Summer’s (Almost) Over, Time to Plan Your Next Beach Vacation

I love summer. I love the warm weather, the thunderstorms, swimming in the pool, bonfires, picnics, and generally being outside. But most of all, I love going on vacation.

Now, you can go on vacation any time, but summer is vacation season and I look forward to traveling every year, even if it isn’t to a new place. I drive my family crazy because as soon as one vacation is over I start thinking about and planning the next — even if the only planning I’m doing is inside my head. Haha.

The bottom line is that I am a planner, and I feel that in order to have an awesome, relaxing, and fun vacation you have to be organized and plan ahead. An added bonus is that when you plan ahead, you often are able to get some great deals and save money.

I love all kinds of vacations. I love to go to big cities where you can walk around, see the sights, visit museums, and shop. As a history person, I like to go to places that have historical value too. I also have a childish love for Disney World.

But, for me, two of the best kinds of vacations are 1. going to the beach and 2. going on a cruise.

Because there’s so much information on both kinds of vacation, I’m breaking this up into 2 posts — this one about the beach and the second about cruising.

So, here’s my advice on planning and booking the best beach vacations. Hopefully, I’ll help you save a little money too.

Hitting the Beach

The beach is one of my favorite places on Earth to be. I love the sand, the ocean, the sound of the waves. There is something so relaxing about sitting in a beach chair under an umbrella, closing your eyes, and just soaking it all in.

The beach on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. (Picture from hiltonheadvacation.com)

Ohio doesn’t have a beach, unless you count the shores of Lake Erie. And, although a lot of my fellow Ohioans spend time on Lake Erie’s shore during the summer months, to me, there is nothing like the ocean. This makes the East Coast and the Atlantic Ocean the closest beach to visit.

My favorite beach to go to on the East Coast is Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Located at the southern-most part of South Carolina, Hilton Head is a boot shaped island that boasts 12 miles of clean and beautiful beaches and an overall subdued atmosphere that is the opposite of commercial and bustling beach destinations like Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Other great East Coast beaches are Wilmington/Carolina Beach, North Carolina; Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Outer Banks, North Carolina. There are, of course, countless more. Do a simple Google Search and discover other beaches to travel to. And, don’t forget the wonderful West Coast and Gulf Coast beaches too!

Whether you’ve been to the beach a million times or have never gone before, here are a few things to consider before you start to plan:

Some Things To Consider

  • What’s your budget?
  • Who are you traveling with? How many people are going to be in your party?
  • When are you going to go? How many days vacation are you aiming for?
  • How far do you want to travel?
  • Are you going to fly or drive?
  • What kind of accommodations do you want? Hotel? Condo? Rental house? On the beach? Off the beach?
  • Do you want your vacation to be jam-packed with fun non-stop or do you want a primarily relaxing vacation where you make your own fun?
  • Do you need a lot of attractions and shopping close to where you are vacationing?

Budget, Driving vs. Flying, and Picking a Destination

A beach vacation can often be less expensive than many other types of vacations, depending on where you travel, where you stay, and how you spend your time while on vacation. However, beach vacations can quickly become very pricey.

What’s great about the beach is that the most money you will spend is on the journey from your home to the beach, on your accommodations, and on food/drinks.

Driving is one great way to save money, especially with the price of airfare today. Now of course, this only works if you are within driving distance to the beach you want to visit. For example, from where I live it takes at least 7-8 hours to reach the Atlantic. But to get to a “good beach” I need to drive at least 10 hours. It takes 14 hours to get to Hilton Head and I’ll admit that while it is a long drive, it is worth it in the end. So, you need to determine how long you’re willing to sit in a car, and whether such a distance is worth it if you’re only heading to the beach for a couple days.

Also, remember that flying to the beach isn’t always easy. It’s a pain to take beach chairs and umbrellas on a plane. Some destinations allow you to rent them and some condos/beach houses have them available for guests. But not all do, and renting/buying them can be pricey and inconvenient.

One of the most important things to decide is which beach you’re going to go to. Consider whether you want a busier, more crowded and lively beach destination or one that is quiet and relaxed. Also think about what else there is to do at that destination. Do you want someplace with a lot of nightlife, clubs, bars, major shopping, and other attractions? Or are you okay with a place that is more low-key, essentially a beach destination located in a small town with some shopping (both major and locally-owned), restaurants, and very few other attractions.

