My Autumn Road Trip | Planning

Colorado – North Carolina – Virginia – Colorado

The wanderlust is back, friends. I can feel it constantly calling me to explore. Sometimes the day-to-day feels a little suffocating, that’s when I know it is time to go on an adventure!

At the end of November I am planning a solo Autumn Road Trip to visit family on the East Coast of the US. This post dives into my planning process before heading out on a road trip, I will be sure to share stories and photos as well!

map of the usa showing road trip path is 55 hours to drive 3,789 miles
55 hours to drive 3,789 miles! Bring it on.

Step One: Dates & Destinations

calendar planner and road trip schedule
Road trip planning… Photo Credit: Cassidy Boone

Between my work schedule and life in general, sometimes carving out time for a trip can be difficult. With Thanksgiving coming up, and knowing that I would have a few days off that week already for the holiday, I decided this would be the best time to maximize my days off and give me enough time to take a full road trip.

It is approximately a two day drive from Colorado to North Carolina, six hours from Southport, NC to Louisa, VA, and another two days to drive back from Virginia to Colorado. Then hoping to have at least 3 days in both of my destinations, that means I was looking at a minimum of a 10 day trip. Taking a few extra days off of work, combined with the Thanksgiving days off, I was good to go!

Itinerary Outline

My trip dates are Friday, November 17th – Sunday, November 26th. The itinerary outline:

Friday, 11/17 – Saturday, 11/18: Drive from Denver, CO to Southport, NC

Saturday, 11/18 – Wednesday, 11/22: Southport, NC

Wednesday, 11/22: Drive from Southport, NC to Lousia, VA (6 hours)

Wednesday, 11/22 – Saturday, 11/25: Louisa, VA

Saturday, 11/25 – Sunday, 11/26: Drive from Louisa, VA – Denver, CO

Step Two: Logistics & Budget

Logistically speaking, the three main considerations for this trip are: 1) traveling solo; 2) small budget; & 3) bringing my dog Freddy with me.

chihuahua dog snuggled up for road trip
Mister Freddy snuggled and ready to ride. Photo Credit: Cassidy Boone
Traveling Solo

I will be needing to make an overnight stop on my way out to North Carolina and on the way back from Virginia. It’s a lot of miles and hours in the car on your own! Taking a look at Google Maps and my route, I have chosen to stop at hotels in Calvert City, KY and Boonesville, MO.

Why these cities? I want to have the first day of driving be the longest, so I chose cities that are about 16 hours into the drive. That way the second day of driving I arrive at my destination around dinner time and can enjoy the evening with my family instead of arriving late at night.

Small Budget

I will be on a “shoestring budget” for this trip,  so I checked (my personal go-to site for hotel bookings) and found good deals at a two different Days Inn hotels in cities along my route. They are low-budget, but decent as far as cheap, roadside hotels go!

Traveling on my own, it is important to be safe and stay somewhere I will be comfortable. I also booked the hotels in advance since I will be arriving late to both cities – I’d rather know for sure that I have a room waiting and that they are expecting me.

The other budget consideration is gas. My car does pretty well – I get approximately 500 miles a tank and it’s about $35/tank. So I am going to budget about $200 per leg of the trip for gas. Right now I’m budgeting $600 for gas, hotels, and road trip snacks (of course!). This is a very tight budget, but since it is just me, and my expenses are minimal when I am with my family, I think this will be enough. Fingers crossed!

Traveling with a dog

Considering that I am driving, I will be bringing my dog Freddy along for the trip! He is a great traveler, but bringing your special pup along always adds another element to the planning process. The hotels I chose are dog friendly and I cleared it with my family beforehand of course. I also always make sure to have Freddy’s harness on him at all times when we travel – just in case he got lost or hopped out of the car on accident! Remember to have lots of water breaks – doggies get thirsty in the car too!

chihuahua in the car ready for an adventure
Freddy is ready for adventure! Photo Credit: Cassidy Boone

I actually prefer to road trip with a dog! It helps remind me to stop and stretch every couple of hours and adds some security. Although my little pup may not be much of a threat, just the added element can be a deterrent for some would-be criminal, so I feel safer. 

Step Three: Trip Preparations

Now that the trip is outlined, my hotels are booked, and I have been approved for time off it’s time to make final preparations before leaving for the trip.

chihuahua in car window on road trip
Let’s gooo already!! Photo Credit: Cassidy Boone
Is your car road trip ready?

Remember that you will be experiencing different weather patterns depending on which time of year you are traveling! Since I will be going in the late autumn, I want to be sure my car is ready for winter driving conditions juuuuust in case we meet snow along the way. This means I will be checking my tires, getting any maintenance done beforehand, and cleaning the interior (personal choice, I prefer to travel in a clean car!).

Books on Tape

Any road tripper will tell you to make sure you have something to keep your mind occupied on those long stretches – particularly when going solo. Instead of shelling out tons of money with Audible, I borrow e-audiobooks from my local library for free and download them onto my phone for use in the  car. I also make sure to have some great playlists ready to go! Music makes the miles go faster, as they say….ha!

Packing list

When it’s time to actually start packing, I always make a list. Traveling by car is nice because you have much more room for luggage and if I do any shopping I have room to bring everything home.

It’s a little far out today for me to share my packing list – that will come in a future post! For now, know that it includes clothes, shoe options, a coat, and dog food…ha! 

dog in suitcase
Freddy will make sure I don’t leave without him! Photo Credit: Cassidy Boone

Now begins that awkward waiting period between planning and actually taking the trip! May the countdown begin….


– Cassidy


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