Rentals typically run Saturday to Saturday. You’ve packed up the kids, the bags, the toys and the Golden Retriever, and all the kids want to do is jump into the water. All the moms want to do is unpack and get organized. All the dads want to do is unwind (escape for just 10 minutes of quiet) after 6 hours of “where are the mountains” or “where is the beach” or “where is Uncle Tim’s car” in choral unison.
And finally, you’ve arrived. You want to squeeze every last minute out of that peak week vacation rental, so you rushed like crazy to be out the door, minimized rest stops…..But now what? You can’t check in for a few hours, so what do you do?
We’ve vacationed in the Outer Banks (OBX) for many years and if you head North of Duck, NC you’ll find these Check In Parties. Many local restaurants and bars have welcome receptions, often with free food and live music to ply you into drink purchases and woo you into making this your “vacay spot” and come back for mid week specials.
TIP: Restaurants typically have their best deals on weekends in vacation towns because mid week is when most people want a break from cooking and demand is the highest!
Looking for some ways to kill some time before your rental is ready? Here are our favorites:
1) Join in. Yes, the check in parties are a little cheesy. You might be surprised at how much fun you will have. Many OBX restaurants are starting to add playgrounds or play areas with toys. Let the kids play and get some energy out while you rehydrate and relax.
2) Hit the Beach. Yes, you won’t have the amenities of the rental yet, like a foot wash or accesses to clean bathrooms, but pop the kids in their suits and go play! So they might be a little sticky/sandy/salty/dirty when you check in but hey, isn’t that a regular Saturday for you anyway?
You can do it up right the whole week with chairs and sand castles and coolers and grill and campfire…..
3) Check out landlubber attractions. Whether your at the beach, lake, or waiting to board a cruise, there should be plenty of land-based attractions ready to preview.
From kiddie rides to mini golf, there are plenty of choices.
Google coupons from your smart phone or grab a map/coupon book from a local hotel lobby (yep just run in and grab some; I promise they won’t mind) and remember the best deals for land activities are mid day, which is perfect because you can’t check into your rental anyway yet!
4) Find a local playground, hiking trail, or even a rest stop.
Even locals need their go to playground. Check Yelp or google maps to find a nearby playground with shade and plenty of grass. We took a loaf of bread, plastic knife, and a container of PB Crave’s Razzle Dazzle peanut butter–a creamy combination of raspberry, chocolate and honey–which makes a perfect roadside meal when you add some baby carrots and an apple.
We randomly came across this kayaking/white water rafting training facilities. There are teams of riders waiting for their launch time, and the facility had corn hole, hiking trails and other lawn games. Between watching the rafters and playing the free lawn games, it was a great (and free) way to spend a couple hours as a family.
5) Get your groceries. About 90 minutes from check in time, I like to hit up the local Harris Teeter for the perishables and Costco food items we didn’t cram into every extra nook and cranny. That way, once we check in we can get settled and start vacationing without having to go back out. By the time you pack things in and get settled, the last thing you want to do is make yet another grocery run, so make use of the time you have until you are ready to check in!
Next up, we’ll do some research on how to extend a trip for a day on each end when you’re limited with a Saturday-Saturday rental or three day weekend away. I mean, if you pack up the kids and the car, you want to make the most out of every moment, right?