How to Plan a Cross Country Road Trip

How to Plan a Cross Country Road Trip
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Planning an adventure cross-country? Here are 10 hints and tips to help you plan an exciting and memorable road trip across the country.

If his is your first time road tripping, you may also want to check out our road trips guide for beginners.

Planning a cross-country road trip can be one of the most exciting parts of the whole adventure, but also one of the most stressful. There's a lot that goes into being prepared, knowing what to pack, what route to take, and so many details, it can become quite overwhelming. However, with some simple planning, you can ensure a cross-country trip is one of the most exciting experiences of a lifetime.


To help you when planning the perfect cross-country road trip, this guide will give you insights and tips into certain procedures and precautions. Plan your itinerary using these 10 tips to guarantee a fun and successful trip.

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Table of Content

Start planning well in advance

When you start preparing for a cross-country road trip, start your planning well in advance. The earlier you can begin, the better, as there is a lot to consider. Start by choosing a few key points of interest in destinations, and then break the trip up in sections, and go from there. Having enough time to go over all of your options will eliminate stress, and the potential to add excitement.

Have a list of tasks to be done in advance

Make a list of tasks that need to be completed BEFORE your trip begins. Anything along the lines of vaccinations, purchases, notifying the bank, taking the time from work, or any other task that needs to be accomplished prior to the road trip. Making a list will make it easy to remember every detail and keep you on track for a successful start. [Checkout our what to pack for a road trip checklist]

Research attractions along the way

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After selecting a few destinations as key points of interest, along with your starting and ending positions, research attractions along the way. Quirky roadside activities and off-the-beaten-path small towns are part of what makes a road trip memorable and eventful. Fill those gaps with unique stops and sightseeing opportunities. Remember, it’s not always about the destination, but the journey itself.

Make a budget and stick to it

When planning for a road trip, make a budget and do your best to stick to it. Be reasonable when it comes to making a budget, and be conscious of what you can really afford. Make sure to have money put back for safekeeping, in case of emergencies or car trouble while on a road trip. [Checkout our guide: How To Estimate The Cost Of Gas For A Road Trip]

Book some, but not all accommodation

Having a few accommodation options booked in advance is a good idea for your state of mind, as well as a great itinerary structure. Consider your key destinations and start by making reservations in those locations. Leave some gaps to make your own decisions while on the road, and book lodging whenever you feel is necessary. Part of the fun of a road trip is the option to change your itinerary at any moment, so not being restricted with permanent reservations allows for surprise opportunities.

Be aware of weather conditions

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Stay up to date on weather conditions along the route of your road trip. Depending on your location, weather conditions can change drastically, and it’s not to be caught off guard. Be cautious when choosing to drive through dangerous conditions such as snow, storms, and high winds, as they can cause a lot of potential damage and put a damper on your trip. Additionally, keep the proper tools and equipment in your vehicle to deal with certain weather issues such as salt for the roads, an ice scraper, extra wiper blades, or an umbrella.

Invest in a good map or atlas

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As technology advances more and more each year, maps and atlases have become almost obsolete in the modern world. While smartphones are all equipped with maps and direction services, keeping a traditional atlas on hand during a road trip in highly recommended. There may be times when devices lose signal, the battery runs dead, or emergencies happen when electronics are useless. Investing in an updated atlas can save you in certain circumstances.

Have your car serviced 2 weeks in advance

Having a reliable vehicle is one of the most crucial factors when taking a cross-country trip. To ensure your vehicle is ready for long hours on the road and in the proper condition to withstand long hauls, be sure to have it serviced about 2 weeks in advance. Have time to make any updates or repairs that are needed and be sure everything works properly before setting off on your adventure.

Create custom playlists

A cross-country road trip is never complete without having the proper audio selection to go along with it. Whether you prefer listening to music, podcasts, or audiobooks, have everything downloaded ahead of time. Create a wide variety of special road trip playlists of your favorite songs and audio recording to keep you intrigued and entertained while on a road trip. Keep in mind, a road trip is a perfect opportunity to discover new types of music and entertainment, so be sure to keep an open mind.

Double and triple-check everything

No matter how many times you have gone over your packing list, checked the weather conditions, altered your route, or serviced your vehicle, never leave town with double and triple-checking everything. Minor details can often be overlooked, and important items and documents are easily left at the house at the last minute. Being overly prepared for a road trip is better than having inconveniences and unfortunate accidents just because of a silly, last-minute mistake.

While there's a lot that goes into planning a cross-country road trip, this list is a great place to start! We hope you have enjoyed this guide and use it to plan future cross-country adventures of your own.

About the Author

Ali Sullivan

Hi I'm Ali Sullivan. I have been traveling full time for the past 5 years and have been to over 30 countries on 4 different continents. During this time I worked overseas in multiple countries as well as online and transitioned fully to online work in 2020. Find me here on Instagram.