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8 Dec 2022
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Events & Holidays

10 Tips For Hassle-Free Holiday Travel To The Outer Banks

It's hard to believe that we're already thinking about plans for the holidays, but the holiday season is going to be here before you know it. The holidays this year are going to be really special for lots of families, with many people finally getting to travel for the first time in a while, so it's important to think about how you can make this holiday season memorable for your family. 

And even though the kids have just gone back to school, most are already looking forward to that two-week break that's going to come in December and this will be the perfect opportunity to slip in one more family vacation before we greet 2023! And as they say, "The family that travels together, stays together."

Outer Banks travel for the holidays is a rare opportunity for your family to bond, explore, relax, and just enjoy being together and relishing in the moment. And, as with most things in life, planning for that vacation is a critical step in ensuring that you have a Hassle-Free getaway.

Here are some of our essential tips to help you plan the perfect family getaway this holiday season.

1. Choose a vacation rental that's best for your whole family

When traveling with the whole family,  a vacation rental home can be a great option over hotel rooms.  The extra space, full kitchen, and multiple bathrooms go a long way in promoting peace and harmony within your family group. 

Don’t forget to check the bed configurations when you’re choosing accommodations. If you have three kids, and the guest room only has a queen-sized bed, you could have a problem. 

Also, make sure you view the property photos. You may want to rethink renting a home with white décor and precious art if your little one thinks the world is their personal jungle gym (which, let's be honest, most do!).

Traveling with elderly grandparents? Look for properties with elevators or first-floor accommodations. It’s important to make sure the home you're renting fits your family's needs so you can relax and make the most of your getaway.  Seaside Vacations has nearly 400 Outer Banks vacation rental properties to choose from.

2. Map Out Your Holiday Road Trip Before Leaving Home

I know, I know: we all have smartphones to help us navigate and get where need faster and easier than ever before. But have you seen that new episode of Bluey? SatNav (or Siri, for that matter) doesn't always work. It's important to have a backup plan BEFORE heading out so you're not stuck bartering strawberries for a hand-drawn map to the Outer Banks.

Be sure to figure out approximately how long your trip should take before you head out. Enter the address in your phone or GPS and plan ahead for bathroom breaks, food stops, and excursions to keep the kids entertained. Download the free Waze app, which is great for staying up-to-date on traffic, construction, and any other delays that could add time to your trip. This will keep you updated in real time so that when you see that it might take a while to get across the Wright Memorial Bridge, you can go ahead and fill up your gas tank and get bathroom breaks out of the way.

Also, consider printing out backup directions on a website like Mapquest (yes, it's still around) or pack a paper map, just in case. Make sure your phone is charged and consider packing car chargers or investing in battery packs. Plan for dead zones where you won't have any service and have an idea of where you're going so there's no panicking and no missing those last-minute turns.

3. Pack a Holiday Travel Kit for the Kids (or Pets!)

This is a huge one. We all know that traveling with kids and/or furbabies can go one of two ways: it can be a great bonding experience or you end up with apple juice on the windshield and bitemarks on the seats that definitely weren't there when you left. Consider packing a holiday-themed kit full of games, activities, and snacks to keep your travel companions occupied and content the whole way.

For kids, consider including fun activities based on whatever holiday you celebrate. Pack plastic coins and dreidels for a challenging game on the move or Christmas-themed puzzles, stickers, and coloring pages. Charge those tablets, too, and be sure to download any apps or games that your kiddos might enjoy so there's no worrying about Wi-Fi or service on the road. Consider picking up a Polaroid or digital camera designed especially for kids so that the whole trip can be an adventure that leaves them with memories to last a lifetime.

And don't forget to plan for your furbaby! While most dogs will be happy sticking their heads out the window or sniffing the air conditioning, be sure to pack their favorite toys to keep them occupied and consider investing in some affordable travel accessories that will make your trip a little more bearable. I personally love this Popware Water Bowl and Adjustable Dog Car Seat Belt Set from Chewy.

4. Get Comfy

Let's be real here, for a minute. I know it's tempting to consider something stylish for the road trip. Vacations are exciting and sometimes, half the fun of it is dressing for the part! But honestly, you're going to be more comfortable in sweatpants or leggings and a sweatshirt. Plan to wear a cozy cardigan, your favorite oversized t-shirt, and those super-soft gym shorts instead of something tight and constricting. The more comfortable you are, the more likely you are to have a pleasant ride, something that not only gets your vacation off on the right foot but also keeps the whole family zen on the road.

