For the one or two people that actually follow my travel blog, I’ve finally gone and quit my job in Los Angeles! I’ve finally gotten sick of the entertainment industry and I’m ready to move on. That means I’ll have no job or income for a bit so paying expensive rent in LA is not going to be feasible.
I’ve decided that I’m going to move back home go New York for a bit. My family is there and I figure I can plant my roots there in a more affordable life that will also allow me flexibility to start traveling more. Living so far from home, I’d spend at least 2 of my “big trips” to go back home to visit family. I love them obviously, but I’d also like to use some of that time off to go explore the world. After 8 years in Los Angeles, I’ve done enough exploring of Southern California.
Now I’m getting into planning my epic cross country road trip from Los Angeles to New York. This blog post will be updated while I’m planning the trip to help everyone have a resource for how to plan for an extended road trip across the country or just a trip longer than a day or two. I’ll also update from the road to include anything I wish I had done or anything I’m glad I did.
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. If you want to have a good road trip, you shouldn’t a big straight line unless you’re in a hurry. You should aim to have a lot of little straight lines from city to city that weaves throughout states. Above is my current route plan.
My goal is to maximize the places I see, with the most diverse attractions, for the cheapest budget.
If you have a goal of spending money and just seeing the same types of sites across the country, this isn’t going to be the advice for you. I like variety and I like cheap!
Tips for choosing where to stop on road trips:
- Find cities that you can get a free night to stay in or has the most affordable accomodations (see next section)
- Think of what you might never plan a trip specifically to go see that is out of the way (for example, I’m stopping at Mount Rushmore because I’ll likely never be in that distant region)
- What do you love? Some examples:
- Sports…plan around major sporting events or stadiums you have to see
- Music…pick cities like Nashville and New Orleans known for their music
- Nature…look for areas around national parks and try to change latitude to see more variety of landscapes
- Partying…avoid the small towns and also look for events along the way
- Regional food…figure out the best food in each area like Texas BBQ or a Philly Cheesesteak in Philadelphia
- Think about what you love to see on shorter trips to one city and try and find that around the road trip route
Use Google Maps
I use Google Maps for two things when I’m planning a road trip. (1) You can just look at cities, landmarks, and attractions on the map. (2) You can use it to find out an estimated drive time and distance between cities…even multiple cities across your whole trip. Below is a screenshot of the route I was playing around with. It’s easy to add and subtract cities by hitting the plus sign next to where it says “Add destination” and you can put as many stops as you need. You even have a drop down option to set it up to avoid highways, tolls, and/or ferries. You are give a total drive time if you were just going to go straight through, but you can click for more information to get drive time and distance between each plotted city.
Where to Stay on Road Trips
Finding Places to Crash on a Budget
Friends and Family
The first place you should look is friends and family along your route. Even if they are a couple of hours away from your desired destination, crashing on a couch or a spare bedroom can save you hundreds of dollars on hotel fees. You also might even get a home-cooked meal and a great local tour guide for local attractions and tips for their city.
Friends/Family of Family/Friends
You’re on a long term road trip. Now is not the time to get antisocial. Let your friends and family know that you are going to be going on a road trip and see if they have any close friends or relatives in the area. You’ll find that your old college buddy’s parents are more than happy to put you up for a night or two. Just make sure you leave the place in as good or better condition as you showed up! Make your damn bed 🙂
Get your Airbnb account ready to go with current Airbnb promo codes and discounts. Before planning a road trip get a good idea of the most expensive and cheapest cities for Airbnb. Avoid choosing Airbnb in cities that hotels and hostels would be a better deal. That isn’t to say you won’t be able to find a cheap gem in an expensive city like Manhattan or San Francisco, but it helps you plan ahead especially for any last minute deals you need on a place to stay.
This is especially easy for those of you planning on doing a road trip around nature reserves and national parks. Look up areas where there are campgrounds that give you a place to park your car. You can either sleep in your car in your campsite or your car should have plenty of room to keep a popup tent.
Truck Rest Stops
Don’t consider these when planning where you can get some sleep along your trip. Rest stops aren’t the safest places to hang around. You’ll risk getting robbed or attacked if you try and catch some shuteye parked in your car at one of these stops.
Apps to Download
You should make sure you have a few different map apps on your phone before taking off. In most of these apps, you have the ability to download the maps for the area you are driving to. Do this before you leave! God forbid you’re lost in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone service. If you download the map in advance, GPS will still work and find you on the downloaded map.
Maps you should have ready for your drive – Waze, Google Maps, Maps.me
Things to Buy in Advance
Food and snacks
Figure out gas price – https://www.fueleconomy.gov/trip/
Review your car’s insurance policy for out of state coverage