We are heading out on our first extended family trip since...Disney? In June 2010, we were gone for a week, camping in Arkansas. Since then, we have had 1-2 nights here and there, usually camping. Well, queue up the band, it's family vacation time again! (I typoed 'queue up the bank', let's hope they don't have to get involved!)

Week One, we are sharing a house on Hatteras Island with Michelle and her family. They have been several times in the past and took care of the selection and reservations, we just have to show up. Can't beat that! I will put a link to the house when we get to that point, if you are interested in checking out the Outer Banks, I suggest this realty company to rent from. They appear to be very up-front with pricing, no cleaning fees and other added-on stuff. You pay the week's stated rent plus sales tax.

Week Two has been up in the air a while. We were not even going to go for 2 weeks, but Matt has not taken time off work in so long that he has 120 hours in vacation time saved up. It seemed like it was time to do a longer trip! Having every other Friday off all year has allowed us so much more time to get things done and have some down time together, it makes a huge difference! I hope they don't take that back, I'd rather lose something else they do for employee morale...but there isn't anything. hahaha!

We had originally planned to go to out west this year and when his job situation made getting off earlier than October impossible, we decided to go to elsewhere instead. It snows in the Rockies and Yellowstone in October and while we like to get out and play in the little scatterings we get here, we just don't have the gear to hike and drive in icy weather and I don't have the inclination to pay for snow stuff for 3 kids who may be half a foot taller and 2 shoe sizes bigger next time they get a chance to use it.

At first, we opted for Disney. Of course. Then we talked it over and decided we really wanted to do something new-we love Disney and we will go back, but having some down time to relax and getting the chace to spend time at the beach and exploring a new area was very appealing, especially to Matt who is up at 4:30 each morning. We have all wanted to go to the Outer Banks, I dreamed of taking the kids to Kitty Hawk back when Ben was 3 and VERY into planes and kites. I still have my 2002 atlas with the yellow line going from Nashville to Kitty Hawk. And the orange line to Yellowstone and the pink line to Maine. I can't do them all right now, but I can do this one!

So, off we go! Here is our packing list!

Gerri and kids are checking on the pets and the house again. I can't thank them enough, it is a huge peace of mind when I don't have to worry something has happened back home and to know if something comes up, she will let me know right away. I have told a couple other folks in the area we will be gone and they have agreed to drive by at random times and check on the house and of course the Sherriff's Department knows we will be off and they have down to patrol through during the nights. I am not convinced they will, but we don't live in a high-crime area. Still, just posting online that 'Hey our house will be empty for TWO WEEKS' seems like I am asking for it. I can tell you, don't bother. We have: books, hundreds of family photos and furniture that has been in at least 2 previous houses. All the electronics will be on the trip. Well, okay. I AM leaving my 7 year old printer, but it's totaly out of black ink. But that's how we are nearly out of debt. Living within your means is eye-opening. LOL!

We did the usual pre-trip stuff. Oil change, brake check, fluid check, tire rotation, lube job and I finally replaced my windshield wipers. I should have been arrested, the old ones were so pitiful that no rain was intimidated by their sorrowful sqeaking rub that just smeared bug guts and did very little else. Oh, and I got a steering wheel cover, a squishy one!

Wednesday, we did several loads of laundry and we packed the bulk of our things into bags and I got the van cleaned out and vacuumed and started loading a few items-kites, the boogie boards, snacks, travel pillows, camera tripod. Sand toys, a folding shovel, some baby wipes. You know, travel essentials. ; )

Thursday, I was up with Matt's alarm and working again. I made a full list of everything we needed to do in the next 24 hours, the few things we need to buy before heading out, the people I needed to call or e-mail, the remainder of what needed to be packed and cleaned and the close-down list for the house. We headed out mid-morning to shop, hit the library and get our teeth cleaned.

The trip begins Friday morning...