Plan a Road Trip

It feels like just yesterday we were writing a similar summary about our Balkans Road Trip. It’s been a season of road trips around here, a travel format that took us way too long to discover.

Now we just can’t get enough road tripping.

Road trips are amazing because they are completely flexible, you don’t have to pack fully between places (hello, unzipped luggage and shoes all over the backseat!). We also love having full control over how much driving we do per day.

You may remember our epic road trip in the summer of 2015, a 3,800 mile journey from Los Angeles to Maine. Yeah, that was aggressive. As 2016 wound down, and we were stateside for the first time in several years, we decided to plan a road trip ‘between-American-Thanksgiving-and-Christmas’, exploring the American South.

The Route

Note that we started and ended this road trip in our two holiday destinations. We selected several cities we wanted to visit just because and several where we would see family and friends. In the end, we thought it was a nice mix of time with others and time just the two of us.

Given the timeframe of the trip, between two holidays, we were limited to the amount of time we could spend on the road. For instance, we knew we had to be in Florida by the 20th of December. Thus, we spent 2-3 nights in each location.

Hindsight being what it is, I think we could have easily spent one more day in each place. In particular, Nashville and New Orleans felt rushed to us. I don’t think we knew exactly how much we would enjoy those cities or how the wintry weather would limit the energy we had each day for wandering.

If we had to do it again, I’d take it slower and back off on the daily pace of sightseeing.

Plan a Road Trip: Our Nashville weekend

Plan a Road Trip: Resources

Here are the full recaps of our time in:

In addition to the writing, we made a few YouTube videos on the road. Check them out here.

Here are some of the articles we bookmarked during our research and planning that helped us distill down what to do in each location. Of course, there is always the option of picking up an actual book, and here are a ton of suggestions for some fantastic travel-related books to keep you inspired..

Plan a Road Trip: Austin city barbecue from La Barbecue food truck

High/Low

People ask us frequently about what ‘we were up to’ between the holidays, and we’ve become pretty adept at extracting the big highlights. In no particular order, we have high praises to sing for:

Corsair Distillery (Nashville): Our last minute visit to Corsair was all thanks to a frigid day and a free afternoon. We booked in for a late afternoon tour ($8 covers a tour and tasting), and really enjoyed chatting with the enthusiastic staff, and sampling way too many spirits. And I don’t even LIKE most straight alcohol, so that’s saying something!

National Civil Rights Museum (Memphis): We didn’t expect to do any museum visits in Memphis, during days of quality time spent with relatives. But then several different people, from different areas of our lives, all mentioned how amazing this museum is and how if we’re in Memphis, we must go. So we went. And it was all they promised. Emotional, hopeful, shocking. And it’s at the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, providing more power and gravity to the museum’s surroundings.

Our RV AirBnB (Austin): It’s almost too cliche to be true, but Austin is funky in a few ways and one is the abundance of RVs for rent on AirBnB. We loved our cozy RV, newly renovated with full heating and plumbing from the city. We spent way too much time getting caught up on several TV shows, courtesy of the HBOGo account we had access to. Sometimes it’s the little things. (Click here to get $31 off your first AirBnB rental!)

Bacchanal (New Orleans): I want there to be a Bacchanal in every city. This self-proclaimed backyard party of the city is just that. Wine shop, live music, twinkle lights, amazing food ordered from a window. There is an upstairs cocktail bar if you want a change of scenery. It’s pretty much heaven on earth. We will go back to New Orleans just for this.

Plan a road trip: Our Nashville weekend with a tour at Corsair Disillery

Plan a road trip: Memphis tourism

7 Airbnb tips for first time users: the interior of a RV in Austin, Texas

In addition to those amazing highs, we inevitably ran into a couple lows:

Rain: We were happy to travel through an area of the country that doesn’t get much snow. What we didn’t anticipate was the amount of rain that the South gets instead. We were totally rained out one day in New Orleans and were subject to several days of chilly drizzle in Austin. And there was that one really cold day in Nashville, too. It’s winter after all.

