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How To Take A Cross Country Road Trip


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Roxine Miles



Embarking on a cross country road trip is a thrilling adventure that allows you to explore the vast expanse of the United States and discover its hidden gems. From the iconic Route 66 to the scenic Pacific Coast Highway, there are countless routes to choose from, each offering unique landscapes and cultural experiences.


Unlike other forms of travel, a road trip grants you the freedom to set your own pace, explore off-the-beaten-path destinations, and create unforgettable memories along the way. Whether you’re a solo traveler seeking self-discovery or a group of friends looking for an epic bonding experience, a cross country road trip is the perfect way to satisfy your wanderlust.


Before you hit the open road, it’s essential to plan your journey meticulously to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. This guide will provide you with valuable insights and practical tips on how to take a cross country road trip, ensuring that you have everything you need to embark on this exciting adventure.


From choosing the best route and packing essentials to staying safe and entertained on the road, we’ll cover all aspects of planning and executing a successful cross country road trip. So buckle up, roll down the windows, and let’s embark on the journey of a lifetime as we explore the wonders of the United States!


Planning Your Route

One of the first steps in preparing for a cross country road trip is determining your route. With so many fascinating destinations to choose from, it’s important to carefully plan your journey to make the most of your time on the road. Here are some tips to help you plan your route:

  • Research: Start by researching different routes and destinations to get an idea of what each has to offer. Consider the scenic beauty, attractions, and activities along the way.
  • Must-see Attractions: Identify the key landmarks and attractions you want to visit during your trip. Whether it’s the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, or the bustling streets of New York City, make sure to include these must-see spots in your itinerary.
  • Flexible Schedule: Keep your schedule flexible to allow for unexpected detours and spontaneous adventures. Leave room for exploration and serendipitous discoveries.
  • Distance and Time: Calculate the distance between each destination and estimate the time it will take to travel. Be realistic about how much ground you can cover each day, considering rest stops and breaks.
  • Alternate Routes: Consider taking alternate routes to add variety and explore different regions. This will allow you to experience a diverse range of landscapes and cultures.

Additionally, use online mapping tools or dedicated road trip planning apps to map out your route and create a detailed itinerary. These tools often provide information about the distance, estimated travel time, and points of interest along the way.


Remember, don’t just focus on the destination, but also enjoy the journey itself. Embrace the spontaneity of the open road, take detours to discover hidden gems, and be open to changing your plans if you stumble upon something extraordinary.


Packing Essentials

When embarking on a cross country road trip, packing smartly is crucial to ensure you have all the essentials for a comfortable and enjoyable journey. Here are some packing tips to help you get started:

  • Clothing: Pack a variety of clothing suitable for different climates and activities. Include comfortable clothing for driving, hiking gear for outdoor adventures, and a jacket or sweater for cooler evenings.
  • Toiletries: Don’t forget to pack your toiletries such as toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, soap, and any other personal care items you may need. Consider travel-sized options to save space.
  • Medication: If you’re on any prescription medication, make sure to pack enough for the duration of your trip. Also, carry a basic first aid kit with essentials like band-aids, pain relievers, and any necessary over-the-counter medications.
  • Electronics: Bring your essential gadgets such as your phone, camera, and chargers. Consider investing in a car charger to keep your devices powered up on the go.
  • Comfort Items: Pack items that will make your journey more comfortable, such as travel pillows, blankets, and a cooler for drinks and snacks.
  • Navigation Tools: While your smartphone may have GPS capabilities, consider bringing a physical map or a GPS device as a backup. This ensures you have reliable navigation in case of any technology glitches.
  • Entertainment: Don’t forget to bring entertainment options for the long stretches on the road. Books, travel games, and music playlists will help keep you entertained.
  • Emergency Supplies: Prepare for unexpected situations by packing emergency supplies such as a flashlight, extra batteries, a roadside emergency kit, and a spare tire.

Remember to pack efficiently and utilize packing cubes or compression bags to maximize space in your vehicle. It’s also a good idea to pack a separate bag with essentials for overnight stays, so you don’t have to unpack your entire vehicle every night.


By packing smartly and thoughtfully, you’ll ensure that you have everything you need to make your cross country road trip comfortable and enjoyable.


