Tips for Planning a Cross Country Road Trip

Whether you’re traveling solo or with a group, a road trip is an amazing way to experience the world. However, planning a cross country road trip can be overwhelming.

Make sure to budget for everything you need, including fuel costs, accommodation and admission fees for attractions. These tips can help you plan the perfect road trip.

1. Do Your Research

The most important thing you can do to prepare for a road trip is to research the areas where you’re planning on visiting. This will help you know what to expect and will give you a better idea of how long each stop should be.

It’s also important to check for any local events and weather patterns that may impact your trip. Make sure to also research any national parks that you’ll be stopping in. Some require advance reservations, while others may have specific entry restrictions due to COVID-19.

Finally, you should also plan ahead for food and accommodation expenses. Bring a cooler and pack healthy snacks like fruits, veggies, low-fat string cheese, and yogurt.

2. Make a Budget

The budget is a vital part of planning your road trip. It will help you determine how much to spend on each aspect of the trip. This includes lodging, food, attractions and any unexpected costs.

Make sure to account for all the things you’ll want to do on your trip, such as visiting national parks. Many of these parks require advance reservations, so be sure to plan accordingly.

It’s also important to consider how much fuel your car will need on a daily basis. Depending on the size of your vehicle and how many miles you’ll drive, this may impact your trip’s overall cost.

3. Map Out Your Route

Whether you use an app like Roadtrippers or good old-fashioned paper maps, start by mapping out your entire trip. Decide what are the key points of interest, and pick a route that includes them.

Then, determine how long you want to spend at each location. Keep in mind that you may need to adjust your schedule depending on the season and how much traffic is expected.

For example, if you are planning to visit a national park, find out the best time to go and what sort of reservation you might need. Many popular locations book up months in advance, especially during peak season.

4. Plan Frequent Stops

As you start putting your plans together, it’s important to prioritize your “must-see” points of interest. You may have to whittle down the list as your trip gets closer.

It’s also a good idea to book lodging, including KOA campsites, ahead of time. Popular road trip destinations like national parks and small towns that have limited accommodations will fill up quickly during peak season.

Make sure to pack a cooler so you can stop at grocery stores along the way for food and drinks. Eating out for every meal can add up, and fast food doesn’t always sit well on a long drive.

5. Pack Extras

There is a certain romance to hopping in your car and zigzagging across the country, pulling over at roadside lookouts and farm stands and bedding down at nameless inns or remote Airbnbs. But a cross-country road trip requires some thoughtful planning.

Bring plenty of snacks, particularly foods that are low in fat and salt. Eating out for every meal can get expensive. And relying on your phone’s hotspot can run up your cell bill.

Pack a portable speaker to play music that you and your traveling companions enjoy. Make sure to have a few different playlists — one for when spirits are high and another for more relaxing times during the drive.

6. Be Prepared

It is nearly impossible to predict what will throw a wrench into your best laid plans, but do whatever you can to prepare. This includes making sure you have enough money to cover expenses such as gas, lodging and food.

Plan your route around what inspires you. For some, this may mean visiting epic national parks or famous roadside attractions.

Always pack a few essentials, like an emergency kit with jumper cables, flares and a spare tire and tire repair kit. It’s also a good idea to have a paper map for rural stretches of the journey, in case your GPS fails. Also bring extra water and non-perishable snacks.

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