Ocean City is a great place for families with young children. We recently had a blast there and we did it very inexpensively. Here's how...
Sleep off the boardwalk & get a balcony
We stayed north, directly on the beach and were glad we did. The boardwalk is loud and crowded. We liked to visit the boardwalk scene and leave. Staying off the boardwalk allows for easy access from the hotel pool to the ocean. We went back and forth very quickly and the kids loved that on a whim we could switch it up. It's quieter off the boardwalk and better with kids.
We stuck to our normal schedule and put them all down for naps each afternoon. While they were sleeping during the hottest part of the day, my husband and I drank seltzer and wine on the balcony, taking in the views. No one got a sunburn and the kids were well-rested and behaved for nighttime activities. Well worth the additional expense for that oceanview balcony.
Pack light and buy
We have three boys including a baby so we bring a lot of stuff wherever we go. Instead of being uncomfortable in the car ride or buying an overhead storage unit, we didn't pack any cheap, beach items. It was a good decision as there are plenty of beach shops with discount towels, chairs, and beach toys. Don't worry about carting all that stuff when you can conveniently purchase it all down there for pennies. Added bonus, new toys delight the kids and keep them occupied longer.
Eat out sparingly
Eating out with kids can not only be expensive but a large expense of energy and patience. That's why we ate in for breakfasts and lunches. Our room had a small kitchenette and so the first night went to the supermarket. We bought "vacation cereal" (Fruit Loops individual cups) for breakfast and "vacation yogurts" (YoCrunch Yogurts) for the kids and they ate it happily. My husband and I got yogurts and granola for ourselves. Most of the food down there is fried so we were pleased to eat lighter and healthier. We also were able to eat quickly to spend more time at the pool and beach instead of driving and being at restaurants.
For dinners, since we had a light lunch, we were at the restaurant at 5pm each night. This was absolutely key as we sat down with no problem every night and the minimal crowd already there didn't mind the kids. We did our research and sought out highly rated restaurants. We were not interested in fried fare and because we had saved money on breakfast and lunch, we splurged for better food. Our recommendations are:
Hooked: For excellent seafood. This is an ocean-to-farm-to-table kind of place. Food was very good, service was very good, and it was also kid friendly.
Taste of Italy: For Italian food and ambiance. This is a large restaurant inside the pink Holiday Inn. Food was very good, even for me who can cook Italian at home. The kids had a gorgeous grilled cheese and mixed berry bowl which they loved.
On the Bay: For Maryland blue crabs, steamed with mallets. Get the large or extra large dozen crabs rather than the crab feast (which are smaller crabs). Crabs are a lot of work for little meat so it's worth the extra price for the bigger lumps of meat per crab. The kids loved the experience of the bibs and beating the crabs. Note, there is only outside dining so make sure you dress light and go when it's not too humid.
We created some amazing family memories at Ocean City Maryland and didn't break the bank. We saved time and money so that we could spend it as an upgrade elsewhere. I'd do it all again the same way. Cheers to your next vacation!