Preparing Your Vehicle

Before embarking on a cross country road trip, it’s essential to ensure that your vehicle is in optimal condition to handle the long journey ahead. Here are some key steps to prepare your vehicle:

  • Maintenance Check: Take your vehicle to a trusted mechanic for a thorough maintenance check. They will inspect the engine, brakes, tires, and all other essential components to ensure they are in good working condition.
  • Tire Inspection: Check the tire pressure and tread depth. Replace any worn-out tires and make sure you have a spare tire, jack, and lug wrench in case of emergencies.
  • Fluids and Filters: Check and top-up all fluids, including engine oil, brake fluid, transmission fluid, and coolant. Replace the filters as per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Battery Health: Ensure that your battery is in good condition and properly charged. Clean any corrosion on the terminals and pack a set of jumper cables in case of a dead battery.
  • Lights and Signals: Check that all lights, including headlights, brake lights, turn signals, and hazards, are working properly. Replace any burnt-out bulbs.
  • Emergency Kit: Pack an emergency kit that includes a reflective triangle, roadside flares, a fire extinguisher, and a basic toolkit for minor repairs.
  • Insurance and Documentation: Make sure you have valid insurance coverage for your vehicle and carry all necessary driving documents, including your driver’s license and vehicle registration.

In addition to these vehicle preparations, consider getting a comprehensive roadside assistance plan for additional peace of mind. This service can be a lifesaver in case of breakdowns, flat tires, or other unexpected situations.


Remember, it’s always better to be proactive and address any vehicle maintenance issues before hitting the road. Taking the time to prepare your vehicle will not only enhance your safety but also ensure a smoother and more enjoyable road trip experience.


Safety Tips

When embarking on a cross country road trip, it’s crucial to prioritize safety to ensure a smooth and secure journey. Here are some important safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Observe Traffic Laws: Adhere to all traffic laws, including speed limits, traffic signals, and road signs. Be aware of any changes in driving regulations as you cross state lines.
  • Rest and Breaks: Avoid excessive fatigue by taking regular breaks and getting enough rest. Drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving, so make sure to switch drivers or pull over for a nap if needed.
  • Seat Belt and Child Safety: Always wear your seat belt, and ensure that all passengers do the same. If traveling with children, use age-appropriate car seats and follow safety guidelines.
  • Stay Alert and Avoid Distractions: Keep your focus on the road and avoid distractions such as texting, talking on the phone, or using handheld devices. Maintain complete attention to ensure quick reaction to any unexpected situations.
  • Weather Preparedness: Check the weather forecasts along your route and prepare for any adverse conditions. Adjust your driving speed and be cautious in rainy, snowy, or foggy weather.
  • Secure Valuables: Keep your valuable belongings out of sight and locked in the trunk or glove compartment to deter theft. Avoid parking in isolated or poorly-lit areas whenever possible.
  • Emergency Contacts: Share your travel itinerary and contact information with a trusted friend or family member. Check-in regularly to keep them updated on your progress.
  • Roadside Assistance: Familiarize yourself with the contact information for roadside assistance services in the areas you will be traveling through. Keep their numbers accessible in case you require help.

It’s also important to be aware of the local customs and regulations at your destination. Some states may have different driving laws or specific requirements, such as hands-free phone usage or seat belt laws.


By prioritizing safety and taking appropriate precautions, you’ll ensure a secure and worry-free cross country road trip experience.


Choosing Accommodations

When planning a cross country road trip, choosing the right accommodations along your route is essential for a comfortable and enjoyable journey. Here are some considerations to keep in mind when selecting accommodations:

  • Hotel/Motel: If you prefer the convenience of a traditional hotel or motel, research and book accommodations in advance. Look for options that offer amenities such as parking, Wi-Fi, and breakfast to enhance your stay.
  • Campgrounds/RV Parks: If you’re traveling in an RV or enjoy camping, consider staying at campgrounds or RV parks along your route. These options provide a more immersive experience in nature and often have facilities like showers and electrical hookups.
  • Vacation Rentals: Opt for vacation rentals like Airbnb or VRBO for a more home-like experience. These rentals are available in various sizes and offer amenities like a kitchen and laundry facilities, ideal for longer stays.
  • Hostels: Hostels are a budget-friendly option for solo travelers or those seeking a social atmosphere. They typically offer shared dormitory-style rooms with communal kitchen and common areas.
  • Unique Accommodations: Consider trying something unique like staying in a cabin, yurt, or even a treehouse. These one-of-a-kind accommodations can add a special touch to your road trip experience.

