When I think about places I want to travel next, a huge number of my list is in my own back yard. Between awe-inspiring national parks and new terrain to explore, traveling in the states offers so many diverse experiences. I’ve always thought a really cool way to see it all would be to plan a cross-country road trip, ever since my dear friends, Meghan and Matt Lemine, took theirs a few years back. Since then, I’ve watched a couple of friends move across the country, or just choose to road trip throughout a certain region to explore.
I had the impression that a cross-country road trip would be off-limits with a full-time job. But my fellow adventurer, Ashley Albertson, just made it happen! Ashley and her three of her four siblings, Chip, Rachel, and Katie, just made their way from Tallahassee all the way through 14 states in seven days to Salt Lake City.
Upon their return, Ashley went over every detail of her trip planning with me over lunch. She proved my preconceived notion that it’d be difficult to plan a cross-country road trip would be challenging. But Ashley showed me that it’s just like any other trip – research, plan some aspects of the trip and be flexible and spontaneous with others, and you’ll have the perfect mixture for an adventure.
The Albertson siblings spent seven days driving out west from Florida, camping most nights, with the goal of hitting some of America’s most incredible national parks and landscapes:
- The Ozarks, Arkansas
- Wilson State Park, Kansas
- Golden Gate Canyon State Park, north of Denver
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
- Lake Powell Wahweap National Recreational Area in Pace, Arizona
- Zion National Park
If you’re wanting to plan a cross-country road trip, here’s what you need to know!
*Ashley is an AMAZING photographer, and all photos you see in this post are by Ashley Albertson Photography!
AB: What’s the most important advice you would share for planning a road trip?
AA: Always call ahead to your campsite to reserve it ahead of time so you don’t end up stranded. But if you’re camping like we did, also don’t be afraid to stay in a motel for a night or two. It sounds a little weird, but it is nice to have a break from setting up your tent, taking out all your gear, packing up, etc. Especially towards the end of the trip.
And lastly, if you are camping for your road trip, it will make it easier for everyone involved if you are not set on maintaining the same hygienic standards as you do back home. Finding a shower everyday isn’t a guarantee, so the less high maintenance you are, the better. Go with the flow!
AB: What is the first step to planning your cross-country road trip?
AA: You need to decide where you want to go first. And then embark on a very long journey of extensive research on the places you want to make sure you hit. It’s helpful to prioritize this list, too, in case something doesn’t go as planned (it will!) and you have to improvise a little bit.
AB: That makes sense. How did you determine where you wanted to stop?
AA: I turned to Instagram, Google Places, travel websites, etc. to see what other people have done and which national parks intrigued me the most. This is where your research comes in.
AB: What’s the most important thing to keep in mind when on a long road trip with others?
AA: Rotate driving and music. And make sure you are traveling with people that are on the same page as you when it comes to stopping and bathroom breaks. Some people are cool with forgoing water for the foreseeable future to ensure there is less stopping. Whatever you want to do is fine, but if you all agree, it’ll make being in a car together for days much easier.
Make sure you’re upfront with expectations for the road trip. We hit 14 states in six days, and not everyone can handle that kind of fast-paced trip, so make sure everyone in your group knows the game plan from the start.
AB: What was your favorite part about road tripping?
AA: Getting to see all of the amazing sites we explored with my favorite people, my siblings.
AB: What was the most challenging part of it?
AA: If we’re being honest here, we were four siblings in a car for days. It wasn’t uncommon for us to get annoyed with one another. And sitting in the car for long periods of time isn’t the most thrilling of things!
AB: What’s the reason someone would want to do this type of trip over something more traditional, like picking one destination and booking a hotel?
AA: There are pros and cons to both types of trips, in my opinion. I think the draw of tent camping across America is that it is obviously cheaper. Camping cost us each about $45 for the entire trip of six nights. Also, our campsites were mostly inside the places we wanted to go so we would just wake up inside a state or national park which was incredible.
To camp is to bond, and there will always be a hilarious story that comes from camping, especially with family!
What’s your advice to plan a cross-country road trip?
If you want more ideas for American trips, see: