Family travel is so fun plus it creates fun and precious memories to cherish. My family of five took a road trip down to North Carolina one summer. The Family Road Trip to North Carolina OBX (Outerbanks) was beautiful, fun, and totally worth it. I’m sharing the highs and lows, the joys and the pains of our trip along with some travel tips for a family road trip. I hope my post helps you plan a similar road trip for your own family.
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Our plan was to rent a vehicle to drive down to North Carolina. We planned to drive the rental vehicle to OBX, then to Washington D.C. ending the trip with a flight home out of D.C. We wanted to travel this way because we wanted to visit my husband’s grandma in another state along the way. She was about a twelve hours drive away from our house so we planned a route that went right through her city.
In preparing for the trip, my husband booked our one-way flight home out of D.C. before booking the vehicle rental. We found we had made a huge mistake because we didn’t realize the car rental company would tack on a giant one-way rental fee. However, this allowed us to visit with his grandma so it was worth it in our case.
Road Trip Tip:
Check out the rental prices for a one-way rental when making travel plans. We could have flown round trip for the price we paid for the one-way vehicle rental plus the one-way plane tickets. A one-way flight might be cheaper than round trip tickets, but it’s only worth it if you have a reason to drive one-way because of the fee often added on to a one-way rental. We wrongly assumed that since the vehicle rental service was a national chain with a branch at our destination we wouldn’t have to pay a one-way fee, but they still charged us this fee.
The Vehicle Rental for the Road Trip
My husband and I knew it would be a tough road trip because we had to drive a long distance with our kids to get to North Carolina from our home. We planned to drive for as long as we could for two days in order to make it to North Carolina on the date we had planned to meet up with family there. My husband booked a large SUV vehicle with spacious seating and high seats to provide comfort to our family as we drove the long days. It was a Tahoe so our three boys each had their own space with two of them in the middle and our oldest in the way back. The only downfall was that it had a tiny truck area for our luggage, but we managed to make it work.
Road Trips Tips That Worked for Us
As we drove through eight states to reach North Carolina, we had many activities planned for our kids. They each had their hand held DS game systems. I loaded the vehicle with books, toys, activity books, music CD’s, and many snacks. The boys each packed their own backpacks with toys and special stuffed animals, little games, and cards. I let them pick out whatever they wanted for their backpacks so I knew it would be things they wanted and would play with often (ie. be occupied with).
We bought a 2-pack of portable chargeable DVD players so they could watch movies. I let them pick out as many DVD movies as they wanted to bring along. I even bought a few new ones to occupy them.
We were totally amazed to be able to drive twelve hours one day. Our boys were such troopers and we made it without too many meltdowns or tears. It helped that our younger two boys took long naps.
We got out of the vehicle to eat in a sit-down restaurant to get a break from the driving. It was so great to get a break from sitting in the vehicle so we didn’t mind waiting for the food. Plus, we were able to eat at restaurants with local food which is a major bonus.
Sights Along the Way
We drove through Michigan and we were surprised to find white sand beaches on the southern tip of Lake Michigan. I loved this great find of white sand beaches in the middle of North America. We hope to plan a future trip to visit this gorgeous area of Lake Michigan longer in the future.
The benefit to driving over flying is the fun of seeing all the great countryside scenery. I loved how our kids were able to see so many sights they had never seen before while on the road trip. Driving over the Appalachian Mountains was gorgeous and breath-taking. The trees were covered in blankets of lush green leaves. It was truly beautiful to drive along the trees with the cascading leaves covering every tree and bush along the sides of the road.
We stopped at Buena Vista lookout in West Virginia to take in the gorgeous view at an elevation of 1,500 feet. The view of the valley was amazing.
Another favorite stop was in Wakefield, Virginia which is the peanut capital of the world. There were stores selling plantation peanuts, flavored peanuts, and yummy chocolate covered peanuts. We stopped at the Wakefield Peanut Company store too to buy a sparkly peanut Christmas ornament (our tradition is to buy a Christmas ornament on each trip we take as a family). We also bought more delicious peanuts. It was fun to show our kids all the fields of peanut plants as we drove by.
