10 Tips For Cross Country Travel In The US

Ever wanted to travel the United States?
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America is known for its vast landscapes and the iconic cross-country vacation so many people try to take. There’s plenty of movies about cross-country road trips and lots of information about what to do and see. It can seem so confusing and overwhelming but it's definitely worth the trip.

Buffalos
Image from Courtney White

Here are 10 tips for planning and executing your cross-country road trip.

1. Plan plan plan!

The best thing you can do before you even pack a suitcase is to sit down and map it out. Sure, there's going to be some stuff you can't plan (like how far you want to drive in a single day or if traffic will push you back a day or two), but you should book the hotel for at least one day. This gives you a mark point, like how far you should get. Also, definitely do some research and take note of what places you really want to stop at.

2. There’s not much between NYC and Chicago

If you're going from the east coast, there isn't much to see between New York and Chicago. It's a lot of cornfields and dead highways. The landscape changes quickly after Chicago and it gets more and more barren. Be prepared for hours and hours of corn, grasslands, and highway. Definitely pack things to keep you entertained in the car.

3. Pack plenty of snacks

Packing your own snacks will save you plenty of time and money. Not only will it limit the number of stops you have to make, but it’ll also keep you occupied in the car. While it's awesome to stop and eat and support local businesses (definitely ditch the chains while traveling, you have Applebees back home), you can find some cool local snacks at gas stations or rest stops. Some great car snacks include cheese, crackers, granola bars, Goldfish, cookies, fruit, veggies, and juice.

4. Don’t be afraid to save knick nacks

There's plenty of things you can take home as souvenirs that you won't have to pay for. It's okay to be sentimental, after all this trip should be memorable. Things like brochures, ticket stubs, and maps are awesome things to take home and keep. You can also keep things like bottles from wine, rocks, and pressed flowers. There are all sorts of fun things you can keep from your trip. Don't be afraid to hit the gift shop too! Pins, postcards, and flags are really cheap souvenirs you can display in your home!

5. You can never know too much!

Research is always good to have. Knowing the history of where you are is always cool to know. You can also look into other tips and tricks previous travelers have to offer. There are also tons of hidden gems to be found along the road. See some really awesome ones here!

6. Don’t be afraid to ask the locals

 Locals are some of the best sources of information. They tend to be people who know shortcuts, great food spots, the best photo ops, and other such things. The best locals to ask are waitresses, gas station workers, and cops!

7. Be prepared for some things to be underwhelming

Mount Rushmore
Image from Courtney White

Some things that get super hyped up are actually kind of underwhelming. Things like Mount Rushmore, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, or the US side of Niagara Falls can be super underwhelming. Be prepared for it to be a lot less than what the brochures have to show. 

8. Be prepared for things to be overwhelming 

However, be prepared for things to be a little overwhelming. Places you're likely to stop are likely going to be very crowded. If you stop at cities, it'll be a lot more fast-paced than the rural areas in between. There’s a lot to see, so take your time and enjoy everything! 

9. Bring a spare of everything you cannot afford to miss 

Always always always pack a spare of multiple things. Bring a spare SD card if you're bringing a camera. Bring batteries for any of your devices. Bring a spare portable charger. There are some things you don't want to be without! 
 

10. Don’t avoid roadside attractions

Chandelier Tree
Image from Courtney White

You probably went out thinking to see the big ones, like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, or new cities, but there are tons of fun and different stops along the way. Don’t avoid them! They make out for a great place to get out and stretch your legs. They also tend to be fun photo ops! 

No matter what you plan to do when taking a cross-country trip, it'll definitely be a lot of fun and a great learning experience. Take lots of pictures, make a lot of memories, and most importantly, go out with an open mind. You never know what you might see!

Courtney is a junior at Montclair State University and is from a small town in Pennsylvania. She loves fashion, reading, art, and history.

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