How to Plan a Cross-Country Trip

Cross-country road trips are the epitome of freedom. U.S. citizens are incredibly lucky to have a vast and beautiful country they can explore via open roads. These types of trips are quite an institution in the States, and everyone should try them at least once in their lives.

However, you can’t just start the car and go wherever the road takes you. While it does sound romantic, behind the romance, there’s some serious planning.

Here’s a guide that will help you prepare for your cross-country adventure and allow you to hit the road with peace of mind.

Plan Your Route

If you want to be able to relax and enjoy your trip fully, you need to know your itinerary in advance. Think about how many days you can spare on this adventure and make sure your plans align with the time available so that you don’t end up speeding across the country frantically.

Think about the scenery that will surround you on your ride. If you want to enjoy the view, avoid interstates and highways. While they will take you to your next destination faster, that’s not the point of a road trip. Consider all the magnificent byways on your route, surrounded by nature and without much traffic.

Plan Your Stops

While you can totally freestyle some of your stops and allow yourself some space to be spontaneous, it’s best to plan for your key stops in advance. If there are some must-see attractions along the route, mark them and think about the amount of time you can spend there. Leave yourself some leeway because you never know what can come up along the way.

Book Your Lodgings in Advance

Since you’ll be spending hours on the road every day, it’s essential to get enough sleep and rest every night before you get behind the wheel again. While you can be somewhat spontaneous with your stops, you need to book your accommodation in advance because lodgings along popular routes tend to book up quickly.

If you plan to camp along the way, you should still check if you need to make a reservation for the site. Many national and state parks require reservations in advance and can fill up quickly, especially in peak seasons.

How to Choose the Best Transportation

If you own a car, you might not have thought about your transportation options. The U.S. highways are smooth, but that’s not the only thing to think about. For example, if you own a large SUV and you’re traveling alone or with another person, you should consider a more economical car.

In this case, leasing a car is better since you can get a smaller, more convenient vehicle that spends less fuel and is better for the environment. You can save tons of money on gas this way. Other things to consider when choosing your mode of transport include the weather, the number of people going, the amount of luggage and equipment you’ll have, etc.

If you decide to go by car, don’t even think about starting your trip before having your vehicle serviced and checked thoroughly. Car breakdowns happen a lot during cross-country trips, and this kind of a problem can ruin your entire adventure and eat up your time and money.

You can get stuck in the middle of nowhere, waiting for spare parts to come in so that the mechanic can fix the problem and you can be on your way. Losing a day on an unplanned stop means you’ll have to reconsider your plans, call all the lodgings to see if you can move the date of your stay, etc.

Create a Packing List

What you’ll pack depends on many things, such as your travel style, where you’ll be staying, how long you’ll be on the road, etc. If you don’t want to find yourself on the open road without something essential, it’s best to start preparing well in advance. Making a packing list is more than half the packing work.

Even though you’re traveling by car and you can bring whatever you want, try to pack as lightly as possible. Sure, you may have a lot of space, but bringing a lot of unnecessary things will clutter your space and might make it difficult to find something you really need.

When it comes to clothes, it’s best to go for comfortable items in basic colors. This way, you can combine everything with everything and be able to come up with an outfit out of the clothes you find at the top of your bag.

Make sure you bring all the necessary documents, electronics, hygiene products, snacks, and equipment you may need along the way.

Also, you want to have paper money and coins on you for parking, tolls, laundromats, etc.

Budget Wisely

Your road trip doesn’t have to cost you a fortune if you plan for the biggest expenses in advance. Obviously, the most expensive things to think about in advance are gas and lodgings.

You can easily calculate your approximate fuel costs using the U.S. Department of Energy calculator or any other similar tool online. Of course, add a gallon or two on top of the estimate you get because you never know whether you’ll get a bit lost somewhere or have to go around something.

By booking your stays in advance, you can determine the exact cost of your accommodation on your trip. 

Apart from fuel and accomodation, you also need to account for food and leisure activities. Food costs are the most difficult to predict, but you can plan whether you’ll eat at restaurants, bring food from home, or combine the two options.

Lastly, various activities along the way can cost you a lot more than you might think. That’s why it’s great to plan your stops in advance and check websites for prices. If you want to visit many parks and recreation spots across the country, you might want to consider getting the America the Beautiful pass, which buys you entrance to over 2,000 federal recreation sites.

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