Planning a Cross Country Car Trip

There are many great tourist destinations in the United States

By Ramona Brooks

Even though every vacation should be seen as the time to relax and forget about work, doing so may often be harder than it sounds. Currently, many families and especially ones with several children have to consider their budget against all the expenses related to even the most basic of vacations. Even if the working parent is lucky enough to have the benefit of a paid vacation, it may still not be enough to cover a 4-person trip overseas. It is not uncommon for a round-trip flight to Europe to cost approximately $1500 per person during the summer months. Consequently, spending $6000 on just the plane tickets will be out of the price range for most middle-class families, and other types of vacations will have to be considered. Additionally, it is important that you realize that there is no rule that says one has to leave the United States to have an incredible vacation. In fact, simply taking a cross-country car trip with the family or a group of friends can ultimately prove to be far more enjoyable and more adventurous - as well as less expensive - than any European vacation. However, before one embarks on such a voyage, it is very important to plan it out beforehand, in order to minimize the risk of any problems on the road.

While you do not have to plan every detail of your cross-country trip, trying to go without any sort of plan is always a very, very bad idea. No one should forget that it takes a very long time to get from on coast to the other - with the distance between New York and Seattle being about 3K miles - and one is moving to the opposite end of the country, the return trip also has to be considered. In other words, one should plan for at least a 6500-mile trip and, given the best-case scenario of averaging a speed of 65 miles-per-hour for the entire trip, it will still take about a hundred hours of driving to cover this distance. That is two full weeks of driving for seven hours every day, and unless one is a seasoned long-distance driver, it will be a very unpleasant experience. Additionally, covering such distance will be very costly, especially if a larger SUV-type vehicle is used, and even a car that has a fuel-economy of 25 mpg will still consume about 260 gallons of fuel, which currently would cost more than a $1000. Therefore, it is highly advised to have at least a few companions for such a trip, who will help cover a share of the fuel expenses, as well as take over from the current driver when they need a break.

Additionally, it is very important to inspect your vehicle before leaving on such a long trip. It is important for everyone to recognize that 6500 miles is a very significant distance, and can be a lot more than some drivers cover over a course of a full year. Consequently, if you are worried about the state of your current vehicle, and are unsure if it will last till next year, you should probably avoid taking such a trip. However, if you are still confident about your vehicle, you should still perform all the necessary maintenance procedures and repairs, or risk finding yourself with a broken-down car in the middle of nowhere. Furthermore, you should make sure you have all the necessary emergency equipment with you, such as the tools needed to change a flat tire, jumper cables, a first-aid kit, and a set of warm clothing if, you happen to be going in the late Fall or Winter. Ultimately, the route should be planned out as well. While many drivers may choose to simply take advantage of their GPS units or smartphones, you should never put all your faith in these machines, as the lack of signal or service is a possibility, but instead you should bring a map or an atlas, as well.

Member Comments

  • Jacqueline Montoya
    Houston, TX

    Jacqueline wrote:

    This has been my dream forever, and one day I'll make it happen! I would love to travel from one end of the US to the other, stopping everywhere I've ever wanted to visit on the way!

  • Wendy Gay
    Bakersfield, CA

    Wendy wrote:

    I did this a few years back, before gas prices got to be so ridiculous. It was the most fun I've ever had on a trip.

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