Planning Guide

Road Trip from San Francisco to New York

  • Big Apple
  • CNN at New York
  • Concrete Jungle of New York
  • Evening New York
  • Fresh Organic Juices
  • Hot Dogs in New York
  • New York City
  • New York Hotel
  • Outdoor Food at New York
  • Romance at New York

A cross-country road trip is a popular way of adventure travelling for all Americans, from 18 to 81. One of the best cross country trips is the drive from San Francisco to New York that promises picturesque fields, spectacular Rocky Mountains and a wide array of fascinating roadside attractions. There are several routes to choose from. If you are in a hurry consider driving from San Francisco to New York straight across the country in four or five days, following the shortest route that's nearly 3,000 miles long. If you have more free time, don’t miss a chance to explore numerous sights on your way, but be prepared to spend at least 10 days on the road. In order to take the most out of your destination road trip make sure to plan the best road trip stops and prepare the stuff you will need on the road. And equipped with driving maps of U.S., you can hit the road looking forward to enjoying an unforgettable road trip.

Items You Will Need

  • Maps
  • Credit cards
  • Cash
  • Water bottles
  • Snacks
  • Clothing
  • CDs

Step 1

If you choose the most direct route which runs from San Francisco to Teaneck, New Jersey, just a few miles outside of New York, you should follow Interstate 80 passing through or near Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Omaha, Chicago and Cleveland. When you arrive in Teaneck, merge onto I-95 across the George Washington Bridge and into Manhattan. If you prefer a more historical path, follow U.S. Route 101 south along the Pacific Coast until you reach Los Angeles; then follow the famed Route 66 northwest as far as Chicago, and then take I-80 the rest of the way. Or you may choose an off-the-beaten-path approach and build a road trip around visiting small towns and scenic routes. To do this you will need to purchase detailed maps of all 50 states and draw your own route out by hand.

Step 2

Before traveling across the USA by car, don’t forget to research what roadside attractions you would like to visit and plan all scenic stops you might have. For example you might want to stop at Salt Lake City to hike in the nearby mountains, or ask friends to recommend the best barbecue restaurants along your route and stop at each one for comparison. If you are eager to visit such kitschy sights as the world's largest yarn ball, then you would rather buy a book of roadside attractions or leave the interstate from time to time and ask locals about nearby sights. Those driving I-80 can visit the "world's largest dead polar bear" in Elko, Nevada, or the "world's largest truckstop" in Walcott, Iowa. If you are taking Route 66, visiting a mile-wide meteor crater near Winslow, Arizona is a must-see attraction. Or you may choose to stop by Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas and spray-paint 10 Cadillac cars that are half-buried in a field.

Step 3

Planning a long road trip, make sure you know where you are going to stay during your trip. If you plan to visit major cities, we recommend booking accommodation in advance, of course if you know exactly when and for how long you are going to be in a particular city. If you prefer a flexible schedule, look for budget inns and motels along the route. You can download a hotel app on your smart phone to quickly find out the location of all hotels and motels in your vicinity.

Step 4

Check whether your car is ready for a long-haul road trip. The best you can do is to take it to your mechanic for a full service. It is essential that the mechanic tops off all your fluids, checks the tire pressure, and examines all the belts and hoses for signs of fraying. Keep a spare tire in your trunk and learn how to change it, just in case. If you're traveling in autumn or winter, put snow tires on your car for the drive, as I-80 runs through high elevations that may be covered with snow and ice, and on the Northeast the weather may be snowy. If you prefer to keep your all-weather tires on, let the mechanic check that the treads are in good condition to handle any snow or rain you may run into. As a matter of precaution, join AAA if you're not already a member in case you break down on the road. And don’t forget to change your oil and check your tire pressure at least once in the middle of your trip.

Step 5

Pack for a road trip. You will need the CDs and audiobooks for entertainment on long days behind the wheel, and a bag with emergency snacks such as trail mix, peanut butter crackers and granola bars. You should also keep several bottles of water in your trunk. Keep more water as well as filling, nonperishable snacks within easy reach of the driver's seat. Take into account the weather conditions. Even if you're traveling in summer, keep in mind that nights may be cool in the Midwest and along the East Coast. That is why it would be a wise idea to pack a few pairs of long pants and at least one sweatshirt and light jacket. Tuck sandals in your luggage, but put on sneakers instead as sandals can accidentally get caught in the pedals. And finally fill your car's console with change to pay tolls.