The Best American Cross Country Road Trip: 5 tips For Planning Your Route

I’ve made the road trip across the US several times on multiple different routes. I thought I would post some of things I’ve learned for anyone who might be planning a road trip.


Lower Yosemite Falls: Yosemite National Park

1. Travel from North to South, or South to North.

A lot of people just assume that a cross country road trip should run horizontally from east to west, but I highly recommend considering a vertical route. Either option is about 40 hours of total driving time, but there is a lot more to see and do if you start your trip in Seattle and head south to California. The North to South route is far more scenic and you can plan a route to pass through many of the best National Parks in the US including, Yellowstone, Arches, Bryce, Zion and the Grand Canyon.


Bryce Canyon National Park

2. Do it in September or early October

My favorite time to travel is in September-October after the summer crowds are gone. California and Utah typically have fantastic weather in the early fall and prices at hotels and Airbnb’s are usually lower. Spring trips can be great for avoiding the crowds too, but parks like Yellowstone can be impassable in the Spring before the snow melts. 


Delicate Arch: Arches National Park

3. Make reservations with flexible cancelation policies

Airbnb and Travelocity both have great filters you can use to search for accommodations with “flexible cancellation policies.” These can be a life saver when you’re driving across country. With Covid still causing problems for travelers, I would strongly recommend only booking rooms that allow you to cancel without losing your deposit.


Red Rock Canyon: Las Vegas, Nevada

4. Book everything with a Credit Card

You have more flexibility when you book with a credit card. Credit cards usually offer a lot more protection from fraud. For example, if you rent a car and the rental company accuses you of damaging the rental vehicle, your credit card company will often provide some additional coverage that may partially cover you, where a debit card would offer zero protection.


Zion National Park, view from Angel's Landing

5. Don’t’ try to cram in too much

If you have two weeks to do the ultimate road trip, don’t try to fit 20 destinations into a 20 day trip. You’ll want to get out of the car and spend at least 2-3 days in a park like Yellowstone or in a city like Las Vegas. Ideally, I would spend 2 nights in most of the locations on my route.


Snoqualmie Falls, Washington State


 Here’s my route for the Ultimate Cross country trip: Ideally, I would spread it out over 20 days. Fly into Seattle and Fly out of Los Angeles. If you wanted to cut it down to 2 weeks, you could fly into Salt Lake City and cut out the Northern part of the trip.


Seattle Washington

Missoula Montana

Yellowstone National Park

Jackson Hole Wyoming

Arches National Park, Moab

Bryce Canyon National Park

Zion National Park

South Rim at Grand Canyon National Park

Las Vegas Nevada

Santa Monica California


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