our private clamming beach at our vacation rental on Prince Edward Island

Clam Chowder from Scratch: An Ode to Vacation Rentals

Digging for clams is hard.

First you look for the “clam shows” – the air holes in the sand that show where a clam might be. Once you find a nice, big hole, you dig the wet, heavy sand around it, pushing your shovel as deep as you can. Then you bend, squat, or kneel to look through the pile of sand you just turned over, or plunge your hand in the hole feeling for clam shells. And then you stand up again, and move to dig in another place.

Dig. Squat. Stand up. Repeat.

my sister-in-law and I, digging for clams in St. Mary's Bay on Prince Edward Island, photo courtesy of my brother-in-law, Brian Sutton
my sister-in-law and I, digging for clams in St. Mary’s Bay on Prince Edward Island, photo courtesy of my brother-in-law, Brian Sutton

my son tried digging for clams too, photo courtesy of my brother-in-law, Brian Sutton
my son tried digging for clams too, photo courtesy of my brother-in-law, Brian Sutton
digging for clams is hard :) you need to take a break from time to time, photo courtesy of my brother-in-law, Brian Sutton
digging for clams is hard :) you need to take a break from time to time, photo courtesy of my brother-in-law, Brian Sutton

Cleaning and opening the clams is no small feat either.

Once you think you have caught enough clams for your meal, you need to soak them for a while. The clams filter water as they breathe, and push out the sand that might be in their shells. You may want to change water a couple of times, to make sure the clams have pushed out all the sand and salt water.

And then you have to open them, one by one, and rinse them again. With luck, someone else had the task of peeling and chopping the potatoes at the same time.

one of the clams we dug up, close up, photo courtesy of my brother-in-law, Brian Sutton
one of the clams we dug up, close up, photo courtesy of my brother-in-law, Brian Sutton


You may end up with just a small pile of clams for your chowder, after all that hard work, but digging for clams turned out to be a great family activity during our vacation on Prince Edward Island in 2012.

We were staying at a nice, big vacation rental then – a house with four bedrooms, right on the water, and since my husband’s brother and his wife were on a road trip in the area, we invited them to stay with us for a couple of days, which they gladly accepted.

front of our vacation rental on Prince Edward Island
front of our vacation rental on Prince Edward Island

That was when we went clam digging – four adults and two children, digging and squatting for a few hours in the muddy sand of St. Mary’s Bay.

It was all worth it, though. There’s something extremely satisfying about eating a meal that you not only prepared from scratch, but also partly harvested yourself.

I haven’t taken any photos of the meal, but I still remember my sister-in-law directing everyone what to do in that large kitchen, with plenty of counter space. She was the only one who knew how to make clam chowder from scratch.

We had fun that evening, sitting at the large, round dining table, talking and joking, taking all the time we needed to finish our supper.

Had we stayed at a hotel, even if we did vacation together, our family would never would have had that experience.

view from the kitchen "window" onto the dining area in our rental on Prince Edward Island
view from the kitchen “window” onto the dining area in our rental on Prince Edward Island

 

It was not the first time we vacationed with extended family.

We try to go on vacation with either my parents or my husband’s parents every year, if we can, and sometimes we have additional family members join us, like when we went to Saco, Maine for the long weekend in 2010.

At that time, in addition to my husband’s parents, we also had the same brother-in-law with his wife and their son join us, but since we rented a whole house, with a big living room and a dining room that could seat nine, space was not a problem.

When we vacationed in southern Spain with my parents in 2013, my Dad’s cousin and his wife joined us. To accommodate all of us we rented two two-bedroom suites at Marriott’s Playa Andaluza, right across the hall from each other, so we had enough room for the whole family as well.

In the mornings, we planned our trips at the small coffee table on the balcony.

planning where to go with my Dad's cousin, as my husband and my son looks on, photo taken by my Dad
planning where to go with my Dad’s cousin, as my husband and my son looks on, photo taken by my Dad

In the evenings, we gathered around the dining table, “just” the eight of us, and after supper played UNO for hours.

my mom and my son at the dining table in one of the apartments we had near Marbella, Spain, photo taken by my Dad
my mom and my son at the dining table in one of the apartments we had near Marbella, Spain, photo taken by my Dad

 

There was also the time when my sister joined us in London in 2013 for a few days, and again, even though some days we went our separate ways when sightseeing, the five of us had fun hanging around in the dining- family-room area.

That place wasn’t exactly cheap, but it was in a fantastic location.

dining, living area in a vacation rental we stayed at in London, photo by the owner of the apartment, as posted on HomeAway
dining, living area in a vacation rental we stayed at in London, photo by the owner of the apartment, as posted on HomeAway

 

That’s what I love about vacation rentals or staying at hotels with suites – it’s not just about the space, and the separate bedrooms, though it’s nice that everyone has a private place to unwind.

