An Abbreviated Vacation Guide for N.C. Families

Three- and four-night vacations are just what families with teens and tweens need
Beaufortscfishing Creditbeaufort Portroyalcvb

Last summer, our family–which includes teens and tweens–traveled to Jekyll Island, Georgia and Floyd, Virginia for four nights each. We did it out of necessity—our teen started a summer internship and my husband had limited time off—but our abbreviated family vacation turned out to be a positive experience worth repeating.

The “brief” vacation works for a few reasons:

  1. It’s easy on the wallet. Accommodations, dining, and activities for three or four days often work better for a family on a budget.
  2. It fits with everyone’s busy schedule. Teens with part-time jobs, sports, or volunteer obligations may not be willing or able to take off an entire week.
  3. It keeps relationships strong. Teens and tweens find it harder to be away from friends. A short trip guarantees family time and less FOMO. It can also preserve familial relationships that may be tense between parents and siblings.
  4. You spend quality time together. Unplugging for a brief vacation may be more realistic than unplugging at home. Leave the gaming console behind and pack Uno, Sorry, and Catch Phrase instead.
  1. You can visit regional destinations. A road trip to a city or town just a few hours from Charlotte gives your family the choice of mountains or beaches, high adventure or relaxation, fine dining or down-home cooking.

Plan an “abbreviated vacay” to one of these five destinations near North Carolina:



Beaufort, South Carolina

  • Explore this waterfront town’s quaint streets filled with history and Antebellum architecture. Take a carriage or walking tour to learn about the town’s Civil War history.
  • Relax on Hunting Island State Park’s beaches. Hike or bike the trails and visit the nature center. Climb the historic lighthouse on the park’s property.
  • Rent a bike and ride on the 10-mile Spanish Moss Trail. Spend time with Captain Amber on an eco-boat excursion on the Chechessee River.

Stay: The Beaufort Inn, Best Western Sea Island Inn, City Loft Hotel, or camp at Hunting Island State Park
Play: The Kazoo Factory, Glow Country Indoor Mini Golf, Santa Elena History Center
Eat: Blackstone’s Café, Shrimp Shack, Q on Bay, 843-525-8500


Floyd, Virginia

  • Come for the bluegrass music, hiking, and biking. Shop the Floyd Farmers Market on Saturdays and the Friday night market for local artisans’ products.
  • Take an all-day, 10-mile hike to Rock Castle Gorge. Test your family’s endurance and hike through meadows, cross bridges, and dodge a few cows. (There are simpler hikes, too.)
  • Rent tubes from On the Water and float down the Little River. It’s a peaceful way to unwind, spend time with the family and see wildlife.

Stay: Hotel Floyd, The Pine Tavern Lodge, local bed and breakfasts
Play: Buffalo Mountain Ziplines, Chantilly Farm, Friday Night Jamboree at Floyd Country Store,
Eat: Cocoa Mia, Parkway Grille, The Pine Tavern Restaurant, 540-239-8509


Morganton, North Carolina

  • Bike through town with Overmountain Cycles, which offers free weekly rides for locals and visitors.
  • Hike one of South Mountains State Park’s trails: High Shoal Falls Loop Trail, Lake View Trail, or Turkey Ridge Trail.
  • Zipline through Catawba Meadows Park with Beanstalk Ziplines.

Stay: Blue Ridge Parkway Cabins, Bridgewater Hall Historic Inn, Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott,
Play: Fonta Flora Trail, Henry River Village (and tour the set where Hunger Games was filmed!), Lake James
Eat: Old World Baking Company, root + vine, Treat, 828-433-6793


Sevierville, Tennessee

  • Spend the day at Dollywood, and plan your visit during a special event or annual festival. Test your lungs on Barnstormer, Daredevil Falls, and Smoky Mountain River Rampage.
  • Spot an eagle, hawk, and deer at Seven Islands State Birding Park. Bring a picnic to enjoy after your walk.
  • Head to Smoky Mountains National Park for trails to waterfalls, auto tours, and camping. Choose one of the popular hikes: Andrews Bald, Charlies Bunion, and Chimney Parks.

Stay: Appleview River Resort, Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort & Spa, Wilderness at the Smokies Waterpark Resort
Play: Sevier Air Trampoline & Ninja Warrior Park, Sky High Air Tours, Soaky Mountain Waterpark
Eat: Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant, The Diner, Tony Gore's Smoky Mountain BBQ & Grill, 888-738-4378

Track Rock Stables

Tallulah Gorge State Park, Georgia

  • Explore 20 miles of trails with instagram-worthy views, watch expert kayakers navigate the Tallulah Gorge, and practice archery skills (but bring your own equipment).
  • Take the Hurricane Falls Loop, a strenuous 2.25-mile hike that includes a long staircase to a suspension bridge that sways 80 feet above the falls.
  • Visit nearby towns Blairsville, Dahlonega, and Helen for museums, restaurants, and shopping.

Stay: Cabins at Paradise Hills Winery, Resort, and Spa; tent/RV camp at Tallulah Gorge State Park; Cottages at Vogel State Park
Play: Lake Nottely, Lasso the Moon Alpaca Farm, Tallulah Point Overlook, Track Rock Stables
Eat: The Aviator Café, Jim’s Smokin’ Que, The Sawmill Place, 706-754-7981

Another Option: Let Someone Else Pick the Destination

Let Pack Up + Go plan your family vacation, and get ready for a surprise adventure. Your family won’t know where you’re going until you open the envelope on the day you leave (if you can wait that long). Here’s how it works:

  1. Choose air travel or road trip on the Pack Up + Go website.
  2. Set a budget. There are minimums based on transportation and number of people.
  3. Complete a pre-trip interest survey. Get the whole family involved answering the questions.
  4. Let Pack Up + Go do the planning for you.
  5. Get a packing list and weather report a week before the vacation. Start guessing where you might be headed. Offer an award to the family member who guesses correctly.
  6. Find out where your family is heading on the day you leave.
  1. Hit the road!