Planning A Family-Friendly Beach Vacation: Location, Location, Location


Where To Take Your Family Vacation

You’ve developed your family budget and – for the purpose of this series – decided to spend your vacation along the North Carolina coast. (By the way, great decision on vacationing at the beach! It’s not like we’re biased or anything.)

Researching the specific area where you’ll be staying is of utmost importance, not only due to budgetary concerns but also to accommodate your family needs (i.e., crowd-wise versus secluded) and wishes (amenities).

Our agency is in Oak Island, North Carolina and although the island itself is only 14 miles long, it has 3 distinct beaches each with very different characteristics. If you’ve never been to a particular beach, you’ll first need to know where it is on a map. With regard to Oak Island, if your family prefers a quiet beach get-away in a more secluded area then you’d probably want to stay on one end of our island. On the other hand, if your family wishes to people-watch in the mix of dining and shopping options then you’d probably prefer the opposite end of the island.

Moreover, even within our own county the beaches vary greatly. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina which is approximately an hour away is strikingly different. All have their great qualities but finding the perfect option suitable to YOUR family’s needs requires research as well as honesty as far as what you want and like.

Consider These When Determining Location

  1. How far is it from the grocery and/or drug store?
  2. How many restaurants are nearby, within driving distance, etc.?
  3. What will traffic and parking be like?
  4. Is the area family-friendly?
  5. How far is it from your home? Will your travel budget be affected?
  6. What will the weather be like during your stay?

Finding Your Family’s Restful {Vacation} Nest

The flip-side of the “Location, Location, Location” coin requires you to be honest with yourself about what you deem a deal-breaker when it comes to choosing a rental property. Do you have members of your family who cannot walk up a flight of stairs? Aside from the standard number of bedrooms and bathrooms, do you find that you’ll need coastal decór to feel truly on vacation? Are you traveling with more than one family, and both require a master bedroom? Are you bringing your four-legged family member?

Many oceanfront homes are great; however, some haven’t changed in decades. Will an older couch and knotty pine walls suffice so long as you can get into an oceanfront property? Would you be happier in a 2nd row home with hardwood floors and granite countertops? Perhaps you’d be fine either way, but it is a good decision to know your deal-breakers going into making your selection.

Items To Consider When Selecting The Type of Rental

  1. How many bedrooms (and number of beds) and bathrooms will you need? Will you need separate master bedrooms or a den where the children can have their own play space?
  2. Do you need oceanfront? Will a 2nd row home be sufficient?
  3. How far is the nearest beach access? Does the home have a private access?
  4. What appliances come in the home? Washer/dryer, dishwasher, coffee maker, etc.
  5. What is the parking situation? Is it covered, is it on-street?
  6. Is departure cleaning included? Are linens and towels provided or will you need to bring your own?
  7. What does “dog-friendly” mean? Is there a fenced-in yard?
  8. Is there a BBQ grill, picnic table and/or other outside seating?
  9. Is the home handicap accessible?

Tips On Deciding Where To Stay & Choosing A Rental Property

  1. Research the area. Call your rental agent to ask specifics on the area and if there are any differences in the specific areas of the location.
  2. Find out how many different modes of transportation are involved in getting to your rental property. For example, one in our area is only accessible by ferry and does not allow cars on the island. Getting around requires driving a golf cart.
  3. Rainy days and bad weather happen. Consider what those days will look like in your plan and incorporate off-the-beach activities (i.e., movie theaters, museums, aquariums, etc.).
  4. Visit an agency website and search by Category to narrow down your selection so that your decision-making doesn’t seem too overwhelming.

Deal Breaker ImageWhat are your deal-breakers when it comes to choosing a rental property? Let us know in the comments, and be on the lookout for our next installment which will cover When To Book Your Family Beach Vacation.

In the meantime, head over to our website and start narrowing down your list of favorites by location and features.


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Vacation Planning 101: Planning A Family-Friendly Beach Vacation

We know; the family planner suggests that we’re emerging from the throes of winter but all you have on the brain is making it to spring break or summer vacation. For some, planning their next family vacation is stressful and overwhelming – especially when one has to manage doing it on top of all of the other daily tasks.

Vacation Planning 101

Don’t worry. We’re here to help in every aspect of the word. In this series, we’ll discuss pre-planning items like setting a budget, the best time to book your vacation and other need-to-know suggestions on where to book and what to pack. While there may not be an exact science to vacation planning, we hope this series will take some of the madness out of the process for you and your family.

