, will migrate toward it year after year. Mine certainly does!

Categories: Family Travel, Travel