Road Trip Recap & Results of The Car Rental Trick!

Welp, 3 days and 1,000+ miles later we’re back and more knowledgeable than ever about North Carolina! And I must say, y’all sure do LOVE your state :) You need to steal Virginia’s motto and start saying North Carolina Is For Lovers! Haha… I haven’t received that many emails or tweets about a blog post of mine in years ;) Thanks so much to everyone who shared their advice and tips with us while down there – they helped a lot!

Here were my thoughts on the two main places we checked out (we also visited other random towns, but only drove through to get a quick glance in between areas):

Downtown Wilmington:

I absolutely fell in love. So beautiful and cozy there!! A bit smaller than I had remembered from visiting years ago (like when I was 15), but then again it had everything I was personally looking for anyways: old downtown feel, everything walkable, shops, restaurants, WATER, and historic mansions everywhere that inspires me to own my own one day ;) I was pretty much sold on the place from the second we parked our car and walked into the first coffee shop we saw. I WANT TO LIVE THERE!!

But unfortunately I can’t say the same about the Mrs :( She agreed with everything I thought and loved about it, but it was a bit too small for her taste, and she likened it to other places I’d love to live saying it was “a great place to visit, but probably not to live.” BOOOOO… My dream is to live in vacation areas! Haha… Oh, and the beaches there? Awesome!! I took Baby $ on the sand for the first time and he watched the seagulls roam freely amongst the crashing waves. I could get used to that real fast.

Downtown Durham:

The next day we headed to Durham, and I must say I’ve never visited a place that SOOOOO many people had recommended before getting there. Locals are crazy proud of that place! And I could totally see why as it’s definitely as “hip” as everyone described it to us, though *much* different than Wilmington. We went from old money and water to young money and brick, haha… But you could tell the culture there was pretty rich, and there definitely seemed like there was more to do in Durham than in downtown Wilmington too, at least for our ages.

Unlike with Wilmington though, our thoughts were flip-flopped. The wife wanted to lay down roots there after only 15 minutes, haha, while I was still soaking it all in waiting to really “get it.” Mostly because it had gotten so built up with everyone’s outpouring of love for the place that my expectations were pretty dang high :( And I also couldn’t find any cool residential places in the heart of downtown where I’d be looking to live too – not that the time we spent there (3 hours) gave it any justice.

I guess that was the biggest difference between Wilmington and Durham at first glance – the way they look vs. what it’s really like to live there. So we def. need to go back and do some more exploring – something the wife is already trying to work back into our schedules :)

OH! And our Car Savings Trick?

It went swimmingly too :) Not only did we get the upgraded SUV when we only paid for the entry-level size (that’s the heart of the trick for anyone who missed it last week: reserving the class one-level down from the car type you actually *want*, in hopes you get a free upgrade to it when you go to pick it up later), but we snagged an additional $15 off as well when we signed up to their “small business” account :) Which is something new (and free) Enterprise is now offering that grants you 10% off your first rental, and 5% off all future rentals too. It’s awesome, and totally caught me off guard, haha…

So our total car costs ended up coming in at $135 for the long weekend instead of the $200 it should have been ;) It was definitely worth the risk!! (Though admittedly it came close to backfiring too – the location I reserved the car at (not an airport one which is always the best) had run out of ALL suvs as was crazy backed up with people. But the second I walked into the store – literally, JUST that second! – someone had returned one and I was fortunate enough to nab it. Even though of course they SHOULD HAVE HAD IT ANYWAYS cuz that’s why you reserve these things! Ugh… But I kept my mouth shut and squirreled away my savings super excited to blog about it later, haha… so yay!)

Another funny/embarrassing thing?? My fly was down the ENTIRE time I was there getting my car!! And not any of those 15+ people told me about it! Haha… Arghhhhhh… But perhaps that also helped me secure those savings, eh? A guy can wish! ;)

A Total Success!

Altogether it was a major success of a weekend, and if you can believe it Baby Money was an angel!! He rarely acted up, and now we know he’s a road tripper just like his parents – woohoo! I’d be in a much different state of mind right now had things gone differently, haha… And all combined we spent a grand total of $418 for the trip – $82 less than we budgeted for. With the car rental and gas ($180) being the most. Something I don’t miss from my last SUV! (But it’s safe to say we’ll be getting one here in the near future for sure… MAN that made the whole trip easier!)

Back to the real world now though… Gotta make sure to put those next locations on the calendar so we can keep up our momentum here! Thanks again for all your tips everyone! :)

How did you end up doing this weekend? Get into anything fun or memorable?

