Every traveller should do a USA road trip at least once in their life.

The United States is the absolute best country for roadtrippers. It’s big but very drivable and the roads are excellent.

There is such a huge amount of diversity in America. Each state feels very different from the next, both in landscape and in culture.


NOTE: This post was originally written by a guest author, but Caz and Craig (founders of ytravelblog) have updated to include helpful information based on their experiences road tripping the US (5+ years, 11 months of that full time in an RV, 38 states covered. We’re now green card holdersliving in Raleigh NC, so are very knowledgeable on US travel)

Tips for Planning a USA Road Trip

Below are some of my top tips for planning a USA road trip to make sure you go in prepared and also make the most of your experience.

1. Understand the USA is a BIG Country

ford 250 on road in Snow Canyon State Park
Snow Canyon State Park

We were road-tripping in the US for over a year and still only covered 30 states! By the time we finished travelling we only hit around 40.

While we all go in with high expectations of seeing everything and doing everything on a cross country road trip, it’s not going to be possible. Unless you have two years at your disposal, you probably won’t get to see all 50 states.

If you’re limited on time, pick a section of the country rather than trying to cover a lot of ground.

There are some really good US road trips that you can do in under a couple of weeks if you don’t have time to drive across the whole country.

Here are some US road trip itineraries that we’ve done on our travels:

Check out our best road trips in the USA list, our East Coast road trips list, and best scenic drives in the USA for more inspiration

2. You Might Need A Visa for the US

A close up of a dry grass field
Canyonlands National Park

If you’re coming to the US for just a few weeks and flying in and out, no problem! You can enter under the Visa Waiver Program using an ESTA (electronic pre-approval).

If you want to stay longer than 90 days or if you plan on also visiting neighbouring countries, the US visa situation is a little complicated.

Once you hit US soil, your 90 days starts ticking but it does NOT reset if you cross the border to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean.

In fact, any time spent in these countries counts towards your 90 days in the US if you visit them after you entered America. You can apply for a 6-month tourist visa if you want to do a longer trip.

Here are the details of how we did it.

3. Note It’s Cheaper to Hire a Car in Advance on Local Sites

a canyon with purple and pink skies
Hopi Point Grand Canyon sunset

It’ll definitely be cheaper to book your rental car or rental RV before you leave for the USA on an Australia, UK or New Zealand car hire website.

Quotes from US car hire companies might look attractive but they do NOT include taxes or insurance, which are paid when you collect the car, so you’ll have to double them to get the true value of the rental.

We find the best prices for rentals come from UK sites because they include all the fees and insurance.

4. Know That Buying a Car in the USA Isn’t That Easy

Drive Through Tree, Redwoods, California
Drive Through Tree, Redwoods, California

…and it’s probably more trouble than it’s worth unless you’re spending at least six months road tripping.

In the US you have to register the car in a state, probably the one you purchase it in, and get insurance. Both of these things require a US address so if you’re lucky enough to have a friend or relative who can help you, it can be done.

We found only one insurer that would cover us as drivers with a foreign license and the insurance was $450 per month! We managed to negotiate it down to $200 per month after six months of driving with no accidents.

You MUST mention you have a foreign license when you buy your policy or you won’t be covered if you have an accident.

5. Don’t Bring Too Much Stuff from Home

rv trip ford 250 big bend national park
Road trip the USA

“Stuff” is cheap in America. Pack light or, better yet, come with an empty suitcase! Clothes, shoes, toiletries, electronics…it’s all cheap in the US.

If you need gear for your USA road trip, stock up at a Target or Walmart before you hit the road for items like a car seat, a GPS and a cooler. (Incidentally, it’s almost always cheaper to buy car seats and GPSs outright than it is to rent them with your car when travelling in the US.)

If you’re planning on camping on your road trip in America, find a REI store for all your gear or shop on Craigslist for second-hand supplies.

Bethaney, Reuben and Hazel from Flashpacker Family, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Bethaney, Reuben and Hazel from Flashpacker Family, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

6. Get A National Parks Pass For The Amazing National Parks in the USA

Upper Geyser, Yellowstone
Yellowstone National Park

One of my favourite aspects of travel in the USA are the amazing National Parks.

Some of the entrance fees are quite steep, up to $35 for the big parks like the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon. You can purchase an annual pass to cover the entrance to US National Parks for only $80.

Don’t forget about State Parks too. There are some incredibly interesting ones like Antelope Island in Utah.

State Parks usually have a smaller entrance fee, and are not covered on your National Parks pass.

By Y Travel Blog.

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