My family has enjoyed the beauty of the Outer Banks of North Carolina for the better part of a decade. For those of you newbies who are taking your maiden voyage to Hatteras Island, here are a few tips that will help make your vacation as stress-free and successful as possible.
1) Don’t fight the “grocery war” on the day you arrive. You’ve driven hundreds of miles to get to your beach house by check-in time (usually 3:00 pm). The last thing you need to do is spend hours fighting all of the other tourists who have also checked into their beach houses at the same time you did. Those people are now beginning their vacations stressed out of their minds as they stumble over each other for hours in the only large supermarket on the island. Instead, you will be walking on the beach, or having an adult beverage as you overlook the ocean, because you packed a cooler and stopped in one of the outlying supermarkets just off the island in Nags Head or Kill Devil Hills. You bought just enough food for that evening and breakfast and enough beverages to last the night. You have avoided the “post check-in time” madhouse at the supermarket, and when you do go to the supermarket in the morning to do the serious shopping, you will do so in a leisurely fashion in the window of time before the next day’s “check-in madness” begins. And you will feel like a genius.
2) Pack essentials to take with you. Take enough toilet paper and paper towels to get through a good portion of the week (most beach rentals provide neither). If flying in, you can pick some up when you make your stop for preliminary groceries. Packing soap (personal, dishwashing and laundry) is a good idea. Packing a small box filled with basic condiments and spices is also a lifesaver…plus coffee and coffee filters. There will be nights your family may want to “eat in”…do you really want to have to travel to the store for salt and pepper? And do you really want to face your first beach sunrise without caffeine?
3) If you take the ferry to Ocracoke Island for a day trip, pack insect repellant and comfortable shoes. Maybe the flies are biting, maybe not. You don’t really want to find out. But you will find that you’re going to be doing some walking, so shoe yourself accordingly…and don’t miss the last ferry home!
4) Sunscreen the tops of your feet first thing every day. Nothing takes the fun out of a week at the beach faster than barbecuing the tops of your feet day one. Or, for that matter, the tops of your ears. Trust me on this one.
5) Take a laptop and some burnable CDs (or DVDs) with you. At the end of each of our visits, my daughter burns CDs for everyone of the pictures taken with each camera brought on vacation. This is a novel way to document the trip through the eyes of every “photographer” in the family.
Have fun…and eat some crab legs for me!