Road Trips

How to Plan a 6 month Road Trip: USA

Coastal roadtrips are awesome!
Written by Town & Tourist

A 6 month Road Trip across the USA is an experience of a lifetime! You will get to experience all the states you desire, but not feel rushed as you might do on a smaller road trip! In one our previous posts, Ultimate Motorcycle Road Trip: U.S.A: Coast to Coast!

One of our T&T community travelled coast to coast across the USA in an epic adventure.  The 48 State challenge is also rising in popularity! Renting an RV is a great option on an epic US road trip.

6 Month US Road Trip Map:

Dive into our interactive map below! 

User Guide: Use the +/- arrows to zoom in an out of the landmarks.

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Insider Tip:

For Our full 6 month Road trip Itinerary, head to the Itinerary Section further down. This epic plan can also be adapted for shorter road trips.

Planning a 6 Month Road Trip Across the USA

There are some key elements you need to consider when taking on a 6 month road trip across the USA:

  1. Time Scale/Time of Year: (6 months?) (Spring?)
  2. Budget: (Will you be in motels/camping or nice hotels?)
  3. People: Who are you travelling with? (Solo, couple or group of friends…you going to be on the road for 6 months so make sure these are people who you want to spend an experience of a lifetime with.
  4. Transport: (Rent a Car/RV, Buy one, Public Transport)
  5. Visa Requirements: If your from abroad the standard visa Wavier only allows 90 days.
  6. Essential Travel Gear
  7. Itinerary: (What cities/landmarks do you wish to see?)

Route 66 is the number one most Iconic American road and Historic Legend.

1. Time Scale/Time of Year 

6 Months is a long time to travel which means you can experience all of what the USA has to offer.

Be sure to plan in advance to make the most out of this time,

  1. Have you quit your job?
  2. Taken a Sabbatical?
  3. Do you plan to work while traveling?
  4. Is there a certain date you need to be back home for?

This all impacts the planning of this ultimate 6 month road trip.

Insider Tip:

You can even adapt the same plan we have here for a 1 month, 2 month, 3 month USA Road Trip!

Seasonality:

Seasonality is important when planning a road trip across america. As it’s such a vast continent that the weather can vary massively at the same time of year. For Example:

  • Arizona averages a daily maximum temperature in the Summer between 104 and 107 degrees Fahrenheit (40 to 42 degrees Celsius). Which isn’t nice!
  • Whereas, Washington State averages high-60s (20 C) which is pleasant for a road trip.

Be aware of where you want to visit, the best time of year there and plan your trip accordingly.

Best time of Year to do a 6 month road trip across the USA:

We believe the best time of year to start a 6 month road trip is spring or late Winter (If starting in the warmer western/Southern states).

We started our 6 Month road trip Early Spring (March) in Florida, before heading through the deep south, onto California and then looping around to New York City by August.  

We like Spring because you can start in the warmest place and then move towards the cooler states as summer comes. January/February are also great times to start in a warmer state.

For Example, Florida averages between 68 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (20 to 24 degrees Celsius) in January.

Insider Tip:

The National Parks are also less busy during the winter months.

Winter-Camping-Grand-Canyon-National-Park-camping

The Grand Canyon National Park is a real different experience during the winter! An incredible winter camping destination! Source: xanterra.com

For more info see: 20 Incredible Winter Camping Destinations: USA

2. Budget for Road Trip

Your road trip Budget is perhaps the most important thing you need to consider when doing a 6 month Road Trip across the USA. Ask yourself, how much available funds you have and organise a reserve pot incase anything goes wrong!

Everybody has there own version of an “ideal trip”, either way it can be done on a shoestring or wrapped with gold thread!

ROad trip with bus-Map-Couple

Checking out new spots on while taking a public transport road trip is a unique & Memorable experience! Especially for couples

What type of person are you?

A. Extreme Low Budget – Couch Surfing, Camping, Home stays, Car Share, Public Transport. You could even Hitchhike! Or use a Bicycle, if your into fitness!

Type of Person: You are an extreme adventurer. To you the experience is the funniest part. You keep costs ultra low by making friends, car sharing, staying on sofas etc.

B. Low Budget/Backpacker – Camping, Motels, Basic RV.

Type of Person: You are cost conscious, but still wish for a basic standard of reliability & living.

C. Medium Budget (Vacation) – Good RV, Hotels, Large Comfy Car.

Type of Person: This is ideal if you want more comfort and an extended Vacation with some adventure.

D. High Budget (Luxury Vacation) – Luxury Hotels, Luxury RV/Sports Car/Comfy 4×4)

Type of Person: You really wish to treat yourself! Luxury Hotels, Resorts, Spas and Comfort throughout. You may want to drive a mustang along Route 66 or do a bucket list experience or Tour.

