Tips for Planning Your Outer Banks Vacation

Are you ready for your upcoming getaway in the gorgeous Outer Banks? Even if it's a month or more away, you'll want to start planning now. That way, you'll take the stress out of prepping, packing, and purchasing – and you'll be much more relaxed by the time you set off on your trip.

Here are some pointers for planning the ultimate Outer Banks vacation!

Book Early

Outer Banks vacation rentals fill up fast, especially during the height of the season (mid-June to mid-August). Many families come to the Outer Banks year after year, and and they book early so that they can secure their favorite home. While you can still sometimes find last-minute availability, it's always best to book as far in advance as possible. So get started now:

  • Determine exactly how many will be in your party. This will dictate how many beds and baths you'll need. Outer Banks rentals range from cozy cottages to spacious seaside mansions. Just make sure you have an accurate "head count," so everyone will end up with a bed!
  • Decide which town to stay in - Outer Banks Blue offers vacation rentals in Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, Southern Shores, Duck, and Corolla. Each Outer Banks town and community can offer a very different experience and feel. Some are more private and secluded. Others are busier, with more attractions. It really depends on what you're looking for. Do your research, get everyone's buy-in, and remember: When you stay in one town, you can still visit others nearby, so you're not closing off your options.
  • Finalize the dates. If you're planning a family reunion or other large get-together, you'll need to coordinate the timing with everyone else in the party. That's not always easy. Friends and relatives with school-age children may balk at proposed vacation dates before Memorial Day or after Labor Day. Allow enough lead time to sort out a schedule that satisfies just about everyone.
  • Find out about special needs. Will your party include seniors who might need handicapped access? Or infants who'll need a crib? Factor in things like that when you're choosing the rental unit.
  • Once you've settled on an Outer Banks rental property to everyone's satisfaction, book it right away – the sooner the better!

You can learn more about yearly booking patterns in our early booking guide.

Plan Your Activities

On the one hand, you don't want to be too regimented. But, on the other hand, if you don't have some kind of itinerary, you’ll be dealing with a lot of last-minute confusion. Plus, some activities and sights sell out, so early booking is a must.

Conduct some preliminary research. Ask the members of your party what they want to do. Would they like to climb a legendary lighthouse? See the famous feral horses? Take a leisurely nature walk through an unspoiled wildlife preserve? Fish from the shore or pier? Kayak over the sound? Swim, surf, or bask on the beach? Eat out, cook in, or get takeout?

Based on all this input, come up with a "things-to-do" list, with suggested activities for each day. The list doesn't have to be hard and fast, of course. You can always play it by ear, depending on weather and other variables. But at least you'll have a rough agenda to guide you throughout your vacation. If you're looking for inspiration, check out the most popular attractions in our things to do guide.

Plan Your Packing Based on Everyone's Needs

As you pack, keep your traveling party in mind:

  • What are the ages? Are you traveling with babies or toddlers who might need midday naps? Or with seniors who won't have the stamina for long, strenuous treks? Pack accordingly: folding chairs for seniors, portable nap mats or pop-up playpens for tots, and so on.
  • What about toys and games? If you have smaller kids, you'll want to pack plenty of beach toys – such as buckets and shovels, beach balls, and sandcastle molds. If your kids are older, you'll want to include cornhole games, paddleball sets, badminton and volleyball nets, and similar gear.
  • Prepare for soaking up the sun. Pack a large beach blanket (or two) plus some oversized beach towels. Want some shade? Invest in a pop-up beach tent or a classic umbrella.
  • Any anglers in your party? Be sure to pack fishing rods and reels, tackle boxes, and coolers.
  • Does your family love to bike? Use a bike rack to attach several bicycles to the back of your vehicle. Don't own any bikes? Rent them – preferably ahead of time – from one of the many gear rental services located up and down the Outer Banks.

Find more tips in our ultimate packing guide, and don't forget to double-check our essential things to bring list before you leave!

Getting There Is Half the Fun

Like most OBX visitors, you'll probably be driving to your destination. If it's a long trip, why not break it up with interesting stops on your route?

For example, if you're driving down from Washington, DC, your trip should take about five hours total. Along the way, why not stop off at Williamsburg, Fredericksburg, or Yorktown? You can spend an hour or two or even stay overnight at one of these historic sites. You'll feel refreshed and revitalized, with a shorter drive ahead of you.

Or let's say you're driving from Philadelphia, PA, an even longer trip at roughly seven hours. Along the way, you could hit First State Heritage Park in Dover, Delaware, or the waterfront in Newport News, Virginia. Have a bite of lunch, stretch your legs, and take some time to look around. You'll be amazed what a difference it makes.

Above All, Don't Worry!

If you forget something, you can always purchase a replacement at an Outer Banks drugstore, grocery store, or specialty shop. So, relax. You're all set for a fun-filled adventure in the breathtaking Outer Banks! 

Waiting To Book?

Outer Banks Blue manages 250+ vacation rentals from Nags Head to Corolla. If you're considering an OBX trip, take a minute to browse our diverse selection of beach houses. Search by town, amenity, and more with our customizable filters and find the perfect property for your family's next getaway. We look forward to welcoming you to our beautiful beaches!

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