Sometimes, you want to get a feel for what a country is really like. So, if you have the time, taking a road trip across the US is a great way to see the country as a whole (as opposed to only visiting New York City or Miami). It will allow you to see what the US is really like and how it differs region to region. But even if you can only travel north to south in one part of the country instead of from coast to coast, you’ll still get a better idea of the US than if you were only to visit the above-mentioned cities.
Picking a Route
Before you rent a car and head off, you’ll want to plan your route in advance so you hit all of the destinations you want to see. But keep in mind that you may have to make some sacrifices. Depending on how much time you have, you likely won’t be able to see it all — the US is about 40 times the size of the UK. Some of the most popular US cities for international travelers include New York City, Miami, Orlando, Austin, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
If you’re more interested in the western states, for example, then you might want to pick a route that goes along the coast from Seattle, Washington to San Diego, California. That route will allow you to easily see Portland, Oregan; the Redwood trees in California; Sacramento, San Francisco, and Los Angeles; and Yosemite National Park. If you have time to travel farther inland, another route you could take could go from Seattle to Glacier National Park in Montana to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Then you could head to Denver, Colorado, followed by Sante Fe, New Mexico, and head through Arizona to Las Vegas, Nevada, and then back to the coast. You could also check out Lake Tahoe and Salt Lake City, Utah.
Where to Stop
image: Trent Szmolnik
For the sake of consistency, let’s take a look at a few must-see road trip destinations in the western US: Las Vegas, Nevada; Lake Tahoe in California; and San Francisco, California. Vegas, for example, is a popular destination for international travelers, and sees tens of millions of visitors per year. To make sure you enjoy what the place has to offer without spending all your cash (so you can still enjoy plenty of other stops on your trip), check Groupon or Priceline for deals on hotels, Tix4Tonight for deals on shows, and restaurants’ special offers during unpopular meal times. And don’t forget to hit up a casino or two.
Next, Lake Tahoe is a popular vacation spot for Californians, Nevadans, and beyond — many come from all over the US or the world to indulge in some summer or winter sports. It’s an incredibly beautiful area that you must see if you have the chance. At the least, drive through the mountains, go for a hike, and visit Emerald Bay.
Last, San Francisco is home to one of the most recognizable bridges in the world: the Golden Gate Bridge. San Francisco is only about a three hour drive from Lake Tahoe, so you can’t go to either place without a trip to the other. There’s plenty to do, eat, and see in San Francisco. If you can, visit Alcatraz Island. And if you’re interested in wine, definitely do a day trip to Napa Valley — it’s only an hour north of the city.
Some Final Thoughts
No matter where you go, make sure to make an extensive musical playlist beforehand, and download audiobooks and podcasts. Even if you have a good international data plan, many areas of the US have spotty reception, so you don’t want to rely solely on streaming music or podcasts to get you through the trip. Stock up on plenty of snacks and beverages (like water) too — there might be long gaps on the road between convenience stores or restaurants. And pay more attention to gas stations out west, where they’re often more spaced out.