Know Before You Go – Things to Consider Before a Cross Country Road Trip

There are several things to consider before a cross country road trip in the United States. Let’s explore a few of them!

Don’t Hit the Road Until You Consider a Few Things for a Cross Country Road Trip

The lure of the open road, wind in your hair, and miles of adventure ahead is what makes a classic American cross country road trip so appealing. When wanderlust strikes and you feel the irresistible call to hop in your car to explore this beautiful country we call home, heeding that urge just makes sense. From marveling at purple mountain majesties to roaring ocean vistas and everything in between, a cross country road trip lets you experience the diversity of landscapes this nation has to offer. 

However, before turning the key and pointing your vehicle towards the horizon, there are a few critical things you need to research and plan for first. The last thing you want when you’re hundreds of miles away from home is your car breaking down, getting lost, or running afoul of local laws. Proper advance preparation and planning is what makes the difference between a smooth, enjoyable trip and one filled with headaches and hassles. By researching key regulations, mapping your route, inspecting your vehicle, booking accommodations, and looking into local attractions at your destinations before you go, you can help ensure your cross country road trip goes off without a hitch. Then you can better relax and soak up all the freedom, scenery, and adventure that makes crossing this great country by car such a rich and rewarding experience.

Research Key Laws and Regulations Along Your Route

\When embarking on a cross country road trip through multiple states and jurisdictions, one of the most important things you need to research beforehand are the key laws and regulations along your route. The last thing you want is to unintentionally break local traffic laws or fail to meet certain licensing and registration requirements when driving through different areas. Avoid fines, violations, and other hassles by doing your homework on the rules of the road ahead of time.  

First, make sure you have all the necessary documentation to legally operate your vehicle as you travel across state lines. Have your valid driver’s license, up-to-date vehicle registration, and current proof of insurance easily accessible. Requirements can vary when it comes to auto insurance minimums and expiration dates for licenses and registration renewals. Check regulations for all the states you will pass through.  

You should also take time to carefully research local traffic laws and motoring regulations at your planned destinations. Be aware of differences in seat belt requirements, cell phone usage laws, speed limits, turning regulations, and more that are easy to miss when outside your home state. Look into open container laws, marijuana laws, rules on transporting firearms, and other issues that can also vary substantially by location. The last thing you want is to make an innocent mistake that gets you pulled over or lands you an unexpected citation. A cross country road trip means cruising across different strokes for different folks so do your homework first!

Plan Your Route in Advance

One of the keys to an epic cross country road trip is planning your route wisely in advance. Not only does this allow you to map out the mileage and estimate driving times more accurately, but it also gives you flexibility to adjust your course if needed once you hit the open highways. 

First, plot out the major stops, sights, and destinations you want to see along the way. Whether it’s the Grand Canyon, Graceland, Times Square or other can’t-miss attractions, map out your main points of interest. Factor in the general distance and timeframe required to enjoy these bucket list locales. This will give you an idea of the pace, duration, and daily drive times you’re looking at for your trip.

Be sure to research multiple potential routes to provide options in case of construction, accidents, bridge closures, or other unforeseen issues. Having backup route alternatives already mapped out can prevent major headaches and delays down the road. Consider taking more scenic rural highways for portions of the drive to avoid bland interstates. 

Use mobile apps with GPS and lane guidance to navigate tricky areas ahead of time. Highways like the Los Angeles interchange, Chicago loop, or Boston maze of tunnels can be confusing to out-of-towners. Having a navigation assist ready to guide your way makes traversing these road trip challenges a breeze.  

With strategic advance route planning, you’ll be equipped to log quick miles chewing up pavement one highway at a time. You’ll also have the flexibility to tweak your course and make drive adjustments on the fly when adventure calls. Wheels up!

Prepare Your Vehicle Properly

So you’ve got your license, registration, and insurance documentation organized along with your route mapped out and lodging reservations made. Don’t hit the gas pedal just yet! One of the most critical road trip preparation steps is ensuring your set of wheels is properly primed and ready to devour those highway miles without issue. Breaking down in the middle of nowhere or needing major repairs en route can derail your epic cross country adventure quicker than you can reach a mechanic.  

Start by giving your vehicle a thorough maintenance inspection and tune-up if due for one. Replace the oil, check the tires, transmission fluids, belts, hoses, windshield wiper inserts, and battery. Make any needed repairs now while still in the comfort of your home garage rather than on the side of some dark highway miles from civilization.