It’s about the big dining table that can fit the whole family and more, where you can be as loud and as messy as you want to, and not have to hurry to finish your meal because other patrons are waiting for the table.

 

you would not let your child get so messy at a restaurant, could you?
you would not let your child get so messy at a restaurant, could you?

 

Of course having a nice, big living room with a comfy couch and a couple of arm chairs where you can just chill is no small bonus.

how can you not relax immediately in a chair like this?
how can you not relax immediately in a chair like this?

 

Throw in a deck, or even just a balcony with a nice view, and you have the perfect family vacation.

Eating breakfast at a table on our own private balcony overlooking the beach in Cancun, Mexico
Eating breakfast at a table on our own private balcony overlooking the beach in Cancun, Mexico

But even small places, with a tiny table just big enough for the four of us, like this place in Madrid we rented last year, are better than having to eat out all the time.

this vacation rental we rented in Madrid last year wasn't big, but it was big enough for three days we stayed there
this vacation rental we rented in Madrid last year wasn’t big, but it was big enough for three days we stayed there

 

Living like locals is part of the adventure – we find the closest grocery store, and load up on food, sometimes guessing from the photos what we’re buying.

That way we can have our favorite food for breakfast, in our PJs if we so wish, and a nice, tasty dinner without having to spend big bucks for restaurants. And since the rentals we choose are usually (though not always) just about the same price or slightly more expensive per night than nearby hotels, overall we save quite a bit of money by choosing vacation rentals over hotels.

# # #

We’re going on another family vacation this year – my sister will be joining us in Vienna, I hope, and my parents will be joining us in Krakow. And where are we staying? You guessed it – vacation rentals, because they’re actually cheaper in both cities than the nearby hotels. Trust me, I checked.

We don’t stay at regular hotels much any more when we travel.

The last time we all slept in the same room was when we just returned to Madrid from a road trip around Spain and Portugal, and chose to stay at a hotel, because they had shuttles to the airport.

It was all right for one night, but it felt cramped, despite the sofa and the armchair squeezed in between our master bed and the bunk beds for the kids. And yes, it was more expensive – this one room cost $128 US for the night.

The two-bedroom apartment in the center of Madrid, with the red kitchen above was 80 Euro, which last year was around $108 US. (It’s around $90 US this year, because of the difference in exchange rates.)

we stayed in this room at a hotel in Madrid only because we were flying back home the next day, and they had shuttles to the airport
we stayed in this room at a hotel in Madrid only because we were flying back home the next day, and they had shuttles to the airport

 

So here’s my advice to you – next time you’re going on vacation, instead of cramming the whole family into one tiny room, do yourself a favor and also check out vacation rentals available in the area. You might be pleasantly surprised at the selection.

Invitation to #WeekendWanderlust Link Up

#WeekendWanderlust, hosted by Chris & Heather from A Brit and a Southerner, Jessi & Tara from Outbound Adventurer, Ashley from A Southern Gypsy, Justin and Lauren from Justin Plus Lauren, and yours truly, is a collaborative effort to share travel blog posts, and to discuss all travel-related things.

The hosts organize each week a link up through which travel bloggers from around the world can promote their posts, in exchange for a promise to give some attention to other travel bloggers. (One of the rules for linking up is to comment on three linked up posts.)

If the link up is still open, feel free to add a link to one of your posts below, then comment on three linked up posts. I welcome comments as well, of course, and will reciprocate as soon as I can.

#WeekendWanderlust link up logo
#WeekendWanderlust link up logo

 


31 thoughts on “Clam Chowder from Scratch: An Ode to Vacation Rentals”

    1. Thank you for reading, Victoria! Our favorite site by far is HomeAway.com. We’ve used them to book that house in Maine I mentioned, the big house on Prince Edward Island, and the apartments we stayed at in Madrid, London, and Paris. They usually have a LOT of options, and you can narrow down the results to exactly what kind of apartment or house you want and where. (You can see them on a map.)
      Another site we used once or twice is Flipkey.com, which is now owned by TripAdvisor.
      The apartments in Marbella and Cancun were booked through Interval International, a timeshare exchange program.

  1. Looks like a fantastic vacation and rental! We rented a cabin with family on a lake in Windsor, Maine summer before last and it was one of my favorite vacations.

    1. Thank you for reading, Jill. Vacation rentals are the best, because it’s basically like home away from home :) You can be yourself, you get some space to yourself if need be, but then the whole family can get together again for meals and games.

    1. Thank you for reading, Brenda! We usually spend a crazy amount of time choosing a place to stay, looking at reviews, photos, emailing the owners, and so on. Some places we stayed at, like a tiny apartment in Paris was really a tad too small for our family, but we managed for two nights. (Paris is expensive!) On another hand, that house on Prince Edward Island was quite spectacular. I’d suggest you review at least three vacation rental places, and compare prices. You will see the same rental listed on several websites, but it won’t always be listed at the same price. Scrutinize the photos. Look at the reviews, and if it’s possible to message the reviewers, send them your questions. And of course if you have any questions for the apartment owner, do not hesitate to contact them. Good luck!

