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Planning The Ultimate Cross-Country Road Trip

Road Tripping
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The United States is one enormous place, and few people can say they've seen it all. If you've always dreamed about taking that cross-country road trip, you can make it a reality for your next vacation. With careful planning and preparation, you can travel from sea to shining sea, crossing a bunch of states off your bucket list in the process.

Prepping for The Journey

As with any vacation planning, your first considerations must be time and money when planning your cross-country road trip. You'll need at least a week to drive across the country and still have time to see things along the way — and that's just for a one-way trip. If you have one week, you can make your trek work by renting a car to drive across the country and flying back (and be sure to have rental car insurance on hand).

If you have two weeks or more, you can drive from one end of the country and back again. This can be done inexpensively if you choose economical motels or campgrounds for lodging. You can also save money by hitting grocery stores for picnic lunches instead of going to restaurants for every meal.

You never know what might come up on a long trip, so travel insurance should be a part of your planning process. It's a good idea to look into flight insurance if you're planning a one-way jaunt. Allianz Travel insurance can help protect you from canceled flights, rental car accidents or any other unforeseen difficulty that comes up when you're on the ultimate cross-country road trip.

Going Mobile

As a companion to your car’s GPS, there are a slew of mobile apps that may prove invaluable for your trip. A prepared traveler, is a less frustrated traveler. Don’t get stuck on the side of the road without these essential apps. 

  • Waze. A community-based navigation app offering real-time traffic reports, multiple route choices, notifications of accidents and police activity in the area, etc. Updated by users like you, so you know it’s legit.
  • Hotel Tonight. When you’re in need of a last second place to crash.
  • Roadtrippers. The ultimate road trip planning app. Calculates mileage, time, fuel cost and most importantly, finds you places to eat, roadside attractions, national parks, etc., along the way
  • Gas Buddy. Where to find the cheapest gas!

Hitting the Open Road

Once you've chosen your dates and given yourself a budget, it's time to choose a route. If you're driving round trip, you can choose two different routes to see as much of the country as possible.

The North Country: Boston to Seattle

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After walking the Freedom Trail in Boston, take I-90 west. Break up the drive with a stop at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA before driving through the Berkshires and spending the night in Albany, the capitol of New York.

Continue on I-90 west through scenic upstate New York until you hit Buffalo. History buffs will enjoy the Theodore Roosevelt National Historic Site, but most people will want to jog up I-190 to spend the rest of the afternoon at Niagara Falls.

Continue west on I-90 through Pennsylvania, where you can stop at one of the beaches along Lake Erie for a dip. Have lunch in Cleveland at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame before continuing across Ohio and spending the night in South Bend, IN.

It's only a short hop to Chicago on I-90, which lets you spend the day exploring the Windy City.

Take I-90 west through Wisconsin. Stop at the Dells if you like amusement parks; otherwise, just enjoy the scenery as you make your way to I-94 and Minneapolis for the night.

Spend the morning in the walkable, bikeable Twin Cities, making sure to mark your crossing of the Mississippi River. Continue on I-94 west through North Dakota. If you can push on all the way to Billings, MT, do it. Driving across the prairie at night will let you enjoy the incredible big sky and all its stars.

You can take as much or as little time getting to Spokane, WA as you like. You can explore Montana's Lolo National Forest for outdoorsy fun, or settle in Spokane to get back to civilization.

For the final leg, drive west to Seattle, where you can enjoy the famous fish market and the Space Needle.

The Heartland: San Francisco to New York

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Once you've seen the Golden Gate Bridge and had a meal in Chinatown, head east on I-80 to Lake Tahoe, which is well worth the jog south for the beautiful scenery.

Continue east to Salt Lake City, where you can enjoy listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and see the Olympic Village.

Keep heading east on I-80 through Wyoming. This is a big day of driving, but you can make a stop for hiking at Medicine Bow National Forest or to see the state capitol in Cheyenne. Get as far as you can into Nebraska before choosing a hotel for the night.

Enjoy the amber waves of grain across the plains of Nebraska. You can check out the capitol in Lincoln, and architecture fans will enjoy seeing a Frank Lloyd Wright house or two in Omaha before having a steak.

The view changes to corn in Iowa, and there are many lovely small towns as you make your way to Davenport and the Mississippi River. Continue through Illinois and spend the night in Chicago.

Take I-65 south from Gary, IN to Indianapolis, where kids will love the Children's Museum and adults can enjoy a day at the track in Speedway, IN.

From Indianapolis, drive east on I-70 across Ohio and West Virginia to Pennsylvania. If you have an extra day to spend in Pittsburgh, take a detour north. If not, Wheeling, WV is a good place to stop.

Continue east across the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-70) with a lunch break in Lancaster County to get a taste of Amish country. From there, you can push on to Philadelphia to see the Liberty Bell and eat a cheese steak.

It's only a couple hours from Philly to New York City via the New Jersey Turnpike. Once you're there, spend as much time as you can soaking in the sights from Central Park to the Statue of Liberty.

Whatever route you choose on your Ultimate Road Trip, you’re sure to see some amazing things and meet some interesting people. Who doesn’t love a road trip? Fill up your gas tank and get out there. What are you waiting for?

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