With so many choices out there, beach house rentals are easy enough to find. Snagging one that's right for you at a price you can afford can be a different story. Whether your summertime nirvana is a modest Walden-esque cabin or a waterfront mansion worthy of Jay Gatsby, these pointers can help you get the best deal.
Decide on a rental budget and stick to it. Going over is a no-no because it's hard to relax when you're chronically worried about your wallet.
Good values go fast, so start your house housing early: six months ahead usually suffices, yet you may need a year in the most coveted areas.
Vacationing with extended family or a group of friends enables you to split the rental fee: just be mindful of the number of bedrooms and the way beds are configured. Cousins may love the idea of bunk beds or a fold-out futon ... couples not so much.
When it comes to beach houses, location counts. However, you can often save a bundle by opting for a spot by the water rather than right on it.
Be realistic about your wish list. If your property is on the beach do you need a pool? If you're dining out regularly is a gourmet kitchen required?
It pays to be flexible with dates. Early June is virtually always less expensive than the height of summer; and even in July and August there might be big week-by-week price swings (special events, for one, can drive rates up in host communities).
If your goal is merely to get some R&R, remember North America has a long coastline with lots of lovely, lesser-known (read: cheaper) locales.
Remember, too, that we don't have a monopoly on sunny strands. Peak season for most domestic destinations is off season in much of the Caribbean and Central America. The caveat is that you have to carefully weigh the higher travel costs.
Thoroughly read a rental contract before signing. Add-on fees for cleaning, parking and such can tally up fast. Ditto for minimum stay requirements.
Protect your financial stake by dealing only with reliable owners or agents. If you don't get a prompt, pleasant response the first time you make contact, beware. People who aren't forthcoming before they get your deposit will be less so afterwards.
Susan MacCallum-Whitcomb will report on life at a summer beach house in AOL Travel's weekly Beach House Diaries. Follow along with her or share your beach house tips in the comments below.