Moving across the country doesn’t have to be a drag! In fact, turning a cross country move into a fun road trip is easier than you might think.
The United States is full of many wonderful cities that boast vast stretches of stunning landscapes, historic landmarks, and incredible shopping and dining opportunities. Moving across the country creates a perfect excuse to hit some of these spots, visit family and friends, and make the most of driving hundreds or even thousands of miles.
Time to get started with packing and planning. Here are our tips for turning a cross country move into a fun road trip.
Packing Checklist For Your Cross-Country Road Trip
First, here’s our checklist of car essentials, from what important documents to keep with you to what you need to stay sane and safe.
Documents that you need to keep with you:
- Valid driver’s license for everyone who will be driving on this trip
- Current proof of insurance and registration
- Car manual
- Rental agreement, if applicable
In case of mechanical issues, bad weather conditions, or an accident:
- Spare tire
- Jumper cables
- Emergency roadside kit (e.g., flashlight, reflective vest, and window breaker)
- First-aid kit with basic medical supplies, like bandages, gauze, antiseptic wipes, and OTC pain relievers
- Printed map of your directions (in case you experience a problem with your GPS)
- Snow shovel and ice scraper, if applicable
- Umbrella and/or raincoat
To keep the car organized and clean:
- Trash bags
- Paper towels
- Disposable wipes
- Hand sanitizer
Possible food, drinks, and storage products to keep on hand:
- Bottled water
- Juice for the kids
- Easy-to-eat snacks like granola bars, fruit, or nuts
- Pre-made, non-fussy food for the cooler (e.g., sandwiches, pasta, or chicken salad)
- Ice chest for the perishables
- Sealable bags in several sizes for snacks and leftovers
- Travel mug
- Paper plates, bowls, and/or plasticware
Some technology to pass the time:
- Earbuds or headphones
- Phones and their chargers
- Laptops and their chargers
- Tablets and their chargers
- Reading devices and their chargers
Personal items to remember:
- Several changes of clothes
- Prescribed medications
- Travel toiletry kit
- Toothpaste and toothbrushes
- Cash for toll roads and in case of an emergency
For babies and toddlers:
- Car seat
- Car seat organizer for snacks, etc.
- Changes of clothes
- Portable potty, if potty trained
- Pack ‘n Play for overnight stays
- Books or toys
- Sippy cup
- Coloring books
And don’t forget your pets’ necessities:
- Vaccination records
- ID tags
- Carrier or a crate
- Food and water dishes
- A few days’ worth of food
- Kitty litter box, litter, and scoop (for cats)
- Harness and leash (for dogs)
- Waste elimination bags
- Blankets or towels
- Grooming supplies
Make your road trip extra comfortable:
- UV shades for windows
- Portable fan
- Travel pillow or blanket
Why You Want To Drive Cross Country, Instead of Fly
There are several advantages to driving long distances, as opposed to flying:
- Driving is less expensive than flying. Plane tickets can cost hundreds of dollars and become a serious expense if all members of the family are flying. Even with paying for gas, food, and lodging on the road, driving will still be less expensive than flying.
- Driving gives you more flexibility. Stop and go as you please — on your timeline! Sure, flying is quicker, but if you’re not pressed for time, you can make some amazing memories while you experience the beauty of this country.
- Driving allows you to bring all of your belongings. You can pack up your car or truck as much or as little as you want, unrestrained by the airline’s luggage regulations.
- Driving is better than flying for your pets. Driving with dogs, cats, birds, fish, or other pets is usually the preferred option when you move cross country. First, driving allows your pet to stay in a more controlled and familiar environment. Second, it also means that they can take breaks as needed.
- Driving can save you money on moving your car. If you need to move your car to a new location, consider driving it. Shipping a car across the country is not cheap and can take at least a week or longer.
Important Tips For Turning a Cross Country Move Into a Fun Road Trip
By budgeting and planning for your road trip, you’ll enjoy your ride more. Here are some important tips for road tripping to your new home.
