Top 10 Planning Tips: Outer Banks Beach Vacation


Planning for your vacation sets the stage for getting the most out of your vacation, even if your plan is to be as lazy as you can be.

When my family vacations we tend to plan in two stages. The first stage is all about thinking ahead to: what will we need for the trip and what will we need when we get there. The second stage is all about what are we going to do when we get there (activities).

This list is a combination of planning tips, that involve planning before you arrive and may require additional forethought, and activities that we highly recommend adding to your “must do” list to get the full Outer Banks beach vacation experience.

Outer Banks Vacation Planning

The goal is to make your life simpler on vacation. Planning for these things ahead of time helps the trip go smoother. Rarely do things actually go according to the plan, but at least you’ll be better prepared for what might come.

On The Trip to the Outer Banks

Most vacationers to the Outer Banks are driving for at least 5 hours, and most are closer to 9-10 hours. This leaves a lot of time on the drive that could be filled with enjoyment to help the time pass. This is particularly true if you’re traveling with children (Fun Road Trip Activities for Kids).

Yes, it’s possible for everyone to get on their mobile device and disappear into their own world, but why not use this time to bond and create shared experiences. You might be met with a little resistance, as many prefer their mobile devices, but the reward of laughter and memories will be worth the effort.

Our habit has been to rotate the hours of what we’re doing: one hour of game time followed by one hour of mobile device time. If you have children I highly recommend you share this with them well in advance and sell it as part of the experience. Dropping this news on them once they’re in the car will shatter their expectations and likely cause grumpiness.

Rent Beach Equipment

Renting beach equipment saves on limited space in, on, and behind your vehicle. I realize some items may be too personalized, such as a custom surf board, but most items, if rented, can really make your life easier.

Planning your Outer Banks beach vacation

Consider items such as beach chairs, umbrellas, bikes, beach wagons, etc. These are wonderful to have, but can quickly take up a lot of space. Renting them means they show up to your vacation rental without you having to haul them from home and unpack them. Also consider items that you may want to enjoy at the beach, but have no intention of owning: kayaks, surf boards, stand up paddle boards, etc.

We’ve actually made this part easy. We have vacation rentals that provide a $250 credit towards beach gear as a part of the weekly rental (in-season). Just look for the Beach Gear Included logo in the description. Click here to see all of the vacation rentals that offer a beach gear credit as a perk.

Avoid the Traffic

Traffic is the unfortunate side effect of being one of the most popular summer destinations in the United States. Not everyone is going to experience this on their drive in, but the vast majority will. The short of it is that you make choices, both in the route your take and planning ahead that can help you avoid spending too much time stuck in your vehicle.

We’ve covered this subject rather well: How to Avoid the Traffic on Your Drive to the Outer Banks.

Outer Banks Activities

When we think about activities it’s usually two main things, both are in terms of experiences and discoveries: memories I’m creating with my whole family and memories I’m creating with my wife. It’s important to have a good idea of what you’re interested in before you go.

How my wife and I often tackle this task is we will create a list of things we want to do. This list can be a bit long and sometimes overwhelming. We tend to be overly ambitious with our activities. But then, we begin shortening the list. This happens through finding out what activities the rest of the family is interested in. From this we look over what remains and try to create a plan for just the two of us. This way, we cover a good portion of what we really want to go see and do.

Catch a Sunset on the Sound

Outer Banks sunset photo over the sound

I realize people come to the Outer Banks primarily to enjoy the beach and, naturally, when you think of seeing a sunrise or sunset you think of the beach. But something about a sunset on the Outer Banks, over the sound, is breathtaking and magical.

Take a Lesson

The Outer Banks is known for a few things that make us one of the best places to learn. It might be obvious that you can learn to surf here, which you should do, but a lot of people still don’t know you can learn to hang glide on the Outer Banks (Kitty Hawk Kites). Kite surfing, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, and other adventurous activities are great options.

Take in Some History

Planning your Outer Banks beach vacation

I get that for some the thought of history is a boring concept, but the Outer Banks contains some of the most captivating stories. From the first European Colony (The Lost Colony play), to the first manned flight (Wright Brother National Memorial), to Lighthouses, to wild mustangs, Blackbeard, and much more.

Check out our story about Blackbeard’s Ghost.

Take the Kids Ghost Crab Hunting

A great no cost activity is catching ghost crabs at night. All you need is a flashlight and a bucket. Shine your light on the sand and you will see the ghost crabs scurrying around. If the light hits them they will stop for a moment, this is your chance to catch them.

Typically my niece and nephew will get super close to the crab, it will move, and they will scream and run away. Once you’ve had your fun and laughs release the crabs and head home.

Check out our Top 10 Activities for Kids on the Outer Banks.

Sea Glass & Seashell Hunting

There is nothing more relaxing than strolling the beach searching for treasures washed up by the ocean. The most popular kinds include sea glass and seashells. The best part is the entire family can take a stroll on the beach with some searching for glass, some searching for shells, some searching for shark teeth, and some searching for nothing and just enjoying the walk.

Check out our Sea Glass Hunting on the Outer Banks (great craft ideas).

Explore Food on the Outer Banks

Planning your Outer Banks beach vacation

We’re on the coast so naturally everyone thinks, “seafood.” This is true, but seafood isn’t all we have to offer and you might even discover some interesting seafood combinations you’re not used to seeing. For example, seafood pizza, shrimp tacos, and fish tacos are things people argue about who has the best around here.

Also, don’t forget that it’s not all about the entree. The Outer Banks has a lot of incredible breakfast and dessert options! Getting Breakfast on the Outer Banks



Published by

Terry Moore

Terry moved to the Outer Banks in 2003, fell in love with the Outer Banks and a local girl, now his wife. Since 2003 he has been discovering the Outer Banks and all it has to offer and loves to share those discoveries with the world.

Top 10 Planning Tips: Outer Banks Beach Vacation

by Terry Moore time to read: 6 min

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