The sunny South Strand boasts an array of family-oriented communities, from the southern edge of Myrtle Beach to Surfside Beach, Garden City Beach, and Murrells Inlet on down to Litchfield Beach and Pawleys Island, making our stretch of the South Carolina coast a natural destination for family reunions and extended-family trips.
And Garden City Realty’s (GCR) portfolio of South Strand vacation rental properties are ideal for a gathering of your brood, large or small. What could be better than sharing a multi-level ocean-front house that can accommodate multiple generations for Grandma’s 70th birthday, or booking a two-story cottage at Wachesaw Plantation near the banks of the Waccamaw River to gather with cousins you haven’t seen in years?
How do you plan such an affair? (Tip No. 1 – get started now!)
The options are virtually limitless, so let us guide you on making the most of a family gathering on our sandy shores, with helpful tips on choosing a property, exploring amenities, finding nearby event sites if you’re throwing a big pow wow, scheduling activities, and some suggested hacks for using modern planning tools.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
While there’s no such thing as Family Reunion Season, these familial assemblies are more popular during summer according to grouptravel.org, but there are certain advantages to be had during all four seasons if you’re planning your shindig along the South Strand. In fact, many of the things attributed to summer’s popularity hold true almost year-round on our sandy shores, i.e. weather warm enough (disregarding the recent cold snap) to enjoy our greatest resources – the beach and outdoor activities.
Many families like to plan their reunions around holidays, such as spring break, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day or Thanksgiving, utilizing typical times off from school and work – but be forewarned: those are busy times for booking Garden City Realty properties, so the sooner you start planning, the better.
On that note, if you’re set on planning a family reunion trip to the South Strand or a vacation with a bevy of extended family members, your first order of business should be reaching out to your pack to find out what dates are doable for them.
Hassle-free Hack No. 1: Use a Doodle poll to find out your tribe’s availability. It’s free. Go to https://doodle.com/en/
Hassle-free Hack No. 2: If you’re planning a large gathering, try sending a family reunion survey. A free family reunion survey is available to download from grouptravel.org by clicking here.
If you do a survey or poll, find out what amenities and what types of activities are important to your family members.
HOME AWAY FROM HOME
Now that you’ve narrowed down your dates, it’s time to find a place for your posse to stay.
To search all of Garden City Realty’s vacation rental properties, click here.
GCR’s vacation rental program doesn’t include group or block rates like hotels and resorts do but check this link for seasonal specials: https://www.gardencityrealty.com/specials.
That’s not to say your team can’t find units together near each other in the same condo development – search here for possibilities: https://www.gardencityrealty.com/garden-city-rental-condos
Or try the massive Surf Master by the Sea complex in the heart of Garden City Beach, which features 1, 2 and 3-bedroom units with fully-equipped kitchens, and families are sure to be delighted by the two ocean-front swimming pools and hot tubs: https://www.gardencityrealty.com/resort/48-surf-master-by-the-sea
If you need help with reservations or have questions about policies or specific properties, don’t hesitate to call one of GCR’s friendly reservationists at 877-767-7737. Don’t wait until arrival to start asking questions, call in advance for clarification on any issues related to your rental.
Vacation homes may be ideal for your horde, and depending upon the size of your crew, your interests and the property’s amenities, could be a one-stop-shop for your communal experience.
If you are eyeballing duplexes, be sure to call GCR (877-767-7737) to find out if both sides of the property are available for your desired date.
If you’re seeking dog-friendly accommodations, take note that there is a maximum of two dogs per property and each dog cannot exceed 50 pounds; the weight limit is 70 pounds if you’re bringing only one four-legged family member. For all you need to know about bringing along your pooches, check out GCR’s primer: https://www.gardencityrealty.com/blog/guide-to-bringing-fido-to-the-south-strand/
Hassle-free Hack No. 3 – You can filter your online property search at GardenCityRealty.com to include the amenities your collective, including private pool, screened porch, charcoal and gas grills, private dock and internet access, to name a few.
Hassle-free Hack No. 4 – Take a virtual tour of your rental property to get a better feel of the layout of the space, and plan out your bedroom allotments, etc. Look for the View Tour icon when looking at properties at gardencityrealty.com.
Health experts recommend gathering outdoors as your best bet to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and this seems to be the case moving forward for the foreseeable future, but don’t worry, you’re in luck because the South Strand is chock full of beautiful wide-open spaces, including two state parks with pavilion and picnic facilities, and other amenities perfect for accommodating large parties.
Picturesque Huntington Beach State Park just south of Murrells Inlet has three picnic shelters that are available for reserving for $75-$150 per day (rates subject to change), and take note that park admission is not included in the reservation costs. In other words, just because your crowd has reserved the space doesn’t mean y’all get into the park for free.
