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Planning a Road Trip Cross-Country

Updated on January 13, 2014

Why Read This Hub?

I recently completed a cross-country road trip from California to Georgia and along the way, there were instances that I just wasn't prepared for or didn't expect. However, these instances I speak of weren't anything out of the ordinary and seemed like things I should have thought of.

In this article, I will cover topics that should be considered prior to taking a long trip, but generally aren't thought of by most people. I hope this helps readers in their planning stages and makes them more prepared to handle these situations that drivers are more than likely to encounter. I'll try to keep is short and simple so you can get right into planning your trip!

Please understand that this hub will not address travel destinations or sights to see along your trip, as I am obviously clueless as to where your trip will take you.

The Not-So-Obvious Thing to Take With You

Some things are obvious items to take with you on a road trip; a car or other vehicle, yourself, maybe a friend or two. But there seems to be one thing that people seem to overlook.

For the longest time I was under the impression that driving was cheaper than flying. After all, it's not fun to fork out four or five hundred dollars for a plane ticket, especially for those of us who don't have that much money to readily throw around. But if you're planning a road trip that will take you across the country, be ready to spend twice that amount.

Writing about this may confuse some readers so let me clarify. I'm writing this from the perspective of someone who moved across the country. If you're taking a trip just for the sake of taking a trip, then this part may not apply to you. But depending on a few things such as, if you're driving an RV or if you'll be stopping in places where you have family or friends, you may have to fork out a lot of dough for overnight stays. That is of course you're one of those crazy people who can drive for thirty hours without stopping or sleeping.

Another commonly overlooked aspect of taking a trip is the terrain. Sure, your vehicle may be rated for fifty mpgs, but that's if you're driving on a level surface, with nothing else in the car, and you're not driving against the wind. Driving against the wind is like driving uphill and will kill your gas mileage. Additionally, if you're taking any luggage with you, your engine will have to work harder to compensate for the added weight.

Another important thing to mention is throttle control. A lot of people like to use cruise-control, but that can be the kiss of death for your gas. When cruise-control is activated, you're telling your car to maintain that speed until you tell it otherwise. Sure, it's convenient and everything, but that lack of throttle control will drain your fuel faster than you may think. Ever notice when using cruise-control while going uphill that you hear your engine rev up after it changes to a lower gear? It does that so it can maintain the speed you set it for, but in doing so, the engine has to burn more fuel because it's having to work harder.

So when going up hill or driving against the wind, take off cruise control and don't push your car too hard, and stay in the right lane if maintaining the posted speed limit is difficult. Last word on throttle control: don't rapidly change your vehicle's speed. In other words, don't stomp on the gas pedal when getting on a freeway and avoid rapid deceleration.

Road trips can get very pricey. I can't give an approximate amount since everyone reading this will be driving different cars, and driving different distances and routes. I would suggest, at a minimum, to have about thousand dollars to spend while on the road.

Vehicle Maintenance

My biggest fear while driving across the country was having my car breakdown in the middle of nowhere without cell service. Some of those freeways through Texas were long and devoid of civilization, and having my car suddenly take a dump in an area like that had me on edge. Though some of you may be more mechanically inclined than me, there are a number of things that can't be fixed on the side of the road with a straw from McDonald's and an empty beer can.

Before you set out for any trip, make sure you get your car serviced. That doesn't mean you need a complete overhaul, but make sure your oil has been changed recently, your spark plugs are firing off efficiently, check your air filter and replace it if need be, and a fuel system flush will do wonders if you've never had it done.

Additionally, make sure your tires are in good shape. Most people carry a spare in their vehicle, and that can give a false sense of confidence. Changing a tire on the side of a highway isn't fun in any sense. And more than likely, you only have one spare. What if two tires blow out? Though there is no way to ensure you won't have to change more than one tire, having healthy tires and good air pressure will significantly mitigate the chance of you having to play handy-man during your trip.


For simplicity's sake, I will be using the terms 'hotel' and 'motel' interchangeably.

If you're expecting to stay overnight at a hotel for any part of your trip, be sure to make a reservation. If you are taking pets with you, make sure the hotel allows pets. Most of the time, hotels will require a deposit for having a pet, but you'll get that back when you check out if your pet hasn't caused any damage to the room. I drove around El Paso, Texas for about an hour trying to find a hotel that not only had vacancy, but also allowed pets.

Some hotels charge outrageous prices just to have you sleep for the night, so make sure you shop around for any deals to ensure you don't overpay.

General Driving Safety Tips and Closing

To close out this article, I will provide general safety tips for long road trips.

  • Sleep. Being well rested will keep you alert and will help fight fatigue while driving.

  • Drink plenty of water. Water will also keep your alertness level up and help you focus better.

  • Don't drive for too long. Rest stops are amazing things. They enable you to get out of your car so you can stretch and relax for a while. Some places even offer free beverages. Driving for long periods of time will sap you of energy, causing you to lose focus and hinder your reaction ability. Six to seven hundred miles is plenty of distance to cover in one day, any more than that and you're just being stupid. Ever been driving and felt as if you weren't moving? That's called highway hypnosis and a sign that you should have stopped for the night an hour ago.

  • Eat. Food is your body's fuel. Though it may not seem like you're doing much besides sitting there with your foot on the gas pedal, your mind is in, or should be in, a constant state of focus. Your brain uses up at least twenty percent of your body's energy and healthy foods will provide the energy you'll need to maintain focus. Stay away from junk foods, they won't provide you with the proper amount of energy you'll need for a long trip. Trail mixes, jerky, and granola bars are packed with energy and flavor.

  • Plan your stops. Before embarking on your trip, calculate how far you will drive per day and make reservations at hotels or where ever you plan on staying for the night.

  • If you're driving with a friend, take turns driving; if you're on a schedule you may be able to cover more distance per day


  • Check the weather forecast. Though the weather folks are usually wrong, at least get an idea for the type of weather you are likely to encounter and plan appropriately.

  • Before you set out on your trip, make sure you tell someone where you're going and how long you're expecting your trip to take, and if or when you plan on being back. Be sure to keep them updated on the progress of your trip.

I hope this article helps, and if you have any ideas on how to make it better for everyone, leave a comment and I'll add it here. Have safe trip!



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      3 years ago

      I believe my plan from prrgoessive runs in 6 month increments.Just get a plan where you pay monthly, and cancel it when you will no longer use it.BTW a lot of people do it but in most states you can get in a LOT of legal trouble if you are caught even lose your license. Even if you aren't required by the state to have insurance, if you do get in an accident the other person could sue you for damages. So your parents are doing you a favor!


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