Your car is packed and ready to go, but there are some tips you should know before your long road trip across the United States! We’ve driven from Massachusetts to California several times now and have figured out some basics for how to plan a cross country road trip. These are definitely geared around a US road trip, but the ideas can be applied anywhere in the world.
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10 Tips For Your US Cross Country Road Trip
1. Pick the Right Road Trip Route
First things first… Learning how to plan a cross country road trip all starts with a route. When driving across the United States there’s three main ways travelers seem to go. Whether you drive North, South, or straight down the middle really depends on what you want to see.
For example, do you prefer the dusty roads of Texas or the cornfields of Iowa? How about the country roots of the deep south, or are you ready for the rockies of Colorado? Some routes may depend on the weather, time of year, or the type of vehicle you have, but after that it’s pretty much all up to you!
2. Visit the Welcome Centers
Welcome centers have to be the most underrated and underutilized places for people on a US road trip. Not only can you receive free and priceless information for your travels, but often this is going to be the nicest bathrooms you’ll encounter.
The staff is typically very knowledgable, and can give you some US road trip ideas for whatever state you’re in. Upon entering each state you’ll have the opportunity to visit a welcome center so take advantage of it!
3. Be Nice to Your Car
Treat your car like a part of the family. In fact, treat it better than that! This is literally your means of getting 3,000+ miles on your cross country road trip, and the most important piece to your journey. We recommend grabbing a tune up and oil change halfway through as this is a lot of miles to be putting on your ride all at once.
We got ours done before leaving from Massachusetts to California, but it definitely could of used some more love along the way. Most importantly, keep her fueled with plenty of gas… Especially since you never know when the next station will come!
4. Bring a Friend on the Cross Country Road Trip
Once you decide to partake in this wild US road trip, the next thing you need to choose is find a buddy! The only thing crazier then driving 3,000 miles is doing it all by your lonesome. Aside from just needing someone to talk to and keep you company, it’s also key to have a 2nd driver on a cross country road trip.
Seriously, this has gotta be the most essential of all our long road trip tips. After completing the journey we can honestly say it would have been near impossible by ourselves!
5. Eat Local
Please, please, please! Don’t settle for the usual fast food joints that most people typically stop at on their US road trip. Driving all the way across country gives you the special opportunity to sample foods from different states.
Whats the point of being in Louisiana without trying gumbo? And why on earth would you pass through Maryland without a crab cake? So on your road trip skip the McDonald’s and Burger King, and dive into the local foods of each town or city!
6. Keep an Eye on Weather
This may be the most important thing to beware of on your journey across the country. Once you get into certain parts of the United States on your road trip, you may have drastic changes in the weather that could affect your drive.
For instance, on our recent road trip from Massachusetts to California we ran into a crazy hail storm in North Texas! Avoiding this by going South obviously cost us some hours off our trip, but hail and the reported TORNADOS would have ended it! Keep an eye on the weather reports and stay safe out there.
7. Explore the Many Beautiful National Parks
Need more US road trip ideas? Well if there’s one thing to experience on trip across country it’s the amazing national parks! When driving for hours on end, there’s no better feeling than being able to jump out of your car and take a stroll in the great outdoors.
With an abundance of options across the country to choose from, the only question is which one will take your breath away! Some of our personal favorites were White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, our day trip to the Grand Canyon, and hiking Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.
8. Take Your Time
This is a 3,000 mile drive… And that’s if you go straight across the country on your great American road trip. Don’t forget to stop, see some things, and have fun! It may be tough to go a few miles out of the way or stop when you have such a distance to go, but it will be for things you’ll never forget. Whether you’re making the move across country like us or just heading out on the road trip of a lifetime, make sure to enjoy it! You probably will only do this once so make it count.
9. Get Your Snack On
On this epic US road trip, you are sure to get hungry. While we’ve already mentioned stopping to eat the local food is a must it does happen to take up lots of time and money.
So how do we solve our road trip hunger problems? Snacks, snacks, and more SNACKS! Our favorite road trip snacks include peanuts, popcorn, apples, bananas, and anything else that can give you energy for your drive. This should be at the top of your road trip tips!
10. Road Trip Accommodations
Unless you have superpowers, at some point on your journey through the great states you will have to stop and sleep somewhere for the night. Where and when you decide to do that can be absolutely vital to ensuring you have the best road trip ever! After dedicating so much time to driving and exploring, getting a good nights sleep is of the upmost importance.
In all honesty we didn’t book ahead because we never knew where the day would take us. At the same time, we wouldn’t hesitate to spend a few extra dollars to be comfortable after driving so many miles.
Have any questions on our drive from Massachusetts to California, have any US road trip ideas, or want to share your own long road trip tips? Drop us a comment below!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
USA Travel Planning
Rental Car: We use Discover Cars when traveling. Consider renting a car in one city and dropping it off in another for an epic road trip!
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for hundreds of activities around the country. Book a tour of Fenway Park in Boston, skip the line at the Empire State Building in NYC, or go on a Sea Cave Kayak Tour in La Jolla California!
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered! We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years and they are there when we need them.