PS: Here were the two restaurants we ate at and enjoyed too – For all those foodies out there:

— In Wilmington: The George on The Riverwalk – Heated outdoor seating overlooking the water!
— In Durham: El Rodeo, in Brightleaf Square – my favorite area there so far :)

[Photo on left of Wrightsville Beach by J$. Photo on right of a Wilmington building by Ally Mauro]

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  1. Lance @ Money Life and More December 18, 2012 at 7:14 AM

    It is definitely hard to see if you want to live somewhere by just visiting. You almost need to visit for a whole week and act like you’re living there just to get a real idea. Rent a house or something.

  2. Christopher @ This that and the MBA December 18, 2012 at 9:45 AM

    Browse craigslist for weekly rentals in the area. Most you can find pretty cheaply. I agree with lance it is hard to experience the area in a weekend…Maybe I missed it but why are you considering leaving the DC area for another large suburban area? Wont renting the house in DC be difficult if you are over 1k miles away?

    Get any moonshine when you traveled further down south…

  3. RichUncle EL December 18, 2012 at 10:09 AM

    Thanks for sharing how you felt about the NC trip, I like the fact that you guys can’t agree on where to set roots. I am assuming that downtown Durham is bigger than Wilmington? Also great sneak at the end of the post with the food recomendations plug. I like visiting off the wall places with good food.

  4. daveM December 18, 2012 at 12:34 PM

    I bet there is some future lengthy discussion and a return trip, possibly with another city to be included as a comparison. Great timing at the car rental.!! I am considering a move to another city, your insights are helpful.

  5. Johnny @ Our Freaking Budget December 18, 2012 at 12:37 PM

    I think your assessment (sorry Mrs. $) of Durham is pretty spot on. It’s quickly becoming a city that might fit me, but I think it’s still a few years off. But the Triangle as a whole seems like a solid place to relocate.

    We were actually in Raleigh for the weekend and hit up the flea market. It’s pretty big and there were some cool vintage items to be had. I quickly remembered why I only carry a $20 in my wallet.

  6. J. Money December 18, 2012 at 10:10 PM

    @Lance @ Money Life and More – Yeah, I know – that’s the trouble with this stuff :( And it’s not like we’re just next door or anything where we can hang out and visit a ton before making the switch. But it’s all good, makes life interesting, right?

    @Christopher @ This that and the MBA – Mainly want to move for a change of pace and to have a place more walkable to cafes/bars/etc. Unless we move to either NYC or LA or similar, it’ll always be cheaper for us in rent ;) I guess the only pro to having such high costs of living in DC eh? And we’d use a brokerage or whatever they’re called to manage our property here while gone – it will be money well spent to keep our sanity levels down.

    @RichUncle EL – From what I hear both places are pretty well-known for their food too! So at least that’s good :) Yeah, Durham seemed much bigger than downtown Wilmington, but then again we only went to the more touristy parts… Hard to fit in a lot on short time-tables.

    @daveM – Great! Glad to hear it :) Let me know where you’re exploring too and maybe we’ll also take a trip?

    @Johnny @ Our Freaking Budget – Oh cool! I haven’t been to our local flea market in weeks – I don’t know what to do with myself! ;) I think the next time we go back to visit, we’ll also be stopping by the other areas too like Raliegh and so forth. I’m sure we could both agree on one of those areas ya know? I’d even give Durham a shot just to get out of my current house for a year or two – I bet it’s much better once you have the inside scoop…

  7. Christopher @ This that and the MBA December 19, 2012 at 8:41 AM

    Do you still think you will get a good return on your money to be worth while renting out the place? To also ensure that there is enough money coming in incase of a major repair..

    Our current place is a 2 family and the rent from the upper portion of the house pays our mortgage and part of our escrow so we are essentially paying close to 150 a month to live…not a bad gig considering we bought when my wife was out on maternity leave…as it was much cheaper than renting and it worked out in our favor…it also gave me a taste of rental income and now I want to purchase more properties…

  8. J. Money December 20, 2012 at 10:02 AM

    WOW way to work it man! That is incredible! I def. don’t think we’ll be able to rock it like you are there, but if we save even just a couple of hundred each month it would be worth it for us just to get some new scenery… Shoot, even if the numbers broke even it would still be worth it! Can you tell we really want to move? :)

  9. Dianne @ Skinny Seahorse March 25, 2013 at 6:53 AM

    I live in Carolina Beach just outside of Wilmington. We moved here from Alaska 6 years ago. It IS a small town! And the job market is terrible, if a conventional job is your sort of thing. But I love this place. Mostly for the beach and the close vicinity to everything else. We looked at the RTP area as well. But ultimately chose here because beach was a priority. We can get anywhere else within a few hours if we’re bored. It’s really the best of everything. Good luck with your decision.

  10. J. Money March 25, 2013 at 12:21 PM

    Cool!! I think we actually stopped by there on our way out – or at least a similar beach. It was the first one our baby has seen in his life! Hehe… I’m hitting you up if we do indeed make it out there :) First beer/coffee is on me!