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The Beach, by All Means

The day we got there, we rented beat-up mountain bikes from a place down the road, and prepared to cycle the three miles into the center of town for groceries from the Hi-Lo. Stopping at our cottage to have a beer first, we soon found ourselves standing on the patio, looking out over the water to where fisher-men were checking their lobster traps.

"Beats any Italian restaurant I've ever been to," Jane said. "How 'bout we go for a quick swim before we go into town?"

The boardwalks of Bethany and Rehoboth can challenge the budget traveler with temptations, from arcade games to frozen custard cones. (Photograph by Olivia Boinet)

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Air Jamaica offers nonstop flights from BWI to Montego Bay, Jamaica; at press time, the lowest fares were about $450, round trip. Round-trip fares on other airlines, for flights with one connection, were about $350 and up. Citronella (876-957-0379) has six cottages, which can accommodate two to eight people. Off-season (April to November) rates range from $65 to $110 a night, double occupancy. Other options include Tensing Pen (876-957-0387; $75 to $285); Xtabi (876-957-4336; $45 to $110); and Rockhouse (876-957-4373; $100 to $225).

Bill Heavey last wrote for the Magazine about Harpers Ferry.

2. Saltwater Taffy for Peanuts
By Jen Chaney

My husband and I step into our freshly rented condominium in Bethany Beach and take a quick look around. The shower curtain is adorned with sailboats, sea gulls and starfish; the living room lamps are shaped like lighthouses; a big anchor hangs like a piece of art on the entryway wall. Even the blue-and-white upholstery on the two living room sofas has a nautical feel. Surrounded by these symbols of the sea, I'm eager to see the real thing, so I yank open the living room curtains to behold the view from our second-floor balcony.

A green dumpster. Several men are throwing old carpets into it, as they renovate the brown-and-beige row of garden apartments that stands between me and a glance at the seashore.

The phrase "partial ocean view," something we had been promised by the owners of the condo, rings in my head. I look at the horizon, just beyond the building and the dumpster. I stand on tiptoe. I squint. I think I can make out a vague hint of the Atlantic, but that might just be the sky. I begin to wonder if I've harbored a lifelong misunderstanding of the term "partial." Then I realize I shouldn't complain. After all, we're only paying $46 a night for this place.

It's not easy being cheap, especially at the beach. Perhaps it's the ocean air or the sugar buzz that comes from too many stops at the Candy Kitchen, but whenever I visit the Delaware/Maryland shore, my usual sense of frugality takes a vacation, too. Items I would never spend money on elsewhere -- vinegar-drenched buckets of french fries, endless games of Ms. Pac-Man, boxes of saltwater taffy, which, frankly, I don't even like -- seem like solid investments.

So when my friend Glenn, his girlfriend, Angie, my husband, Rob, and I recently decided to take a frugal-but-fun beach vacation, I was determined this time would be different. I would spend sparingly on food, forgo all souvenirs and not look twice at the saltwater taffy displayed in shop windows. I vowed to visit the beach for a weekend, enjoy myself and leave without spending more than $100.

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