Arrival at Our Destination OBX
After two days of driving, we made it the Outerbanks of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina (OBX). It is a gorgeous, beautiful, and awesome place to visit. I highly recommend it for family travel. Our boys loved driving on a highway over the ocean as we entered the OBX area.
We were staying with family and their friends at a giant beach house across the street from the ocean. It was so awesome to simply walk across the street to get to the beach. The beach house was a rental and they had some boogie boards much to the delight of our boys. They rode the waves under the sun for hours and played in the sand. Our littlest son did not love the big waves so he only waded in but he still loved to drag the boogie board attached to his wrist around the beach.
The smells and sounds of the sea were a divine treat for me. I could never get tired of the beach at the ocean. I know I would love to live by the sea if I could. The sights and sounds of the sea gifted us so much joy. We found seashells in the sand. My sons ran from the waves with smiles on their faces dragging boogie boards hanging their wrists. My sons dug moats and buried each other in the sand. It was a pure slice of heaven!
The Beach House
The beach house was four levels and it had a kitchen, seven bedrooms, a game room with a pool table, a small kidney shaped swimming pool plus a hot tub. Our boys were in heaven! They had this all the things they enjoy in life right in one house. Having a kitchen meant we could make meals so we didn’t have to spend a fortune on eating out while we were in Kitty Hawk. We simply visited a local grocery store to pick up groceries, milk, and food. I loved this too because I could find foods I knew my boys would eat.
One of the days a storm came through. We watched it from inside the top floor of the beach house. It was daunting, yet intoxicating to watch the sky grow dark in the distance while the waves grew wild and tall as they jabbed at the shoreline.
The next day was beautiful and we continued our quest of counting the wild dolphin sightings we spotted from the beach house balcony. My oldest son kept count and he spotted 45 sitings of dolphins over the few days we stayed there.
Shopping and Other Fun Stuff
One day we went souvenir shopping where our boys each bought a shirt with OBX printed above either a pirate symbol or a shark. They each picked out a puppet stuffed animal (a dolphin, a shark, and a sting ray). Each toy had OBX embroidered on it so they would always remember where they got them.
We also visited the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island where the kids enjoyed seeing turtles, sharks, sting rays, sharks, sea jellies, river otters, sea turtles, many types of fish, and an alligator. My boys especially enjoyed the sea turtle conservation learning area with a fun interactive exhibit.
The grandma we met up with in OBX celebrated her birthday at the beach house. We ate peach pies made with local delectable peaches (so amazingly delicious!) and local seafood made by grandpa. We had a wonderful time at OBX and would love to return someday.
Final Leg of Our Trip: Washington D.C.
On the last leg of our trip, we drove up to Washington D.C. We enjoyed seeing many ocean ships, lighthouse buoys, and many shipyards along the way. These were all new sites for our boys and they were excited to see them all.
We drove along a long bridge over the ocean which was super fun, but our favorite part was when we drove under the ocean! We drove through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel which is a highway tunnel under the ocean. Our boys could not believe it was possible to drive under the ocean, a special treat we saw only because we made it a driving road trip rather than flying round trip. The Cheasapeak Bay Bridge Tunnel was both scary and exciting to drive through. It was built in 1964 and it is an amazing engineering design to behold.
It was all so worth it to experience and see so many sites while on a road trip across the United States. We had some kid meltdowns, but we managed to distract the kids quickly into a calm state. We kept busy and had a blast! It was a great, fun, and memorable family road trip.
Other Related Travel Posts
Our family of five spent one day in Washington D.C. before we flew home. We did so much in D.C. in just one day. To read my review of our day in D.C. click here to read How To Enjoy Family Travel in a One Day Visit to Washington D.C.
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