Drive to NOLA [Introduction]

"Where are you going for Christmas?"

Before people started asking me this question after Thanksgiving, I had asked myself the same a thousand times. Since I started working, long weekends and long holidays become so precious. These are the only time when I don't need to worry about my boss texting me and asking me to do work remotely (he did so when I took vacation last time). Thus, these are also the best time to travel, but... where should I go?

Covering all the lower 48 states has been my goal of 2016. To achieve it, I knew I had to take at least one trip to the deep south: Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. This had not become my Christmas plan until late October, when my former roommate Bo mentioned that he wanted to go to "somewhere warmer" for Christmas. In that conversation, we realized we can achieve our goals together by a Christmas-New Year road trip. This is how we decided to go.

The plan

We first agreed that this would be a road trip (driving only), and the destination would be New Orleans. As a travel addict, I quickly listed all cities and destinations I wanted to check out during the trip, and quickly came up with a plan.

Cities: Knoxville, Nashville and New Orleans.
Destinations: Shenandoah National Park, Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and Mammoth Cave National Park.

Apparently the best way to tie these locations up is to take I-81, the highway along the Appalachian mountains. With this in mind, other details can be set very easily.

Lodging & transportation

The key to a pleasant road trip is to allocate driving time evenly. Therefore, a few nights we had to stay in smaller towns, or "middle of nowhere". These towns turned out to be very neat and nice. They might not be the funnest places to stay, but, how many times in your life can you spend a night in Mississippi, Alabama, or a tiny Appalachian town?

We stayed at various budget motels, which cost each person less than 20 bucks per night.


Day 1: Boston, MA - Paramus, NJ - Winchester, VA (Travelodge)
Day 2: Winchester, VA - Shenandoah National Park - University of Virginia - Wytheville, VA (Quality Inn)
Day 3: Wytheville, VA - Great Smoky Mountain National Park - Knoxville, TN (Comfort Suites)
Day 4: Knoxville, TN - Harland Sanders Cafe and Museum (Corbin, KY) - Mammoth Cave National Park - Nashville, TN (Courtyard)
Day 5: Nashville, TN - Natchez Trace National Parkway - Jackson, MS (Baymont Inn and Suites)
Day 6: Jackson, MS - New Orleans, LA (Ramada)
Day 7: New Orleans, LA - Greenville, AL (Best Western)
Day 8: Greenville, AL - Atlanta, GA - Durham, NC (Holiday Inn Express)
Day 9: Durham, NC - Paramus, NJ - Boston, MA

Final cost

As expected, 4-male group is very economic. Including lodging, transportation, dining, admission, etc, each of us only spent $470 throughout the trip.

Interested in more details? Let's go!