Unplanned Road Trip Planning To Colorado and Utah Part 1

Does the title of this post make any sense? We are making a road trip to colorado that is unplanned, but I’m trying to do some planning haha! Let me explain our road trip to Colorado to you a little further. We haven’t gone on our honeymoon yet (that happens in July). On Wednesday, I woke up…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: May 31, 2023

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Unplanned Road Trip Planning As A Freelancer With Dogs 2Does the title of this post make any sense? We are making a road trip to colorado that is unplanned, but I’m trying to do some planning haha!

Let me explain our road trip to Colorado to you a little further.

We haven’t gone on our honeymoon yet (that happens in July). On Wednesday, I woke up and Wes said that we should just pack up our bags, take the dogs, and leave immediately to go on a road trip to wherever.

However, I’m not really the spontaneous type who just drives to places in hopes of finding a place to sleep.

I am the type of person who needs to plan every last minute.

I love reading travel guides online and I can read these just like how others read books – I just can’t stop! I like to know everything and anything about where I am going to travel to.

It’s both a positive and a negative – I can spit out random facts about a place that I’ve never seen or been to, but it can also take the fun out of things when I know EVERYTHING about where I am going to.

Sometimes, a little spontaneity is needed.

I also know that this is something that Wes has been really wanting to do. And guess what? I’m having a ton of fun! It’s nice just planning things as we go, and taking our time in areas that we want to.


Unplanned and Last Minute Road Trip Planning


Where do we plan on going on this unplanned trip?

Ha, I know that this trip is supposed to be unplanned, but I have tried looking into different spots along the way.

When we were on the road from St. Louis to Denver (it’s a 12 hour drive!), I did create a few different itineraries for us.

At one point, we were thinking about adding Yellowstone, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, San Diego, and Las Vegas into our road trip, but we decided not to last night so that we could focus more of our trip on Colorado. I think we are going to save the west coast for another trip.

We LOVE Colorado so far, and we still have plenty of days left to go. We aren’t sure when we are going to start heading back home. It will probably be around 10 days from now. Might be sooner, might be later. That’s what’s great about this trip, nothing is set in stone so we can feel everything out and see what we really want to do.


On our updated itinerary:

  • Leave our home that is located in a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri.
  • Travel to Wes’s family’s property in Warrenton, Missouri (about one hour away from our home). We stayed here for two nights.
  • Go to Denver and stay for 2 days. We explored the area and I was probably most excited about their awesome REI!
  • Leave Denver and go to Arapaho National Forest. Our hotel was located in Silverthorne, Colorado though. We went to Arapaho National Forest yesterday and just drove around on their dirt trails around the mountains. We plan on going back today and tomorrow.
  • Today, we are going to Lake Granby and we are going to try to find a place for our tent. We are hoping to stay here for one to two days.
  • After leaving Lake Granby, we will be traveling to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. We will probably camp here for one day.
  • Next will be the Colorado National Monument. We might camp, but I have a feeling that we will want a hotel so that we can wash our clothes and enjoy a hotel room (instead of living out of a tent).
  • We will then leave Colorado for a few days and travel to Canyonlands National Park in Utah. We plan on enjoying this area and hopefully trying to make it out to BlueJohn Canyon.
  • After leaving Utah, we will travel back to Colorado and visit Mesa Verde National Park. We will probably camp out here for one day.
  • Next will be visiting the Great Sand Dunes. I’m super excited about this. We may have to get “dog shoes” for our pups so that they don’t burn their feet on the sand though.
  • After all of that, we want to go back to Denver for a day and try to recoup for the 12 hour journey back home…


Now, this is where I need your help. Is there anything that I should be adding to our list? Is there anything on the list above that you think we should skip? What are your favorite things to do in Colorado? I want to hear all opinions!


When was the last time you took an unplanned trip?

Do you have any tips for road tripping and/or saving money while traveling/working on the road? 


P.S. Check back tomorrow for more updates on this trip.