Setting A Vacation Budget

Circumstance and finances play a large role in where we actually vacation as a family. Despite your bucket list of places to visit, when it comes to running a household with children families choose locations offering gorgeous scenery, relaxation and activities suited for each member of the household rather than breaking the bank by visiting a luxury destination and having to add-on all of the amenities. The key: set your budget, then plan your vacation. Doing the opposite often means a sacrifice of good financial intentions for spur of the moment vacation daydreams.

Questions To Ask When Developing Your Vacation Budget

  1. How much can we afford? After monthly expenses are paid, what can we put toward a vacation fund without inconveniencing the family?
  2. How much time do we have to save? Create a realistic calendar of saving for your family situation.
  3. What will be included in the price of our accommodations? Will there be separate charges for taxes, a deposit, cleaning fees, trip insurance, etc.?
  4. After accommodations, how much will we need per person per day for food, activities, gratuity and/or souvenirs?
  5. What activities are on our “must do” list? How much will these cost? Should we prioritize the list so we can eliminate a few?
  6. Are certain amenities included if we rent weekly as opposed to nightly?

Things To Consider For Your Budget

  1. Search your membership benefits with organizations like AARP, AAA or even Costco. You may find discounts on rental cars or airfare.
  2. A standard vacation budget is equivalent to about one month’s income.
  3. Whatever your budget total, add 15% to it for unexpected expenditures or emergency situations.
  4. Do not charge your entire vacation.
  5. Jump start your vacation fund by skipping specialty coffee or by avoiding meals out.
  6. If you have flexibility with your dates, explore last minute deals. If a vacation rental isn’t rented for a particular week then an owner may be inclined to discount the weekly rate by several hundred dollars or offer extra nights as a booking special.
  7. Renting a vacation home can provide a little wiggle room in your vacation budget. Families tend to save on items like meals and other amenities when booking a vacation rental rather than a hotel or motel.

Margaret Rudd & Associates, Inc. offers a wonderful selection of vacation rentals in the Southport-Oak Island area of Brunswick County, North Carolina. Ranging from small bungalows and coastal condominiums to expansive beach homes, we surely have something to fit your family’s individual needs (budgetary and otherwise).

What are your tried and true methPiggy Bank Iconods for developing and adhering to your family vacation budget? Share your tips and tricks on how your family sticks to your budget before and during your vacation in the comments. Stay tuned for tips and tricks on Where To Take Your Family Vacation.


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Big Family, Big Fun! Oak Island Vacation Deal

Book any 5-8 bedroom vacation rental (reservation must be made between April 27th and May 11th) and receive a $150 Vacation Voucher that can be used to boost your vacation fun!

Margaret Rudd & Associates, Inc. has partnered with great local businesses that are offering ADDITIONAL DISCOUNTS to voucher holders so that you are able to stretch your vacation dollar even further!

Please note that Vacation Vouchers are only accepted at the participating businesses for selected services or activities listed below.

PAMPERING oak island vacation

If pampering is your idea of vacation fun (and who doesn’t deserve a little of that?!), you can use your $150 Vacation Voucher towards a day of relaxation and “me” time! Whether you want to get your pedi flip-flop ready or indulge in a deep tissue massage, these participating businesses have you covered!

Palm & Sol Nail Boutique
| (910) 833-2086 | Oak Island, NC

  • 10% DISCOUNT on any service they offer! – Palm & Sol Nail Boutique offers a salon experience that takes your manicure and pedicure to the next level in a relaxing and comfortable atmosphere and the latest in nail design and technology.

oak island vacationMellow Moods Massage & Wellness | (910) 294-0779 | Southport, NC
Mellow Moods is offering additional discounts on the following services: 

  • 90-Minute Deep Tissue Massage followed by a Deluxe Customized Facial (Only $150, Regularly $215)
  • Two 90-Minute Swedish Massages (Only $150, Regularly $210)
  • Two 90-Minute Deep Tissue Massages (Only $150, Regularly $230)

Please schedule your appointments by calling them directly in advance of your vacation! These are popular places for good reason!! At time of payment, present your Vacation Voucher (works like a gift certificate). 

oak island vacationADVENTURE

If you prefer adventure, you can use your $150 towards great family friendly options such as kayak and boat tours, aerial challenge courses and zip lining tours, and much more! The businesses listed below are offering additional discounts to voucher holders so you can amp up that adrenaline rush even further!

