If you want a quick getaway I highly recommend the Outer Banks in North Carolina. Two of my best friends live in D.C., so we decided on a girls weekend in Kill Devil Hills for a long weekend.
I flew into Washington Reagan for $300 roundtrip. This wasn’t a great price, but I had set dates of travel a Friday to a Monday. I knew I would be flying to D.C. as of April this year, so I entered in my travel dates on the Hopper app to watch the price of flights. Prices were pretty steady through the spring, so I ended up booking my flight on Southwest in early June. $300 was the best I was going to get, so I took it. I landed early Friday morning, and we drove straight from Reagan to the Outer Banks. The drive was about 4.5 hours with traffic and a few rest stops. I didn’t mind the long drive though because I had a chance to catch up with my friend whom I hadn’t seen in a while!
Norfolk International Airport is much closer to the Outer Banks than D.C., so I recommend flying into Norfolk depending on what airline you take. Depending on traffic, the drive from Norfolk to various parts of the Outer Banks will be 1.5 hours.
My friend Olivia’s family has a house in Kill Devil Hills, one of the neighborhoods on the island, so housing was free. I’m a big proponent of staying in homes when possible (thank you AirBnb and HomeAway). When I travel I check the location of the rental homes relative to where the site seeing spots are. However, the island is so narrow, you will never be far from the beach. The average AirBnb price for the Outer Banks at this time was $177 a night. However, if we were to book a home, well in advance, for three adults we would’ve been able to find something around 100$ a night. There were cheaper options as well depending on how many beds you’re looking for. For three days, two nights at the home we would’ve split the house for 67$ a person. This is incredibly reasonable for a quick, beach vacation. Thankfully though, lodging was free for this weekend.
What To Do
Our main getaway activity plan was to hang by the beach! There are public access beaches, so we drove just a few minutes down the road to get to a beach. On a weekend in early August the beach was fairly busy with family vacations. We were able to find plenty of space to set up camp on the beach for the day though. This beach had the softest sand; I could’ve stayed there forever. There is a lifeguard on duty until sunset, which was great give the rough waves and strong undertow that weekend.
Saturday morning the three of us stopped by Duck Donuts for fresh, mouth watering donuts. There is no better way to start an OBX vacation than with a fresh Duck Donut. The first Duck Donuts was opened in nearby Duck, North Carolina. There are now locations all over the island and all over the country. The donuts are made in front of the customers on an assembly line. You can see your donut being made fresh before your eyes. They also offer breakfast sandwiches and coffee.
I have to be careful with the amount of gluten I eat, so I was saving myself for a Duck Donut. Sadly, they don’t make gluten free donuts. The donuts contain eggs and dry milk products, and there are nuts in the vicinity. My nut allergies are not horrible, so I am okay with cross-contamination. These donuts were worth the long, Saturday morning wait. I highly recommend a stop at Duck Donuts if you make your way to the Outer Banks!
Unfortunate storms cancelled part of our beach day, but we ended up at the OBX Winery in Kitty Hawk. The OBX Winery ended up being one of the best experiences on this vacation. Amidst the storm, we were looking up things to do on the island. There are water parks, mini golf, bowling, laser tag, movie theaters, and more. We came across a small winery nearby and decided to check it out.
The brick and mortar storefront is small yet quaint. We were seated by our favorite wine expert, Steve, and given a free tasting of at least 15 wines–I wish I kept better track! OBX Winery hand crafts small batch boutique wines right in Kill Devil Hills and sells only wines made on the Outer Banks! We spent a few hours tasting wines and getting to know the owners of the winery. I had a few bottles shipped to my place in Chicago because the wines were so unique.
I get a magnet from every place I visit, so I’m always on the lookout for local trinket shops. There are small strip malls up and down the island with kitschy souvenirs and OBX t-shirts galore. I found a magnet and shirt at one of the many Super Wings, which will supply any possible beach need of yours. There is a Tanger Outlet mall in Nags Head if you’re looking for more shopping.
There is a scattering of bars on the Outer Banks, but most places shut down around midnight. We ended up at one of the few bars open until 2am, Lucky 12 Tavern, self-described as a retro-funky bar and eatery. This wasn’t one of our favorite spots. It felt like a dive bar where the locals all know each other and outsiders are not welcome. We were hoping to find a bar with a patio or rooftop, but we were out of luck per se.
The great thing about having a house was the ability to cook and not eat out for every meal. As soon as we arrived in the Outer Banks, we stopped by the local Publix to get some basics for the next few days. As mentioned in my bio, I have severe food allergies and other dietary restrictions, so I have to be extremely careful when I eat out. The ability to prepare meals myself while traveling is easy on my budget and gives me peace of mind that I will not have an anaphylactic reaction mid-trip. My friends are aware of my food restrictions, so made meals that we could all eat (read: tacos). There were plenty of grocery stores on the island, so you will not be in short supply.
In conclusion, the Outer Banks was a great location for a budget, relaxing weekend with friends. I spent around $450 total including flights, my wine souvenirs, groceries, and eating out. If I were able to cut down on the flight costs, this would be an even more economical trip, but I’m satisfied with the budget-friendliness of this trip. Most of all, it was great to spend a weekend catching up with some of my best friends.