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By: Patricia Ann Chaffee

Elizabeth WeedonSunset on Cape Cod BayDon’t be one of the Americans who fail to use 429 million vacation days each year, according to a U.S. Travel Association, Time Off case study. Don’t view time off as frivolous, but as essential to the whole person. Even if this year, you don’t have a travel partner, you can still find a way to enjoy a retreat. It’s hard to imagine, but in our success driven, don’t stop ‘til you drop, acquire the best, and better than the rest culture, relaxing in a charming seaside cottage may be the last thing on your mind. 

Once we reconcile the value of vacation time, consider the possibility of a cottage rental in one of New England’s favorite summer destinations: Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The Cape, as it is affectionately known by many travelers, has been a vacation destination since the beginning of the 19th century when Bostonians came down to get out of the city. It now sports 18 lighthouses, 106 miles of meandering bike paths, 83 museums, 475 galleries, 42 golf courses, art and seafood festivals, flea markets and frivolity of every kind, and of course shopping galore.

Yet with so much to do, it still summons even the most vivacious vacationer to slow down, plunk a backyard chair next to some scrub pines, relax and breathe in that salt air while listening to those ocean waves. Think: gray weathered shingles, window boxes brimming with blossoms, cottage roses climbing fences, and every single one, only a short walk or drive to the water. Warm sugar sandy beaches and plenty of them line 559 miles of unspoiled coastline and opportunities for fun in the sun are ever present.

Accommodations like hotels, motels and resorts on the cape are plentiful, but it’s cottage rentals that many vacationers choose to create the most authentic Cape Cod experience. Many folks return to the same cottage year after year as traditions run deep. But with just a little bit of inquiry and planning, you can have a week or more in a classic Cape Cod cottage that offers everything you need and nothing that you don’t.

Easy browsing to find the right cottageCottage 2

Jessica GalvinOne of the major benefits of renting a vacation cottage is price, according to Martha Murray Vacation Rentals (www.MarthaMurrayVacationRentals.com) agent Jessica Galvin. “Prices at hotels are outrageous for a typical basic hotel room and maybe you get a dorm size fridge if you’re lucky. With a cottage rental you get an entire house.”

Weekly rental listings in her Dennisport office run from $500 for a small house with fully equipped kitchen, television and cable that’s not far from the beach, to $10,000 for a spectacular oceanfront home. “The first thing people want to do when they arrive is go to the beach,” says Jessica. So concierge services are available to arrange for grocery delivery, beach passes, whale watch and ferry tickets and even the use of office space and equipment for those who just can’t take a day off. And while bookings for more than 350 rental listings begin as early as September for the next year’s season, with 95 percent renting year after year, it’s the last minute planners that will get the best deal. If you have the flexibility to book your vacation just a couple weeks in advance you might find owners a bit more flexible on the price.

Another benefit to booking your rental through a local company is that if there is a problem, they are right there to fix it. When the toilet overflows at 2 a.m., you aren’t calling an absentee owner in Saskatchewan, you are calling Jessica who can get a plumber out within the hour.

Alternatively, some folks prefer to just book their vacation on line and many do just that. The locally owned and operated, appropriately named online site, www.WeNeedAVacation.com has 175,000 visitors to its site each year, viewing more than 4,000 rental listings on the Cape, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. Many Realtors use the site to post rental listings, as well as posts direct from owners. Press and PR coordinator Elizabeth Weedon agrees there isn’t a whole lot of negotiating going on except for last minute bookings, but the benefits to using the site are many. “Our power search feature is very targeted, saving vacationers time and effort. It’s sophisticated, allowing them to add search criteria like, walk to the beach, gas grill, air conditioning, etc., so they find exactly what they are looking for and the (search) results are pretty darn close.”

Although it leans toward being an owners market, the cottage rental market on the Cape is strong. Despite owners not being too flexible on the price, the benefits to renting a cottage are many. The larger homes book earlier, according to Elizabeth, because families and friends often combine their resources and share a home and that advance planning means early booking. In addition to the fun factor, it’s more economical and the work of daily living can be shared.

Cottage 1Cape Cod - Landsat 7Leasing considerations

This doesn’t exclude travelers who just want some peace and quiet, going alone or with a friend. There are itty bitty efficiency and one bedroom cottages that are also an attractive alternative to sterile, impersonal hotels and resorts. And going off season in May or June, before the rates spike in July and August, or even going in the fall, are beautiful times to go to the Cape when it’s not quite so busy and rates are fantastic. These smaller dwellings exude charm factor and can be had for less than $500 a week depending on when you go, although proximity to the water is a big factor in price for all rentals. With thousands of vacation rentals available on the cape, it’s never too late to find the perfect vacation home.

Some properties require security deposits, cleaning fees, damage deposits, leases, pet restrictions, etc. so know what you are willing to do and what you find non-negotiable. As a seasoned Cape Cod cottage dweller, I’ve never paid a security deposit or cleaning fee. Some owners require it, others don’t.

“Renting a house is by far the most affordable vacation anyone can take,” says Elizabeth. “Having the ability to cook your meals is huge. Having to schlep everyone out for breakfast when you want to sleep in is no fun. With a cottage you can eat in whenever you want. There really is greater flexibility. Considering pond or lake area options can save money as well compared to cottages near the ocean. On Cape Cod you are never far from a Beach.”

travel logoAnother feature of the site is the ability for vacationers to read prior guest reviews which has become increasingly important to renters, according to Elizabeth, who rents out a property of her own on Martha’s Vineyard. “It’s not about just filling vacancies. We want vacationers to have a great experience. We want to see glowing reviews.” And who doesn’t want to be able to give one? We don’t get a lot of vacations and need to make every one count.

Consider a rental cottage for your next vacation on the Cape to make life easy breezy, affordable for your budget and most of all have time for doing what you love, and in some cases that means doing nothing. The best vacations are simple ones where the expectations are at a minimum and fun in the sun is at a maximum. A little spontaneity goes long way when on vacation, so relax and enjoy one of the most delightful places in New England.

It’s Easy Breezy – Let the vacation begin!

(If Cape Cod travel doesn’t entice you, consider exploring vacation rentals at www.HomeAway.com, where they have more than one million vacation rental homes in 190 countries.)

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