We fell between B and C. We wanted comfort & reliability but was still smart & savvy about keeping costs low where possible. We camped out a couple of times, see 21 Unique Camping Destinations! Near Me! | U.S.A and stayed in a luxury ranch resort for a few nights: 10 Epic Ranch Holidays in the U.S.A

It’s all about Balance and what suits you & your road trip team.

3. People (Travel Buddies!) 

Your going to be traveling around the USA for 6 months! So make sure your with a good group of friends who are all on the same page.

Plan the road trip together as a group or couple and ensure everyone is heard and has there say on what type of trip they would like to go on.

Ensure everyone has the same budget and idea of what sort of luxury and comfort they wish for on the road trip. Then you must ensure the upfront fees are split fairly and won’t cause any issues down the line.

Popular Road Trip Groups:
A. Solo Road Tripper:

Advantages: 

  • Less Complicated:  Your in control of exactly what you want to do & see.
  • Meet new Friends:  As a solo traveller you are forced to sometimes be more outgoing than couples. Maybe you’ll stay in Hostels, coach surf and car share.
  • Easier to Plan: You only have to keep yourself happy!

Disadvantages:

  • Talking – No One to chat to while on long drives! Suppose you can phone friends/family.
  • Drive Swapping – No one to swap driving with, this can really put strain on the driver and also have the risk of you falling asleep at the wheel!
  • Photos – You must ask strangers to take photos of you! Which can be difficult on top of a mountain!  Or you can use a stand & timer. Check out our: Travel Photography Gear
Solo Road Tripping is most popular via Motorcycle.

Solo Road Tripping is most popular via Motorcycle. See: Ultimate Motorcycle Road Trip: U.S.A: Coast to Coast!

B. Couple

Advantages: 

  • Not as complicated as group trips. (You two can compromise on what each other wishes to see!)
  • Drive Swapping – When you get tired, just swap over and take a nap.
  • Chat Partner – It’s always good to share the adventure with someone.
  • Cost Effective – Cost can be split between two, Rental/Hotel/Food.
  • Romantic – There is something really romantic about having a road trip adventure as a couple. It can really bring you closer together.

Disadvantages: 

  • Compromise is required – Level of Luxury, Budget, where to eat etc. 
  • You may fight over the music playlist! 
C. Group of Friends

Advantages: 

  • Extreme Driver Swapping – You can cover 5 times the ground without having to stop at a hotel.
  • Most Cost Effective – The cost of a large RV can be split between you, or apartment rentals, Airbnb etc.
  • Fun & Entertaining – The more characters equals the most fun & adventure. The conversation will always flow.

Disadvantages: 

  • The Most complicated in terms of Planning. (Keep the whole group happy)
  • Arguments can spike – It’s inevitable that there will be a disagreement on something, where to see, eat or even what music is being played. Know how to defuse this so it won’t ruin the trip.
Road Trip with friends USA

Road Trip with friends USA

4. Transport

The type of transport comes down alot to Budget and your situation. Here are a few Options & what you should consider.

A. Train Journey 

Traveling by Train is one of the most scenic and easy ways of traveling around the USA. I recommend this for longer journeys if don’t want the big drive it also makes a great alternative to flying.

Traveling by train can also be more cost effective for longer journeys, such as Coast to Coast. The California Zephyr offers one of the most scenic train rides in the USA, with its glass dome car. Whereas the Route 66 train offers real wild west character & live buskers.

Check out: 

  1. How to Travel Coast to Coast USA by Train for $232?
  2. Ultimate Guide to the USA by Amtrak Trains
  3. Route 66 Amtrak Train Vacation: Epic Guide
  4. California Zephyr: Chicago to San Francisco
Southwest Chief route 66 train

Southwest Chief route 66 train. Source: Latimes.com

B. Public Transport/Coach 

Traveling by coach/bus has to be the most cost effective way of traveling around the USA. Greyhound is a popular coach provider and offer an increasing number of routes.

For Inspiration:

Nashville to Memphis: Public Transport Road Trip

Epic Public Transport Road Trip USA: Train/Bus!

For Bookings & price checks use our: Public Transport Booking Tools? Trains, Buses, Ferries!

C. Car/RV Rental 

Car Rental is arguably the most popular way of taking a road trip around the USA. You have full Independence, Insurance and Maintenance cover.

You can rent a larger/Newer car then your own to suit your road trip needs. An RV offers the ultimate way to travel around the USA in your own space while also keeping the costs low.

To get the best deals on Car Rental check out: Ultimate Car Rental Travel Hacks!

To Rent our RV, we used: Rv Share.

car rental travel hacks

car rental travel hacks

5. Visa Requirements 

If your a US Citizen you can skip to the next point, but if not listen up closely.

