Taking time off and driving across the country sounds like a dream, but it’s not something you can successfully do on the fly. Because this is a major trip, it’ll take some intense prep work for things to go smoothly.
But with the right planning, you can have an epic journey with memories to last a lifetime.
Here are some tips for planning a perfect cross-country road trip:
Give yourself enough time
Long before you embark on your journey, think about how much time you’ll need. The drive itself can be done in 48 hours, but is that what you want?
If you plan to make stops along the way, be sure to add enough time. For a trip of this magnitude, you may want to allow a minimum of two weeks. This way, you can make as many stops as you’d like and remain somewhat flexible with your time.
Plan your route
Now that you have a general idea of where you want to go, start planning your route based on the stops you’ll take. If you need some inspiration, check out these maps created by Tracy Staedter from Discovery News and Randall Olson.
If you decide to take on all stops from one of the above maps, keep in mind that this trip will take closer to two months than two weeks. When you’re on a time budget, just choose the ones that interest you most.
Prep your vehicle
Now that you have time off from work and a route to follow, start thinking about your vehicle. An RV is a popular choice for a major trip like this. They certainly aren’t the most fuel-efficient vehicles, but they will provide the most comfort (and you can save money on food and lodging). If you don’t have an RV, an SUV or van would be the next best choice. A hitch carrier might be a good investment.
Once you’ve chosen your vehicle, you’ll want to ensure your SUV, van or RV is up for the challenge. Cross-country road trips take a lot out of your vehicle, so you’ll want to start at a good point.
Get a tune up and address any mechanical issues before you embark on your journey. Get an oil change, check the brakes and replace worn tires. This isn’t the time to gamble on these things unless you want to get stranded somewhere in Nowhere, USA.
Prep your belongings
As you get closer to your journey, think about what you’ll need on the way. Regardless of whether you’re driving an RV or an SUV, you don’t want to pack a ton of extra stuff. Space is a luxury on road trips, so try to be smart about what you bring. If you’re going to be on the road for more than a week, consider planning a stop at the laundromat instead of packing extra clothes. Ultimately, you’ll have to decide on space over time. But if you can find a full-service laundromat near one of your excursions, you may be able to knock out some laundry while sightseeing.
Bring enough food
When it comes to food, there’s no need to overdo it because you can always make a pitstop at any grocery store. You won’t want to be doing this often, but it is an option.
Try to bring enough food and snacks to keep your family satisfied for a week if you have the space. After this, you can replenish as necessary. The good thing about food is it takes up less space as you consume your supply, so you’ll find yourself with a bit more room.
Go low and high tech
GPS navigation was an amazing invention that changed so many lives. It makes road-trip planning a breeze – when it works. Remember that you’ll be driving through some dead zones, so be prepared with backup in the form of physical maps (yes, they still make those).
And if you aren’t confident in your map-reading skills, it’s a good time for a refresher. It’s better to be over-prepared than to be taking wrong turns all over the country.
Cross-country road trips are meant to be epic journeys, so go forth and create memories you’ll cherish for a lifetime.