Lighthouse Watersports  | (910) 808-1713 | Oak Island, NC
Lighthouse Watersports is offering a 10% DISCOUNT on anything they offer! 

  • 1.5-Hour Scenic Boat Tours – Your captain/guide will take you to remote shallow
    water marshes in a custom built 20 passenger USCG inspected boat specifically designed to experience nature, history and wildlife as closely as possible.
  • 2-Hour Sunset Cruise – End your day enjoying the sights and sounds as the world settles in. Birds flying to roost, fishing boats returning from offshore; these evening cruises go a little longer, but are much like our scenic boat tour.
  • 2-Hour Blackwater Cypress Kayak Swamp Tour – You will paddle through a remote old growth maritime forest, float under canopies of ancient cypress
    trees draped with Spanish moss, all while learning about the local wildlife and history.
  • 7-Day Kayak & Stand-Up Paddle Board Rentals – the newest, premium kayak and stand up paddle board rental equipment and safest brand name gear in the water sports industry. We deliver and pick up to your vacation rental home.

Shallotte River Swamp Parkoak island vacation | (910) 687-6100 | Ocean Isle Beach, NC
Shallotte River Swamp Park is offering a 10% DISCOUNT on anything they offer!

  • 10-Line Zip Line Tour – Our zipline tour lasts approximately 2-2 ½ hours and includes 10 zipline stations, three bridges and more than 1.25 miles of cable nestled high above 100-year old cypress trees and great wildlife watching!
  • Aerial Adventure Park – 2-Hours of fun with 53 different challenge elements and three levels of difficulty our aerial challenge course has something for everyone—from four-year-olds to folks looking for a military-level challenge.
  • Swamp Boat Eco Tours – 50-minute tour on the pristine Shallotte River Swamp where you get up close and personal with the natural environment. There’s plenty of history in the swamp—including a landmark possibly used by George Washington himself back in 1791!

It is very important that you make your reservations for activities well in advance of your trip. To utilize your $150 Vacation Voucher for Shallotte River Swamp Park or Lighthouse Watersports, you must book and pay (out-of-pocket) online at their website or by calling them directly (we’ll give you a discount code so that the 10% is applied at time of booking). Your $150 Vacation Voucher will be applied as a credit to your MRA account balance – just let us know about your adventure reservation! 

GOLF oak island vacation

Brunswick County has some of the most scenic and challenging golf courses in the world, so if hitting the links and playing 18-holes is your idea of vacation fun, then you are in luck! Each course listed below offers discounts to MRA guests, but tee times must be scheduled through our office! Just give us a call and we’ll get your set-up to play (be sure to let us know you’ll be using your $150 Vacation Voucher toward the total cost!).


  • Cape Fear National – Recently named the “#11 Best Course You Can Play in NC – 2014” by Golfweek, Cape Fear National is an absolute must-play for both the beginner and avid golfer.
  • Carolina National – Carolina National Golf Club is a 27-hole Fred Couples signature golf course, set along the Banks of the Lockwood Folly River.
  • Crow Creek – Located in the quaint fishing village of Calabash, NC, Crow Creek Golf Club is an 18 hole public course designed by architect, Rick Robbins.
  • Magnolia Greens – This outstanding, twenty-seven hole, public golf facility is recognized as one of the top public golf facilities in the southeast and has been the venue for several PGA Tour and USGA qualifying events.
  • Oak Island Golf Club – The 18-hole, 6,720 yard George Cobb design provides an exciting adventure, round after round and summer vacationers to Oak Island will enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and warm southern hospitality that are hallmarks of OIGC!
  • River’s Edge – Rivers Edge Golf Club is truly one of the Eastern United States sensational golf properties. An Arnold Golf Signature design, this course offers every golfer a round of challenge and fun.
  • The Lakes – The Lakes is the oldest golf course in Brunswick County. The 18 Hole Par 72 course offers four sets of tees where every skill level can be challenged in a beautiful setting.

Margaret Rudd & Associates is happy to schedule your tee time, simply call our office at 910-278-6523 and let us know when and where (and let us know you’ll be using your Vacation Voucher!). 

CONVENIENCEoak island vacation

Maybe you have the fun stuff covered, you just need more time to play! If the CONVENIENCE of having $150 worth of groceries picked-up and delivered to your vacation rental appeals to you, we are happy to make that happen! What could be better than NOT having to stop at the grocery store on your way into town?! We can’t think of many things better than that!


