I think the answer that you are looking for lies in yourself. When you look at the forecast, and it says waist to chest with semi-bumpy conditions, the only one that knows whether or not it is worth it to make the drive is you. Just pay attention to swell direction and tide changes, and how they will affect the particular beach you plan on surfing.
Se wind swells genarally clean up as the frontal systems move off the coast. But when this happens, the swell fades down pretty quick. Se ground swells from tropical storms and other systems well off the coast hang around longer and can offer good conditions as well (allthough not to frequent).
eyes on really is the beast....va beach really aint that great for waves...just spent a week in corolla NC...6-8 foot waves everyday...it was sick...been to the beaches in va beach twice since i have been back only to be disappointed...if your gonna make a trip to va drive the extra hour or two to the outer banks its well worth it...
you also have the Southeasterly onshores to contend with in the spring/summer and sometimes fall. Just because a forecast says it will be offshore all day isn't necessarily true. Which brings the question, Micah do the forecasts account for the afternoon seabreeze that kicks up in some locales?
oh yeah and i dont know about other beaches but some of the beaches you can access webcams from the web. checked out va beach this morning and it saved me a trip. obx next week looks okay right now...midway through the week