Article by Guest Blogger, Deb Panos, first published September 16, 2016 here
As I sit here, working on a menu and developing a shopping list for our next beach vacation, it dawned on me. Someone really needs to develop a comprehensive guide for planning meals at a beach (or anywhere really) vacation house or condo. Maybe someone has already done it but I couldn’t find it so I nominated myself. Keep in mind, this guide is really for those people that drive to their destination. If you fly, it is a little harder to prepare to this degree.
“At this point in the day, we are not much interested in showering and getting dressed to go out to dinner…”
“Planning ahead is crucial”
However, we are not a “box of pasta and jar of sauce” family. I love to cook and my entire family loves to eat and appreciates good food. Plus, when at the beach, we have access to fresh seafood (caught that morning) that we simply cannot resist. Eating well on vacation, to us, enhances the experience tremendously. I do realize that this approach is not for everyone. Many people consider cooking a chore and really want to avoid cooking on vacation as much as possible. I get that. Maybe I can change your mind. Just a little.
Planning ahead is crucial if you want to prepare fast, delicious meals at the beach. I am excited about spending a week at the beach so it doesn’t really seem like work. More like vacation prep. Kind of like packing.
It is also helpful to plan your menu for the week and be sure to include dinners out. You want to be prepared but you don’t want to bring a ton of food back with you or even worse throw it away. Also, be sure and find out if you’ll have access to a grill. Gas or charcoal? If it is charcoal, I wouldn’t haul charcoal from home. For two reasons. One, a bag of charcoal takes up a lot of valuable car space. Two, there is a good chance that the previous renters left behind their charcoal. Use that. If no grill is available, consider heading to the local Walmart and buying an inexpensive charcoal grill. You can leave it for the next renters.
Casseroles (like lasagna) can be prepared ahead and frozen. Meats can be placed in plastic bags along with marinade and frozen. Baked good, like cakes and cookies, can be made ahead and frozen. Or, if you like your cookies fresh from the oven, prepare the dough and freeze that. I like to review each recipe and make sure I take whatever spices and staples I need. Otherwise, be prepared for sticker shock when you go to the local grocery store for your favorite spice. Assuming they even have it. I even go so far as to measure out the exact amount I need and put it in a resealable plastic bag. If a recipe calls for multiple spices, by all means, combine them into one bag or plastic storage container.
I try and take small sizes of Dijon, olive oil, vinegar (you’ll probably need that if you steam seafood anyway), mayo, ketchup etc. Partly because I know I can buy it for less at home but also I like to keep my local shopping list as short as possible. I also buy one of those disposable salt and pepper sets. Don’t assume your rental has a Keurig. Bring ground coffee.
“You’ll want to keep it ultra-simple”
Since the first dinner will likely be on a travel day, you’ll want to keep it ultra-simple. Last trip, I premade crab cakes (did not form them, just mixed the ingredients together) and brought along a boxed rice mix (not something I normally use but it is vacation after all) and a box of salad greens. I also premade the dressing. Alternatively, I could have made a rice pilaf and just reheated in the microwave. Maybe next time. Anyway, after unpacking, checking out the beach and toasting the beginning of a wonderful vacation we were not interested in getting back in the car to go out to dinner or spending a lot of time preparing. I formed the crab cakes and broiled them (parchment paper comes in really handy here – just bring one sheet, not the whole roll), made the rice and added dressing to the salad. Super fast. Super tasty. If you have access to a Costco, their pasteurized crab meat (in the refrigerated section) is excellent. It isn’t cheap but it is less that you’d pay at a fish market. And it is less than eating out.
I’m excited to share how we prepare for and enjoy great meals on our beach vacations.
Deb Panos and her family own a vacation rental in scenic Fort Morgan, Alabama.
It’s no secret – the vacation rental industry has changed dramatically over the last few years and not for the better. These changes negatively impacted both the traveler and vacation rental owners alike. As a result, more and more owners are leaving the online travel agencies (“OTA’s”) and listing their properties on regional sites like Alabama Vacation Home Rentals, where there are no booking fees and no commissions. Most regional websites charge owners much less to list their properties and travelers pay absolutely nothing! This is how the OTA industry actually started – before they got greedy!
