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How to Plan a Cross Country Road Trip

Spring is in the air, and what better time than now to start planning the family road trip of your dreams? If you’ve ever had the desire to see as much of the country as you can, finding inspiration to hit the open road should be no challenge at all! It’s entirely possible to accomplish a full road trip, even with a pet or a full-time, regular job. All it takes is a little tenacity and know-how, and you could be on your way to turning your dreams into realities. The things you should consider before going on a Cross-Country Road Trip. Take a look at this article to learn about a Cross-Country Road Trip.

It all starts with a vision of where you want to go and what you want to see. The ideas for some beautiful experiences are often born in a flash. From there, follow these pointers, and you’ll be on your way to a most memorable road trip.

Day trips typically stem from spur-of-the-moment ideas, and there’s little need to plan. On the other hand, a road trip lasting a few days needs planning, if only to minimize the potential risks that might end the trip unexpectedly.

There are five areas considered for planning a cross-country road trip; the route you take, the stops you make, the car you take, the car’s condition, and in-car entertainment.

We’ve compiled a shortlist of a few tips that you should definitely know before planning a cross-country road trip and exploring the great unknown. Don’t let your wanderlust get the best of you quite yet—read through this expert advice to make sure you can coast your way through your greatest adventure to date!

Table of Contents

man with a yellow parka driving on a highway
How to plan a Cross-Country Road Trip

Plan Diligently

One of the most tedious (but most important) aspects of traveling is careful planning. Sure, everyone wishes they can simply blow with the wind and head in whatever direction the road is calling, but if you want to see the most sights on the smallest possible dollar, you’ll need to plan your route ahead of time. Take a map, mark an X on your must-see destinations, and place an asterisk on the “Would Be Nice to See” places. Take a ruler and draw a line from Point A to Point B, connecting each X. Measure how far the asterisk is from outside of your direct route; if it’s close, or if it’s near the main highway, chances are that you’ll be able to squeeze it in (but remember to include the travel time within your overall schedule)! If it’s too out of the way or in the middle of seemingly nowhere, it’s probably best to skip it.

Remember to keep campsites and hotels in mind as you plan your itinerary, researching the best rest stops you’ll pass on your journey. You definitely don’t want to be stranded in a desert without cell service when you realize that you’ve strayed too far into no man’s land for the night!

Create Travel Budget

Patrick Gensel writes about the importance of creating a strict travel budget in his instructions for planning a 3,000-mile cross-country road trip. Start by estimating your fuel costs, then add 10-15 percent for cushion. Be sure to factor in your cost of lodging and while most will want to keep expenses to a minimum by staying at campsites, there will more than likely be a couple of nights that you’re more than willing to shell out an extra $100 for a good night’s sleep.

Think about Food

Food is another factor to consider within your budget, because who doesn’t want to uncover the best local eats during road trips? While eating like Anthony Bourdain is an amazing adventure in itself, the costs will begin stacking up. If you have enough space in your vehicle, think about buying groceries to save money and fuel your body along the way.

Pack all the Essential Gear

When it comes to packing for a family road trip, make sure you have all the right safety equipment in tow. Always expect the unexpected, bringing along roadside assistance such as a portable battery jump starter and emergency flares. Other smart items to keep on hand include:

  • Car tracking device no monthly fee
  • First aid kit
  • GPS radio
  • Cold-weather gear
  • Flashlight
  • Camping supplies
woman with the arms open standing next to a car

Make Reservations in Advance

If you added special destinations to your trip, such as a national park historical museum, double-check whether you need to make a reservation in advance. What a bummer it would be to drive all the way out to the Grand Canyon, only to discover that the park was full for the day! Spontaneity is the spice of life, but when it comes to crossing items off your bucket list, planning ahead is usually the better bet.

Wait to Depart

You thought you did all the hard work? Think again! The hardest part about planning a cross-country road trip will be waiting for the moment you can depart! Whether you’re heading out from the East Coast and venturing to the lush Pacific Northwest, or you’re starting in Southern California, making your way through the Southwest desert until you reach the Atlantic Sea, endless sightseeing awaits you! Stay patient, get prepared, and plan on enjoying the best trip of your life.

Tips for planning a cross-country road trip

The Route

The first thing to consider is the route you will take to reach your destination. If you’re not traveling on a major freeway, a map is typically helpful. For closer destinations, Google Maps will be okay, but for farther destinations, you might want to consider purchasing a map or map book.

The Car

You won’t always have the choice, but in some instances, the vehicle you’re driving may limit the time you can spend on the road. Some cars are too small inside to allow an extended drive, and after three hours everyone will be cramped by complaints.

You need to consider the cost of fuel, the types of roads you will travel on, and the overall comfort of the vehicle. The cost of fuel to a far-away place might have you opting for a smaller engine car. The back roads might require you use an all-terrain vehicle, or the limited space in the back might call for a larger car.

The Car’s Condition

If there is any aspect of your car’s operation you are concerned about, have it checked, because potential problems are most likely to show themselves when your vehicle has been running non-stop for a few hours.

The minimum checks you must do are for oil, radiator coolant, brake fluid, and (less often) gearbox oil. The spare wheel must be inflated and in place, along with a mechanical jack and automotive spanners. A service for your car is always a good idea, especially with longer road trips.

Make sure all the vehicle’s front and rear lights and indicators are working and that the headlights align for driving at night. Make sure your car maintenance is ready for a road trip.

The Stops You Make

Before planning stops, you need to know how far your car will go on a full tank of fuel. One of the most important aspects of road trip planning is planning the stops. With the aid of a map, you can choose stops to refill the tank, use the washroom, get a bite to eat, and buy refreshments for the driving time.

No one should drive for more than two hours continuously. Take at least five-minute breaks every two hours.

You can combine the stop with some sightseeing.

In-Car Entertainment

Shorter trips usually don’t require entertainment for the children, as the sights on the road are generally enough to keep them occupied. However, when there are more than a few hours involved, children are likely to get bored. DVDs will keep children busy and nag-free for a long time. MP3 music is a staple for most car owners, so there’s no special mention needed. For older children, especially those who read, some books and magazines will come in handy.

Whatever the entertainment, it should not distract the driver, and front-mounted DVD players are the worst offenders in this regard. Reading a book or review about the destination be a great introduction before you get there.

The road trip to and from a final destination offers you the opportunity to have a vacation within a vacation, and if there is no strong reason to get quickly to the target, it is the ideal way to approach your travel arrangements. The journey itself can be the focus instead of a rush to get where everyone else is going anyway

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