Just let MRA know this is how you prefer to use your Vacation Voucher and we’ll send you a grocery order form and details to get started. 




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MRA Fall Decor

We love the fall because it means we get to decorate the office for our annual BBQ. We’ll post some more photos of the event next week!

fall decor

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Free Things To Do In Southport / Oak Island NC

The Southport and Oak Island NC area has an abundant amount of fun things to do throughout the year – many of which are FREE! Of course, our favorite free thing to do is visit the 14 miles of beautiful area beaches – whether for a sunrise or sunset stroll, a family day at the beach building sandcastles and swimming or just to catch up on a favorite book and relax – the beach is open year-round! If you are looking to expand your horizons, we have compiled a list of our favorite free things to do in Southport / Oak Island NC below! Let us know what your favorites are too!

burygroundHistoric Southport Walking Tour
203 East Bay Street, Southport, NC 28461

Take a self-guided walking tour through the historic fishing village of Southport NC. Start your tour at the Southport Visitors Center at Ft. Johnston where you can pick up a walking tour map to guide you to the many fascinating places around town such as The Old Brunswick Jail, Old Smithville Burial Grounds and churches and homes dating back to the 1800’s. Continue reading

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NC 4th of July Festival Information

NC 4th of July Parade float

4th of July Parade

The North Carolina 4th of July Festival in Southport, NC is the biggest party around. There is Beach Day, Concerts, Car Shows, Fireworks, Crafts, Food and a Parade…and that is barely scratching the surface of all there is to do during the week of the 4th! This list is by no means all-inclusive, there is much more.

Click here for a downloadable copy of all the events!

You can also pick-up the NC 4th of July Festival Program (available in this weeks State Port Pilot) and area businesses for all of the details you need!

Saturday, June 27th

The festivities kick-off on Saturday, June 27th with the 37th Annual Freedom Run/Walk through the streets of beautiful Southport. Later that day, the excitement continues with the 32nd Annual Firefighters Competition, where fire departments from around the area/region are invited to test their team work skills.

Sunday, June 28th1-Southport-Fort-Johnston

Join us for a reading of the Declaration of Independence on the historic and nostalgic Garrison Lawn at Fort Johnston at 4:45. Just following the 2nd Marine Division Military “Dixie Band” will perform against the backdrop of the Southport waterfront.

Monday, June 29th

The Associated Artists of Southport will kick-off their annual Summer Members Art Show at Franklin Square Gallery – on display from 10am to 5pm through Saturday July 4th. Southport is fortunate to have an amazing variety of extremely talented artists – come by and purchase your own one of a kind piece!

Wednesday, July 1st

MichelleFaulkner8Oak Island shines on Wednesday with the ever popular Beach Day. There will be volleyball, cornhole and bocce ball tournaments, a sand sculpture contest, a skate competition and more…all capped off with Gary Lowder and the Smokin’ Hot performing in concert from 6pm-9pm. During the band’s break at 7pm, there will be a shag contest for those of you that like to cut a rug!

Oak Island Fireworks light up the sky at 9pm. Set up your chairs on the beach for an evening picnic and enjoy the show. Oak Island always goes all out with their fireworks program – it’s a must see!

Thursday, July 2nd

Bring the little ones out for Children’s Entertainment from 9am to 12pm at Keziah 2-Southport-Shutterstock-General-4thStreet for face-painting, games, coloring, beading, songs, dance and more! They’ll have a blast and you’ll be all smiles watching them make great memories!

The American Red Cross will be at Waterfront Park for a blood drive from 9:30am to 2pm. Please consider donating much needed blood for our community in celebration of our freedom.

Waterfront Food Concessions start on Thursday from 11am to 10pm. The smell of Italian sausage, shrimp baskets, funnel cakes and so much more will fill the streets…you may find yourself drifting down there uncontrollably!

Live entertainment starts on the Waterfront stage from 2pm to 10pm and includes Inspirations Dance Center, Jilli and the River Rat Band, Mad Dog Radio and local sensation CC Martin!

Friday, July 3rd

Children participate in old timey games like sack races and watermelon rolling…it is fun for the entire family – especially those that get to watch!

Entertainment continues on the Waterfront stage from 1pm to 10pm, culminating with the Street Dance at 7pm with a performance by the Tim Clark Band. This is always a town favorite that you don’t want to miss.

