A cross-country road trip is a pretty serious business but it's also one of the most life-changing journeys that one can take across the U.S. With more than a week of driving, an accumulation of more than 10,000 miles, and some of the greatest sights one can see across the U.S., it's a thrilling idea. However, it's also an idea that most people don't think can be a reality for them, and we're here to change that.

A cross-country road trip can be taken in a multitude of ways but if you're wondering how to do it, we've got some answers. We've also got a few helpful tips to guide the route of any future road trip, depending on which parts of the country travelers are really keen on seeing.


How To Prepare For A Cross-Country Road Trip: The Basics

It's surprisingly easy to prepare for a road trip in the U.S. In terms of legal documents, all that's needed is a driver's license, valid paperwork for the vehicle one is driving, as well as car insurance, which can be purchased through a rental company for those renting a car. For those doing this road trip while visiting from another country, some states accept international licenses while others require international permits. A visa and/or passport is also a necessity.

Related: How You Can Estimate The Cost Of A Road Trip (And Save Some Bucks In The Process)

How To Take A Cross-Country Trip: The FAQs

Which Vehicles Are Best For A Cross-Country Road Trip?

The vehicle in question depends largely on the route one takes across the country and the timing of it all. For the most part, any trip taken during the summer or fall won't require anything with hefty snow tires or the option to switch into 4WD. However, if the trip is happening during the late fall or early winter, a vehicle with good tires, AWD, or an SUV with 4WD will add another layer of safety to any trip. Consider the destinations and where you'll end up, as well as when. For example, New England and the northern states across the U.S. tend to see snow and icy conditions earlier than the rest of the country, so this is something to consider when taking a two to a three-week trip.

Additionally, mountain roads are something to consider. Some cars will have a tougher time navigating these roads than others, so if your plan is to be in the clouds part of the way, consider the vehicle that can get the job done.

How Long Will it Take to Get From Coast to Coast and Back Again?

There's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the amount of time it would take a person to drive from one end of the country to the other (and back if that's on the itinerary). Theoretically, a drive from New York to California, for example, would take roughly four to six days with no stops whatsoever in between, aside from sleeping, if driving eight to ten hours per day.

Therefore, a cross-country trip could take anywhere from weeks to months depending on how long a person chooses to drive each day, or how many stops are made along the way. So, a trip like this, ideally, would take at least eight days to complete there and back - with a minimum of four days if one plans to fly back.

Where Should You Stay While Traveling Cross-Country?

Ideally, the more affordable, the better - for most people, this is a long trip which will involve many stops. There are several options depending on the budget of a traveler:

  • Camping or Glamping. This option will provide travelers with the most bang for their buck and will also give them the freedom (somewhat) to choose which parks and campsites they use. Campsites can vary in price from free to around $40/night.
  • Airbnb. This is the second most affordable option not only for a cross-country trip but for any road trip. Prices can vary across the board depending on which city or town road trippers stop in for the night but, if booked in advance, it's one cost you won't need to worry about on the road. Anything from a yurt to an entire house is available for rent through Airbnb.
  • Motels, hotels, inns, and B&Bs. The cost of each of these per night is bound to vary based on the location and rating of each, but it's the best option for a number of travelers. If it's in the budget, these will appeal to those who want a historic trip, a luxury trip, or the more common amenities that don't come with the other options.

Next: The Best Sunshine-Filled Road Trips to Take During the Summer Months