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  • Writer's pictureEsther Mehesz

Starting 2024 with a Cross-Country Road Trip: Exploring, Driving, and Embracing Adventure

Updated: Jan 27

Girl sitting on top of white jeep wrangler

Happy New Year!

With the onset of 2024, what better way to celebrate a fresh start and embrace the spirit of adventure than by embarking on an exhilarating cross-country road trip? For the past three years, I have made it my goal to travel to a new country/city/state at least once every. single. month. Well, it's time to do just that but it's a little different this time around.

Leaving behind the traditional resolutions, and my own "traditional" trips (we'll go into that more later), this trip will be empowering, a true test, and will allow me to explore the hidden gems of the US all while making some unforgettable memories along the way.

Trust me, no trip has ever been boring in my books.

In this blog post, I'll share how I initially went about planning this road trip with manageable drive lengths while ensuring that I saw incredible sights, stayed on the move, and kept accommodations all reasonable with amenities that were important to me. So buckle up, fuel up (you're going to need it), and let's hit the road! 

Steps to Planning a Road Trip

1. Organizing Your Route

To begin, charting a road trip route is crucial to ensure an efficient and enjoyable journey. I went about by selecting my desired destinations and landmarks along the way. I knew that my final destination was Los Angeles, and I had a date on which I wanted to reach LA in addition to wanting to avoid the coldest and snowiest of January across the US so I kept those factors in mind. From there, once I had a rough idea of the direction, next was to identify key attractions or cities in each state that I intended to visit.

Stippl map

What did this look like?

The app Stippl was a big help in planning my trip. It helped me visually plan the trip and lay it all out in a list. There's nothing worse than planning something wrong by a single day and then everything is messed up! Everything was broken down into days and nights and all the different stops and stopovers along the way.

Road trip planning
Planning my trip with Stippl

How to figure out what to do?

There's probably something that you're interested in and want to see! For example, I hadn't been back to Niagara Falls in years and honestly didn't remember much of it, so I knew that was someplace that I wanted to stop - and in the winter it would be a much different view! Then Chicago I've only had layovers, so that was something I was interested in, and wanted to see the bean! Then the Arch in St. Louis and there was always something interesting that I found as I started to plan it all out.

How else to figure out what to do when you're unsure?

Ask friends what they recommend, and start doing your homework and researching "iconic place in XYZ" and you'll be surprised with all the things that you find. Another great resource I love to use is, Get Your Guide, it always guides me into interesting things when I'm unsure and what I can expect in a new location. I don't always take the tours but sometimes they can be great! Other great places to look into are state tourism websites and forums to provide valuable insights into iconic landmarks, national parks, cultural spots, and local eateries that should not be missed. Also, take out your Google/Apple Maps, zoom in on a location, and see what pops up!

2. Managing Drive Lengths

While it might be tempting to drive long hours non-stop, it's essential to maintain a balance between driving and leisure time. Breaking down my journey into manageable drive lengths allowed me to avoid exhaustion and enjoy my surroundings. For me, what seemed reasonable was about 4-5 hours on average of driving per day.

This allowed me to keep at my morning routine without feeling rushed or tired, I was able to arrive at my new destination before it started getting dark, and most importantly I had a chance to explore attractions, stop at scenic viewpoints, and soak in the beauty of my surroundings. Don't forget to calculate the necessary fuel and bathroom stops along the way. For me and my car, that's every two hours - glad we're on the same schedule.

3. Sightseeing on the Go

To make the most of my cross-country road trip, I tried to maximize my experiences by sightseeing along the way too. Planning shorter detours or side trips to visit unmissable spots near my route made the day much more enjoyable and the driving went by quicker too.

This could be a national park, historic landmark, intriguing small towns, or captivating natural wonders. Keeping a flexible mindset and being open to new opportunities to capture stunning vistas, discover quirky roadside attractions, and indulge in local cuisine makes a trip all that much better.

4. Embracing Flexibility

Remember that one of the beauties of a road trip is the freedom to adapt and explore as you go. Rather than meticulously planning every aspect of your journey, allow for flexibility and spontaneous adventures. As much as I'm a planner and had more or less the hotels planned out to have structure rather than being stressed about what I'll come by the last minute, I was still able to embrace flexibility throughout the day. The new recommendations from fellow travelers, or intriguing off-the-beaten-path destinations make for some interesting memories and stories - embrace these uncertainties.

5. Utilizing Technology

To be honest, I have no clue how my parents had done road trips 20-30 years ago with just a map in their hands. I am not sure where I would end up if it wasn't for the help of technology (and how much I rely on it to get from A to B). But if we live in a world of technology, then use it! Use those apps to find the best route for you (I have yet to find someone who outsmarts Waze), nearby amenities, and even local events. Even when it came to finding accommodation, it was all done through apps. Here's how I went about planning accommodations for the road trip. We're in a time in the world when some hotels had digital keys available when it was time to check-in. As much as we can get overwhelmed by our phones, the technology they provide in making a road trip smoother is unexplainable.

As you dive headfirst into 2024, break away from tradition whether it be this winter or at some point throughout the year, and embrace the spirit of adventure with a cross-country road trip. By strategically planning your route, managing drive lengths, exploring along the way, and remaining flexible, you'll create an incredible experience that surpasses all expectations. Remember, the journey is just as important as the destination, so immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and tastes of new places. Even planning this road trip felt like the birthright to travel - needing to appreciate the time on the road just as much as being in the air.

Keep your seatbelts fastened because it's going to be one interesting road trip!

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