I am so pleased to say that my sister and I made it all the way from Atlanta, Georgia to Santa Monica, California. We drove across the country over seven days and could not be happier with how smoothly the trip went. My mom, sister, and I did a ton of research before leaving to make sure that everything would go according to plan and I definitely have a huge list of tips and tricks that I hope will assist you in your own travels.
I wanted to share my full itinerary with you now that we are done, so that you can follow it if you choose! I have made three posts about each leg of the trip where you can read all about the places we stopped (including restaurants and hotels). We drove on I-40 from Memphis pretty much all the way to California which was a great highway and I definitely recommend using it.
Day One: Atlanta, GA to Memphis, TN (Stops made in Birmingham, AL and Tupelo, MS)
Day Two: Memphis, TN to Oklahoma City, OK (Stop made in Little Rock, AR)
Day Three: Oklahoma City, OK to Amarillo, TX (Stops made in El Reno and Elk City, OK)
Day Four: Amarillo, TX to Albuquerque, NM (Stop made in Tucumcari, NM)
Day Five: Albuquerque, NM to Grand Canyon, AZ (Stop made in Petrified Forest National Park)
Day Six: Grand Canyon, AZ to Las Vegas, NV (Stop made in Kingman, AZ)
Day Seven: Las Vegas, NV to Santa Monica, CA (Stop made in Baker, CA)
2 Months Prior To Your Trip
Now I am definitely a bit of a procrastinator, so if you want to get started earlier on, then feel free. I found that two months was the perfect amount of time to plan this weeklong journey. For my trip, I was actually moving across the country so I needed to pack up all of my things and arrange all of the little details one must consider before a move! But if you're just leaving home and coming back, here's what you should do two (or more) months before.
- Determine which cities you'll be stopping through
- Book your accommodations (or research campsites)
- Create a travel budget
- Purchase any equipment you know you will need (sporting gear, snow gear etc.)
1 Month Prior To Your Trip
When you are in that one month period, there is a lot you can do to make sure your trip will be well-organized.
- Create a travel binder (or organize your confirmation numbers & important info on your phone)
- Take your vehicle into an auto shop for a full inspection
- Start tracking your finances using your budget
- Arrange pet care for the duration of your trip if necessary
- Arrange for someone to pick up your mail for you at home if necessary
- Purchase any travel items or toiletries you may need to bring
1 Week Prior To Your Trip
When you are in the one week homestretch, get all of those last minute details in order.
- Pack up your vehicle (view my full packing list here).
- Gather any important documents you may need
- Buy or print physical maps & download offline GPS maps (I use Google Maps)
- Finalize any arrangements for pets & home care while you're gone
13 TIPS & TRICKS I LEARNED ALONG THE WAY
- Pack snacks in your car as well as reusable water bottles and coffee cups
- Set your phones (and car if possible) to automatically change time zones
- Wear sneakers while driving (they are surprisingly more comfortable than sandals)
- Choose something to collect along the way in each city (pins, patches, postcards, photos, oh my!)
- Create collaborative playlists on Spotify to use with your fellow passengers so no one gets annoyed listening to music they hate
- Bring your own shampoo & conditioner because the hotel stuff sucks!
- Keep a trash bag in your car for gathering up the inevitable garbage that accumulates along the way
- Bring tissues, wet wipes, and hand sanitizer in your car
- Pack cameras! I brought a Polaroid, film camera, and DSLR. I mostly ended up using my film camera and iPhone though.
- If you don't like audiobooks or podcasts, try musicals! You can listen to a musical for a solid two hours and the time flies so quickly - especially if you pick something long and epic like Hamilton or Les Miserables.
- Use Instagram to find restaurants, shops, and photo ops! Search their location tags and city hashtags for the best local spots!
- Pull over for roadside attractions even if they're not in your plan. All of these little gems are what make the USA such a fun country to drive across.
- Take lots of photos and videos, or journal in a notebook along the way! Having those memories captured is so worth it.
My advice to you is this: take it slow and go with the flow. Road trips are all about spontaneity. Make sure to create a plan for your trip, but don't be afraid to throw it all out if an awesome opportunity presents itself. My sister and I weren't planning to go to the Grand Canyon but we changed our route and it ended up being one of our favorite stops along the way. If you have any questions please feel free to leave them below or send them to me on Instagram.