Saturday, July 4th

The Pancake Breakfast starts at 7am at Trinity United Methodist Church and is a family tradition for hundreds of people…but don’t worry…they have it down to a tee and know how to get folks in and out with a full belly quickly!

1-Southport-4th-Parade-3The highlight of the festivities is the Festival Parade that runs along Howe Street starting at 11:30am. You’ll want to set-up your seats early because parking, shade and front row spots are limited.

The Shine and Show Classic Cars will be on display at Bay Street from 11am to 4pm. Enjoy a blast from the past with these remarkable restored classics.

Entertainment on the Waterfront Stage starts from 1pm until after the fireworks. Please see the complete schedule for a list of entertainers that you won’t want to miss.

iStock_000041480536_LargeThe fireworks finale brings the festival to a close on Saturday night at 9pm. A grand way to end a festival and celebrate our nation’s birthday.  Fireworks are fired from a barge in the Cape Fear River.

There is much more going on throughout the day on Saturday, including a regatta, boat raffle, pole vault display and live wrestling show just to name a few.


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Shark Attack Prevention Tips – Ocean Safety Series

Shark Attack Prevention TipsAlthough the relative risk of humans experiencing a shark attack is very small (one in 11 million), swimmers can help prevent shark attacks by following these tips:

  • Avoid water at night, dawn, or dusk when sharks are most actively feeding. Also sharks can see you way before you can see them in the low light.


  • Always swim in a group or at least have a partner with you as sharks most often attack lone individuals.


  • Don’t enter the water if bleeding. Sharks are keenly attracted to blood and can smell it from miles away.


  • Use care near sandbars or steep drop-offs as these are more favored handouts for sharks.


  • Avoid waters being heavily fished and those with lots of bait fishes. Diving seabirds are good indicators of such activities.


  • Don’t wander too far from shore. Doing so isolates you and places you away from assistance.


  • Don’t wear shiny jewelry. Light reflection from the jewelry looks much like shining fish scales to a shark.


  • If you spot a shark, avoid splashing or moving erratically and move smoothly and quickly out of the water.


  • If a shark starts to approach you and an attack is imminent, prepare to defend yourself and keep the shark in sight. If it gets close enough to touch, then take any action you can to disrupt the attack pattern such as hitting the shark on the nose or gouging its eyes.
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Awesome May Events in Oak Island

Here are some of our FAVORITE May events in Oak Island. Let us know your favorites!

RIDE THE TIDE KAYAK FLOAT | May 16th | 10amRide the Tide

Join the Oak Island Parks & Recreation Department and The Adventure Kayak Company as they “Ride the Tide” on the Davis Canal. This is a kayak float and race from the Rec Center to the Blue Water Point Marina on an outgoing tide.

There will be various age group awards, a costume contest and a poker run. Kayak rentals are available. Early entry fee is $20 and the first 75 paddlers get a t-shirt. To volunteer or register call the Rec Center at 910-278-5518.

Continue reading

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April Events in Southport / Oak Island

April Events in Southport and Oak IslandSpring has officially sprung! This is a great time of year in the Southport / Oak Island area because we are ready to get outside and have fun! There are tons of great April events – from the Southport Spring Festival to the Phlock to the Beach festivities and much more.

First Friday Gallery Walk / Downtown Southport / 5pm-7pm
First Friday Southport Gallery Walk. First Friday of Each month all year. Partial List of Participating Galleries: Art @ 211 The Ricky Evans Gallery (211 N. Howe Street), Lantana’s Gallery & Fine Gifts(113 S. Howe Street), Silver Coast Winery Tasting Room(105 S. Howe Street) & Franklin Square Gallery(130 E. West Street).

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Most Romantic Restaurants in Southport / Oak Island

shutterstock_125020835Ahhhh, date night! For most of us, they are difficult to fit into our busy schedules, so when they do come around you want it to be perfect! The Southport / Oak Island area has a great selection of romantic restaurants that are sure to impress and make it worth every penny you paid to the babysitter! These are in no particular order and we recommend you try them all!

Live Oak Cafe | 614 N. Howe Street, Southport | 910.454.4360
Live Oak Cafe is a quaint restaurant of only 12 tables set in an old-world atmosphere. You can dine on the screened in porch or take a stroll through the wine garden before or after your meal. They feature a North American themed menu with international flair. The owner/chef, Sean Mundy, specializes in creative dishes such as Southern Tapas and Seafood Crepes. Continue reading

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