As we pile into our vehicles and head out for a cross country road trip, there are many things that need to be brought along, be they for safety’s sake, for financial reasons, or just to keep our sanity intact while those miles roll by. Most of what you should know about a cross country road trip concerns money, vehicle repairs, accommodations, food and drink, and where exactly this cross country road trip is taking you. You should know that there will be places and things that you, or someone else within your group, will really want to see or visit, thereby either extending the road trip, or making someone else miss their stopover of choice.
When traveling a cross country road trip by yourself, you already know that you like your company. However, when more people are added to the vehicle, the space inside gets tighter, and more egos and ids are involved. If you don’t know your road trip mates very well before taking your road trip with them, you will know more than you probably would like to know about them by the time you get home. Having great senses of adventure and humor will help you all to retain your sanity within these tight confines of a crowded vehicle on a long road trip, with the sounds of “are we there yet?” echoing through the empty vestiges of your brain.
One of the more important things that you should know about a cross country road trip is that it is going to be quite expensive. The vehicle will need to be tuned up, a good set of touring tires bought and installed, especially if your tires have more than 25,000 miles on them. You will need new spark plugs and an oil change before heading out. With over $1,000 in maintenance before you leave the house, and more than that required in gasoline (figure $1 worth of gasoline for every 30 miles on your road trip to be safe), you will need at least $3,500 for a fun cross country road trip.
For any cross country road trip, you will need gas money, money for adventures and site visits, and for food and drinks. The vehicle maintenance will lessen the gas consumption significantly, and the probability of a blown tire, blown engine or blown road trip will all be decreased exponentially, with safety being greatly improved as well.
For a complete Pacific Ocean to Atlantic Ocean, and back again cross country road trip, or vice-versa, you should know that you will be needing at least 10 days for driving. And that is only if you are not planning on spending any time visiting the things that make up a road trip, like the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Death Valley, any number of State, Federal or Provincial Parks. Basically all of the places that make a road trip worthwhile.
Then there are the silly things that you just have to stop by, or detour, to visit. There is always a biggest this, longest that or some other form of tourism draw that you will eventually come across. You will find some silly places and things that you just have to visit, and these stops all add time to your road trip, or take time away from it if your time is definite. You should know that you should add at least 3 extra days to your road trip’s time frame for emergencies or just plain added fun.
From New York city to San Francisco, the distance is about 2,550 miles (that’s over 5,000 miles return!). And that is a straight line calculation, not following the twisting highways and byways, and any side trips that come up along the way. You should know what shape your vehicle is in, and whether or not it would be likely to make the return trip, by visiting a garage for a road trip check up.
At 55 miles per hour, unless you are driving from Florida to California, you should know that you should not push your car for more than 10 hours of highway driving per day, and the same time limit goes for any drivers. You should know that the cost of sleeping in motels along the way would be about $500 per person, for the least expensive road side motels, at the minimum 10 days and nights. If you camp in backwoods spots, not campgrounds or State Parks, you can eliminate that cost, and all it takes to eliminate or greatly reduce the sleeping costs is some camping gear and a good atlas.
Camping would cost about $25 per night, divided by all of the people involved with your road trip; so you should make sure that everyone knows that they are responsible for their share of expenses before leaving home. Download a possible route from the Internet, or bring along a GPS unit or smartphones with updated maps of your general route, showing places where you would be able to camp overnight without problems, or fees, like in the desert.
What you should know about a cross country road trip is that you will not be able to make enough sandwiches and other homemade meals for the entire trip. You will need to buy meals at restaurants, be they fast food or gourmet, roadside french fry trucks or dumpy diners. You can buy the ingredients as you go along, from roadside farmer’s stands and country markets, in order to cook decent meals over campfires or camp stoves each night. If you are lucky enough to be driving an RV, well, never mind. You have a kitchen and beds in your back seat! Just buy the food as you go, after the initial supply is gone.
What you should really know about a cross country road trip is that you will have the time of your life, as long as you throw the itineraries out the window and just let the days happen as they may, and leave your frustrations behind. So, buckle up and head on out there. There’s miles to be driven, places to be seen and memories to be made.
Drive safe. Drive informed.