If you have a backyard (or yard in general) that you're comfortable lying out in, then just do that!
Do it between about 12:30 and 3:30, that's about when the sun is at it's hottest points and you'll get exposure. The reason the beach is easier to tan at is mainly because the sun is exposed longer (and some say the water reflects a lot of the extra rays back too)
I use a tanning oil with SPF by Banana Boat (link below) so far it works pretty good. Nothing will make you tan like *snap* that. :P
Also, don't allow yourself to burn, although it appears to make a tan quicker, it's damaging your skin, and your health, more than you think!!
Yes, the sun and bed tanning does have the ability to create cancer, but you can't avoid the sun. My grandpa got skin cancer from WWII !! Just use SPF and don't sit out too long. if you're naturally more pale, like me, but tan somewhat easily, I'd say 15-20 minutes. I tan easily but am naturally very pale- I'm a rare form and so lucky to be! I can go 30 minutes and be okay, but I don't usually start with that anyway. Also, go every other day, not everyday. You may not see results immediately, because your body has to begin producing the melanin that is triggered when you are exposed to the rays.
I have used a tan bed for special occasions seldomly and try to stay safe when outside.
Remember- always use sunblock. Just because it isn't hot doesn't mean you aren't exposed. :)