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How to Make the Most of Your Cross-Country Road Trip

So many places, so little time.

By: Karin Victoria Peck + Save to a List

When I had the opportunity to move from NYC to San Diego, I did what any rational human would do. I summoned by bestie to co-pilot a one week cross-country road trip. Here are some tips for making the most of yours if you have the chance to do so.

1. Figure out what your must-do stops are. 

Prioritize! Once you pick out your must-do's, your route will take shape. Then, be sure to pick out some other options that you can maybe do, time permitting. For us, we knew we wanted to visit friends in Boulder, go to a Jack Johnson concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater, stay in Moab, hike the Narrows at Zion NP, tour Antelope Canyon, and see the Grand Canyon. For the rest of our time, we just filled in the blanks with our still-amazing-second-tier picks like hiking to the Delicate Arch in Arches NP, snapping some quick pics at Bryce NP, and visiting a brewery that makes some of our fave beers. 

Narrows at Zion

2. Be realistic about the time you have and how long each stop will take. 

Once you have your must-do's, make sure to anticipate how long each stop should take. I highly recommend the app Roadtrippers. It's great at finding places to eat, sleep, hike, sightsee, etc. along your route. This is when you can add dates to your plans, check out the anticipated driving times for each leg of your trip, and make some hotel and campground rezzies to help keep your plans on track. And, of course, use The Outbound's app to find the best adventures along the way.

Delicate Arch

3. Leave some margin for mishaps.

I'll admit, I'm a planner. But there's nothing worse than spending all your time glancing at your watch, worrying if you can make it all work out. Definitely don't jam pack your days SO tight that you can't deviate from the plan or make necessary adjustments after some unexpected turns. Traffic happens. So do hangovers (I still blame the elevation at Red Rocks). Torrential downpours could crush your camping plans. Embrace it. Maybe knock out a couple sets of lunges in the fitness section of Walmart during a 70 mph wind/hail storm in the middle of Nebraska that will leave you stranded for an hour. Jus sayin'. 

Antelope Canyon

Driving across country is the opportunity of a lifetime. There are undoubtedly going to be some super long days behind the wheel, make sure to have some fun with it! Last but not least, shout outs to my girl, Chelsea Handler, and her audio books for getting us through those endless, cornfield-filled days.


We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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