When choosing accommodations, it’s important to consider factors such as location, budget, and personal preferences. Plan your itinerary and identify potential overnight stops along the way to ensure you have a place to rest and recharge.


Don’t forget to read reviews and check ratings before making reservations. This will help you gauge the quality and reliability of the accommodation and ensure it meets your expectations.


Lastly, flexibility is key when it comes to accommodations. Unexpected changes in your itinerary or last-minute decisions may require adjustments to your lodging plans. Embrace the adventure and be open to new experiences and alternatives if needed.


By carefully selecting accommodations that suit your needs and preferences, you’ll have a comfortable and rejuvenating place to rest during your cross country road trip.


Budgeting for Your Trip

Proper budgeting is essential for a successful cross country road trip. By planning ahead and managing your expenses, you can ensure a financially stress-free journey. Here are some tips for budgeting your trip:

  • Calculate Costs: Start by estimating the overall cost of your trip, including fuel, accommodations, meals, attractions, and any additional expenses such as tolls or parking fees. Research average prices in different areas to get a realistic idea of what to expect.
  • Fuel Expenses: Determine the distance you’ll be traveling and the average fuel efficiency of your vehicle. Use online tools or apps to calculate the approximate fuel cost for the entire trip, keeping in mind that fuel prices can vary across different regions.
  • Accommodation Options: Consider a mix of accommodation options to suit your budget. Look for deals and discounts, and consider staying in budget-friendly accommodations like hostels or camping grounds to save money.
  • Meals and Dining: Plan your meals and be mindful of dining expenses. Packing snacks and a cooler for drinks can help you save on eating out. Look for affordable dining options like local eateries or cook meals at your accommodation if it has a kitchen.
  • Attractions and Activities: Research the attractions you want to visit and their associated costs. Look for free or low-cost activities and prioritize your must-see sights to make the most of your budget.
  • Emergency Fund: Set aside a portion of your budget as an emergency fund to account for unexpected expenses or contingency situations.
  • Souvenirs and Shopping: Allocate a separate budget for souvenirs and shopping, but be mindful of overspending. Consider purchasing unique and meaningful mementos that truly capture the essence of your journey.

During your trip, track your expenses and adjust your budget as needed. Use budgeting apps or spreadsheets to stay organized and monitor your spending. This will help you stay on track and avoid any financial burdens.


Remember, it’s important to strike a balance between enjoying your trip and staying within your budget. Be mindful of your spending while still allowing yourself to indulge in some memorable experiences along the way.


By carefully budgeting and planning your expenses, you can enjoy a financially manageable cross country road trip without breaking the bank.


Entertainment and Activities on the Road

A cross country road trip offers a unique opportunity for endless entertainment and exciting activities along the way. To make the most of your journey, consider incorporating these ideas into your trip:

  • Music and Podcasts: Create a road trip playlist filled with your favorite songs and tunes that capture the spirit of adventure. Alternatively, listen to podcasts or audiobooks to keep you entertained and engaged during long stretches on the road.
  • Games and Trivia: Play classic road trip games like “I Spy,” the license plate game, or the alphabet game. You can also challenge your fellow travelers with trivia questions or brain teasers to pass the time.
  • Scenic Stops and Photo Ops: Take advantage of the picturesque landscapes you encounter along the way. Plan stops at scenic viewpoints, national parks, or iconic landmarks to capture stunning photos and create lasting memories.
  • Local Experiences: Embrace the culture and local experiences of different destinations. Stop by roadside attractions, visit local markets, try regional cuisine, or attend festivals to immerse yourself in the unique flavors of each location.
  • Hiking and Outdoor Activities: Take advantage of the natural beauty around you by exploring hiking trails or engaging in outdoor activities like kayaking, fishing, or biking. Research the best spots in each area and be prepared with proper gear.
  • Historical and Cultural Sites: Explore historical and cultural sites that showcase the rich heritage of the regions you’re passing through. Visit museums, historical landmarks, or art galleries to delve into the local history and art.
  • Connect with Locals: Strike up conversations with locals along your journey. They can provide valuable insights, recommend hidden gems, and share interesting stories that enhance your road trip experience.
  • Nighttime Stargazing: When the sun sets, take advantage of the dark skies in remote areas to indulge in some stargazing. Lay out a blanket and marvel at the beauty of the night sky, away from city lights.