Partying in New Orleans: Perhaps because of the rain, we didn’t do as much day drinking as we anticipated in New Orleans. We had grand ideas of hurricanes on Bourbon Street, taking a late night Uber back to our abode. But the weather deterred us, so we spent a couple hours having some fun cocktails at one decidedly low key bar instead. It was lovely. Just not the party we planned.

Plan a Road Trip: Beware of the rain when you visit new orleans

Budget:

Alright, let’s get down to business. It’s everyone’s favorite part, including mine, finance nut that I am. Our road trip was over eleven days in December 2016. All prices are in USD. For eleven mostly blissful days on the road, we spent a grand total of $1826.52, or $166 per day. In contrast, our Balkans road trip in the autumn was about $150 per day. The spending breaks down like this:

Screen Shot 2017-01-20 at 8.55.07 AM

A few notes:

Note 1: We actually rented a car for a full month in late 2016, not just for the road trip. We haven’t had a car in years, and our parents no longer have extra cars from teenage drivers at home. For the purposes of this exercise, I just prorated the amount we spent to eleven days, but of course, rental car prices vary wildly.

Note 2: For this trip, we either stayed exclusively in AirBnB rentals (our preferred accommodation when on the road), or with family and friends. Here are some of our best tips for having a successful AirBnB experience.

Note 3: As usual, we ate all the food. We had a few gift certificates (thanks Mom and Dad!), and kept an eye on the budget, no massive splurges. But we don’t hold back. It’s a blessing and a curse. I just read an article saying that you can comfortably eat po’ boys at Parkway in New Orleans for $10 for two people. We spent $38. Just sayin’.

Plan a Road Trip: Tacos from La Condesa in Austin city limits

Plan a Road Trip: Our Nashville weekend included eating pozole at Mas Taocs

Plan a Road Trip: You can't skip the beignets at Cafe du Monde when you visit new orleans

Plan a Road Trip: You can't skip the beignets at Cafe du Monde when you visit new orleans

There you have it. The down and dirty details of another successful road trip. Hopefully you’ll find this little round up helpful the next time you plan a road trip.

You won’t be surprised that I now have grand visions of even longer trips with an Airstream camper. Or road tripping between housesitting gigs.

Ok, Julie, pace yourself. There’s time for everything.

Visit Fort Worth: the legendary longhorns during the cattle drive

Planning & Resources-Southen US Road Trip-min

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  • January 20, 2017

    That’s a pretty dang impressive daily budget given that you didn’t visit very many cheap places! Would you believe I STILL haven’t been to Corsair (though I’ve drank plenty of their gin!)?
    Kristin @ Camels & Chocolate recently posted…Blogging Basics: Tools of the TradeMy Profile

    • January 22, 2017

      That’s crazy! Corsair is super fun and we tasted A LOT of their gin/whiskey range. Julie kept on downing the sample cups…I eventually told her she didn’t have to drink the whole shot glass of booze. She left feeling pretty good…

  • January 21, 2017

    I haven’t been to this part of the US, but the food looks pretty amazing!

    I’d so love to do a road trip too!
    Fiona Maclean recently posted…Porto and the Making of PortMy Profile

  • January 21, 2017

    That’s a lot of road! Both in the picture at top AND how much you drove. I’ve never been a huge fan of road trips, but in the U.S. that’s just the way it’s done, so get on board! I think I’d also want a little more time in New Orleans, especially. You can really get sucked in there. So much to do and sooo much eating to do.
    Laura Lynch recently posted…Best Global London Restaurants 2017My Profile

    • January 22, 2017

      I had to get down to Florida to see my family, so we ended up cutting a day in New Orleans AND had a full day of bad weather. There is always next time!

