Should we book a hotel room, or rent a condo? It’s a question that could be applied to many vacation spots, but here in Ocean City Md, it is the question when in regards to accommodations. As a matter of fact, If you are having a conversation about Ocean City, it always is a dead giveaway that you are engaging with someone who never has been here before when they ask you? “So, what do you guys rent one of those big houses there?” If reading that last sentence made you smile or even chuckle, then chances are you already are a veteran vacationer of our little beach town. You probably have had people tilt their heads and squint back at you as inform them that, “No, they don’t have beach houses.”
Now, on the other hand, if you yourself have never visited our little slice of the W\Eastern Shore, then let me be the first to welcome you aboard and invite you to continue reading along as we explore this age-old debate among our vacationers.
As I briefly touched on above, beach houses might be the common at the Delaware beaches, and practically the standard when thinking about the Outer Banks, but in Ocean City Md. lodging is predominately made up of hotels/motels and condominiums, which leaves us all asking ourselves and each other which option works out best. Now, before I just dive straight in with my own perspective on this matter, let me first give you some brief background on my vacationing experience here on the island.
A trip down Ocean City Condo memory lane
The true definition of what really distinguishes a motel from a hotel could be subject to interpretation, and perhaps even debate, but as a child I observed that hotels had a few more amenities, and the room doors were internal, as apposed to facing out towards a parking lot. Aside from those things the basic concept was pretty much the same. My earliest memories of Ocean City, are from when my parents took us to the Stowaway Motel on 21st. It was a no frills type of place, 2 beds, a bathroom, and some pretty noisy window a/c units. Despite it’s short comings it was ocean front and right on the boardwalk so nobody in my family complained. We actually stayed here for a number of years until we moved up to the Best Western Flagship Hotel, located at the end of the boardwalk. In a way, this location felt like the outskirts of town, because much of what was north of here was either just built, or was in the process of being built in what is now commonly referred to as “condo row”. Every year we’d get in the car, and drive up the coast looking upward at these new high rise buildings until eventually my father decided it was time to upgrade our family vacation to a condominium in the Sea Watch building.
I’ve often heard that history repeats itself, and I’m not sure if this is the case here or not, but what I can tell you is while I’ve stayed many different places in town as an adult, once I had kids of my own I found myself booking us rooms at a motel, the former Santa Maria Motel, to be exact. Does anyone else remember this place? It wasn’t much to look at but the rooms were clean, and the 15th Street location was hard to beat. Truth be told, it worked out great, and the price was just right too. But as our family grew we moved up to a three bedroom condo and eventually, in a surprise turn of events, we went back to a hotel room. So, why did we do an about face? Well, that’s really what you wanted to know the second you started reading this article – isn’t it?
Ring the bell!
In this corner of the ring we have the condominium: When it comes to renting a condo, there are a lot of advantages over a hotel room. I’d list “space” at the top of the plus column, but it is a little more involved than just more square footage. Typically that extra room is distributed to bedrooms being separate entities from the living room, full sized kitchens, baths, and often times even having laundry facilities. Essentially it is a comfortable home that you’re renting for your stay.
This is a great choice for families of all sizes. There’s nothing quite like personal space and privacy to keep the harmony going inside your family unit and getting one with more than one bathrooms can certainly solve some obvious problems. With all these positives it almost seems impossible to find anything negative here. But as we all know, nothing is perfect, and even conveniences can become inconvenient in the blink of an eye. Condo owners tend to want to maximize their rental season, so this means a lot of weekly only rentals during the summer months, along with set starting and ending days ie. Saturday to Saturday. With that being said, even if the dates and the length of stay restrictions work out for you, keep in mind that unlike a hotel, housekeeping and providing linens will fall squarely on your shoulders. This might not seem like too big of a hurdle for some, but for a family of seven people and their bags already packed into a mini van, the added luggage of bath towels, bed linens, and pillows can leave you feeling like Chevy Chase loading up the Family Truckster, if you’re not careful.
Now in the other corner we have hotels: I don’t think anyone wants or needs me to explain how hotel stays work, but just as I listed all the up sides of rentals, it would only be fair to point out the advantages that hotels have over condominiums. Flexibility of the number of nights you can stay, and choosing the days you begin and end your stay, can be a huge asset for many people. Another thing to consider here is what I like to refer to as the R&R factor. I mean lets be honest here, even if you can look past stacking your family and the extra luggage into your car like a giant Jinga game, having to make the beds, wash and dry bath towels, empty garbage cans and clean the place before you leave can absolutely suck the rest and relaxation right out of your vacation. Also worth mentioning is if you have a problem with your room, there’s something to be said for being able to ride the elevator down to the lobby and find a solution right there at the front desk instead of calling your rental agency and waiting around for a call back in order to resolve your issue.
Want to have your cake and eat it too?
Like everything there are pros and cons, and if you just can’t seem to get off the fence here on this one, I have one final option for you: there are some condo units that are located in and owned by hotels. A couple that come to mind are the Carousel Hotel, and the Quality in Oceanfront (on 54th st) they have two- and three- bedroom condos in and near their hotel buildings that include linens and housekeeping, along with access to all the amenities of the hotels themselves. You might say they’re kind of the best of both worlds.
Bottom line is there’s really no winner or loser here in any of these lodging options, it simply comes down to what fits the bill best. Just as no two people are alike, no two families are either. At the end of the day you must choose which option works best for your own family’s needs.
Happy hunting my friends!
Sincerely, The Outsider