Plan your driving route
Before you hit the road, plan your route in advance. It could be the fastest option — just getting to your new home — or your trip could include stops you want to make along the way. Factor in rush hours, road construction, and other unforeseen delays. To cover all your bases, figure out the alternative routes just in case. Are you traveling in the winter? Expect precarious road conditions due to snow and ice. Driving during hurricane season? Beware of the risk of flooding and heavy winds.
And don’t forget that navigating a cross-country drive in a large truck is very different than a road trip in a standard car. You may want to avoid certain routes, such as those that go through the mountains or take you far away from service stations and other amenities.
Download driving apps and bring a physical map
GPS will be your best friend on the trip. Having apps like Google Maps or Waze on your phone is crucial. Not only it will help you navigate the roads and highways, but these apps also can tell you about the construction, traffic conditions, and the restaurants near you. Don’t hesitate to familiarize yourself with a driving app before you start your moving road trip.
We recommend downloading or printing a copy of the map, as well. That way, you’ll be able to access it even if you no longer have cell phone service or if something happens to your electronic devices.
Budget for your road trip
When budgeting, consider your meals and overnight stops, which should be booked before you leave. Even if you don’t plan to eat anything but fast food, you’ll need a ballpark estimate of your spending. Gas station purchases, like coffee and snacks, should also be included in your final calculation.
Then, there’s gas budgeting. It might not be exact due to the ever-fluctuating gas prices, but you can at least calculate an estimate based on gas mileage and the average cost of current gas prices. If you are driving a moving truck, expect to get about 18 miles per gallon (mpg) for a cargo van, 12 mpg for a 10-foot truck, and 10 mpg for a 26-foot truck. If the moving company you’re renting the truck from expects it returned with a full tank of gas, factor that into the costs, too.
Book your lodging ahead of time
Speaking of overnight stays, book all of your accommodations in advance unless you plan to sleep in your car or truck. By getting all your ducks in a row ahead of time, you won’t have to stress out about finding a place at the last minute and will most likely get better pricing.
Look at the local hotels and motels, but also check Airbnb and Vrbo for additional options. You might even be able to save a couple of bucks if you have friends and family in the area. Whatever you do, take care of the arrangements prior to hitting the road.
Get your car serviced, or inspect your rented moving truck
This step is a must, especially if it’s been a while since your vehicle’s last checkup. Having your car in the best condition possible will prevent accidents, car trouble, or other delays along the way. At the very least, have the following checked: your car’s tire pressure, brakes, fluid levels, battery, and tech features. Double check all mirrors, locks, lights, signals, and other features and make sure that they’re in working condition.
If you rent a moving truck, thoroughly inspect it before driving off to the rental pickup location. As with your own car, take a look a the mirrors, locks, lights, and signals. Keep an eye out for any damages, so that you won’t be held liable for those later.
Prepare snacks and food for the cooler
Traveling for multiple days can already leave you feeling sluggish. The last thing you want to do is fuel moving exhaustion and stress with food that doesn’t leave you feeling fulfilled. Prep your meals and snacks in advance. You’ll thank yourself later since the offerings at gas stations and fast food drive-thrus can quickly take a toll on your budget.
Stock up on easy-to-pack choices, like granola bars, nuts, yogurt, or sandwiches. Choose foods that are easy to eat on the road and don’t require any cooking or assembly. Don’t forget to stock the car or truck with plenty of water too.
Double check to make sure you have all you need
Use the checklists provided above to make sure you have everything you need before you hit the road. Some items are optional, like food, but others are non-negotiable, such as your license, registration, and insurance information. There are a few suggestions listed that are even situational, including those items for babies and toddlers.
It’s important to compile the applicable items on our lists into a master list to ensure you’re kept comfortable until you arrive at your final destination. Trust us. You’ll feel better being prepared in the long run.
Tips on How To Make Your Cross-Country Moving Road Trip Extra Fun
- Bring a friend. Driving cross country means you’ll be covering hundreds or thousands of miles, so it might be helpful to have a friend come with you. You can split up the driving and have the pleasure of each other’s company.
