If you’re considering a cross-country drive across the Contiguous United States then you’re spoilt for choice, and with 48 States to consider, it can prove difficult to plan your starting and ending points, and locations to stop off at in between.
Luckily, there’s much going on throughout the US. When planning a point-to-point drive throughout the country, there’s something for everyone, from scenic, coastal routes to upbeat, urban environments.
With that being said, let’s run through how long it takes to drive across America, including tried and tested routes, and more creative and adventurous ideas.
The main advantage of driving across the US is that there are so many routes to take and places to visit. In general, cross-country drives in the North take between 45-50 hours or six 8-hour days, and in the South, they take 36-40 hours or five 8-hour days. Shorter trips include driving the West Coast, taking 21 hours or 3 days to complete.
Road trips in the North
The US is wider in the North than the South, and traveling across the country in the North, on average, takes between 45-50 hours.
Throughout your trip, compared to the South, you’ll pass urban and industrial areas, and if you’re looking for an upbeat adventure, you’ll be sure to find it here.
Boston, Massachusetts to Seattle, Washington
Driving from Boston to Seattle has a distance of 3,045 miles and a journey time of 46 hours. Along this route, you’ll pass skyscrapers, museums, sports stadiums, and countless other urban attractions and be spoiled for choice of places to visit.
- Day 1: Boston to Buffalo, 6.5 hours
- Day 2: Buffalo to Detroit, 4 hours
- Day 3: Detroit to Minneapolis, 11 hours
- Day 4: Minneapolis to West Fargo, 3.5 hours
- Day 5: West Fargo to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, 5 hours
- Day 6: Theodore Roosevelt National Park to Missoula, 9 hours
- Day 7: Missoula to Seattle, 7 hours
Seattle, Washington to New York
This road trip showcases the best of both worlds, from serene landscapes to densely populated cities. Along this route, you’ll cover sections of the Great Northern road trip, taking U.S. Highway 2 for a decent chunk of the journey and passing through natural settings that will take your breath away!
Then, instead of continuing the Great Northern route and passing through Canada, you’ll swing down to the urban environments of Detroit and New York to finish your journey, with a distance of 3288 miles and a 47-hour 30-minute journey time.
- Day 1: Seattle to Glacier National Park, 9 hours
- Day 2: Glacier National Park to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, 9 hours
- Day 3: Theodore Roosevelt National Park to Duluth, 9 hours
- Day 4 Duluth to Michigan Upper Peninsula, 4 hours 30 minutes
- Day 5: Michigan Upper Peninsula, to Detroit, 7 hours
- Day 6: Detroit, to New York, 9 hours
Road trips in the South
Road trips in the South will generally take less time than in the North because there is less ground to cover, and on average, you’ll be driving for 35-40 hours.
On your drive, you’ll encounter unique cultural and historical heritage, distinct accents and music, mountainous landscapes, vibrant cities, and other surprises that make up the southern states.
Jacksonville, Florida to Los Angeles, California
This road trip covers a distance of 2,416 miles and takes approximately 36 hours to complete. From coastline to coastline, it’s one of the shorter routes to drive across the mainland US. There’s plenty to do and see along the way, and it’s a great drive for the whole family.
If you were to drive constantly, this trip would take you 2-3 days to complete, but realistically, you’ll need five days. This includes stop-offs at the below locations.
- Day 1 Jacksonville to Pensacola, 5.5 hours
- Day 2 Pensacola to Houston, 7.5 hours
- Day 3 Houston to Fort Stockton, 7.5 hours
- Day 4 Fort Stockton to Tucson, 8 hours
- Day 5 Tucson to Los Angeles 7.5 hours
San Diego, California to Key West, Florida
One of the longest road trips you can drive in the South is between San Diego’s 70-mile stretch of coastline to the southernmost point in the Continental U.S. in Key West. This trip has a distance of 2,813 miles and a travel time of roughly 42 hours.
