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5 reasons an Outer Banks road trip gave me the confidence to travel again

Aug. 10, 2020
6 min read
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While several of my colleagues have had an opportunity to fly over the last few weeks, I have yet to board a plane during the pandemic. I haven't given up on travel, though! Instead of flying, I've been focused on exploring the country by car, most recently with a loaned 2020 Audi Q5 SUV as part of a TPG partnership with Silvercar.

After a seamless Silvercar pickup in New York City and a fun overnight stay at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, my Q5 and I continued on to one of my favorite parts of the country, in North Carolina's Outer Banks. I journeyed all the way down to our rented house in Frisco, near the southern tip of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, a narrow, 70-mile stretch of shoreline running from Bodie Island all the way to Ocracoke.

My family has been visiting Cape Hatteras since I was a toddler, and while there has been some development over the years, the area remains free of large shopping centers, endless chain restaurants and high-rise hotels —here, I explain why it's an ideal pick for anyone looking for a safe escape during the pandemic, and, hopefully, for generations to come.

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There isn't a commercial airport

Some of the best road trip destinations are those that aren't easily accessible by commercial flight — even if we weren't in the middle of a pandemic, flying to Cape Hatteras wouldn't be the most sensible pick. During the pandemic, that inaccessibility helps limit the number of guests — prospective visitors must be up for a bit of a trek.

Billy Mitchell Airport (HSE) is an option if you have access to a private jet, but you'll want to have a car to get around the Outer Banks, limiting the appeal of private air travel even for travelers who can afford it.

Fortunately, AvGeeks can still get their aviation fix even if they drive down to the Outer Banks, with a stop at the Wright Brothers National Memorial, near Kitty Hawk.

There's plenty of space to yourself

Driving all the way to Hatteras is a commitment. On the way, you'll pass through miles and miles of far more populated beach towns, but it's worth the extra couple of hours in the car. With fewer housing options and a longer drive, the island doesn't feel crowded, even when it's backed up.

You'd need to head to the beach in the middle of the week to find similar open stretches at places like Wildwood, NJ and Virginia Beach, VA, and other more-accessible destinations along the East Coast.

On Hatteras, there's never a need to come within six feet of someone on the beach, and if you're looking for even more solitude, you can catch a ferry to Ocracoke Island, about an hour away.

Many businesses are good about masks

Tourists and locals alike weren't wearing masks when able to maintain proper distance on the beach, or even on outer ferry decks, but many businesses were enforcing mandates indoors, where wearing a mask matters most.

Our favorite fish market, Risky Business Seafood, was only letting one group inside at a time, and visitors didn't seem to mind lining up for access. Indoor dining was available at some restaurants during my visit, but we were easily able to avoid that and any other high-risk situations, by being more selective about where we ate.

There isn't any nightlife

You're on your own for entertainment after the sun goes down, and, with indoor bars and large gatherings being especially risky at the moment, that certainly isn't a bad thing.

Also, thanks to early bedtimes, I was able to maximize my sunshine on this trip — I made sure to begin my day just before 6:00 a.m. in order to catch the incredible sunrise during daily long, peaceful morning walks.

You'll be staying in a private home

As much as I love a good five-star hotel, I'm doing my best to avoid coming into contact with strangers at the moment. To make that even more manageable, I've been booking private homes whenever practical.

That's actually the norm in Cape Hatteras: While there are motels and inns here and there, the vast majority of visitors stay in rental homes, all within walking distance of the beach. Depending on where you stay, you can book a four-bedroom house for around $1,000 for an entire week, directly through local agencies, such as Midgett and Hatteras Realty.

Bottom line

Cape Hatteras is almost fully open for business. It's legal to do things like play mini-golf near other groups or partake in indoor dining, and you may encounter customers neglecting to wear a mask, especially in larger stores. Still, by following CDC guidelines, visiting smaller markets, ordering takeout and maintaining distance on the beach, it's easy to minimize your risk.

While eating out was always a highlight during my childhood Hatteras visits, we didn't miss it on this trip. I even whipped us up a sushi dinner with some of the incredibly fresh tuna we picked up at Risky Business.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CDAS62FpddB/

Still, there is a cost of traveling to some parts of the U.S. right now. As of this writing, some states, including my home state of New York, are requiring anyone entering from a handful of high-risk areas to quarantine for 14 days. Aside from walking over to get a coronavirus test after returning home, I spent all of the time until my next trip stuck in my studio apartment.

As inconvenient as the quarantine requirement can be — especially given my incredibly low risk of exposure — I understand the importance of implementing a standardized process right now, and I'm happy to follow it in exchange for the opportunity to travel from time to time. This adventure also helped give me the confidence to embark on more East Coast road trips, including one up to Maine, again with an Audi Q5 in partnership with Silvercar.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Pros

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  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more