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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Colorado looks SO beautiful. One of my friends did a year long working holiday in America and was based there. I haven’t been on a spontaneous trip in AGES 🙁 I can’t even remember the last time. Thankfully we’ll be on the road indefinitely in 6 weeks so we’ll have lots of time for spontaneous adventures.

    Hope you enjoy your holiday and I’m looking forward to all the pics 🙂

    1. Yes, Colorado is extremely beautiful! I don’t know why we waited so long to visit this state 🙂

  2. Good for you guys Michelle! We did this quite a bit before we had kids and still do from time to time, just not as often. I’m a planner as well, but there’s just something about picking up and going on a random trip and seeing where it takes you.

    1. Thanks John! It’s been a lot of fun so far 🙂

  3. Ahhh sounds like so much fun! I’ve never been to that part of America so I don’t have any suggestions other than HAVE FUN!

    1. Thanks Charlotte!

  4. I always tell my wife that I want to pack a bag and go to the airport, close my eyes and point to a random place on the departing plane monitor. Wherever my finger is pointing, that is where we are going. I think it would be fun!

    As for driving around here in the US, I want to do a cross country drive, without plans. Just drive and see America. The only caveat is that we can’t take highways. We want to really see things and not from a highway overpass.

    1. I think picking a random place at the airport would be a lot of fun. Do it!

  5. Yes, it’s been kind of cold here! I’m glad I brought my jacket, because I almost didn’t. I think it was around 35 degrees last night!

  6. Colorado is the best! I could totally live there! And so glad you loved the REI!
    Y’all have fun!!!

    1. Thanks! And yes the REI in St. Louis is good, but the one here is just amazing!

  7. RJ

    Hi Michelle!

    Moved to Colorado in 1998 from Nevada and could not be happier! If I’m feeling down I just hop in the truck and drive westbound for an hour and start hiking up the mountains and before I know it I’m whistling a happy tune and feeing great! Hope you enjoy your stay, the weather is supposed to be great this week.

    1. Good to hear! We are definitely thinking about moving here. It is a little cold though, I’m not used to there not being high humidity levels so the other day when it was 85 degrees I was actually COLD! I had to put on my jacket and change out of my shorts into pants haha

      1. RJ

        That’s Colorado weather for you, Saturday it started out mild, rained hard around 2 pm with even a bit of hail (had to park under a bridge for a few minutes), then finished the day off nice and sunny. Which is hilarious because the saying here goes, “If you don’t like the weather, wait ten minutes.” 🙂

        1. Haha yeah we noticed that it rained for just the tiniest bit on Saturday. It wasn’t bad at all!

  8. Wow – have fun! We’re coming to American in the summer and I can’t wait 🙂

    1. WOOHOOO! Where do you plan on visiting?

      1. We’re going to lots of places! Boston, Philadelphia, New York (!!), Washington and Baltimore! I can’t wait 🙂

        1. That’s awesome!

  9. This is the most planned unplanned vacation I’ve seen in a long time. hahaha But good for you, it looks like a lot of fun. We’re going to Idaho in a few weeks for a wedding and then Yellowstone for a week. I’m very excited about that. The only thing is that my planned trip is more unplanned than your unplanned trip… kind of sad really.

    1. Haha yes Wes wanted it to be more unplanned but I don’t want to miss anything along the way (that’s just me being cheap, I don’t want to have to backtrack and spend extra money on gas), so I’ve been doing some planning in hotel rooms.

      Jealous of your trip to Yellowstone. Have you ever been?

      1. No, this is our first time in Yellowstone. I’m really excited about it.

  10. Kayla @ Shoeaholicnomore

    Glad you are enjoying your trip so far!

  11. The Asian Pear

    I’ve never taken a spontaneous trip before… I usually PLAN everything. It’s in my nature. I’m SO bad at NOT planning that it’s on my bucket list to have a spontaneous trip. Sad really. ^__^;

    1. Haha I always plan everything like crazy. It’s almost sad. I know it drives Wes crazy!

  12. That’s awesome!! I’m like you, where I love to research the heck out of places and figure out where we should stay and what we should do. But like you said, sometimes spontaneity is worth it! Colorado looks beautiful, and I would definitely love to visit one day. My aunt is thinking about moving there which would be great. Can’t wait to hear more!

