Moving road trips 101: Tips for driving across the country
Ask someone to drive a backup vehicle
Moving trucks are pretty reliable, especially if you rent from a trustworthy company. However, it’s impossible to predict what will happen when you’re driving across the country.
Ask a friend or family member to follow your moving truck in your personal car (or theirs if you don’t have one). This way, you’ll be able to go get help if the truck breaks down or catches a flat in the middle of nowhere. If having a backup driver isn’t an option for you, our next tip is even more necessary.
Also, just because a car has never given you trouble doesn’t mean it’s fit to drive hundreds of miles in one go. Before moving day, take your backup vehicle to a mechanic for a tune-up.
Got extra cars?
If you have more cars than people that can drive them, you have a few options:
Prepare for emergencies with roadside assistance
When you rent your moving truck, you can also purchase roadside assistance from your rental company. For a long-distance move, you should always pay for this service.
However, it usually won’t cover roadside assistance for your personal vehicle. For your car, we recommend getting a AAA membership.
Estimate a realistic time frame
You should only plan on driving up to 500 miles a day. If you’re driving 1,500 miles to your new home, give yourself at least three days to make the journey. For a trip closer to 2,500 miles, give yourself five days.
It’s also important to get enough sleep en route since fatigue can make driving far less safe. It may be tempting to drive through the night to save time, but it’s not worth your safety. Budget for eight hours of sleep every night.
Learn the rules of the road for each state you’ll pass through
Every state has different laws for things like speed limits, driving while on the phone, and putting your kids in car seats. Avoid getting pulled over and fined by familiarizing yourself with the driving laws in every state you’ll go through.
Secure overnight parking for the moving truck
Call ahead to the hotels, Airbnbs, or campgrounds where you’ll be staying en route and ask if they have a space where you can park your moving truck overnight. Otherwise, you may find yourself unable to stop where you made a reservation.
This might go without saying, but you should also keep the cargo area and cab of your moving truck locked whenever you leave it unattended.
Moving with pets?
If you’re taking a furry or feathered friend on the road with you, pick hotels and Airbnbs that allow pets inside. You should never leave your animals in your car or moving truck overnight. For more info on getting your fur baby to your new home, read our guide to moving with pets.
Pack meals and snacks beforehand
If you only eat at restaurants and drive-thrus during your trip, you should expect to pay between $20 and $40 per person per day for food. These expenses can quickly bust your budget if you’re taking a week-long drive with several children. Also, long waits at restaurants can cut into valuable driving hours.
Save yourself some time and money by keeping sandwiches, snacks, drinks, fruit, and other goodies in a cooler you can easily reach without pulling over.
Stock up on entertainment
If you’re going to be driving for several days on end, you’ll need to manage boredom and cabin fever. The license plate game is only entertaining for so long.
Before moving day, download an audiobook the whole family can enjoy, put together a road trip playlist, and give every passenger a media device with headphones so they can plug in for some personal time. Coloring books, picture books, and plain old story books are solid low-tech alternatives.
If your car has a DVD player or Bluetooth screen, keep a few of the kids’ favorite movies on hand.
Pro tip: have a few options that aren’t Frozen, or you’ll be missing the license plate game by the end of your first day on the road.
Looking for good audiobooks?
Whether you’re looking for a thrilling murder-mystery, a steamy romance novel, or something a little more family-friendly, you can find the perfect audiobook for your trip with these resources:
Libby gives you access to ebooks and audiobooks from your local library free of charge. With Audible, the first month of your subscription is free. Cha-ching!
Put everything you need within arm’s reach
Riding in a car for too long will make anyone achy and irritable. You can manage this by getting out and stretching at rest stops for 15 minutes every two hours, but it’s also essential to make time in the car as comfy as possible. Bring plenty of blankets, pillows, sweaters, and even eye covers.
To manage headaches, cuts, or scrapes (kids, am I right?), keep a well-stocked first aid kit in the glove compartment.
Lastly, keep trash bags in the car and the cab of the moving truck for wrappers, chip bags, and fruit rinds.
Plan your route around interesting stops
While it’s important to get to your destination quickly, it’s also a good idea to build a little sightseeing into your journey. Stopping in interesting places can create lasting memories and give everyone a nice mental break from the road. Besides, how often do you get the opportunity to drive across the country? Make the most of it.
Here are a few suggestions for places to stop:
- Scenic views
- National parks
- Historic monuments
- Quirky shops
- City parks
Sites like Roadtrippers can help you plan your route. After a few days on the road, you’ll all be happy you took these little breaks.
Keep an eye on the truck's odometer
Most moving truck companies charge mileage rates for their trucks, so if you aren’t careful, you might get hit with a bigger bill for sightseeing off course.
To avoid this, plan stops that are directly along your route or leave the truck at your hotel while you sightsee in the backup car.
Avoid rush hour in big cities
Traffic can really throw a wrench in an otherwise productive day of driving. It’s impossible to plan for all traffic, but you can miss the bulk of it by avoiding big cities during rush hour.
Schedule your driving time so that you don’t get caught in metropolitan areas between 7 and 9 a.m. or 4 to 7 p.m. You can also use these times to make pit stops and get food.
Use paper maps in rural areas
Nowadays, you almost always have access to comprehensive digital maps at the touch of a button. However, if you’re driving through a deserted backcountry without data coverage, you could get lost if you’re relying on your phone to show you the way.
That’s why you should keep a print map of your route in your glove box. This way, you’ll always know where you are and where to go, even if you lose cell service.
Invest in walkie-talkies
They might seem outdated, but walkie-talkies are essential if you’re driving through a rural area and you need to communicate between the moving truck and the backup car. With a walkie-talkie in each vehicle, you’ll still be able to talk to each other if you have zero bars.
Be prepared to change plans
No matter how well you plan, you may still need to adjust your route or your schedule because of construction, traffic, or a flat tire. Keep a little extra money in your budget for emergencies and unplanned hotel stays.