There’s truly never been a better time to head across the pond and live the American dream!
- East Coast or West Coast?
- Must-see spots
- What to keep in mind
If there’s one place on the planet that feels like it was designed for driving, it has to be the USA. With its open highways and scenic terrain, every time you hit the road it feels like you’re in a movie.
But deciding how to plan a road trip can be a daunting task. The country is practically an entire continent! So, to help inspire your own American road trip, we’ve put together some suggestions.
First, you’ve got to decide whether you want to head to the East Coast or the West. More adventurous travellers will want to drive across the whole country. But we feel that focusing on one area for your road trip really helps you make the most of it.
So, fancy tasting some delicious lobster and then experiencing the city that never sleeps? It’s got to be the east coast for you. Feel like cruising along the ocean front in an open-top roadster and seeing the Golden Gate Bridge appear in the distance? The west coast is calling your name! Whether you’re a solo traveller, a couple or a family, have a look at our East and West coast guides below.
The East Coast
America’s East Coast is home to some of the world’s most iconic destinations; the presidential holiday resort of Martha’s Vineyard; the capital Washington D.C.; and of course, the concrete jungle of New York. It really does have something for everyone.
We suggest flying in to Boston to start your trip. Boston offers great access to loads of amazing destinations, so is the ideal starting place. From there, we suggest renting a car and heading out to sunny Cape Cod. After some time there, head back inland to Providence, Rhode Island. And finally, drive along the coast to the big apple and close out your trip in style!
After flying into Boston Logan and picking up a rental car, head out into the city. Boston is a beautiful city steeped in culture. For any history buffs, do a walking tour of Beacon Hill and Copley Square. Stop by Cambridge and see the iconic universities Harvard and MIT. And with a multitude of great hotels and restaurants, it’s the perfect place to kick off your road trip.
The Cape Cod peninsula extends out into the Atlantic and has some of the East Coast’s most beautiful views. Drive round the Cape and up to Provincetown for a truly authentic American experience. There’s nothing quite like the seafood in the Massachusetts and New England area, and Cape Cod is home to the some of the very freshest around!
From Cape Cod you can drive to Providence in around two hours. Providence is the state capital of Rhode Island, and is a truly scenic and exiting city. The downtown area is great for walking around and shopping, and the city has some amazing food stops for any foodies! You can even ditch the car for a while and do a foodie bike tour!
The city that needs no introduction! From Providence to New York it will take you just over three hours in the car. Whether it’s food, theatre, music or just stunning views you’re after, New York has it all. Find a hotel in the trendy meatpacking district and wonder around Soho and the East Village. Go shopping on the world-renowned Fifth Avenue. Catch a game at Yankee Stadium. Is there anything more authentic than watching the New York Yankees play while you’ve got some popcorn and a hot dog on your lap? And if you get the chance, check out Brooklyn. Manhattan is where you’ll get those iconic skyline snaps, but Brooklyn is a really trendy and alternative area, with fantastic restaurants and hotels.
If you wanted to extend your trip, there’s hundreds of other locations you could visit. A particular hidden gem is the town of Portland in Maine. Maine is definitely worth a visit if you have the time, so head North from Boston first if you can. Portland has some stunning boutique hotels and has an artistic and relaxed atmosphere. And if you plan on seeing more of the east coast, the iconic cities of Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and Miami are just a highway away!
The West Coast
America’s West Coast is one of the most recognisable locations on earth. From movies to postcards to keyrings, you can find images of Hollywood, San Francisco and the Pacific Ocean pretty much everywhere. And experiencing it on a road trip for yourself will live up to the hype! Just picture yourself in an open-top Cadillac, your sunglasses on and Bruce Springsteen blasting out of the radio…convinced yet?
The West Coast has some incredible cities all the way along it. But in order to make the most of your trip, we think there’s only one place you should be focusing on, and that’s California. Start off by flying in to San Francisco and picking up your car. After some days soaking up the San Fran sun, hit the Pacific Coast Highway for a journey like no other. Head south into Santa Barbara. From there, keep going into Los Angeles. And after you’ve lived the L.A. life, finish off in stunning San Diego.
We recommend staying in San Francisco for a few days to adapt to the time zone. And trust us, there are worse places to be staying while you adapt. It’s best to pick up your car at the end of your time in San Francisco – you won’t need one in the city as there’s loads of ways to get around, including the iconic street trams. San Francisco is home to some of America’s most exciting cuisine, so restaurant-lovers will be at home. Of course, there are the iconic sights like the Golden Gate Bridge and the winding Lombard Street, but why not check out some hidden gems too, like the Castro Movie Theatre or the Moss Beach Distillery.
Once you’ve picked up your car, head for Santa Barbara. This is quite a long drive, but luckily for you, it’s on the Pacific Highway, or State Route 1. This is perhaps the most beautiful road in America – the drive will be the highlight in itself! With quaint boutiques and restaurants offering local wines, Santa Barbara is the perfect place to relax and catch your breath after the hustle and bustle of San Francisco. And with the backdrop of the Santa Ynez Mountains, the landscape is unforgettable.
We recommend having the bulk of your road trip in L.A. It really is a unique city. Of course, there’s the glamour of Hollywood and the excitement of celebrity-spotting, but L.A. is so much more than what we see in the movies. Park up the car and stroll along Venice Beach. See the Getty Center Museum and its incredible art collection. Experience the cuisine of one of America’s most diverse cities.
To round off your all-American road trip, head to sunny San Diego. The tropical climate provides year-round sunshine, and the city has something for all the family. The San Diego Zoo is especially worth a visit, attracting visitors from across the world. But we imagine by this point in your road trip you’ll just want to relax and sip a cocktail under some palm trees…in which case San Diego will not disappoint!
If you get the chance along the way, check out California’s national parks. Yosemite is a particular highlight, with some of America’s most incredible views and wildlife. And if you have the time, you could head north towards Portland (Oregon) or Seattle (Washington). These two cities are renowned for their art and music scenes, and are a great alternative to a California trip if you prefer!
Things to keep in mind
Remember that our suggestions are just that, suggestions! While it’s important to have a plan for your road trip, you don’t have to stick to your itinerary word for word. In fact, it’s important you allow yourself a little bit of leeway in case you stumble across hidden gems or roadside attractions that you can’t find in the tourist books!
Remember also (though it might sound obvious!) you’ll be driving on the other side of the road in the US, so prepare for that. You’ll find that the big open roads make driving and navigating super easy, but if you can, take regular breaks and swap drivers every now and then. You should never drive while you feel tired, and you shouldn’t try to navigate and drive at the same time – let someone else look at a map. Or better yet, use sat nav, which will be built into most rental cars.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that in most states, you need to be at least 25 years of age to hire a car. Your UK driving license will be good enough to hire a car legally in the States.
Cover for your peace of mind
When you get to the US, you’ll want to do nothing other than soak up the atmosphere and feel the breeze on your face as you cruise around like a movie star! In order to make sure you can do this, it’s important you’re covered just in case the worse should happen.
For your USA road trip, consider travel insurance from LV=.