For Vacationers, House Rentals Can Be More Cost Effective

Article excerpt

Stuffing a home with 20 or more people seems like a good way to rub nerves raw.

But for some summer vacationers, it is the only way to go.

"All of my family's memories of summer vacation are there," says Dan Palmer of South Fayette. He participated in rental home vacation trips 17 straight years until 2006.

It is a summer vacation often filled with huge meals, suntan lotions and seemingly endless supplies of beer and cola. It also is filled with one-liners repeated too often and music you'd rather not hear. Again.

But it is a style that maintains its popularity.

"If, for some reason, we couldn't go, it would be awful," says Mt. Lebanon's Carola Benincasa, who has been on group trips with up to 21 people.

"You get away from everything," says Jennifer Certo of North Huntingdon, whose trips have numbered to 17 guests, "We don't take our laptops. There's no soccer, no dance classes, nothing."

Trips can be massive undertakings, such as this year's expedition to the Outer Banks in North Carolina by the family of Wil Forrest of Crafton. There will be 34 people in eight bedrooms.

They can grow steadily. Tom and Cindy Mrozenski of Ben Avon began taking trips to the Outer Banks about 12 years ago with just their three children. Then, over the course of 10 years, both sets of parents joined them, then siblings, cousins and aunts.

The trips also can become nearly must-do events. Benincasa says her trips were "off and on" for about six years, but have turned into a more regular item in the past four.

For all of those reasons, group trips require understanding as well as planning. Palmer says his family tends to begin its planning as part of Christmas activities.

It sounds like a simple idea

For many people, the idea started out simply enough.

In 1990, Palmer says, he and his family were talking about summer vacations when the idea of a beach trip hit them.

He says a friend had been going "to the Outer Banks with her family and we just sort of stole their routine."

The first trip had 11 people; trips since have grown to 29. In trips that have taken place every year since 1990, the extended family has stayed in the same house in the Outer Banks only once and has visited other places such as Virginia Beach, Va., and Deep Creek, Md.

Regardless of location, the activities on the vacations "translate rather well," Palmer says.

After discovering the fun of vacationing together, Louse Parkhill's group has made trips to the Outer Banks, Myrtle Beach, Deep Creek, Las Vegas, and are considering a cruise for 2009. The Cheswick resident says the key to the trips is "we don't always do the same thing."

For most vacationers, the routine of the home rental trip includes big jobs. They start with a grocery shopping for people whose thoughts on breakfast differ as much as their tastes in music. And they include dinner preparations that turn into friendly best- meal competitions.

Or they can involve massive field trips to tourist highlights such as kayaking trips on the Albemarle Sound side of the Outer Banks.

"You want to make it fun for everyone," Certo says. She says her group works hard at making sure members don't feel obligated to tag along to any planned activity.

Parkhill, who was on a 21-person trip in April, says that during the trip "we all are on our own and can do what we want."

Similarly, Forrest and his family generally go out for dinners, rather than worrying about making a big meal for a large group. They also tend to break the group into smaller units so as not to overwhelm a restaurant.

Demands such as grocery shopping and beach needs for vacationing groups have created new business outlets, says Carolyn McCormick, managing director of the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau.

Renters can get the help of firms who will do their grocery shopping and deliver the order to their homes just after the afternoon book-in time. …