Alabama Vacation Home Rentals (ALAVHR) is a pure and simple listing site that connects travelers and vacation rental owners. We believe in open and direct communication between owners and travelers before, during and after the booking. In contrast, OTA’s want to control the process by making the rules to their benefit, at the expense of the traveler and owner. The reason that OTA’s block communication between owner and guest is simple, they want their money.
On February 7, 2018, we participated in the first ever “Book Direct” day. Vacation rental owners, hoteliers and industry related websites are coming together as one common voice to educate travelers and guests to inform them that there is an alternative to the OTA’s. Looking for tips on how to #BookDirect safely? Read our article here.
BookDirect to Save Hundreds of Dollars On Your Next Vacation Rental!
So say NO to VRBO! Other OTA’s that will gladly take you hard earned money are: AirBnb, Flipkey, HomeAway, Booking, etc. All of these websites will charge both the owner and traveler very high fees. Buyer beware! Ask questions and read the website! Some sites, like Booking .com, try to hide their fees as commissions tacked on to the owner cost. In the end, the traveler pays more for the same vacation and often times, the owner makes much less on their own property that the OTA’s.
Why pay more for the same vacation rentals?
Booking a vacation rental on a no fee-listing site can save you money, sometimes hundreds of dollars! Yes, hundreds of dollars! At Alabama Vacation Home Rentals: Our pledge to you: We do not charge a traveler fee and never will!
Receive personalized service.
Vacation rentals are not hotels. Each one is unique. In fact, not every vacation rental is for everyone. Booking direct with an owner or property manager allows for open communication so that you can ask important questions before you book.
Want the inside scoop? Owners are local experts who know their destination the best, the attractions,, the restaurants, the vendors, the happy hours the discounts, etc., and are more than happy to share with you their insider local tips. Remember, owners genuinely want your repeat business and will go the extra mile to ensure you are happy and enthusiastic enough to come back and tell your friends. Many owners appreciate returning guests so much that they offer special perks or discounts.
Receive the best possible price.
The cost for an owner to list their property on the OTA’s has become increasingly more expensive. While many of these OTA’s want you to think that they are offering you the best possible price, the fact is they are not. Owners have no choice but to pass the increase on to travelers. Your cost goes up! Speaking directly with the owner guarantees you the best possible rental price, access to special offers and/or last minute cancellations deals.
No fee regional listing sites are gaining in popularity. Alabama Vacation Home Rentals (a member of Vacation Home Rental Network) is one of them. Owners and travelers can make a difference by spreading the word that there is an alternative to VRBO, HomeAway, AirBnb, Booking etc.
You have saved all year for your vacation, so save some of those hard earned dollars for enjoying your vacation and not lining the pockets of a big OTA. Make sure it is your perfect vacation rental BEFORE you book.
With so much of our time today spent disconnected through electronics and social media, it’s important to set aside a weekend or even longer to relax as a family. A beach vacation is the perfect way to time to spend together and really connect. Here are a few tips to help make the most out of your time together.
3 Ways a Beach Vacation Can Bring Families Together
1. Get Everyone Involved in Making Decisions
Use the time planning your beach vacation to start getting everyone involved and excited. Ask your children to choose one or two activities they are most looking forward to on the visit. Once you arrive, even young children can help with finding the best spot on the beach, or send teens on an “adventure” – a list of important shopping items bring back to the beach house. Family members will feel more involved as they contribute to the trip’s success.
2. Create Unstructured Time Together
If your family members’ daily lives are crammed full of extracurricular activities, work, school, and other important obligations, finding time to relax together is tough. While at the beach, it’s easier to sit down to meals together, enjoy the sunset, go for walks, build sandcastles, look for shells and simply enjoy each other’s company.
3. Plan a Family Adventure
Whether learning to knee board, looking for starfish, going zip-lining, deep sea fishing or parasailing – the beach provides ample opportunities for your family members to bond together by helping each other make it through new and challenging adventures. Sharing new experiences creates memories you will treasure long after you leave the beach.
To learn more about how renting a beach house or condo can be fun for the whole family, contact Alabama Vacation Home Rentals based in Daphne, AL. With hundreds of rental homes along the Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Dauphin Island, Mobile, Fort Morgan, and Fairhope, they can help you find the perfect family getaway. To learn more about what they have to offer, call them today at (251) 333-6500, or visit their website to see their beach houses and condo listings.