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Essential Tips to Plan a Cross-country Road Trip

Essential Tips to Plan a Cross-country Road Trip

Road trips are unique in many ways than one, and when planned right, can be a great way to travel. If you're planning a cross-country road trip and finding it difficult to map a route or plan, this Vacayholics article will take you through it all.
Neha Joshi
No traveling light for us
To plan a perfect road trip ...

... prepare yourself for everything―car breakdowns, bad weather, no accommodation, poor range, and last-minute change of plans. 

For most, a road trip is a trip of a lifetime. While those in favor of continuous adventure can keep planning several throughout their lifetime, for most, it's something that happens just once. Why then, not make the most of it? Ideally, a road trip should not be planned at all. You decide only the final destination, reach that, and come back. How much you drive everyday, where you stay, and for how many days, should all be spontaneous and left unplanned. However, with personal commitments, budget constraints, and an ever-increasing workload, you have no option, but to plan.
A cross-country road trip can mean traveling through different regions, terrains, landscapes, through the country, or through several countries. In this Vacayholics article, we've given you tips to plan all the three. Read through them carefully.
  • Always, always decide the route first. If not the route, at least have a rough idea of the places you want to see. For example, decide if you want to drive through a mountainous stretch or a deserted area.
  • Choose the type of roads you prefer―interstate highways, byways, local roads, etc. Most highways and byways are attractions in their own right. Research all the byways thoroughly before choosing one.
  • Choose a route on which you can take a halt every day. Plan a daily distance target, you need to reach a destination daily, to have a successful road trip. The best way to do this is to buy a Rand McNally Road Atlas, and chart out the route and stops on it.
  • To make your task easier, choose a north-south/south-north route or an east-west/west-east route, or a mixture of both.
Mode of Transport
  • Preferably, rent a car while doing a cross-country road trip. The rent doesn't really kill your budget, the cars are in better condition, and have hardly any miles on them.
  • If you decide to take your own car, you must know that you actually need to prepare your vehicle for a road trip.
  • You always have the option of using a bike if you're traveling alone or with just one more person.
  • Depending on what you choose, try to estimate the amount of fuel you're going to need. Likewise, mark all the fuel stops. Certain regions have scarce fuel stops.
  • Understand that motels may not be your cheapest bet, but they're your best bet. Not very expensive but safe.
  • Try to zero in on motel chains that have their presence in multiple states, so that you can plan your accommodation with ease and perhaps also get a discount.
  • If you haven't checked out the place on the Internet, look for things like safety cameras, staff uniforms, parking spots, lighting, etc.
  • Camping is fun, provided you have someone experienced with you. Don't try something more adventurous than what you can handle.
  • Camping at popular places will definitely need prior reservations.
  • Always prefer local restaurants over chain hotels; they're cheaper and unique. Chain hotels will offer food that you get in your city.
  • If you're eating at places a little too local, just ensure that it is cooked properly so that you don't fall ill.
  • For the same reason, always have bottled water. Your first priority should be to carry enough water for each traveler.
  • If you're going for the ultimate road trip, use public grills in parks to barbecue your stuff. For this, carry a few veggies, meat that won't get spoiled, and charcoal. It is, however, always better to eat locally-cooked fresh food.
  • Always carry your passport. Always. (This applies to road trips taken across national borders, including Canada)
  • Information related to all the visa documents you possess, should be ready with you.
  • If you have taken your own car, car papers are a must. If you have hired a car, information relating to the car and the agency is vital.
  • If you have confirmed reservations in motels, hotels, or resorts, carry a hard copy of your confirmation. Even if confirmation is via e-mail.
  • A list of contacts you know in cities, regions, etc. Also, make a list of people who have important information relating to your road trip. This will include people you know at the car rental.
  • First the basics. If you're traveling in summer, carry light clothes. Similarly, if you're traveling during the winters, carry enough clothes to keep you warm.
  • Decide on the type of clothes you want to carry depending on whether you are traveling a northern or southern route.
  • Don't pack so much that you compromise on leg room; you're going to be on the road for hours everyday. Your comfort in the car is more important.
  • Mix and match clothes to avoid stuffing in too much. Again, just because you have the space, don't go overboard with the luggage.
  • Remember, if you somehow manage to just carry a backpack per person, you are free to hire motorbikes for limited routes. Makes the road trip more thrilling, doesn't it?
  • If you're traveling in a group or with friends, make a list of your non-negotiables―things you aren't willing to compromise on. This could be the time you hit the road everyday, etc.
  • Work out an estimate of your gas bills; it will constitute a major part of your budget. See how the budget of the trip is working out now.
  • Also, prepare a food budget. A road trip can be tiring, leaving you no time for all of this later. If you spend right, you can easily save a hundred dollars on food.
  • Don't make too many reservations, it restricts your chances of discovering newer things. Don't be restricted by your own planning.
  • Take a 10-minute break every one hour. Get out of the car, stretch, and take a small walk to get the blood circulating properly through your legs.
  • Always carry a separate set of keys. Just in case the driver loses his set of keys or leaves them inside the car, you will have a spare set. Trust me, you don't want to be stranded at a secluded destination with all your belongings in the car and you standing outside it.
  • While most will search for the best road trip apps that will help you plan your trip efficiently, don't forget to go through the weather apps. These will tell you what to expect at the next halt.
  • Never, never tailgate. It's not only dangerous, but completely unnecessary.
  • If you plan to traveling for a very long time, through routes that are remote, and also partially dangerous, consider getting insurance cover.
  • Check what all your travel insurance covers. Some insurances don't cover certain countries, some don't cover certain accidents, etc. It's always better to know completely what deal you're being offered.
You can make your road trip as expensive or cheap as you want. Plan well to reduce costs, accidents, and unnecessary delays. If you use these tips to plan your road trip, trust me, you'll have nothing to worry about.