A trip across the U.S. can be a fun learning experience. Seeing new places and meeting new people can boost your self-confidence for years to come. Not all trips work out well, though, so taking some simple steps can help insure that your cross-country journey is a major success.
Have a reliable vehicle – A full safety check on major systems is warranted before starting out on a long trip. There is nothing worse than being stranded in a small town in the middle of nowhere with a prognosis of several days (or worse yet, weeks) of work needed on your inoperable car. Tires should have good tread and oil should be changed to maximize engine performance and gas mileage. If you don’t own a reliable vehicle, rent one. Long term rentals can be cheaper than you think.
Be flexible to itinerary adjustments – A basic itinerary is a must, but leave some flexibility for making changes. There may be local sights on your journey that don’t show up in major tour books or internet trip planning sites, and sometimes these can be the unexpected highlight of a trip. On one trip my family took, we planned an easy itinerary of 60 – 100 miles per day due to my child’s tendency to get carsick. We reserved our hotels in advance based on our plans. We found that with the flat topography and straight roads of the Midwest, our child was never carsick, and we could easily have traveled many more miles daily. With our inflexible hotel reservations, we could not make major revisions in our travel plans. On other hand, allowing for too much flexibility, and having no advance reservations, could box you out of a place to stay at night during peak seasons.
Take your time – If you want to see anything more than the interstate corridor, plan to take your time. Estimate your daily travel progression in advance, allowing for at least 4 hours daily to take in the sights. If your time away from work is limited, you may want to limit the extent of the journey planned. Rushing through the trip can also result in trip-destroying car accidents and costly speeding tickets.
Plan for unexpected expenses – A credit card with a high limit and low balance is a good friend to take on a trip. If unexpected expenses come up, this is the easiest way to deal with them. Who wants to call relatives and friends back home for an emergency money wire?
Pack emergency supplies, including food and water – Emergency supplies such as flares, medical supplies, and non-perishable food and potable water should always be carried. The water is especially important when traveling through desert environments where there are few cars and fewer gas stations. It may be needed as a life-saving drink, or may allow your overheating vehicle to make it to the next outpost of civilization.
Leave your dog and kids at home – While there can be many positives associated with a family vacation, unless your children are old enough to enjoy a cross-country trip, it may be best to leave them home, visiting a family member where they can play with their cousins or have local adventures
with their grandparents. Likewise, the family dog may be your best friend, but his presence will limit your options at every stop, and he probably doesn’t enjoy scenery as much as you do.
Once you have taken a successful cross-country trip, you’ll want to see it all, and will soon be planning your next sojourn into the unknown. Happy traveling!