Photo/Video Travel United States

How to Road Trip in America

Everyone loves a road trip. Driving into to unknown with the music turned up and the windows rolled down. It’s a fantastically adventurous (and even cheap) way to cover a large distance in one trip, and all you need is a map and a set of working wheels. A road trip allows complete control over where to go and when to stop

What better of a place to start than America, a country that changes from state to state, town to town. We talked with the experienced surfer/photographer, Ryan West, founder of surf brand, PURE. In the past five years, Ryan has completed four cross-country road trips – Wowza! This man definitely know how to road trip in America.

Ryan tells Wild Beach Dog how to get going and get stoked for any road trip in 5 simple steps.

how to road trip in america


Step 1: Where to?

Set a general target goal of where you want to go.

Where do you envision the finish line at the end of your explorations? For us, it was Lake Tahoe, California. Now going cross-country, you have a lot of distance in between from start to finish, so the journey of where you’ll go and what you’ll do will be exciting, adventurous, and (a lot of times) unknown. Graffiti parks, snowy mountain hikes, creepy ghost towns, and zip lining through the Redwood forest… You’ll never know until you go.

how to prepare for road trip
Our path consisted of:

Lewes, DE to Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville to Austin, Texas
Austin to Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe to Boulder, Colorado
Boulder to somewhere in Wyoming
Wyoming to Lake Tahoe, California

Total of: 6 days, 62 hrs of driving & roughly 3868 miles covered.


Step 2: With who?

Pick your crew.

We had a 4 person crew on this trip… Me, my brother, Jason, and his two friends. Choose your crew wisely. Maybe don’t pick your smelliest friends or the biggest diva out of your group. The road is fun, spontaneous, and unpredictable, but it can also get hostile in close quarters. Farting and putting the child’s lock on, listening to Yanni, or typing wrong addresses into the GPS can test the truest of friendships. Weird stuff happens, you want to make sure you have the right peeps to ride through it with.


Step 3: How to get there?

Pick your vehicle.

Think reliable. You don’t want to break down in the middle of nowhere, with no cellphone service, no civilization in sight… That’s how horror movies start. Think space. You need to bodies and belongings without it getting to squished. Think economical. Gas costs can add up real quick. Something that gets 20mpg or higher on the highway, wagons or SUVs with AWD/4WD, are my go-to’s. Don’t worry if you don’t have one of those; a good, reliable car does the trick. I’ve done a cross-country trip twice in a Scion TC, a smaller sporty coupe car. For this trip, we picked a Toyota FJ; it was a pretty sweet ride.

Step 4: With what funds?

Make a budget.

If you chose a Prius, good for you, you’re looking at a $200-$250 one way. We averaged 22mpg on the highway, so it cost us about $450 each way. Remember that’s divided by four people, too!

Get ready for a granola & jerky binge! Figure about $20-25 a day, give or take.
Some advice:
Eating healthy = Better moods = More energy + Less bathroom breaks
Fast Food = Cheap, but not so friendly

Hotels – $$$
Camping – $
Sleeping in car – Free (Also, smelly and cramped if it’s more than 2 people)


Step 5: What to bring?

Pack your shit. The key is to not over pack.

Here’s a list of the essentials that we brought…Remember, less is more.

Emergency Supplies:

  • GPS/maps
  • Credit card/emergency money
  • First aid kit
  • Spare tire
  • Rope
  • Shovel
  • Flashlights/headlamps
  • AAA membership

Cool Little Things:

  • Ukulele and/or Bongos…Who knows you might start a band?
  • A custom Road Trip playlist. Anytime we hopped back in the car for our next destination “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson was on; it really set the vibe.
  • Playing cards
  • Camera
  • Good Book. Start with “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coehlo or “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac… Just saying. Trust me.


Snacks (It deserves it own category):
Granola, Clif Bars, jerky, and coconut water are my on-the-go snacks of choice.

Adventure Things:

  • Boards (surf, skate, snow)
  • Hiking boots
  • Snow gear for the mountains
  • Boardshorts & bikinis for your coastal adventures, lakes, hotel pools & hot tubs.
The Necessities:

Don’t forget the simple things like chargers (GPS, cellphone, camera), your wallets, oh and a smile … It’s gonna be quite the journey.


To get in touch with Ryan and see more of his roadtripping, surfing, and adventure photos visit his portfolio site at or check out his surf blog, PURE. Follow him on Insta @puresurfco and @lucidisea. Thanks for the words of wisdom, Ryan!

Do you have any tips on how to road trip in America? Let us know by commenting below!

You Might Also Like