When to Go, How Long to Stay, Hotel vs. Rental, How Many People Traveling

One great thing about a beach vacation is that in order to travel to one, you often travel south which gives you a longer traveling season. Know that beach vacations will always be the most expensive in the summer because it’s the peak beach season. This doesn’t mean you still can’t get a good deal, but it does mean that if you’re looking to travel on the cheap you should consider going to the beach shortly before or shortly after the peak beach/summer season. (Also, pay attention to the weather as those later summer months run into peak hurricane season.)

Another thing you have to decide is how long you want to stay at the beach. When going to the beach, I have almost always stayed for a full week (Saturday – Saturday). Going for 7 nights might seem like a long time to some, but it can also be great for your wallet. Most beach destinations have plenty of hotels or inns to stay in. But they can be extremely pricey at $150-$300 or more per night. Instead, consider renting a condo or (if you have a lot of people) a house at the beach. Whereas you might spend upwards of $1200 to $1500 for 5 nights in hotel (double occupancy), renting a condo for 7 nights is a great bang for your buck.

Depending on how large a condo you want, 7 nights can cost you as little as $600-$1000. When you factor in that most beach condos have multiple bedrooms, direct beach access, a kitchen, living room, and various other amenities I’m a firm believer that a condo is the way to go.

Plus, the beach is equally as fun in large groups as it is for couples and small groups. Condos and beach houses can sleep a lot of people, so one great way to defray costs on rentals is to divide the expense amongst a bunch of family or friends!

Best Way To Start (and Finish) Your Beach Rental Search

Check out Vacation Rentals By Owner to browse vacation condos and houses all over the world (and not just at the beach). I’ve had great luck in finding vacation accommodations off the VRBO website. Even if you don’t want to use the VRBO site to book your vacation rental or contact an owner, it’s still a great place to see what each destination has to offer.

My VRBO advice (and advice for any vacation rental):

1. The more photos a listing has, the better!

2. No price is set in stone. If an owner is desperate to rent, they will negotiate.

3. If the description is vague, ask for more detail. If you want to walk out the door and have your feet in the sand in less than a minute, make sure the rental is truly on the beach. Ocean Front generally means that the rental has immediate beach access. Ocean View generally means the rental is at least yards away from the beach and may not be “on the beach” at all.

4. Are there any hidden fees? Is cleaning included? What about taxes?

5. Remember that most vacation rentals do not provide the same amenities that hotels do. You may have to bring your own towels and/or sheets. You most certainly will have to bring paper towels, toilet paper, soaps, etc. Pots and pans, silver wear, dishes, etc. are almost certainly provided. Ask what is included to be safe.

6. It’s never too early to start looking at vacation rentals. The good ones always sell out fast and one rental can sell out for the entire summer long before the season begins. Often owners will run specials and/or give discounts for early bookings.

7. Look for last minute specials too, sometimes owners who have one or two weeks remaining or a cancellation will slash prices to rent the unit.

Well, I hope I’ve given you some great advice about planning your next beach vacation. Remember, planning is a great way to ensure a fun and relaxing vacation, where you can then throw the need to plan out the window and just enjoy life.

 

Fighting Imposter Syndrome and “Knowing Your Value”

As Abbie and Jeannette have stated in their posts this we Dames have been on a little bit of a hiatus. For myself, life has simply been unbelievably busy. I’m happy to report that my M.A. thesis is completely written and that I’ve passed my comprehensive exams. I still have to finish thesis revisions, but graduation is getting more and more tangible by the day.

I won’t lie, I have mixed feelings about graduating. I’m extremely happy to be moving on to something new, and I’m looking forward to exploring different job opportunities and just seeing what’s out there. Unfortunately, I will not be attending a Ph.D. program next year. I’m okay with this though. I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason, and after going through the process of researching and writing a thesis, I’ve come to realize that I need a break. There are so many things I can do, there are so many ways to find happiness — and I can’t wait to find out what that might be.

