Ever dream about driving Route 66 across America? Well, I never have. But I have driven across the USA 5 times, with 4 of them being solo. From New York to the Smoky Mountains, through Texas, New Mexico and Southern California, to Ohio, North Dakota, Kansas, Colorado, Utah and finally, Northern California. The Rockies, the Moab, Zion, Big Bear, Yosemite, Joshua Tree, and everywhere in between. You name it, I’ve probably been there. The allure of the USA, driving through small towns and big cities, ultimate nature and National Landmarks is just exhilarating. Truth is, I’d do it all over again, and I will! Let me share with you my tips on driving across country solo.
3 days or 3 weeks? You do need to decide how much time you want to take. The shortest it’s taken me driving from NY to CA in the dead of winter was 3 days. I drove 14-15 hours/day, waking up at 3am and driving until 5 or 6 pm, then just hitting the hay. That sort of thing I will tell you, is not fun. The rest of the rides I’ve tried to take my time, with the longest Roadtrip being 2 weeks. I found that to be just enough time to hit all the places I wanted to. My favorites are: the Smoky Mountains (TN), Rocky Mountains (CO), Antelope Canyon (AZ), Lake Havasu SUPing(AZ), Moab (UT), Zion (UT), Summer Skiing in CO, Yellowstone (WY), Badlands (SD), Yosemite (CA), White Sands (NM), Sierra Nevadas (CA), Lake Tahoe (CA), Sequoias (CA) and Mojave (CA)… seeing a theme here? Hence why I love CA (I live here)… and Glacier National Park is on my bucket list. I’m a big west coast and nature girl, so these are the places that are always on my list to visit more than once. Anyways, you do have to decide how much time you want to spend and where. What I like to do is research AirBnb’s, lodging, campsites and quick sleeps in between, in advance so that I can better calculate gas and time to get across. Once I’ve got my lodging and activities planned, I’ll then calculate my route. I find 2 weeks to be the secret number for an epic road trip. It won’t be dragging, but it’ll leave you craving more.
Plan with Google Maps / / Gas Buddy for calculating gas costs. Like I said,I always plan my route on based off first, where I want to be and when. I will work my way backwards. So say, my goal is to get from New York to Northern California, I will choose a spot where I want to relax and explore for about 5 days at my destination. If I were to plan now, I’d probably choose The Post Ranch Inn at Big Sur. Knowing Want to be there in a few weeks, I’ll then calculate the spots I’ll hit before, since I like the Northern route from NY to CA more, I’ll probably visit Yosemite, then Tahoe, then Antelope Valley, Zion, Moab, Rocky Mountains, Yellowstone, Badlands, grab a Chicago pizza, then a quick hike on the Appalachian and finally, NY. Once I know the hotel and activities, I’ll use Google Maps to generally map out each location, then Gas Buddy to calculate gas costs. While there is a bit of planning include in a road trip, at the end of the day, you do want to be open to veering off the beaten path. I wouldn’t book everything in advance in case you see a wild boar and feel like chasing it. Or maybe you find yourself on an Indian Reservation, and are driven to explore Native American culture. Embrace each out of the box experience that you’re driven towards.
Summer to Fall is my favorite. Summer at these National Parks can get really busy, hot and gross, to be honest. Waiting in line on a 104 degree day on a scenic road through Zion is the absolute worst. Make sure to get up early to enjoy the best of it, or better yet, visit in the Fall. This is personal opinion, but every time I venture across and check out the parks, it seems like the entire world and their mother are there to see it with me.
Early to bed, early to rise. Trust me. Forego those late party nights and just go to bed with the sun to be up with the sun and enjoy those early morning drives, sunrises, and empty National Park perks. The morning is fresh, awake, alive and calm. I find waking up in my tent to a sunrise to be the best part of these road trips. Seize the day!
Pack healthy snacks. You may or may not know, but America is known for junk food along these highways. McDonalds, chips, ice cream stops, and homemade beef jerky. While it’s important to enjoy homemade American ice cream and real beef jerky, do yourself a favor and stop at some grocery stores along the way to fill your cooler with wholesome foods that will keep you energized and feeling good. You’re sitting in a car most of the day, and when you’re not, you’re hiking or cooking over the fire. You want to have fruits, veggies and good protein to cook with while camping. It can be both satisfying and healthy, trust me! Also, car snacks; think beet crisps, Kombucha, lots of lemon water (I go through a gallon a day. More stops = more walks = better for me!), dark chocolate covered strawberries. Whatever it is, it’s better to have healthy snacks with you than to fill up on junk food every time you hit the pump.
The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.