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Independent travel across the USA by car

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Independent travel across the USA by car

A valuable guide with ready-made itineraries, rental nuances, overnight options and useful coupons!

4 rules for a successful route

1. Pave the way with the help of services / choose a ready-made course

Use the services or choose a ready-made path, verified by thousands of travelers. Do not neglect the usual road map: it will help out in an unpleasant situation if there is a problem with the Internet. Useful life hacks:

  • Use the mobile apps Route XL, RoadTrippers
  • Remember that the ideal distance for passengers is 480-560km / day, including stops
  • Pay attention to the distance, not to the time indicated in the navigator
  • Some roads are closed for repairs or due to weather conditions - check on the website of the Department of Transport.

2. Plan ahead stops, hotels, gas stations, eateries

A detailed plan will save you time and stay on track. Useful services: mobile applications WorldMate, HotelTonight, CityMaps - will help you find key points, book a hotel, find a snack bar.

3. Consider the technical side

Find out in advance where there are service stations and gas stations on the way with the help of low-cost fuel search services GasBuddy, iExit, will tell you about the nearest gas stations, car repair shops.

4. Consider the influx of tourists

Plan your stops based on the influx of tourists. It is better to divide the sights on both sides of the trip.

10 most beautiful routes

1. Musical Journey Cleveland - Memphis

  • 1183 km
  • Car rental from 15 $ / day
  • An interesting road through musical America, where rock and roll, country was born, the best music festivals take place
  • Top attractions: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Zoo, home of American singer Elvis Presley, King of Rock and Roll.

2. Arizona: Phoenix - Grand Canyon

  • 370 km
  • Rent from 18 $
  • Arizona - it's picturesque deserts, cacti, amazing flora, fauna
  • Sonoran Desert Preserve Nature Reserve, Taliesin West - an ultramodern landscape complex with artificial waterfalls, the ecological town of Arcosanti, the red slopes of Sedona, the Grand Canyon.

3. The Bourbon Trail: Lexington - Louisville

  • 320 km
  • Rent from 14 $
  • The local settlements are known for the production of whiskey: stop in the capital of Bourbon - Bardstone, because in September the grand Kentucky Bourbon Festival is held here!

4. California Coast: San Francisco - San Diego

  • 805 km
  • Rent from 16 $
  • A picturesque, calming path will allow you to enjoy the vast ocean
  • What to see: the coastal Half Moon Bay, the beaches of Malibu, the entertainment center of San Diego Gaslamp.

5. Midwest: Chicago - Dor County (Wisconsin)

  • 451 km
  • Rent from 21 $
  • A varied, calm path will help you recharge your emotions and relax
  • Sightseeing: Milwaukee Museum of Art.

6. Drive Historic Cities: Boston - Key West

  • 3862 km
  • Rent from 9 $
  • The way from Boston to Key West will introduce you to the most beautiful sights of the country, historical monuments, modern architectural masterpieces
  • Mark on the map: Boston, the oldest St. Augustine, the American fort of Castillo de San Marcos, snow-white beaches.

7. A Trip to the Heart of Texas: Dallas - Corpus Christi

  • 676 km
  • Rent from 18 $
  • What to see: mini-breweries, Texas Ranger, Alamo, Gulf of Mexico.

8. Acquaintance with the wonders of American nature: Dakota - Yellowstone

  • 2092 km
  • Rent from 17 $
  • Do not forget to see: Mount Rushmore, Devils Tower, Yellowstone.

9. Cult Chicago and Los Angeles

  • 3862 km
  • Rent from 21 $
  • You have a way from windy Chicago to sunny Los Angeles on historic Highway 66
  • What to see: Windy City skyline, Coleman Theater, Seligman District, Arizona Crater, Los Angeles.

10. Los Angeles - Las Vegas

  • 515 km
  • Rent from 17 $
  • The funniest trip: Santa Monica Pier, Elmer's Bottle Tree Ranch, Calico Ghost Town.

Everything you need to know about car rental

Rental Features:

  • Up to 24 years old, only low-cost cars can be rented: you have to purchase additional insurance
  • If you plan to drive more than a month, it’s easier to buy a car than to rent. The cost of a supported car is about 1,000 $, and after completing your tour, you can sell it for about the same money. Buying a car in the States is easy to disgrace, in some of them they do not even ask for citizenship and rights!
  • Premium brand rental requires more than 3 years of driving experience
  • Registration of an additional driver in the contract will cost 5 $ -10 $ per day
  • The number of days is usually considered from 12 noon to 12 noon. If you rent a car an hour later or take up to 12 hours, you will have to pay for an additional day
  • It is most convenient to take a car immediately upon arrival at the airport. Typically, offices are located near the airport from which buses want.

Popular companies:

  • Alamo: from 10 $ / day
  • Hertz: 25 $ is paid for a "young" age
  • Dollar: economy class car rental from 30 $
  • Budget, National Car
  • Avis: fee for a young age of 25 $.

What will be required during registration:

  • Foreign passport and visa
  • Russian rights
  • Visa Classic Credit Card
  • Age: 20+
  • Driving experience: 1+.


  • Through brokerage houses
  • Through the firm’s website.

For booking, you need to fill out a special form with your data - the request will be confirmed by issuing a voucher.


Car rental companies offer several types of insurance, and it’s not cheap. The minimum package covers the costs of the second participant in an accident; the customer compensates the damage for the rented car. The full package covers any insurance claims. Types of insurance:

  • CDW or LDW (similar to the CASCO policy) removes liability in case of car theft or damage. Maybe with a franchise (500 $) - all damages that fall within the specified price range will be compensated by the renter (10 $ / day).
  • SLI (CTP) removes liability to third parties. Insurance coverage: 1,000,000 $.
  • PAE or PPP: Health Insurance (6 $ / day)
  • Roadsafe - technical assistance in case of car breakdown anywhere in the country (6 $ - 20 $ / day).


The price usually includes: insurance, unlimited mileage, taxes. At the request of the client, a fee is paid for the second driver, medical insurance, road toll cards, child seat. The daily rental price depends on the class and the services included:

  • Deposit: on average 300 $ (may be higher for elite cars), accepted in cash or withdrawn from the card (blocked on the account until the car returns)
  • Economy class: 30 $ - 150 $
  • Middle class: 60 $ - 170 $
  • Suite: 180 $ - 230 $
  • Minivan: 180 $ - 300 $.


Gasoline is sold in gallons: 1 gallon = almost 4 liters. At the gas station they offer 3 types of gasoline:

  • 87
  • 89
  • 92.

Fuel cost - from 2.8 $ - 3.6 $ per gallon.

Payment methods at the gas station:

  • Credit card - but you can’t always count on it: your card is not always read at gas stations
  • Cash - money is given to the seller, after refueling the check and change is taken.

Traffic rules and fines

  • For driving not fastened: 50 $ per person
  • The dipped beam must be turned on around the clock
  • For drunk driving - deprivation of rights. There should not be open or empty alcohol bottles in the cabin
  • If the school bus has an alarm on, you need to stop regardless of direction. If children sit in it, then overtaking is prohibited
  • Speed limit: in the residential area (15 miles), in the city (25 miles), on the expressway (up to 60-75 miles). Penalty for excess: 70 $ - 500 $.
  • Directions at equivalent crossroads: if the STOP sign and the All Ways sign are installed on them before leaving, then the rule is that whoever arrives first, he goes
  • Centerlines on the road are marked in yellow, road signs contain symbols and inscriptions. Speed limit is designated as Speed Limit, overtaking is prohibited - Do not pass, One way - one-way traffic
  • If a policeman stops you, it’s important to stay in the car with your hands on the steering wheel.
  • Fines are paid online or at a bank
  • The penalty for improper parking is from 100 $ to 250 $.


When stopping at the curb, it is important to consider the color of the curb:

  • White - parking / disembarkation allowed
  • Yellow - allowed to drop off passengers, but with a time limit
  • Green - stop with a time limit
  • Red - no stop
  • Blue - a stop for the disabled.

Paid parking lots are located in the central regions (1 $ - 2 $ / hour or 10 $ - 15 $ / day). There are free parking spaces near major shops and restaurants.


  1. Overnight in a car

In general, spending the night in a car is allowed, but in compliance with safety rules:

  • Remove the key from the ignition — sleeping is illegal under the wheel
  • Keep open alcohol bottles in the trunk - cops can be fined or even arrested
  • Select allowed zones. But if there were no permitted recreation areas (for example, stopped near a national park), you can get off with an oral warning.

Allowed recreation areas:

  • Rest Area. Along all the country's highways there are more than 2000 recreation areas. Rest Area - a free car park with toilets, drinking water, automatic machines.
  • Parking Walmart. In general, the Walmart chain of stores is loyal to car parking in the parking lot, but in some states laws do not allow you to spend the night in store parking lots. SMAPSE experts recommend using the Walmart Locator, which reflects all the stores in the network where you are allowed to spend the night.
  • Camping sites. Mostly equipped campsites charge a fee for finding, but all campsites have toilets, drinking water, picnic tables, and firewood for sale. Some have laundry, shower, shops. A good camping site is
  • Public Lands - common areas that are used for camping. Public Lands are located in the territory of the national forests (National Forest) at the Grand Canyon and in the territory of BLM. BLMs are desert areas that are essentially similar to forests. Remember: free camping is prohibited in national parks!
  • Paid in the parks. There are special zones for sleeping in the parks, where there are cleared places, a clean toilet, a shower, and metal fires.

2. Couchsurfing - A Global Hospitality Marketplace

On the couchsurfing site, the landlord posts an announcement of his willingness to accept tired travelers for free. Tourists who have submitted an application must receive approval from the owner, and already after you visit him.

3. AirBnB - “paid couchsurfing”

If you want more freedom and comfort, but at the same time save money, use the AirBnB service, in which Americans rent housing or part of it - from the room to the tent area in the backyard.

4. Hotels

According to the experience of tourists, even 100 $ per hotel can be a waste of money according to the level of convenience! A cheap hotel room costs at least 60 $, but if you are still tired of camping nights, then use the special applications. It is convenient to select hotels using special services: Agoda, Expedia, Booking.

Food: budget options

  • Discounters: in them food prices can be 2 times lower. Most Popular Networks: Aldi, WinCo, Sprouts, Grocery Outlet
  • Sale of food in supermarkets. In large shopping centers (such as Walmart and Target), ready-made food is offered every day at a reduced price, which has an expiration date. Discounts can reach 80%
  • If you are planning a camping - buy a gas burner, you can cook very inexpensively
  • Search for discounts and promotions in mobile applications. By tracking promotions in fast food restaurants, you will get a nice discount.

What to consider before going to the store:

  • You need to understand that the United States is a country of contrasts, including in food prices. A kilogram of bananas in one store will cost you 1 $, and in a supermarket across the street the same kilogram of bananas costs 7 $. For these reasons, to buy products at affordable prices, you need to get around 3-4 supermarkets at a time.
  • Some supermarkets do not include tax, and at the checkout you will see completely different prices
  • According to reviews, the most inexpensive and satisfying option will be your own kitchen on a gas burner: without frills you will eat normally, spending 5 $ - 10 $ / day
  • Install mobile apps from renowned fast food restaurants and track coupons for free dinners, ice creams, and coffee.

How to make the trip more comfortable?

Buy a paper card

It is convenient to use paper road maps with marked points of interest. Stock up on cash

Traveling travelers use small bills and quarters: they will be needed for payment in vending machines or if your bank card doesn’t work at a gas station.


The familiar Navigator does not work, so tourists often pre-load maps onto a smartphone: this will save about 5 $ a day. Some use roaming. It is equally convenient to purchase a SIM card for prepaid Internet traffic and use Google maps.

SIM card purchase

H2O Wireless is a low-cost mobile operator. 30 $ SIM Card Rates:

  • Unlimited Internet throughout the state
  • 4GB of traffic without speed limits and Internet on 2G after
  • Unlimited calls and SMS within the country
  • 10 $ for international calls (1.5 hours).

How to save?

1. Inexpensive companies

To save money, go to the distributor’s website via VPN (using the browser plug-in), choosing the USA country - then the prices will be almost half as much.

2. Baby seats

Buy baby seats, and after the trip, sell at a discount.

3. Toll roads

There are a lot of toll roads in large cities. If there are few toll roads in the paved road, then stock up in cash in advance. If you have several toll roads, take a transponder from the dealer.

4. Subscription for a year

If you plan to visit several parks, it is more profitable to buy a subscription to visit all parks in the country: it will cost 80 $ and is valid for 1 car and up to four adult passengers. A visit to the same park costs about 15 $ - 20 $.

5. City tourism cards

City tourism cards cost around 30 $ - 40 $ and allow free admission to the sights of the city.

6. Loyalty cards at the gas station

Discounts on them can reach up to 10%.

Use discounts and coupons:

Estimated travel budget

The estimate depends on the travel time and willingness to save: on the Internet there are examples of trips for 2 weeks, a month, 3 months, and so on.

So how much does a two-week van travel from Chicago to Los Angeles cost?

  • Duration: 16 days
  • Distance: 4500 km
  • Way: Chicago - Los Angeles
  • Van rental: 610 $ or 38 $ / day
  • Gasoline: 682 $ (42 $ / day)
  • Propane: 60 $
  • Housing: 179 $
  • Food (2 people): 339 $ or 21 $ / day (prepared by ourselves, didn’t refuse anything)
  • T-Mobile Cellular: 60 $
  • Entertainment: 160 $
  • Park subscription: 80 $
  • Kitchenware, water: 292 $
  • Total: 2,382 $ / 2 weeks.

What to visit on the road

If the path has already been laid, it's time to think through a list of stops. Below are the top cities - worth a look.

West coast of America in 2 weeks

The West Coast is a classic trip that includes popular cities and the chance to enjoy ocean views around the clock!

  1. San Francisco Sightseeing Tour with Stopover in Alcatraz
  2. Santa Cruz - Amusement Park
  3. Monterey - boutiques, restaurants, bars
  4. Big Sur Park
  5. Pismo Beach - beaches, wineries
  6. Santa Barbara - Architecture
  7. Malibu - beaches
  8. Los Angeles - Hollywood
  9. San Diego - museums, galleries.

Chicago - Los Angeles

The historical path, one of the most popular among tourists.

  1. Chicago - museums, architecture
  2. St. Louis - Architecture
  3. Oklahoma - Tulsa, Oklahoma architecture
  4. Texas - Amarillo, Jericho Gap
  5. New Mexico - Albuquerque, Santa Fe
  6. Arizona - Sedona, Flagstaff
  7. Los Angeles - Hollywood, Sunset Boulevard.

East Coast: New York - Miami

If you want to try a little of everything, get to know the country from all sides, are interested in history - this route is definitely yours.

  1. New York - Statue of Liberty
  2. Baltimore - Aquarium
  3. Washington - City Bus Tour
  4. Richmond, North Carolina, Savannah - Architecture
  5. Florida - Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach
  6. St. Augustine Museums
  7. Miami - Art Deco district, beaches.

Central America

This is the perfect chance to get to know American nature!

  1. Denver - Rockies
  2. Boulder - Rocky Mountain National Park
  3. Glenwood Spring - one of the most beautiful stops
  4. Grand Junction - Colorado National Monument
  5. Urai - Mesa Verde National Park
  6. Buena Vista - Rio Grande National Park Forest, Colorado Springs.

South: Savannah - San Diego

The road from the east to the west coast promises excellent prospects to see the large cities of southern America.

  1. Savannah - Architecture
  2. Atlanta - capital tour
  3. Birmingham, Alabama, Mississippi
  4. Dallas Historic Sightseeing Tour
  5. El Paso, Tucson
  6. San Diego Trolley City Tour.

TOP-10 most beautiful and unusual sights of the USA

  1. Mount Rushmore, Keyston, South Dakota
  2. Grand Canyon Park, Colorado Plateau, Arizona
  3. Niagara Falls, the border of New York State and the Canadian province of Ontario
  4. Monument Valley, border of Utah, Arizona
  5. Yellowstone Park, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming Territory
  6. Mammoth Cave, Kentucky
  7. Moving Stones, California Nevada
  8. Alcatraz Prison, San Francisco Bay, California
  9. Yosemite Park, California
  10. Stone Waves, Arizona, Utah Border.
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