A Guide To The Perfect USA Road Trip


The United States has many iconic road trips. From the historic Route 66 to Blue Ridge Parkway, from Yellowstone Grand Loop Road to the iconic California Highway 1, from the Kentucky Bourbon Trail to the Death Valley Scenic Byway.  With your car you can go on the ultimate bucket list trip! Just remember to follow tips to prepare yourself before and while travelling.

Arches national park entrance station, moab, united states

Arches National Park | Photo by Dino Reichmuth on Unsplash

There are many benefits to getting behind the wheel and setting out on a road trip. You get to experience new sights and cultures, save money on costly flights and transport fees, and can begin to view the world from an entirely different lens. In North America you will definitely find some of the best road destinations in the world.

However, setting out on a road trip is not as easy as they make it seem in the movies – and unfortunately, you can’t just throw your suitcase in the car and hope for the best. This does not mean that you should put your love of travel on hold – you just need to plan the trip carefully so that you are prepared for any bumps in the road.

Clovis, California, United States

Clovis, California | Photo by Grant Porter

Before travelling

  • Put together a realistic budget for your travels that clearly details how much money you can spend on each aspect of your adventure. Knowing and understanding your budget will encourage you to spend more responsibly, reducing the chances of your overspending.
  • Prepare to travel without worries by ensuring that you have all of the right documentation you need to support your travels in advance. For example, those entering the US for tourism purposes will usually need to obtain some kind of visa. However, if you live within the UK, you may qualify for the ESTA waiver program for British citizens.
  • If you have a poor sense of direction or rely on google maps to navigate your way through your hometown (guilty), it’s important that you think carefully about the route you will take on your trip. Proper planning during this stage of the process will also allow you to make the most of your time, as you can figure out how to reduce travel times and follow a logical route across states or from city to city.
  • Use sites such as SkyScanner to compare the cost of flights to the US. This is an easy way to save hundreds on your travels.
  • Reach out to a few different rental companies to discuss the legalities and costs of renting a car through them. Remember, you may need to meet specific requirements in order to be able to drive in the states as a tourist (i.e. have spent a certain amount of time behind the wheel beforehand). If possible, try to ensure that there are at least two people on the trip who can be insured to drive.
  • Book your accommodation, whether you are staying in a hotel or planning to pitch up a tent on a campsite. Booking early is a great way to reduce the overall cost of accommodation.
  • Put together an itinerary of everything you want to do during your trip, and book tickets for attractions and experiences ahead of time when necessary (this is another excellent way to save a bit of money). Ensure that every member of the family has a say in the planning process.
  • Be smart when it comes to packing your suitcase. Pack a variety of clothes that are weather-appropriate and can be easily layered up if you are driving for long periods of times. Try to reduce the number of things you are carrying where possible, as you’ll have to move them around with you the entire trip.
Yosemite national park, yosemite national park, united states

Yosemite National Park | Photo by Jonathan Adams

While travelling

  • Ensure your car is well stocked with all of the supplies you might need during your travels. This includes an emergency breakdown kit, a first aid kit, suncream and plenty of food and drink. You should also write down a list of important numbers such as emergency services and breakdown and repair companies and store them in your glove box so you can access them easily.
  • If you’re travelling with small children, you should also ensure you bring plenty of things to keep them entertained on long journeys, such as books, toys and games. (You should also be prepared to hear the phrase, Are we there yet, at least 100 times a day).
  • If, like me, you’re a big foodie who loves trying new things, you should keep an eye out for the best ways to experience food while travelling. For example, you should avoid chain restaurants in favour of local eateries and family-run businesses -as this will allow you to have a more authentic dining experience.
  • While you may need to cover a certain distance each day, ensure that you prioritise rest and relaxation and do not spend too much time behind the wheel. If you are feeling tired or unwell, stop driving and take a break. Remember, plans can always be rearranged if necessary.
  • Try to find ways to get to know new people while travelling abroad. For example, you could talk to the other families at your hotel or ask locals for advice on things to do or see in the area. Asking for advice is a great way to avoid over-priced tourist traps and discover hidden gems in each destination.
  • Keep a journal to help make the magical memories last forever. As you’ll be doing something different and exciting every single day, when you return home, you might find it hard to recall exactly what you did and when – having a journal to look back on solves this issue.
  • While it’s easy to snap photographs on your home, you should also ensure that you bring a camera with you on your travels for high-quality photographs – whether you are taking pictures of yourself or the view from your hotel room.
  • Travelling is all about new experiences – whether that means you are trying new foods or drink or participating in adventurous activities such as surfing or rock climbing. Therefore, you should put together a bucket list and challenge yourself to try as many new things as possible during your trip.
Motorhome parked at night in a camping site in Oregon, United States

Oregon | Photo by Blake Wisz

To put it simply, the easiest way to pull of a successful road trip is by simplifying focusing on having fun. Leave behind the worries of everyday life and live in the moment as much as possible.

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post.

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