Everything You Need to Know About Planning a Vacation

Planning a vacation can seem so overwhelming! Sure, it’s fun to save a bunch of ideas to your Pinterest board of places you want to visit or activities you want to try, but actually making it happen is another story!

We have found that it’s incredibly helpful to break down your tasks into easy-to-manage steps. By focusing on just one item at a time, you are better able to check things off in an orderly fashion and feel pretty darn accomplished in the process.


For a detailed breakdown of the steps we recommend when planning your next getaway, please check out this page on our website. On it, we outline exactly what you need to accomplish 6 months out, 3 months out, even the day you leave home.

From scheduling your dates to locking up your house, we have it all covered.

Here are some more tips to make planning your next vacation as stress-free as possible.

expert help | Great Escapes OBX

Work with a professional.

The team at Great Escapes OBX proves that working directly with travel professionals makes your life easier. Our Reservation Manager, Patti Duckett, loves to work with clients to help them find the perfect vacation home for their group size, personal tastes and budget. She can also give you plenty of suggestions about where to eat, play, and learn here on the Outer Banks. She might even tell you to go fly a kite! ?

Pack light.

You’ve heard it all before but it’s true. If you can get away with packing just a few outfits that mix and match plus your toiletries and other necessities, it will take so much stress off of you as you pack for your destination (and to go home). Try choosing outfits that have the same color scheme. Great Escapes Vacation Rentals have washers and dryers so you can reuse items like shorts and bathing suits over and over! We did put together a list of packing essentials that we hope you find helpful.


vacation on calendar | Great Escapes OBX

Get your ducks in a row at home

Knowing you are leaving home can be one of the more stressful parts of planning a vacation. The more you can plan in advance the more calm you will be once it’s time to depart. Be sure to schedule your time off work, get your vehicle in order, purchase any necessary items for your trip, and secure a great pet or plant sitter if needed.

Don’t plan every day.


It’s exciting to see how much your vacation destination has to offer! For example, on the Outer Banks you can literally learn about the history of flight, climb a lighthouse, see a wild pony, kayak, swim, fish, and eat a fabulous meal and that’s just the beginning. Allow some flexibility for weather and moods. Jot down your must-sees, and work them in as you go.

travel planning in notebook | Great Escapes OBX

But… plan SOME stuff!


If you research a few things in advance it will make your vacation that much more of a, well, VACATION. No one wants to sit on their iPad in the rental house looking up when a lighthouse might be available to climb, if a restaurant is open for lunch, or how old you have to be to rent a kayak.



We recommend creating a Travel Journal to use as a workbook as you plan your vacation. In it, you can jot down the activities you are interested in, the restaurants you must enjoy, the costs of various adventures, and where things are located.

By indulging in just a bit of pre-planning, you can use your vacation time more efficiently. For example, if you want to visit the Currituck Lighthouse you could also plan to explore Whalehead and then get lunch in TimBuck II or Corolla Towne Center while you are in the area.


contents of suitcase | Great Escapes OBX

Expect the unexpected

Most travelers have one thing in common: a sense of adventure.

It’s important to be flexible when traveling, so try to prepare yourself for the possibility of weird weather, an epic kid meltdown, or a sprained ankle from too much beach volleyball.

Prepare just a little to avoid (or at least deal with) almost anything. Here are a few ideas to make your trip easier:

  • Research hospitals and emergency clinics near your travel location. Save their numbers and addresses in your phone.
  • Pack a simple first aid kit in your car / beach bag / day trip bag (bandaids, wet wipes, Benadryl, antiseptic)
  • Pack in layers. Sometimes the weather will turn unexpectedly cool and windy and you will be glad you brought a jacket.
  • Buy Travel Insurance. It will protect you if you have to cancel your trip for a hurricane, illness or emergency.
  • Prepare your vehicle for travel. A road trip is no time to have a dead battery, leaking oil or a flat tire.
  • Save the number for your Auto insurance in your phone in case of accident or theft.
  • Keep a spare charger in your bag. A dead phone could mean no photos, and no maps to get you back to your rental!
  • Email yourself important documents, like your travel itinerary and copies of your ID.
  • Retain copies of important medical documents as well (including a list of medications for every member of your family).

conceptual photo of vacation planning | Great Escapes OBX

Planning a vacation is always worth it! A little planning can go a long way. We hope to see you soon on the OBX!

12 steps to your next vacation:


Figure out your travel dates. Reserve that time off work.

Step 2

Choose a location

(the Outer Banks comes to mind)

Step 3

Determine your budget and who is coming with you.


Research and book your accommodations.

Step 5

Purchase travel insurance.

Step 6

Book flights or plan your route to your destination.


Make a packing list. Purchase any items you need for your trip.

Step 8

Figure out what restaurants to hit and what to cook in your vacation home.

Step 9

Research and plan out your activities.


Book a kennel or pet sitter.

Step 11

Prepare your vehicle for the trip, if you are driving.

Step 12

Print your itinerary, pack your bags, and lock up the house! You’re off!