- Download media before the trip. Get all the entertainment you need before your road trip starts. Consider downloading playlists, audiobooks, podcasts, and videos or movies to keep the kids entertained, especially if you don’t want to deplete your data.
- Play games, or bring toys, books, and coloring supplies. If you are driving with kids, download some games they like to whatever devices they’ll be using. Bring crayons, books, and toys, too. During technology breaks, play I Spy, the license plate game, the alphabet game, or road-trip bingo.
- Take a scenic route. America is a gorgeous country with lots of interesting attractions, offbeat destinations, and natural beauty to offer. If you can swing it, look into what you can see and do en route. To plan a fun route, try Roadtrippers, Lonely Planet, or Roadtrip America.
- Maximize your stops. Whenever you stop to get gas or for a bathroom break, try to stretch and stock up if you need any food, snacks, or water. If there’s a green space available, it’s also a good idea to let your dog and kids out to stretch and play.
- Get dinner somewhere nice. Sure, packing your own food and drinks will save you time and money, but be sure to plan at least one stop at a nice, sit-down restaurant to recharge your batteries.
- Take lots of photos. Chances are this is your first time driving across the country. Document your trip and appreciate all of the moments with some photographs.
Additional Tips For Your Moving Road Trip
- Pack your car or truck wisely. When you pack your vehicle, allow some space for foot and elbow room. Even though you should keep everything within easy reach, limit the amount of stuff both in the back and the front of the cab to only the necessities.
- Don’t visit popular attractions on busy days. Sure, you want to have fun on your cross-country road trip, but there’s nothing more stressful than big crowds. Major holidays, weekends, and school breaks mean that places are packed, and parking is scarce. So, avoid popular attractions on these busier days.
- Pack extra toilet paper. It might sound like you’re being overcautious, but roadside restrooms are notorious for running out of toilet paper. Stay prepared and bring your own.
- Pack extra water. Water is essential every day, but it is especially important on your road trip. You never know when you might get thirsty, and it’s even worse when there is nowhere to stop for miles.
- Keep your vehicle clean. Garbage and clutter can quickly feel overwhelming and demoralizing. It can even be dangerous if it gets under the driver’s foot, or your kids or pets get access to something they shouldn’t. Pack garbage bags and smaller plastic bags to dispose of your trash in a safe and ethical way.
- Get a rooftop cargo carrier. Rooftop cargo carriers come in different shapes and sizes and should fit on any vehicle with roof rails. Even a small carrier will free up some much-needed space inside the car.
- Wear comfortable shoes. You’ll be sitting a lot, and you might want to take your shoes off while driving. Something clunky or with shoelaces and straps can be annoying to put back on when you stop. Slip-on, well-fitting shoes are your best bet.
- Bring your bike. If you plan to stop somewhere to explore, like a trail in a national park, it might be a great chance to take a break from the car and get in some exercise. All you need is a bike and of course, a bike rack. It’s also a convenient way to transport your bike to your new home.
- Keep it positive. Mishaps and delays might happen, so try to relax and not stress if your car breaks down, you’re running behind schedule, or you get lost. Easier said than done, we know, but having a positive attitude will lead to less anxiety along the way.
Safety Tidbits For Your Moving Road Trip
Even when turning a cross country move into a fun road trip, safety is always a priority when you’re driving any vehicle. Take a look at these safety rules and guidelines.
- Load your belongings correctly. The key to safely packing and loading a moving truck is to distribute the weight evenly. Your largest and heaviest items should be located toward the cab and along the walls, with lighter items filling up the rest of the space.
- Drive at or below the speed limit. Your new home isn’t going anywhere, so there’s no need to rush. Take your time on the drive, observe speed limits, and even go below them when you’ve hit a difficult road. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.
- Keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you. Keep at least two car lengths worth of space between you and the vehicle in front of you. This will prevent accidents if there are any sudden stops.
