Winter Blues? Book Your Summer Rental!

Author Mary Kay Andrews Breeze Inn TybeeIf you’re planning to rent a house at the shore this summer, now’s the perfect time to book it. Good houses disappear quickly. If you wait any longer, you may end up with a mildewed manse with slugs in the shower. So put down the snow shovel and start browsing online. Or, better yet, hop on a plane and check out the rentals in person.

It’s a great time to head to the beach. Tourists are extinct in the winter. There are no waiting lines for restaurants and the locals are happy to tell you why they love their piece of paradise. The sunsets in February are as beautiful as those in July. You can’t swim in the ocean, but, hey, no sand in your shorts. Lose some. Win some.

Sunset AJ Grille Tybee

Tune out public opinion advising you to rent direct from owners to save money. I recommend doing exactly the opposite; use an experienced agent. A beach rental is a serious outlay of cash and I’m willing to spend a bit more to get advice from someone who knows the destination. If you clearly enunciate your wants, needs, and desires, a good agent will pick a spot that suits you perfectly. It’s the equivalent of hiring a personal shopper to put together the right outfit. It costs, but it’s worth it.

Case in point. I just returned from Tybee Island, Georgia. I’d never been, but family members have raved about it for years, so I launched a reconnaissance mission to check out the rental scene. A quick internet search turned up several agents including Oceanfront Cottage Rentals, Tybee Vacation Rentals, and Tybee Joy Vacations. They all have attractive websites and a wide-range of inventory, but I decided to contact one of the smaller agencies, Mermaid Cottages. Their homepage featured a bungalow that screamed “RENT ME!”. Like impetuous Alice, I couldn’t resist.

Mermaid Cottages Tybee Island

Jan and Denise tool around town in a spunky golf cart, the perfect vehicle for two mermaids out of water.

It’s so nice when your intuition is confirmed. It’s like a getting a big, ol’ Official Smarty Pants medal. Mermaid Cottages is one of the newer, smaller agencies on the island, but owner Diane Kaufman’s no virgin; she spent over 25 years with Marriott before getting into the rental business. She runs her agency with corporate professionalism and a sense of fun, offering a stock of meticulously maintained properties. Her mermaids have a good time and will make sure you do too. Pre-trip, I quizzed my mermaid Jan on restaurants, sights, and shopping. Her recommendations were spot on, particularly her suggestion that I sit at the counters and bars when eating. My other solo dining companions and the restaurant staff were friendly and I never felt that weird “wish I’d brought a book” sensation that usually overtakes me when traveling by myself.

As I mentioned, a good flow of information between you and your agent will guarantee success. After establishing contact with Mermaid Jan, I told her I wasn’t looking for Big Mansion on the Dune, but Little Bungalow by the Sea. She recommended one of the agency’s historic cottages designed by the wildly talented Jane Coslick. If I were to assign a moniker to her style, it would be Vintage Southern Comfort. I rented 1/2 of a duplex (Cottage on the Green “B”); shouldering my way through the screen door, I dropped my bag and immediately felt home coursing through me like a shot of brown liquor. Every touch was perfect: white matelassé bedspreads, pristine heart pine floors, twinkling chandeliers. Although the cottage dates to 1929, Ms. Coslick’s chosen a thoroughly modern color palette – turquoise, red, yellow and pink – that charms every room.

When it was time to leave, I wanted to buy my cottage. That should be the feeling you get with the right summer rental.

So, if you’re considering a beach rental for the summer of 2016:

  • Earlier is Betterer. Book by early to secure a high-quality rental property.
  • Use an Agent. And find the right one for you. Ask a friend who’s been to the area for a recommendation, check TripAdvisor, send a tweet. Or simply trust your gut. You know you know best.
  • Visit in the Off-Season. You’ll get to know the community like an insider. Discover the restaurants and businesses that thrive in the winter. If they can survive without seasonal traffic, they’ve got to be good.
  • Communicate. Be clear with your agent about what you want. If you’re bringing your dog, tell them. If Granny can’t climb steps, mention it. And don’t be afraid to pump them for information about the area. I would never have noticed the best restaurant in Tybee since it was tucked inside a tiny strip mall. I went for dinner. And the next day for dessert. Of course, I can’t button my pants anymore. Thank you, Mermaid Jan.

Blue crabs at the Crab Shack Tybee


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