To comfortably drive this route, you’ll need approximately six days (or more), with overnight stop-offs at convenient locations.
- Day 1: San Diego to Tucson, 6 hours
- Day 2: Tucson to Fort Stockton, 8 hours
- Day 3: Fort Stockton to Austin, 5 hours
- Day 4: Austin to Pensacola, 10.5 hours
- Day 5 Pensacola to Orlando, 7 hours
- Day 6: Orlando to Key West, 6.5 hours
Driving the West Coast
The Pacific Coast Highway runs from North to South and is suitable for those looking for a shorter trip across US land. You’ll experience vast open landscapes and many well know beaches along the Greater Los Angeles coastline.
The journey runs from Seattle, Washington to San Diego, California, with a distance of 1,255 miles and a driving time of 21 hours, which will take you three days to comfortably complete.
- Day 1: Seattle to Ashland, 7 hours 30 minutes
- Day 2: Ashland to Modesto, 6 hours
- Day 3: Modesto to San Diego, 7 hours 30 minutes
Other road trips to consider
In the US, 11 classic cross-country drives cover a distance of 35,000 miles of American soil, and you’ll have a vast selection of routes to choose from.
Below are a select few that you might want to consider.
Route 66 runs from the Northeast to the Southwest of the US and has been described as an “epic adventure,” featured on countless bucket lists throughout the years. It was one of the original numbered highways in the U.S. and currently runs from downtown Chicago to Santa Monica pier in California.
The route has been slightly altered throughout the years. Some original sections of the highway have been modified for secondary use, or are now abandoned dirt roads, and inaccessible to tourists. Yet modern improvements have kept the route alive, with sections resurfaced, made wider, and with kinder curves.
Along the route, you’ll pass through eight States, which are Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.
It has a distance of 2448 miles and a driving time of roughly 45-50 hours. However, completing the drive takes up to 2 weeks to complete due to lower speed limits and passing through residential sections such as speed-restricted towns.
U.S. Route 50 (including The Loneliest Road in America)
Driving through the middle of the US mainland, U.S. Route 50 is a fully paved transcontinental highway in the United States, running from the West in Sacramento, California, East to Ocean City, Maryland.
It includes a 410-mile section through Nevada known as “The Loneliest Road in America,” where you’ll encounter desolate areas where you’ll find few signs of civilization in any direction aside from the road itself.
Along your journey, you’ll run through 12 States, which are California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, the District of Columbia, and Maryland.
The route covers 3,000 miles and will take 40 hours to complete.
Preparing for your drive across America
Considering a road trip can take weeks to complete, it’s best to be prepared for any emergencies or unexpected events that you might encounter along the way.
- Carry documents such as your driving license, and make sure you’re fully insured, protecting you against unfortunate events such as accidents. Additionally, think about purchasing a AAA roadside assistance membership for assistance in the unfortunate event of an emergency breakdown.
- Car health checks before leaving, such as properly inflated tires and correct oil and water levels.
- Bring an emergency travel kit with you. This may include a spare tire, first aid supplies, luminous vests, snacks, a flashlight, and a spare can of gas in case a fueling station is nowhere to be found.
- Travel with essentials. Extra weight equals extra fuel usage and stress on the car, tires, suspension, etc. Make sure to consider the items you’re taking with you.
- Take your travel credit cards with you, as many offer bonus points that can help save on gas, restaurants, hotels, and so on.
- Use applications such as Google Maps, which can help you navigate the roads around you and show upcoming points of interest, such as fueling stations, restaurants, and hotels.
If you’re thinking of taking a road trip across the US, then you have many options available. You can play it safe and drive a tried and tested route such as Route 66, or, from North to South on The Pacific Coast Highway, sit back, relax and enjoy the scenic views.
Or, for the ultimate experience, if you’re feeling adventurous and have a few weeks spare, you can choose to plan your itinerary, running through a multitude of different environments that the US has to offer, including stop-off points at famous locations along the way, making for a road trip you’ll never forget!