- Pull over in bad weather. If visibility is bad or the roads are slippery, it’s always better to pull over. You’ll lose a bit of time, but you’ll be a lot safer. Be sure to turn on your hazard lights when you pull over so that other drivers can see you.
- Get roadside assistance service. Consider signing up for a roadside assistance service, like AAA. It can be a huge help should you break down or get into an accident on the road. Make sure the service is not limited to a certain area and that you can get assistance anywhere on your cross-country driving route.
- Learn the rules of the road for each state you’ll pass through. Different states have different laws, like speed limits and cell phone usage while driving. Don’t get caught unaware of the laws just because you’re in a different geography.
- Rest and don’t to drive all night. The general recommendation is to drive about 500 miles a day. Why? Because pulling all-nighters is exhausting and downright dangerous. If you need a rest, don’t just rely on coffee and energy drinks to see you through — call it a day or find somewhere that you can park safely and take a quick nap.
FAQs About Turning a Cross Country Move Into a Fun Road Trip
How do I make a cross-country drive fun?
There are so many ways that you can brighten up your cross-country moving road trip. Make some playlists to listen to, or download some podcasts or audiobooks. Bring entertainment for your kids and play games with them. If you can swing it, choose a scenic route and stop at some fun places along the way. Bring a friend with you to share the experience and split up the driving. And take lots of pictures — you’re creating memories!
How do I plan a cross-country moving road trip?
Start by planning your route depending on your time limitations and whether you want to make any stops to see attractions or visit friends and family. Then, figure out your budget, factoring in your overnight stops, meals, gas, and unexpected expenses. Book your lodging in advance and service your car. Finally, decide what items that you’ll bring with you on the road. What you’ll need to pack depends on whether you’re driving alone, or with family, kids, and/or pets. See our cross-country packing checklists above for your applicable situation.
Can I drive all day?
Generally speaking, it’s usually safe to drive for eight hours a day. If you consider the recommendation of taking a minimum 15-minute break every couple of hours, this means that you can cover about 500 miles per day. (This doesn’t account for traffic, of course.)
Is it cheaper to drive or fly when moving cross country?
Unless you score an unbelievably cheap ticket, have few belongings, and don’t need to ship your car, driving is typically a cheaper option than flying, even when you account for all the expenses on the road.
Ready for Your Cross-Country Move?
Get organized for your cross-country move by using Moving.com’s comprehensive Move Planner. It features customizable moving checklists, a personal tasks list, helpful recommendations, email reminders, and plenty of coupons.
When looking for the best moving company, refer to Moving.com’s guide to the best cross-country moving companies and our extensive network of reputable and reliable movers. All relocation companies in our network are licensed and insured, so you can rest assured that your move will be in good hands. Good luck, and happy moving!
Hopefully, you’ve found some insight from this article on turning a cross country move into a fun road trip. Now, you might want to check out these other guides and articles related to road tripping and cross country moving.
10 Road Trip Tips for Driving Across the Country
Your Moving Road Trip Checklist
The Best Driving Route From California to New York
25 Cross-Country Moving Tips That Will Save Your Sanity
13 Cheap Ways To Move Across the Country
21 Easy Moving Tips & Tricks
94 Moving Hacks for Faster, Easier, and Less Stressful Moves
Should You Fly or Drive When Moving Long Distance?
Driving a Moving Truck Across Country
A Checklist for Moving Out of State – Moving to Another State
Moving Out of State: What It Will Cost & How to Prepare
How to Establish Residency in a New State
Tips for a Smooth Move – How to Move Smoothly
5 Tips for Moving with Your Own Car
Best Way to Move: Is It Better to Hire Movers or Move Yourself?
A Pet Parent’s Guide to Moving with Pets
How to Transport a Dog in a Car: 8 Must-Follow Tips
Moving With Cats Cross Country: Tips and Advice
How to Transport a Bird in a Car
6 Steps to Safely Moving a Fish Tank