I am in the midst of packing for the family's annual anniversary vacation. This is actually the only "real" vacation my husband and I are able to take during our busy year. This year we're taking our little 7 month old daughter along with us, so that will put a new spin on our traditions. Unlike a lot of people, we can't afford to take an all out, super expensive vacation once a year. So in order to get away, we get practical and things actually get really fun and interesting as a result.
For our first anniversary, we started looking at places to stay on the ocean, figuring that visiting so out of season would enable us to stay longer than a weekend. At first, after comparing hotel prices, we were dismayed to find that a weekend away might be all we could afford after all. Then we stumbled onto the best kept secret of the shore: The Chateau Inn and Suites - a bed and breakfast in the upscale, residential shore town of Spring Lake, NJ. About 10 minutes north of Point Pleasant Beach and 10 minutes south of Avon-by-the-Sea, this town has managed to escape the never ending rental houses and tourist boardwalks that dominate the rest of the New Jersey shore. With a fresh water lake, an open boardwalk with a beautiful beach, and a quaint main street of little shops and cafes, it is the perfect place to be in October.
The Chataeu itself offers fantastic off season packages and prices (and because the town isn't a tourist destination, on season is only the months of June and July). The rooms are wonderful - each with it's own beautiful bathroom, fireplace, television, and enourmous comfy bed. We see the same staff there year after year. They are incredibly friendly and remember us every time we visit. The Chateau also offers beach chairs and towels and bike rentals as is it only a few short blocks to the beach and directly across the street from Spring Lake Park.
Even with the amazing prices that the Chateau offers, we still have to cut corners and stretch our budget a little - especially when you take meals into consideration. Fortunately with our package, continental breakfast is included, so that is one meal we never have to worry about. We plan to go out to dinner a couple times, since there are fantastic restuarants in the area (my husband would want me to mention Sumo, a Japanese restaurant we always enjoy every year). To save some money, we have made our own vacation tradition of spending two nights dining in and watching Pride and Prejudice which we bring ourselves (sidenote: if you visit a place with a television, but no dvd player, you can usually hook a laptop up to the screen with the right cords for a makeshift player). For lunches, we purchase deli meat, condiments, and bread ahead of time and store them in the mini fridge in the room, packing them up into sandwich bags and taking along a cooler on our excursions.
By saving money in as many ways as possible (like bringing our own bikes to avoid rentals), we can then afford to do some more fun things in the area. We always drive down to Point Pleasant (where everything is still open, but not crowded) to take in a game of mini golf, play the arcades, enjoy some salt water taffy and funnel cake, and wander through the Jenkinson's Aquarium. We like to drive a little inland to visit a nearby petting zoo, go for a hike around the Manasquan Reservior, and enjoy some apple and pumpkin picking.
We usually do something a little different every year depending on what is going on in our lives. Last year, we spent awhile registering at a nearby BabiesRUs. This year, we have my daughter with us, so we're leaving the bikes at home and bringing strollers and the baby carrier. I'm also excited that it's going to be a little colder than other years that we have gone, since pregnancy and heat don't mix very well. Mostly, my husband and I are just looking forward to getting away together. We anticipate this vacation all year, and we are so excited that it is finally here!
I look forward to continuing the Daily Vacation blog once we get home, but for right now, I'm going to keep packing and getting excited for our "real" vacation!