plan an awesome adventure

The weather is warm, the road is calling, and adventure awaits.  Why not take a road trip?!

They have to be fun, right? I mean, look at all the movies that have centered around them:

  • Vacation (Chevy Chase & Beverly D’Angelo – a classic!)
  • Tommy Boy (Chris Farley & David Spade)
  • Planes, Trains & Automobiles (Steve Martin & John Candy)
  • Identity Thief (Melissa McCarthy & Jason Bateman)
  • Due Date (Robert Downey Jr. & Zack Galifanakis)
  • Guilt Trip (Seth Rogan & Barbara Streisand)

What do these all of these movies have in common? The main characters encounter crazy people (sometimes the person they’re traveling with) and even crazier situations.

In reality, road trips can be a blast (alone or with 1+ travel buddies) with a little advance planning.


Before you jump in your car and head out on the open road with the radio cranked up and the wind in your hair, you need to do some planning.  

Start by asking yourself the important “Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How” questions, as in…

1. “WHO will be going on the trip?”

The answer to this question is very important.  

  • If you are going alone, you can do whatever you want whenever you want.  
  • If you are going with others, you will have to find activities that everyone will enjoy and be able to compromise on your itinerary. 

2. “WHAT is my budget?”

Money is always a consideration when traveling (or doing anything else, for that matter).

Don’t have a budget limit? Lucky you!  Skip this section and go to #3.  

If you do have a limited budget, be sure to take into consideration all trip-related expenses so you can estimate how much you’ll need.  

Your trip budget should include an estimate of the following expenses:

  • GasHow many tanks of gas will you need to travel round-trip? 
  • MealsWhere will you eat? Fast food restaurants? Chain restaurants such as Ruby Tuesday, etc.? Or will you buy groceries? 
  • Lodging Where will you stay while you’re away? The home of a friend/family member? Campground? Hotel? Airbnb? Hostel? Or will you couch surf? 
  • IncidentalsWill you need money for luggage fees?  Tolls?  Parking? Tips for hotel staff?  Admission fees for sights you want to see? 
  • Spending MoneyDo you plan on shopping? Buying gifts? Etc.?

If the total is more than you have or are comfortable spending, you can make the necessary adjustments in advance.

3. “WHAT do I want to see and/or do?”

If you’re like me, you enjoy doing some of the touristy thing (like one or more of these weird roadside attractions).  If you just want to go with the flow, that’s fine, too. It’s your trip. You can do whatever you want!

4. “WHERE do I want to go?”

If you have an idea of where you want to go in mind, great! That’s half the battle.

If you don’t know where you want to go, don’t freak out. There are a few things you can do that will help you narrow down your destination(s).

  • Ask your friends/family – If you know anyone whose gone on a road trip or two, ask them where they went, how long they were gone, and if they enjoyed the trip
  • Google “road trip itineraries for [geographic area]” and see what comes up 
  • Use a website or app to help you plan (*I’ll cover these in my next post)

5. “WHEN will I go?”

Depending on the answer to #2, you can take a spontaneous trip or you may have to ask for time off far in advance.  

6. “WHY am I going?”

Do you want some R&R? Do you want to see and/or do as much as possible? Or a combination of the two?  

7. “HOW long will my trip be?” 

If you are only going for a weekend, your destination will be much closer to your home than if you have a week or more.

Once you answer these questions and come up with your budget, you can plan your route.


I took a road trip through North Carolina and Tennessee.  The total trip ended up being 1,462 miles.

To plan, I started out by asking myself and answering the 6 questions mentioned above:

  1. WHO will be going on the trip? – Originally, I was going alone, but due to a change of plans, my boyfriend went with me.
  2. WHAT is our budget? – The less money, the better!  Since my boyfriend went on the trip, we split everything 50/50 which made it much more affordable. 
  3. WHAT do we want to do and/or see? – The must-sees on my trip were The Biltmore in Asheville, NC and Music Row in Nashville. Everything else was a bonus.
  4. WHERE do we want to go? – Asheville, North Carolina and Nashville, TN
  5. WHEN will we go? – I was planning on going 3-4 weeks from when I asked off from work (unless they needed more advance notice)
  6. WHY am I going? – To get some time to rest, relax and explore 
  7. How long will my trip be – Mine was 10 days

Next, I looked on the map to see where things were in relation to each other. Then, I added a few stops to fill out my trip.

In addition to stops in Asheville and Nashville, we added a few days in Raleigh, NC, to stay with one of my friends for a few days and a stop in Knoxville, TN, to explore.

Figure out how much time you want to spend in the car each day, then start plotting your course.  This may take a little bit of tweaking, but it is doable.

I planned my route specifically so:

(1) I wouldn’t be driving a huge amount of time each day, and

(2) I had 2 days in (almost) each place, giving me some time to recover from all the sitting in the car I’d be doing.

Here’s what my route looked like:

North Carolina/Tennessee Road Trip

Day 1McLean, VA => Raleigh, NC (4 hours)

Day 2Stayed in Raleigh

Day 3Stayed in Raleigh

Day 4Raleigh, NC => Asheville, NC (4 hours)

Day 5Stayed in Asheville

Day 6Asheville, NC => Nashville, TN (4-1/2 hours)

Day 7Stayed in Nashville

Day 8Nashville, TN => Knoxville, TN (2-2/3 hours) => Abingdon, VA (2 hours)

Day 9Abingdon, VA => McLean, VA (5-1/4 hours)

The only diversion from how I planned the trip occurred in the last 2 days. We ended up leaving Nashville after dinner and driving as far as Knoxville, where we spent the night. The next day, we spent the afternoon exploring Knoxville, then drove all the way home.


Day 1McLean, VA => Raleigh, NC (4 hours)

Day 2Stayed in Raleigh

Day 3Stayed in Raleigh

Day 4Raleigh, NC => Asheville, NC (4 hours)

Day 5Stayed in Asheville

Day 6Asheville, NC => Nashville, TN (4-1/2 hours)

Day 7Stayed in Nashville

Day 8Nashville, TN => Knoxville, TN (2-2/3 hours)

Day 9Knoxville, TN => McLean, VA (7+ hours)

Due to our change in itinerary, the ride home was way longer than I wanted it to be (7+ hours), but we got home safely at about 1am (*yaaaawn*).

I hope this post gave you some things to consider when you start to think about going on your first (or next) road trip.

 Favorite trip planning websites and apps.

























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