5. Take Care of Vehicle Maintenance

Are you behind on oil changes? Have you been ignoring those lights on the dashboard because "they're not causing any issues yet?" You may want to consider taking care of that before you leave so you're not stuck looking for a mechanic or waiting for AAA in a place you're unfamiliar with. 

Also consider prepping an emergency kit with blankets, booster cables, flares, a flashlight, hand warmers, salt, a window scraper, bottled water, and a first aid kit. This may seem a bit much, but it's always better to be prepared and not need it than to need it and not have it.

6. Stay Safe on the Road

This may seem like common sense, but AAA recommends the driver and all passengers stay buckled up with seat belts and/or car seats throughout the journey. And remember those seatbelt harnesses I suggested earlier? Keep the family pupper safe, too, by using some form of restraint and not letting them stick their heads too far out the window. Also consider a crash-tested crate if that works for your family. Improperly securing kids or pets can result in a fine in some states, so avoid the hassle and keep everyone safe by planning ahead.

Like we mentioned in the last tip, bring extra chargers for your phone, consider packing extra packs, know where your AAA card is, and have a plan in case of a flat tire or an emergency.

And we know we don't have to say this, but alcohol, drugs, and texting are never a good idea while on the road. Consider setting up an auto-responder for texts and know how to use your hands-free/speaker phone before pulling out of the driveway.

7. Plan for Tolls & Gas

This may be common sense for those of you coming to visit from larger cities, but when I'm heading out on a trip, I almost always forget to pack coins or cash for those surprise tolls. If you have an EZ-Pass, make sure you've added plenty of funds so you're not caught unawares. Consider using Toll Tracker so there's no more guessing!

And speaking of money, gas prices are kind of a headache for everyone right now. So why not download some apps to save money? Check out Gas Buddy or Waze (which we mentioned earlier works great for traffic) to find the gas stations with the cheapest gas prices and plan your stops around them. 

8. Breathe

While road trips are fun, they can also be really stressful. Between being trapped in a tiny space for hours on end, road rage, traffic, weather, and all sorts of other delays, it can be really challenging to stay in the moment. Be gentle with yourself and realize just how normal it is! Pull over if you find yourself getting too overwhelmed. Listen to music that calms you. Take regular breaks and allow yourself to enjoy the scenery as much as is safe. Remember why you're taking this vacation in the first place: to enjoy time with your loved ones and get away for the holidays! Like Katie says in The Mitchells Vs. the Machines: "Families can be hard, but they're so worth fighting for. They might be one of the only things that are!"

9. Pack Snacks (and Eat Healthy)

I don't know about you, but as a kid, the best part about road trips was getting to snack and enjoy those greasy, delicious gas station snacks that we were never allowed to have the rest of the time. Even now, I like to grab a bag of Combos before hitting the road when I'm going to be driving for more than a couple of hours. But if we're being honest, fast food and junk can often leave the whole family bloated, uncomfortable, and cranky. So plan ahead with some healthy snacks. Opt for nuts or fruit if you can. I find granola bars and cheese sticks are always a big hit with my son. You can also check out Eat This, Not That's guide to Healthy Road Trip Snacks for more ideas. And don't forget to drink plenty of water and pack that Vitamin C powder! Nobody wants a cold while they're on vacation.

10. Travel Around the Holiday Rush

A lot of travelers tend to hit the road the day before, day of, or day after most major holidays, so consider extending your stay, if you can. Plan your vacation a few days before the actual holiday or stay a few days after and you can minimize the anxiety of traffic congestion that comes from traveling on those big-name days. Check-In days vary based on the particular property, so be sure to choose a home with a check-in day that works best for your schedule.

BONUS TIP: Remember to Enjoy Yourself

Remember why you're going on vacation in the first place and let yourself enjoy it. Leave work at work, if you can, and make the conscious decision to be totally present while you're here. 

Check out our available rentals and find the vacation stay that's perfect for your family. It's not too late to book your 2022 holiday vacation today!

About the Author: Lauren is the author of two books and a travel enthusiast. She grew up on the Outer Banks and only left for a few years to get her degree at UNC-Chapel Hill and complete a tour in the Coast Guard before making her way back to the beach in 2017. The only thing Lauren loves more than writing is sharing her love of the Outer Banks and its rich history with visitors and locals alike. When she isn’t writing for the Seaside Vacations Travel Blog, Lauren can usually be found with a book and cup of tea in hand, planning her next travel adventure and trying to figure out what happened to the Lost Colony.