Visa Wavier Program (ESTA) 

According to US Customs & Border Protections:

“The VWP permits citizens of 38 countries to travel to the United States for business or tourism for stays of up to 90 days without a visa.

In return, those 38 countries must permit U.S. citizens and nationals to travel to their countries for a similar length of time without a visa for business or tourism purposes.”

Visit your local US Consulate for more information. But generally you will need to apply for a longer term visa.  You will need a B2 Visa for a longer stay, probably involving an interview at the Embassy or Consulate.

Insider Tip:

Worst case scenario you can head out to Canada or Mexico then come back into the US for another 90 day or 180 day visa.

6. 6 Month US Road Trip Itinerary 

Planning a 6 month Road trip across the USA requires you to really clarify what you wish to see and do.

We flew to Miami Airport, then explored Florida before traveling through Southern USA to Las Vegas, California & San Fransciso.

From San Francisco we drove to Yosemite National Park, but driving to Colorado, Yellowstone National Park and Seattle Washington .then into Canada to renew our visa.

We then headed back through Minnesota, Wisconsin and Chicago, Toronto & Niagara Falls before driving through New England, New York City,  Philadelphia and onto Atlanta, Georgia (Which has the busiest airport in the USA and was a great place to fly home.

Leg 1. Florida

Miami, Orlando, St Augustine and Key West is a great option!

For more info see: 

seven-mile-bridge-florida-united-states.jpg

seven-mile-bridge-Key west- florida-united-states.

Leg 2. New Orleans to Albuquerque 

New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Then onto Houston, Dallas and Oklahoma City. Before arriving in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

For more info see:  

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is the Largest Hot Air Balloon Festival in the World.

Leg 3: Phoenix to San Francisco 

This part of the road trip we drove from:

  1. Albuquerque, New Mexico
  2. Phoenix, Arizona,
  3. Grand Canyon National  Park
  4. Las Vegas
  5. Death Valley National Park 
Mesquite Flat sunset death valley california

Mesquite Flat sunset death valley california. Source: Gigi Ebert

6. Los Angeles, California 

7. San Francisco, California 

8. Yosemite National Park

Yosemite-National-Park-camping

Yosemite-National-Park-

For more info see:  

Leg 4: San Francisco to Calgary, CA

  1. San Francisco 
  2. Denver, Colorado 
  3. Yellowstone National Park 
  4. Seattle, Washington 
  5. Calgary, Canada 
Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, WY

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, WY | By Brocken Inaglory, via Wikimedia Commons.

For more info see:  

We saw the Washington State Kite Festival!

Leg 5: Calgary, CA to Chicago, Illinois 

  1. Calgary, CA
  2. Minneapolis, Minnesota
  3. Chicago, Illinois
chicago road trip

chicago road trip

For more info see: 

Chicago to Iowa Road Trip: Wicked Mid West!

Leg 6: Chicago to Maine Via Niagara Falls 

  1. Chicago, IL
  2. Detroit, MI
  3. Niagara Falls, CA 
  4. Niagara Falls, NY
  5. Maine 
New York City to Niagara Falls road trip

New York City to Niagara Falls road trip

For more info See:

Leg 7: Maine to New York City

  1. Maine
  2. Boston, MA
  3. Rhode Island 
  4. New York City, NY
Owls Head Lighthouse maine

Owls Head Lighthouse maine. source: pinterest

For more info see: 

Leg 8: New York City to Atlanta

  1. New York City
  2. Philadelphia 
  3. Washington D.C 
  4. Charlotte, NC
  5. Atlanta, GA
brooklyn-bridge-1791001_640

brooklyn-bridge-NYC

For more info see: 

Road Trip Savannah Georgia from New York )

A Road Trip Savannah Georgia from New York has some memorable drives through oak tree tunnels! Source: getty

7. Essential Travel Gear

Be sure you have all your Essential Travel Gear before taking an Epic Road trip!

A. Invest in a quality Travel Camera! 

Capturing the Memories of your bucket list road trip is essential. You will be able to show your friends, family and even grand kids all the wonderful photos captured. Thats not to mention Instagram, Facebook etc.

Photography Gear

Make sure you are equip with some great Photography Gear!

Yes an I Phone is “ok” but nothing on a high quality camera, trust me you can tell the difference.

For more info see, our recommend Travel Photography Gear

A high quality Tent & backpack can also be great investments to help you cut costs and have more of an adventure while traveling!

Other Travel Essentials  (Things You can’t travel without!)

Camping at Joshua Tree, Ryan Campground.California Winter Camping USA

Camping at Joshua Tree, Ryan Campground. Source:

 

 

About the author

Town & Tourist

A travel resource guide that has been carefully crafted and curated by travel bloggers to help you find the best places to travel to in the USA.