No matter where you’re from, what season it is, or how experienced you are, there’s always something incredible to see and experience on a road trip. The United States is brimming with terrific landscapes, diverse cities, and quirky roadside attractions to lure in adventurous spirits. This is why weeks-long, cross-country road trips are a popular choice amongst travelers.
If you’re up for an extended adventure, here are four tips for surviving a cross-country road trip vacation:
1. Keep a Clean Car
An extended road trip means you’ll be spending a lot of hours in your car—along with your travel companions and everyone’s luggage. Make it easier for everyone by keeping your vehicle clean throughout the trip. Throw trash out at every stop you make. If you eat on the go, keep an eye on crumbs and spills, and take care of messes as quickly as possible. Keep an emergency stash of napkins, antibacterial wipes, and a small bottle of stain remover in the car. It also helps to keep clutter to a minimum. Every time you dig through bags, make sure you put everything back in its place when you’re done.
2. Leave Room in Your Schedule
If it’s your first time driving across the country (and even if it’s not), you’re going to find so many unexpected things to do along the way. Roadside attractions, detours, and spur-of-the-moment ideas are common when driving cross-country, so why not leave room for them in the schedule? For example, say your route takes you through a small town on a Saturday afternoon, and you see signs for a big farmers’ market or craft fair.
If you have plenty of time in your schedule, you can stop for an hour or two, see or buy something that catches your eye, and meet some awesome locals. More room in the schedule also keeps you from feeling rushed or getting stressed when you’re thrown off by bad weather or traffic.
[For more travel advice, check out our full page of travel tips here.]
3. Hit up the Campgrounds
There’s more than one way to get around the country. If you want to spend a little more time in the great outdoors, consider adding a tent to your packing list. There’s a lot to experience in America’s campgrounds, and you can even spend the night in many of the national parks that are probably on your list of must-see destinations. If you’re really feeling adventurous, consider renting an RV for your trip. Traveling in an RV can help you save money on hotels and meals. You’re also likely to meet plenty of fascinating and friendly people. The RVing community is full of people who are always willing to share stories and give advice—which is pretty useful when you’re trying to avoid those common RV mistakes.
4. Communicate with Your Companions
Everyone travels differently, which is why one of the most important tips for surviving a cross-country road trip vacation is to discuss everything before you go. This is particularly important if you’ve never traveled together before. Have a chat ahead of time about everyone’s must-haves and must-sees and make a plan that suits everyone. Your friend who can’t function without coffee in the morning probably shouldn’t have the first driving shift of the day.
If you’re dying to see the Rocky Mountains, you should be the one planning out the Colorado leg of your journey. When you communicate with each other, you can make a plan that keeps everyone happy and comfortable throughout the entire trip. Also, check out our guide on how to travel with friends without killing each other for the full details.