Travel

Planning a Cross-Country Trip: The Ultimate Guide

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The United States is a huge nation. I’ve always wanted to travel the country and see a lot of sights up close. A few years ago, I embarked on a cross-country road trip. I traveled from Atlanta, Georgia to Jacksonville, Florida, and then drove Interstate 10 until I reached Santa Monica., California. Words can’t explain how thrilling and exciting this felt.

I know that many people have questions about driving cross country. In this article, I’ll be sharing insights you can implement when planning a cross-country road trip. I will share my experiences, starting from the preparatory efforts to some resources I found handy all through the journey. I didn’t just jump up and decide to go cross country just a week before the trip. It took months of planning and preparation.

Decide on Your Route

You have to decide on a route to take for your cross-country trip. There are four major interstates to choose from that go east to west and vice versa.  They are Interstate 90, 70, 40, and 10. I decided to take the I-10 route because we are just about 5 hours from Florida, and of course, I wouldn’t have to drive through serval mountain ranges either. Besides, the 1-10 route went across 8 states (the perfect amount for me to visit).  There are also numerous U.S. and state highways to choose from as well. If you’re not sure what route to take, the guide below can help you. Once you’ve made this decision, it’s time to take the next step forward.

Decide When You Want to Travel

You have to figure out when you’re going to do your trip. Depending on what route you plan to take, winter may not be advisable as a season for travel. The conditions could be dangerous. Late spring/summer is probably the best time to do your trip. Summer was the best choice for me as I wanted to go to some baseball games and see some new stadiums. I attended three games during my trip.

Plan a Schedule

Draft a schedule of how much you want to drive each day. Also, include any must-see places on there. Allow yourself some time to rest and or change it up though. Things may not always go as planned. You may experience traffic or run into a storm. If that happens, you may have to reschedule a thing or two. It’s better to have an extra day in some locations

Road Trip Duration

How many days do you want to be on the road? Technically, You can make it across the country in three-four days if you push it, but where’s the fun in that? You wouldn’t have the opportunity to do any type of real sightseeing, which is the real essence of the entire thing. The minimum amount of time that you should plan for a one-way trip is at least two weeks. That way you will have a chance to rest and enjoy your trip.

Spending

Make sure you have a budget. Your budget should include money for gas, accommodations, food, and others. The other money could be used for an emergency or to purchase souvenirs. The budget for my trip was $2000 per person. My ex and I both saved that amount. The article below has some tips on how to make extra money that can be used for the trip.

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Sites/Destinations

You have to decide what you want to see and do. While you are planning a route make sure that you choose some nice things to see while you are traveling. A few examples of things that you may want to see are college or pro stadiums, national parks, historical sites, or museums. If you are a fan of Major League Baseball, you may want to catch a game.

Lodging

When you are planning your cross-country trip, reach out to people that you know. Contact family and friends that live in the cities that you are passing through. They could show you around the area. They may even let you stay on their couch. That will allow you to save some money on the trip. I was able to save money at the beginning of my trip by staying with a friend in Jacksonville.

You can also decide to stay at a motel or hotel. Check TripAdvisor to see the hotel reviews (it helps a lot). If you have credit card reward points, this may be a key time to use them. I have an American Express card that allows me to get points for Hilton hotels. This card comes in handy.

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Mode of Transport

Figure out how you are going to drive cross country. You also need to determine if you are going one way or round trip. There are numerous scenarios. You can rent a car or drive your car if it’s in good shape.  You can also rent an RV or hitchhike. I’m just joking about the hitchhiking part. I don’t think that’s the safest way. Like I stated earlier we will rent a car for the drive out west and then fly back.


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Your Trip Partner(s)

You have to decide who you want to take this cross-country trip with. Make sure it’s somebody that you get along with. Also, make sure that you have similar plans for the road trip. Do not include too many people. The more people you bring along the higher the chance that some people might want to do one thing while others may not.

Relish Every Moment

A cross-country road trip is something that everyone doesn’t get the opportunity to do. If you take one, enjoy the moment. Take pictures or videos and make sure that you save and back them up. Those memories are priceless. Be aware during your trip. Talk to people that you come in contact with. Make sure you enjoy every moment.

Below are some posts about my trip from a few years ago. I’ve split the trip into four parts (focusing on various points in the trip), and the last part highlights the various expenses you’re likely to incur on a cross-country road trip.

Interstate 10 Road Trip Part 1

In this part, I highlighted a few profound insights into the I-10 road trip. This part discussed my journey from Atlanta -Jacksonville. Then made stops in Biloxi, Mississippi, and Houston, Texas.

Interstate 10 Road Trip Part 2

In this part, I was staggered at how big texas was. I-10 covers damn near 900 miles in Texas alone. I can’t believe that I drove that. In this part, I covered my journey through Houston, San Antonio (pleasantly surprised me), and El Paso.

Interstate 10 Road Trip Part 3

Now, I’m out of texas, headed towards the great Southwest. It was interesting to see more hills and mountains in the distance – breathtaking! I drove through New Mexico and Arizona during this time.

Interstate 10 Road Trip Part 4

This was the conclusion of an epic cross-country road trip. I made the drive from Arizona to California and acted like a tourist. California was fun and epic. This brief doesn’t tell the whole story, read the post and you’d agree that it’s truly epic.

Cross Country Road Trip Expenses

This is the post that a lot of people were interested in. It talked about the numbers. I had a certain budget that I wanted to stay within. I was able to make it happen. If you are interested in doing a cross-country trip, you may be surprised by how inexpensive it may be.

Handy Travel Resources

Airbnb

Airbnb should be your go-to when it comes to lodging. You’d often discover cheaper prices than hotels. Use this coupon the first time you book a stay with Airbnb, and you can save $40 off a trip that is $75 or more.

Expedia

Expedia is a site where you can check the hotel and rental car prices. Visit Expedia and compare the prices.

TripAdvisor

You can search TripAdvisor to get some ideas of what to do in the cities that you will be visiting on your cross-country trip.

Google Maps

I used Google Maps to preplan my trip. I’m a stickler for directions, so I wanted to get an idea of where I’d be driving beforehand.

GPS

Use a GPS if you think you may get lost. You can use Google Maps on your phone or use an app like Waze.

Cooler

Some days you will be driving longer than others. You may not want to get off the exit or go to a store. Bring a cooler and fill it up with food and snacks. You have no idea how handy this will be for you. Here is an example of a cooler that you can use. It’s only $26 and doesn’t take up much space.

StubHub

If you plan on going to any sporting events or shows on your trip, it’s better to purchase them in advance. StubHub is my go-to site. They usually have tickets to every major event. In a lot of cases, they are cheaper than Ticketmaster. Check them out here.

Priceline

You can book your rental car and hotel rooms with Priceline. They have some great deals. I booked a couple of the rooms that I stayed at using the Name Your Price deal. Click this link for more details about Priceline.

 

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