Remember, a road trip is as much about the journey as it is about the destination. Be open to new experiences, spontaneous detours, and unexpected adventures that make your cross country trip truly memorable.


To maximize your enjoyment, plan your activities in advance, but also leave room for improvisation and serendipity. Flexibility and a sense of adventure will ensure that you make the most of your entertainment opportunities on the road.


Food and Snacks for the Journey

Food is an important aspect of any road trip, and having a well-stocked supply of snacks and meals will keep you energized and satisfied throughout your journey. Here are some tips for planning your road trip meals and snacks:

  • Pack a Cooler: Bring a cooler filled with drinks and perishable snacks like fruits, vegetables, sandwiches, and yogurt. This way, you can have easy access to fresh and healthy options while on the road.
  • Non-Perishable Snacks: Pack a variety of non-perishable snacks that can withstand the journey, such as granola bars, trail mix, dried fruit, nuts, and crackers. They provide a quick and easy source of energy during your driving breaks.
  • DIY Snack Packs: Create individual snack packs by portioning out items like pretzels, popcorn, or chips into reusable containers or bags. This will make it easier to distribute and prevent overeating.
  • Hydration is Key: Stay hydrated by packing plenty of water bottles or reusable water bottles and refilling them along the way. Avoid excessive consumption of sugary drinks and opt for healthier options like herbal teas or infused water.
  • Local Cuisine: Explore the local cuisine at your destination by trying regional specialties or visiting local farmers’ markets. This allows you to experience the flavors of the area and support local businesses.
  • Roadside Picnics: Take advantage of picturesque rest stops, parks, or scenic viewpoints by enjoying a picnic. Pack a blanket and some easy-to-eat finger foods for a relaxing meal surrounded by nature.
  • Restaurant Research: Plan your meals and research recommended restaurants or food establishments along your route. Discovering local favorites and hidden culinary gems can add excitement to your road trip experience.
  • Food Allergies and Preferences: If you have specific dietary restrictions or food allergies, be prepared by packing appropriate snacks or doing research on restaurants that cater to your needs. It’s important to prioritize your health and well-being during your journey.

While indulging in occasional treats and comfort foods is part of the road trip experience, try to maintain a balance with healthier options to keep your energy levels up and avoid feeling sluggish. Remember, convenience stores and grocery stores can also be valuable resources for picking up snacks and groceries along the way.


By planning and packing a variety of snacks and meals, you’ll be prepared for any hunger pangs and have the fuel you need to enjoy your cross country road trip to the fullest.


Staying Healthy on a Long Road Trip

A long road trip can take a toll on your physical and mental well-being if you neglect your health. Here are some tips to help you stay healthy during your cross country journey:

  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout your trip to stay hydrated. Dehydration can lead to fatigue and decreased alertness, so make sure to have water readily available and refillable bottles on hand.
  • Eat Balanced Meals: While it’s tempting to indulge in convenient fast food or snacks, strive to maintain a balanced diet. Include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins in your meals to keep your energy levels stable.
  • Take Breaks: Plan regular breaks during your trip to stretch your legs, move around, and prevent muscle stiffness. Use rest stops or scenic viewpoints as an opportunity for short walks or light exercise.
  • Get Adequate Sleep: Ensure you get enough restful sleep each night. Fatigue can affect your concentration and reaction times while driving. Establish a nighttime routine and create a comfortable sleeping environment in your accommodation.
  • Stretching and Exercises: Incorporate simple stretching exercises into your routine to combat stiffness and improve circulation. You can also perform seated exercises in the car, such as neck rolls or shoulder shrugs, to relieve tension.
  • Mental Health Breaks: Long hours on the road can be mentally exhausting. Take regular mental health breaks by listening to calming music, practicing deep breathing exercises, or engaging in activities that help you relax and unwind.
  • Sun Protection: Protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays by wearing sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat. Consider using window shades or tinting to minimize sun exposure during the drive.
  • Stay Clean: Maintain good hygiene by carrying hand sanitizers, wet wipes, and tissues. Wash your hands frequently, especially before eating, to prevent the spread of germs.
  • Address Motion Sickness: If you or your fellow travelers are prone to motion sickness, be prepared with remedies such as anti-nausea medications, ginger candies, or acupressure bands.
  • Plan Active Stops: Incorporate physical activities into your itinerary. Stop at parks, national forests, or designated hiking trails to enjoy outdoor activities like walking, jogging, or hiking.

