Staging Area: Cupcake Cottage, Ocean Grove, NJ

When I came up with the idea of going mobile for a while, the #vanlife option was still a mirage of a dreamy idea. Without question, I had started taking notes on van builds. I was trying to figure out how to install a toilet by watching fifteen different videos on the subject and oodling the macrame curtains and bohemian interiors of Instagram vans. Just the other day, while organizing things, I found the notebook where I was sketching layouts and trying to figure out how to install recycled plastic insulation by watching a few more videos.

I booked the Ocean Grove Cupcake Cottage in December on a day when it felt like I could see some space on a path in front of me. Ready to accept the hand I was dealt, the Airbnb booking was a move and a step forward to something head. That day, I was in a pretty hopeless spot peppered with a dash of hope after three months of uncertainty. I just wanted to manifest a positive outcome to look forward to.

My friend Carla turned me on to Ocean Grove years ago. I remember coming here for a day trip to hang with her, we got ice cream at Nagle’s. It was an iconic old school soda fountain style shop, which has recently closed because the current owner has taken ill. I remember the first time walked the boardwalk enjoying the Jersey Shore sun. Before coming here, it never occurred to me that I would enjoy the Jersey Shore. She is the one who changed my mind. Over the years, I’ve been here many times for weekends, week long stays, events and secret getaways at different times of the year.

I bookmarked the Cupcake Cottage when it first appeared on Airbnb a couple of years ago. Affordable, tiny and pink, it seemed a very modest and viable option for beachy getaway.

In this blog, I will share my top travel tips. Here’s one I say over and over, go somewhere during shoulder season and negotiate great deals! When I booked the Cupcake Cottage for this trip, I purposely chose a longer block in the off season. Coming here in May, usually, means warm spring days and flowers in bloom. If I came here before Memorial Day, I’d easily be able to negotiate a killer deal and stay here much longer. I booked the Cupcake Cottage for May 2 – May 23 for $800, no including fees, cleaning and taxes. Can’t beat that, can ya?

Budget Travel Tip: Consider booking your trip during shoulder seasons for better deals. Shoulder seasons are the times of the year that bookmark high season.

There are pitfalls to booking in shoulder season. Some businesses do not open during off season, so make sure you’re somewhere that has year round business. Ocean Grove shops and businesses were all open while I was here, and neighboring Asbury Park is filled with great year round eateries and activities. If you are early, the house may still not be ready for company. The Cupcake Cottage was a bit dingy, it needs a good deep clean before full season for sure. Pots and pans were sticky, some plates weren’t clean as I would have liked. This can happen when a property hasn’t been regularly taken care of. Just something to keep in mind. On the flip side, end of season things can be broken, beat up and in desperate need of repair. These rentals take a beating for sure, no matter how respectful guests are. Owner may not be around to address things. I spent this trip dealing with their property manager, who was super nice but it’s just not the same as dealing with the owner who usually is more detail oriented and cares on a personal level about their property.