Depicted in movies as a fantastic way to experience the country and its people on a deep and often hilarious level, the cross country road trip is the dream vacation for many. While most of us won’t experience serious life changing moments or plunges to death over the Grand Canyon, thank goodness, we still love the idea of a cross country road trip. To ensure a successful road trip, here are ten tips for helping you plan and experience our great nation.

Your vehicle doesn’t have to be brand new off the showroom floor but it does need to be in top operating order. Have it checked out mechanically and have any necessary repairs done. Make sure the hoses and belts are good and fluids are clean and at the right level. If you’re going into the mountains, consider powerful, reliable, HID headlights that will improve vision and add last longer.

If you’re on the road for more than 2 or 3 hours toward the center of the country, you’ll find yourself on long stretches of road sparsely populated. You may even find cell service doesn’t exist everywhere despite ads to the contrary. Have the tools and spare parts necessary to deal with things such as a lost windshield wiper or flat tire. Nobody knows why, but the truth is, windshield wipers fly off in terrible rainstorms and tires go flat on long lonely stretches of highway.

Don’t forget a first aid kit. Anytime you’re traveling long distances, you should have the basics of good first aid with you. You can purchase a good kit at your local drugstore. A few extra items to consider including might be sunblock, Ace bandages, an ice pack and emergency rations such as protein bars and bottled protein drinks. They may not taste wonderful but if you find you need it, you’ll be glad you brought it.

Look at your budget and consider how far you can actually go. Going from Pennsylvania to California is quite an undertaking especially if you want to come full circle and be back home at a designated time. Factor in gas, food and lodging as you make plans, keeping in mind gas prices vary widely from one section of the country to another.


With a general budget in mind, plan a possible route. Do you have any specific points of interest or are you willing to simply see what happens? Most people look ahead to some extent and plan to see a few particular sights along the way. Make sure you include an old fashioned map with points of interest marked because as mentioned earlier, you can’t always count on cell or GPS service.

While your budget should include dinner on the road, you can save a significant amount of money by bringing a cooler plus a box of non-perishable food items. Your cooler can be stocked with your favorite drinks, sandwich meats and cheeses while your box will hold bread, peanut butter and snacks. Toss in paper plates, a roll of paper towels and you’re ready for roadside picnics.

Whether you’ve decided to be gone two weeks or ten, you don’t need to take your entire closet’s worth of clothing with you. After all, how dirty will you get driving along throughout the day? Pack as light as possible and do your laundry in small town laundry mats along the way. It won’t take long to stop and freshen up your clothes and give you some leg stretching time as well. Or from time to time, book a hotel with a laundry service or in-room washer and dryer.

It’s been said if you can travel with somebody, you can live with that person. Make sure you and your traveling companion are on the same page as to basic plan and budget. The more you understand and work out ahead of time, the less likely you’ll have trouble on the road. If you’re traveling companions are your family, including young children, make sure your stops and points of interest include things they would enjoy seeing and experiencing.

Bring along good CD’s, an iPod or have your favorite Pandora radio station ready to go with your favorite tunes. Add some oldies and unusual tunes to the mix or consider looking up some towns you’ll be driving through for famous musicians and add those to your tunes list. It would make for interesting trivia as you drive along.

Having a basic plan is a good idea but your basic plan and what actually happens may be two entirely different things. Don’t fret about it. Go with the flow and readjust as necessary. Don’t ruin the trip for yourself or anyone else by becoming obsessed with a schedule and list to check off. Striking the balance between reasonable planning ahead and actual execution of the plan may make the difference between a good trip and a fantastic one.

Let us know if we missed any essential tips in the comments.