Inspect and inflate all tires including your spare to ensure proper tread depth and pressure. Patch or replace any worn tires that could pose a blowout risk at highway speeds. Top off vital automotive fluids like windshield wiper fluid, radiator coolant, brake and transmission fluids. Replace old wiper inserts and make sure your headlights, brake lights and turn signals are all in good working order.

Pack an emergency roadside kit complete with flashlight, reflective triangles, jumper cables, jack and lug wrench, basic tools, first aid essentials, work gloves, and extra fuses. Bring along phone chargers, maps, emergency blankets, bottled water, non-perishable snacks and other survival items as well. Having these supplies on hand provides peace of mind no matter what situation arises on the open road.  

With a fully functioning, inspected and stocked vehicle and emergency kit, you’ll be ready to roll out and handle just about any mechanical mishap during your cross country travels. Bon voyage!

Research Lodging Options and Make Reservations

From roadside motels to quaint bed and breakfasts to luxurious resorts, the array of lodging choices across this great nation of ours is incredibly diverse. After long days behind the wheel exploring mountains, beaches and highways in between, having comfortable overnight accommodations await you at each days’ end is a key ingredient for road trip success. 

Start mapping out your cross country route and ideal daily mileage. Identify the cities or towns you expect to stop in each night based on your pace. Then research the lodging options available in each planned overnight location. Compare ratings and amenities of national chain hotels, local inns, motels, cabins, and B&Bs in those areas. Look for deals, discounts, free breakfast inclusions and rewards programs that can help you save money. 

Make sure to read reviews and check cancellation policies when possible. For popular destinations, events, or travel times of year, booking rooms well in advance is wise to guarantee availability upon arrival. Nothing puts a damper on a cross country road trip like getting stranded without a place to sleep for the night at your planned stop. Protect against this scenario by securing reservations in advance anytime occupancy looks tight based on your research.

Having confirmed reservations along your intended route means peace of mind knowing you have a comfortable bed waiting no matter what time you eventually roll into town after the adventures of the day. It allows flexibility to tweak plans and pace without worrying about lodging availability down the highway. Check in and enjoy a good night’s rest knowing you planned smart! Hitting the road well rested makes putting more rear view mirror miles behind you the next day that much easier.

Look Into Local Events and Attractions Along the Way 

While the draw of gorgeous national parks, historical monuments, and Americana culture certainly lure many on iconic cross country road trips, looking into unique local diversions along your route can make such journeys even more rewarding. Taking advantage of fun festivals, interesting attractions, natural wonders or tasty restaurants lets you experience slices of local flair in various regions. This allows you to tailor portions of your trip into immersive cultural experiences.

As you map out your intended route, take time to research what interesting events may be happening in the areas you’ll be traveling through. Summer fairs, art festivals, food celebrations and music performances often occur seasonally when the weather is nice for outdoor fun. Scheduling your trip to coincide with festivals matching your interests can be insider ways to mingle with locals and soak up regional traditions. 

Visit highly rated museums spotlighting unique elements of surrounding territories from cowboy culture to aviation achievements. Pencil in tours of quirky roadside oddities like World’s Largest Ball of Twine that give your journey an “only in America” vibe. Explore alien crash landing sites, see backyard monuments built by one determined person, or learn the history behind most photographed barns dotting this nation from sea to shining sea. 

While you may have a few must-see attractions mapped out, also remain open to making unplanned detours and stopping spontaneously when something weird, wonderful or delicious looking demands further investigation. Following whims, welcome signs and the recommendations of locals you meet can unveil the hidden gems and create the most memorable moments of your cross country quest.

Hit the Road Prepared and Enjoy the Ride

When you feel that irrepressible itch to load up your car and set out across this grand nation of ours, by all means scratch it! Use the tips outlined here to make sure your cross country road trip goes smoothly so you can better soak up all the freedom, scenery and fun such journeys promise.

Research relevant regulations to avoid legal troubles as you traverse state lines with all necessary documents in order. Map multiple routes ahead to estimate mileage and pace yourself while having backup options if needed. Inspect and stock your vehicle with emergency equipment so you’re covered in case of mechanical troubles out on the open highway. 

Reserve rooms in advance when you can to ensure you have confirmed lodging each night after long days behind the wheel. And pencil in local diversions like quirky roadside attractions and seasonal events to inject your trip with regional flavor. The people you’ll meet and the things you’ll learn can be just as memorable as the epic backdrop of this beautiful country.

With sturdy wheels below you, a stocked emergency kit at your side, and a spirited sense of adventure before you, a cross country road trip can exceed your wildest expectations. By preparing properly ahead of time, you pave the way for smooth sailing through breathtaking landscapes as this nation’s history also cruises by your passenger side window. Enjoy the ride!