So you might have noticed that I was not around last week as I took my first real vacation in more than four years…a real vacations is one where you are not at home.  Along with 14 other family members we spent the week in Carolla, North Carolina…our fourth such trip to the well-known Outer Banks destination which depending on traffic and number of stops you make is around a 9-hour journey.

It was a terrific week due in large part to having great weather which allowed us to spend a good portion of every day on the beach except for our last one.  Our routine was to set up a tent and chairs early in the morning to secure a spot and then head to the beach by 10am and stay there for anywhere between 4-5 hours before returning to our 8-bedroom rental home where we would then hit the pool until getting ready for dinner.  Families took turns planning and cooking the nightly meals which worked well especially with four children 8 and under including a pair of two-year olds.

My nephew Stephen spent hours building this...others on this which drew a lot of attention.

Speaking of routine.  I made the daily morning run to Dunkin Donuts which was in itself challenging.  Like right here at the Jersey Shore the Outer Banks is dealing with severe employment issues with many popular restaurants closed one or two days a week, limiting hours and even cancelling take out.  The Dunkin Donuts just a few miles from where we were staying opens at 7am and no matter what time I got there in the morning it was about a half-hour to get in and out as there was just not enough help.  For those that are familiar with Duck Donuts…well that was a nightmare.  We did make the commitment to go there one morning and arrived 20 minutes before they even opened but it was still almost an hour before we left…just crazy.

Carolla is really a wonderful destination especially if you do a family thing with a lot of people.  The vacation homes on or near the beach are simply amazing and as long as you all get along (and we did) you simply can’t beat it.  It was very relaxing as I read two Harlan Coben novels which will probably be the end of my summer reading as the high school football season is right around the corner and it’s time to get to work. It’s also time to us to plan our next summer vacation.

My grandson Carter in a "moat."
Why am I the only one not smiling?

LOOK: Here are the 50 best beach towns in America

Every beach town has its share of pluses and minuses, which got us thinking about what makes a beach town the best one to live in. To find out, Stacker consulted data from WalletHub, released June 17, 2020, that compares U.S. beach towns. Ratings are based on six categories: affordability, weather, safety, economy, education and health, and quality of life. The cities ranged in population from 10,000 to 150,000, but they had to have at least one local beach listed on TripAdvisor. Read the full methodology here. From those rankings, we selected the top 50. Readers who live in California and Florida will be unsurprised to learn that many of towns featured here are in one of those two states.

Keep reading to see if your favorite beach town made the cut.