Remember, your health and well-being should be a top priority during your road trip. Listen to your body, practice self-care, and make adjustments to your plans to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey.


By taking proactive measures to stay healthy, you’ll be able to make the most of your cross country road trip and create lasting memories along the way.


Making Memories and Documenting Your Adventure

A cross country road trip is an incredible opportunity to create memories that will last a lifetime. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your journey and document your adventure:

  • Keep a Travel Journal: Bring a travel journal to jot down your thoughts, experiences, and highlights of each day. Capture the small details, memorable encounters, and funny anecdotes that make your road trip special.
  • Take Photos and Videos: Capture the beauty of the landscapes, the charm of local attractions, and the joy of moments shared with your travel companions. Snap photos and record videos to look back on and share with family and friends.
  • Embrace Spontaneity: Allow room for spontaneity and new experiences. Be open to detours, unexpected attractions, or interacting with locals. Some of the most cherished memories are often made when you go off the planned route.
  • Create a Scrapbook or Photo Album: When you return from your road trip, organize your photos and mementos into a scrapbook or photo album. It’s a creative way to relive your journey and share it with others.
  • Collect Souvenirs: Collect souvenirs along the way that represent the places you visited. Whether it’s postcards, magnets, or keychains, these small items can serve as tangible reminders of your experiences.
  • Record Audio Memories: Consider recording audio snippets to capture sounds of nature, conversations with locals, or reflections on your road trip. These recordings can bring back vivid memories when listened to in the future.
  • Travel with Companions: Traveling with friends or family members can enhance the experience and create lasting bonds. Share laughter, stories, and adventures together, and document your trip from different perspectives.
  • Share on Social Media: If you’re comfortable with it, share your road trip experiences on social media platforms. Connect with fellow travelers and receive recommendations from others who have been to the same destinations.
  • Create a Road Trip Playlist: Curate a playlist of songs that evoke memories of your journey. Whenever you listen to these songs in the future, they will transport you back to the excitement and joy of your road trip.
  • Reflect and Share Your Story: When you return from your road trip, take the time to reflect on your experiences. Share your road trip stories with friends and family, and inspire others to embark on their own adventures.

Remember, the purpose of documenting your road trip is not just to create a highlight reel but also to capture the essence of your journey. Embrace the moments, savor the experiences, and let your road trip memories become a cherished part of your life story.



Embarking on a cross country road trip is an exhilarating adventure that offers endless possibilities for exploration and discovery. By following the tips and guidelines in this guide, you’ll be well-prepared to take on the open road and create unforgettable memories along the way.


From planning your route and packing essentials to staying safe and healthy, every aspect of your road trip requires thoughtful consideration. Take the time to research and plan, but also remain open to unexpected detours and serendipitous moments that make the journey even more special.


During your road trip, embrace the unique experiences each destination has to offer. Immerse yourself in the beauty of nature, indulge in local delicacies, and connect with the people you meet along the way. Remember to document your adventure through photos, videos, and journal entries, preserving the memories for years to come.


Whether you’re embarking on a solo road trip of self-discovery or traveling with friends or family, a cross country road trip is a wonderful opportunity to explore the diversity and wonders of the United States. Take the time to appreciate the stunning landscapes, immerse yourself in the local cultures, and create lasting bonds with your fellow travelers.


As you embark on this exciting journey, remember to prioritize safety, be mindful of your budget, and take care of your physical and mental well-being. By striking a balance between planning and spontaneity, you’ll have a road trip experience that is both fulfilling and enjoyable.


So, start planning your route, pack your essentials, and hit the open road. The adventure awaits as you embark on a cross country road trip of a lifetime, where memories are made and new horizons are discovered.