I had some trouble getting my thesis started back in February. Unfortunately, when I write I have to start at the beginning. I can’t write the body of a paper first and then go back later and write the introduction. I have to write the intro first, even if it means completely re-writing it later. Once I did get going though, I wrote, edited, and re-wrote almost non-stop — to the point that I almost made myself crazy. I constantly second-guessed myself, stressing about every little detail, worrying that my readers would think I was a fraud, that my argument made no sense, that what I was saying was a bunch of crap. I’ve decided that I suffer from “Imposter Syndrome.”

Everyone has insecurities about a variety of things, but school has always been a major part of my life. I mean, let’s face it, I’ve been in school non-stop since age 3. That was 21 years ago. (God, I feel old — haha!) So, I forget sometimes that I’m not just a young student who has no authority. I have a Bachelor’s degree, I’m an adult, I have experience. I need to start remembering that and acting accordingly. Just because I’m still a student doesn’t mean that I don’t know things with relative certainty.

It’s the same idea with jobs. I’ve been looking around at different possibilities in between working on revisions. There are a lot of different jobs that I have the education, skills, and experience to do. But, I just need to remind myself that Ican do them. Yeah, they’re not “history” jobs — but that’s perfectly okay. They don’t need to be. I am not an imposter, in history or in terms of my other abilities. They’re not going to look at me immediately and say,  “You? Hahaha. We don’t think so.” I am not an imposter.

In addition to reminding myself that I am not an imposter, the process of writing my thesis also provided me with some insight on knowing my value. Even though I wrote almost non-stop for a month and a half, I didn’t write 24/7. In my downtime, I read a book called “Knowing Your Value: Women, Money, and Getting What You’re Worth” by Mika Brzezinski (co-host of Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough on MSNBC).

In her book, Mika Brzezinski discusses how she was re-hired at MSNBC in 2007 after losing her job at CBS. Grateful to have any job, Mika took what she could get — even if that meant only working a few hours a day for paltry pay and working the worst hours. A twist of fate resulted in Joe Scarborough singling her out as his desired co-host for a new morning show, but even with her new gig, she was still working on a host of other assignments for the network for far less pay than her Morning Joe co-workers. Upset with her unfair treatment and unequal (or, really in the same ballpark) pay, Mika when to her boss to ask for a raise. Her request was rejected.

This book, and my discussion of it, is not entirely about politics or the gender wage gap. Believe me, that gap is a real issue — but women’s consideration of their own value is equally as important in the equation. Mika, with the help of other famous friends, describes how many women (and some men too) lack the confidence of their own value in the workplace.

Instead of  asking for a raise in a confident manner,  Mika identifies that she went into the meeting with an apologetic tone — that she was sorry she had to ask, that she didn’t want to cause waves, that she understood money was tight and times were tough. She focused on the idea that she was so “lucky” to be on this program and to have a position at MSNBC — that she was grateful.

There’s nothing wrong with humility. But, at the same time, gratefulness isn’t confidence. Mika learned that she had to remember she deserved a raise. She deserved to be there. She was more than qualified for her job. She was valuable.

Here are some great quotes from the book:

“The problem is, a woman is socialized to accept that which she is given. So if somebody tells you that you can’t, you believe it. If somebody says you’re not worth it, you believe it.” – Suze Orman

“The key is to do your research. The most important thing that people don’t realize, especially women, is you can’t go in [to ask for a raise] expecting people to take care of you and that they’re going to be fair. They’re going to try to get the best deal they can.” – Lesley Jane Seymour, editor-in-chief of More

“Assuming power is everything. You have to assume it … [don’t] wait to be asked.”  – Tina Brown, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast and editor-in-chief of Newsweek

“A lot of getting ahead in the workplace has to do with being willing to raise your hand. . . . If we as women don’t raise our hands in the workplace, we’re not going to get the same opportunities men do. Because men keep their hands up.”
– Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook

Imposter Syndrome and not knowing your value go hand in hand. I myself am gulity of feeling lucky or grateful for simply being given the consideration for something. For downplaying my own achievements or my own intelligence to not stand out too much. Even to my own eyes and ears now, these statements sound a little arrogant. But they’re not. Everyone has strengths. Everyone has weaknesses. But we are all valuable in different ways.

Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not valuable. You are.