Also, if the aforementioned shelters are not reserved/already taken, they are available on a first-come, first-served basis for free. However, that’s not a good game plan – especially if you’re planning around a busy holiday like Memorial Day, the Fourth of July or Labor Day.
You can make picnic shelter reservations at Huntington by calling 866–345-PARK or online at https://southcarolinaparks.com/huntington-beach/groups.
If you’re going really big with your family reunion, Huntington’s Atalaya Castle can also be rented, featuring outdoor, palmetto tree-lined courtyards. For Atalaya reservations, send inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 843-237-4440.
Meanwhile, Huntington’s sister property, Myrtle Beach State Park, also boasts a variety of shelters and pavilions that can be reserved up to 13 months in advance. These spots are very popular for family reunions during the summer.
Myrtle Beach State Park has seven picnic shelters for family outings that can be reserved for $75-$200 per day. And like at Huntington, patrons are still required to pay park admission in addition to the reservation fee.
There are also six shelters at Myrtle Beach State Park that are available on a first-come, first-served basis, but as we discussed, this is not a good tactic if you’re trying to lock down a site.
To make a Myrtle Beach State Park shelter reservation, call 866-345-PARK, or click here.
If there’s a gaggle of little ones in your clan, try planning your gathering at All Children’s Park in Surfside Beach, at the corner of Hollywood Drive and 10th Avenue South, featuring two playgrounds and a picnic area.
Also in Surfside Beach is Martin Park, located at 8th Avenue South and Lakeside Drive, adjacent to Martin Field. This sort-of hidden spot features shuffleboard courts, a couple of bocce ball courts, a horseshoe pit, four picnic shelters, and the most attractive amenity for reunion planners: The Floral Clubhouse, which can accommodate an assemblage of approximately 35 people and is available for renting all year long. To get pricing or other information about the park and clubhouse, send an email to email@example.com or call 843-913-6111.
DELEGATE, DELEGATE, DELEGATE
One of the pillars of smart leadership is dividing up the labor and delegating responsibility. If you’re in charge of the family trip or reunion, it’s time to delegate to get things done.
Family meals are a big part of any gathering when you’re at the beach, whether your crew enjoys seafood or not. Food will take center stage at reunion, so to make sure you’re on top of this major piece of the puzzle, appoint one person to be in charge of meal planning. This doesn’t mean this person has to prepare and cook everything, it means they’re in charge of planning who is doing what, who is bringing what, when it comes to feeding the masses. A coordinated meal plan will take out the guesswork of your gathering and allow family members to maximize their resources and time.
Of course, eating out at some of the South Strand’s amazing restaurants can be part of your faction’s meal plan too. Our advice is to call ahead to the restaurant(s) of choice, to see what their reservation policies are and if they have special seating available.
Maybe you want to simplify the meal planning by taking breakfast out of the equation, and if that is the case, be sure to share GCR’s recent guide for top breakfast spots near Garden City Beach: https://www.gardencityrealty.com/blog/breakfast-spots-around-garden-city-beach/
Hassle-free Hack No. 5 – Use free online planning tool SignUpGenius to coordinate your meal planning.
Don’t stop there with the delegation. Like a cruise ship, appoint an activities coordinator for your stay. See the section below for activities suggestions.
Also, depending upon how big your family affair is, it may make sense to appoint a family historian, who can gather and bring assorted family documents, photos and family tree charts to help everyone connect and share stories and learn about your family’s history.
For some family members, the beach, a swimming pool, a charcoal grill, some cool beverages, an ocean view and fellowship with kinfolk is enough.
But for others, adventures are a must, and your appointed activities coordinator should be able to do all of the legwork to ensure a nice balance between chill-out and thrill-out. Fortunately, the South Strand has plenty of leisurely diversions to help your gang make lasting memories, from top-rated golf courses to top-shelf entertainment.
For various things to do, including adventure and amusement, golf and mini-golf, outdoor recreation, water sports, entertainment and shopping, check out GCR’s curated landing page of things to do along the South Strand: https://www.gardencityrealty.com/things-to-do.
Here’s a primer for a relatively inexpensive family-friendly activity for young and old alike – kite-flying on the beach: https://www.gardencityrealty.com/blog/beginners-guide-to-kite-flying/.
Another activity for the nature-lovers in your family that’s also inexpensive is bird watching, or simply birding as it’s more commonly known these days. Check out GCR’s cheat sheet for birding at the beach here: https://www.gardencityrealty.com/blog/garden-city-realtys-guide-for-beginning-birders/
Lastly, charge your family activities coordinator with the task of organizing classic board, beach, and video games for family members to bring along to share, so you’ll never hear the phrase: “I’m bored.”
Written by Kent Kimes for Garden City Realty