    1. Glad I’m not alone 🙂

  13. I’m a lot like you in that I want to have my trip planned, or at least know where I am sleeping each night of the trip. I don’t think I have EVER taken an unplanned trip, nor do I think I will be able to for years and years from now. I don’t mind not taking unplanned trips and I’m not sure how keen I would be on it. I haven’t been to Colorado but heard it’s beautiful and a great place to vacation/travel to.

    1. It’s been a lot of fun having an unplanned trip. There’s not as much pressure to be somewhere at a certain time!

  14. Dave LaLonde

    I’ve never done anything spontaneous like that because I’m such a workaholic. But since you guys will be in the Colorado area, I recommend you both to go visit the Great Sand Dunes National Park! It’s the highest sand dunes in North America! Hope you and your husband have a safe trip!

    1. Good to hear. It’s on our list and it’s a must for us 🙂

  15. Enjoy Colorado. I haven’t had any unplanned trips yet. One road trip tip that I have is to make sure you have some water and food in the car. Going to fast food spots every time you’re hungry can add up.

    1. Yes! We stopped by Target and stocked up. Almost filled up the car too much!

  16. Kim

    I live 15 minutes from Mesa Verde and there are a million things to do in the area. A trip up to Telluride somewhere in there would be fun. If you go from Mesa Verde to Durango, Silverton, Ouray, that is one of the most spectacular drives you’ll ever see, but I think there are some construction closures right now, so check if you decided to do that. The hot springs in Ouray are really wonderful as well. Email me if you need more specifics. Also, you can’t go through Southeast Utah and not go through Arches. You can do a drive through the park in a couple of hours. If you have time, hike out to Delicate Arch. It’s about 3 miles round trip. The other really cool trail with an arch is Corona Arch. It’s also about 3 miles roundtrip and is off Potash road, not in the park Everyone should see the arches at some point. There is just too much to see!

    1. Thanks so much! This is all good information. I was hoping some Colorado bloggers would help me out 🙂

  17. I heard Colorado is beautiful. It sounds like you are having fun. Hope you get to take some great pics!

  18. Stephanie@Mrs.Debtfighter

    Little late but congrats on the wedding!!!! We vacationed in Colorado two summers ago. We had so much fun and it was BEAUTIFUL!!! Have fun! 🙂

    1. Yes I love it here!

  19. I went rafting to Colorado and it was awesome. Also loved the valley of the god, don’t remember if it is a state park or national park, it has lots of cool rock formations.

    1. I’ll have to check that out. Thanks Pauline!

  20. Haha I actually love Vegas! I’ve been a few times now 🙂

  21. Travis

    Looks like a fun trip. If you’re going to Canyonlands I *highly* suggest you swing down to Bryce Canyon. I live in southern Utah and after 14 years of being here, I still don’t tire of Bryce. Definitely my favorite NP by far. Arches NP is great too, so I second Kim’s recommendation on that one.

    1. Sounds nice! I will add that to our list 🙂

  22. Meghan

    You must go to Hot Sulphur Springs, which is right by Grandby. If you can’t go there, go to Pagosa Springs, which is near Mesa Verde. I’d also head in to Grand Lake (up 40 5 minutes from Grandby). Salida is on 285 and if you do that way, it’s also awesome.

    Colorado is home but I’m living far away, so I am jealous.

    1. We already left the Granby area, but we will try to make it to Pagosa Springs. Thanks!

  23. Sounds like a great trip! I’ve never done a spontaneous road trip like that, but my wife and I talk about it all the time. Maybe someday we’ll actually stop talking about it and just go! I’ve read about Mesa Verde National Park – it sounds really cool. Have fun!

    1. Yes! You should just do it.