  • January 21, 2017

    Looks like you had a great itinerary! I am a native Southerner, and I have roadtripped all over the South, but it looks like you hit some destinations I have not yet explored. I especially want to visit the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. As always, your photography is exquisite!
    Howard | Backroad Planet recently posted…The VAVA Car Dash Cam: A Roadtripper’s Best FriendMy Profile

    • January 22, 2017

      Thanks Howard! Love the Civil Rights Museum. Highly recommended. Worth a visit if you are anywhere near Memphis.

  • January 21, 2017

    I love road trips. It is such a great way to get to know a country. I hate nothing more than being in overcrowded public transport, so I much prefer using my own wheels.
    Tammyonthemove recently posted…An adventurous weekend in San Gil (Part 1)My Profile

  • January 22, 2017

    We too love road trips as a family. Main reason being the travel costs come down considerably for a family of 4. Of course your reasons too hold good for me. I have done them in Europe. Noting down your tips on US road trips.
    Indrani recently posted…My Visit to Traditional Tribal Nakulnar Market Dantewada, ChhattisgarhMy Profile

  • January 22, 2017

    Haven’t been to the States and my bucket list for the country tend to be cities in the northeast and west coast. Would love to visit the Big Easy – New Orleans – though if given the opportunity to go further south. After reading this though, I’m intrigue about Memphis as well, in particular because of the National Civil Rights Museum, its location and connection to Martin Luther King Jr
    RaW | Ramble and Wander recently posted…Malaysia: The Beauty of the Mah MeriMy Profile

    • January 24, 2017
      Julie

      Memphis is certainly an interesting city with a complicated history. If I were to choose just one though, New Orleans would be my pick. It is without a doubt the most unique city culturally in the US. No other city in the US quite like it.

  • January 22, 2017

    My husband and I have done road trips in Italy and France but never in the USA! Our bad. We’d love to do one in the southern states. I love the singer Lucinda Williams and she has a song about losing her heartbreak on the road, and I’d love to follow that itinerary. With music blasting of course.
    Carol Perehudoff recently posted…Visiting Chateau de Chambord in the Loire Valley, FranceMy Profile

    • January 24, 2017
      Julie

      Great area for live music especially. Country in Nashville, the Blues in Memphis, funky honky tonks in Fort Worth, and some rock/country in Austin. Hard to go wrong!

  • January 23, 2017

    Road trips are our favorite way to travel! We’ve been to Nashville, but none of the other places you visited on your Southern US trip. We really haven’t dipped our toes in to the South yet, though that BBQ looks awesome enough to make me plan a trip.
    Jennifer recently posted…Do-It-Yourself City Tours with GPSmyCityMy Profile

    • January 24, 2017
      Julie

      So many great cities. Nashville was one of our faves actually, and quite similar to Austin. Of course, if you are on a road trip anywhere in the South, you are bound to run into some solid barbecue.

  • January 24, 2017

    Despite being from the US I have yet to road trip around. Thanks for the detailed budgeting, at least gas is cheap in the states right now too!

    • January 24, 2017
      Julie

      No doubt! After road tripping through Italy and the Balkans, the $2/gallon pricing works much better for us!

  • January 27, 2017

    Thanks for this! I’m hoping to road trip from DC to Oklahoma this summer (I made the drive out here 5 years ago but had little time for fun). Definitely want to stop in Memphis and Nashville and I’m heading to Austin next week so I’ll be checking out your post on that as well. Cheers!
    Kacy recently posted…Reasons to be Happy at Junction Bakery & BistroMy Profile

    • January 31, 2017

      you’ll love Austin. Such a fun city, with tons of great restaurants, bars, and cool vintage shops on South Congress. Have fun!

  • January 28, 2017

    Wow, what an adventure, I love road trips and want to do something in the Southeast – I did one recently along the Georgia/Florida east coast and that was a lot of fun!
    noel recently posted…Romantic getaways around the worldMy Profile

    • January 31, 2017

      amazingly, we are on another quick trip through Asheville, Charleston, and then back down to Jacksonville. The Georgia/Florida coast is such a nice backdrop for a road trip!