"I want to road trip across the country with my best friend."
It's a guaranteed find on any good bucket list. Luckily, I was able to check "Cross Country Road Trip" off before I even turned 22!
While a cross country road trip isn't the easiest or most relaxing vacation, it's something I think everyone should do. Before embarking on your first cross country road trip, read below for a few tips & advice I learned along the way!
PLAN YOUR TRIP
Pick the Perfect Route
There are a few things you need to figure out before you set out on a Cross Country Road Trip. Most importantly, where are you going, and how will you get there? Here are a couple of questions to get you started:
Choose your stops, and choose them wisely!
Once you have the beginning and end of your journey set, it's time to decide what to do along the way.
In general, it takes around 35 hours to get from Los Angeles, California to Clemson, South Carolina. This is assuming you don't stop to eat, sleep, breathe, or spend a night in Vegas. Obviously, it wouldn't have been a very good 21st birthday road trip if we skipped the Vegas stop! So, I went to Google Maps, and plugged in our 3 known destinations: Los Angeles, Vegas, and Clemson.
I found that the best way to plan our stops was:
- 1Use Google Maps to find the general route from your first to last stop. Include any must-see destinations along the way
- 2Start adding stops along the way.
- 3Look for interesting cities already along your route. And keep in mind, on a 40+ hour drive, even a few hours away might be "along the route". You can also save money by planning to stay with friends & family along the way!
- 5Decide how many hours you're willing to drive each day (we stuck to 6-10 hours with two drivers). This will help you figure out if your trip fits within your ideal number-of-days.
- 6Add or remove stops as necessary until you've perfected your route.
- 7Leave room for mistakes, and unexpected adventures!
And just like that, Maddy and I had the perfect 21st birthday Cross Country Road Trip planned. I flew to Los Angeles, and after a quick visit we headed back to the East Coast.
PACK & PREPARE
Pack like it's your job
....because it'll start to feel like your job after you re-do it for the fifth time that week.
I'm not gonna lie, hotel-hopping every single night doesn't make for the most relaxing vacation. BUT, if you pack well and keep things organized (I always use the packing cubes below), it'll make your life so much easier!
Packing cubes are a necessity for any multi-stop trip. I got a set of these a few years ago, and they have totally changed the game for the way I pack.
- If you have a specific outfit you're saving for a certain day on your trip (ex. black dress for Vegas, country outfit in Nashville) this is a great way to keep it separated and out of the way of your everyday items.
- If you're using a "shell" style suitcase or backpack, these cubes are also perfect to keep items in the middle section contained!
- In general, on longer trips where you're packing and unpacking often, staying organized will save you a ton of time!
Getting in and out of hotels each night with two full size suitcases, all of Maddy's belonging's from the summer (including a cat) was a near extreme sport. One idea is to separate out the things you'll use every night into a more accessible bag.
That way on that days you arrive somewhere too exhausted to do anything but order a pizza, you'll have your pj's & toothbrush ready (without unpacking the whole car, again).
Prepare for a long week of travel!
While sitting in the car for hours everyday is part of the fun, it also can get boring. Here are a few tips to prepare for your time livin' life on the road:
PEDAL TO THE METAL
Once you've planned, packed, and prepare, you're ready for your Cross Country road-trip! There's just a couple more things to remember:
Have fun, and try not to kill each other!
For as long as I can remember, my parents have told me "always go on a road trip with the person you're going to marry." I guess if my mom & dad could tolerate each-other for 12 hours straight, that was a good indication they could do it another 25 years? (happy almost-25th anniversary, btw!)
In that case, after 41 hours together, Maddy and I passed the marriage test!
READ MORE: My Bucket List Road Trips
I'm sure some of you were reading this thinking "What? 6 days? That's barely a road trip." And I'd agree! This is what I learned planning my first Cross Country Road Trip, and the advice I'd give if I did it again.
I thought I would hate being on the road all week, but again: bucket list item. After our trip, I felt the complete opposite. I am so excited for the day I have the opportunity to road trip again, so for now... please share your tips with me in the comments below!
My Bucket List Road Trips:
- U.S. National Parks
- Road trip in an RV... maybe even a tiny house!
- East coast road-trip
- Drive up the coast of California
- And more! ...Any suggestions?! Let me know!