  2. This post took me back! We used to spend summer holidays on Galveston Beach in Texas digging for clams so that we could have clam chowder – I’ve not thought about this (let alone made clam chowder) for years but I am now inspired to. I’m a big fan of apartment / vacation rentals, as our family grows every bigger (and with regular multi-generational trips on the calendar) they are an excellent way to go.
    Katja – globetotting recently posted…Lonely Planet Kids Twitter Chat with Globetotting #LPTakes5My Profile

    1. Thank you for reading, Katja! I’m glad you experienced clam digging too. It’s definitely a memorable experience to eat a chowder out of the clams you dug up with your own hands, though I’m not sure how often I’d like to repeat it, to be honest. It is hard work. And yes, apartment rentals are the way to travel as a family. You can’t get much rest if everyone has to sleep in the same room!

  3. I think vacation rentals (or self-catering, as we’d call it!) are great too, especially when with extended family and especially if you are travelling with anyone who has food allergies, for example. I also find it quite relaxing, despite the cooking as you don’t have to be anywhere at a particular time for breakfast, lunch or dinner!
    Sarah Ebner recently posted…Getting away from it all in Welcombe, Devon (by Jo)My Profile

    1. Thank you for reading, Sarah! Yes, self-catering accommodations are the way to go if you want to eat what you like to eat, without worrying whether a restaurant will have it. Plus my husband actually likes to cook and prefers his own meals, than those at a restaurant. I have to say I do as well. He’s a great cook!

    1. Thank you for reading, Heather. Clam chowder is one of my favorite American dishes. Probably second after brownies, if you can call brownies a dish. I guess you’ll have to come to northeastern U.S. some day! (Or the Canadian maritime provinces.)

  4. My son would be all over clam digging!! Of course I would probably get stuck with the hard work though :)

    We love renting places while on holiday. We have rented places in Berlin, Spain and all over the US. We are heading to Utah/Arizona next week with another family and we have splurged and rented a fantastic house with a huge pool and gorgeous views. I can’t wait.
    Karilyn Owen recently posted…Family Camping Packing ChecklistMy Profile

    1. Thank you for reading, Karilyn! Clam digging is hard, but I was quite surprised how much the kids liked it (for a short period of time). Wishing you a fantastic time in Utah and Arizona! Looking forward to reading about the place you rented!

  5. The clam chowder reminds me of Cape Cod, where I worked for a summer about 15 year ago – don’t think I’ve tried it since then!

    I am totally with you on rentals over hotels these days – we usually do a trip with my whole extended family at least once a year and smaller ones with my parents and it’s so nice to have a communal space to hang out in and cook big meals all together.
    Lucy recently posted…Travel and anxiety: Fighting the fearMy Profile

    1. Thank you for reading, Lucy! Yes, clam chowder seems to be a northeast America thing. I’m surprised you haven’t had clam chowder for 15 years. That’s one of my favorite American foods! And yes, you totally get me – it’s the communal space to hang out that’s best at rentals. It’s hard to “hang out” in a hotel room :)

    1. Thank you for reading, Tammy! Some rentals can be noisy too, like two in Spain we stayed at that were right above a restaurant. But it was part of the local “folklore” :)

    1. Thank you for reading, Nicole! Prince Edward Island is beautiful, though unfortunately this particular house is no longer for rent. (I checked before writing the post.) That said, I’m sure there are plenty other great houses where you can stay. For us rentals are the way to go.

    1. Thank you for reading, Sarah! Let me know if you do rent your house through HomeAway. I think this site should be much more popular than its competitor, because it doesn’t charge the renters additional fees = it’s cheaper. At least for the renters.

    1. Thank you for reading, Samiya! Yes, rentals are the way to go, and yes, you do have to try clam digging some time!

  6. Vacation rentals are definitely the way to go when traveling with extended family. My husband and I also discovered that our travels are much smoother when we have more space for our family of older teens and young adults. After a day of sightseeing, they appreciate their space. The rentals we have stayed in have been so comfortable that sometimes we don’t even feel the need to leave for a day or so but rather take time to enjoy the pool or other amenities that the property may offer.
    Tonya recently posted…Roadside Attraction: the Giant Orange of Melbourne, FloridaMy Profile

    1. Thank you for reading, Tonya! Yes, it’s so much easier to have at least one separate room where the teens can chill, isn’t it? We haven’t yet rented a place that had a pool, though we stayed at apartment resorts that had pools, and that was nice too. We would usually take a day or two, to just hang out at the resort and let the kids play, in between the sightseeing trips.

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