Doing the United States Coast to Coast is the dream of many: crossing America from one ocean to another is a fascinating and certainly unforgettable adventure!
Organizing such a trip is not, however, easy since you have to plan a detailed itinerary, choose the stages and the most suitable season to travel, book in advance. Generally, you can follow three itineraries that allow you to do the United States Coast to Coast: Chicago to Santa Monica along Route 66, New York to San Francisco along Lincoln Highway and Miami to Los Angeles.
Let's see all the information to prepare your trip to the US Coast to Coast well.
- Useful info and necessary documents
- When to go: climate and best time
- Route 1: Chicago to Santa Monica along Route 66
- Route 2: New York to San Francisco along the Lincoln Highway
- Route 3: From Miami to Los Angeles
- Custom organized tours
- General tips for an On the Road trip
- User questions and comments
- Request a personalized quote
Useful info and necessary documents
- Entry requirements: passport, return ticket, ESTA (electronic system for travel authorization). Visa not required for Italian citizens for stays of less than 180 days
When to go: climate and best time
- Weather: being a huge country, the USA has a great variety of climates. They typically have a continental climate, with freezing winters and hot summers. The northeastern area (New York) suffers the influx of cold air, has cold winters and abundant rainfall (average -9 ° C in winter and 25 ° C in summer). On the Pacific coast (California) it is mild and rainy in the north, it gets warmer as it descends south, up to the semi-desert climate on the border with Mexico (40-45 degrees Celsius). The west coast has a rather cool water temperature, always below 20 ° C, as well as on the east coast. The exception is the Houston Sea, which averages 29 ° C in the summer, the Gulf of Mexico and Florida with 30 ° C in August.
- Best time: to travel along all three itineraries the best time is the intermediate seasons, spring and autumn, in particular May / June and September / October. In these months there is the best climate in the various states that you pass through, less traffic on the roads and shops, as well as attractions along the route, are open (at other times of the year they may be closed). For those traveling by motorbike, summer is fine too.
- Period to avoid: the winter months are to be avoided, when you can find cold and bad weather, and the summer months as it is very hot.
- What to bring: for all three itineraries spring / autumn clothes, jacket, sweatshirt or sweater, umbrella. It is essential to dress in layers, travel light carrying the bare essentials and, possibly, assuming to wash something in the laundromats on the street. Don't forget first aid medicines, water supplies, universal travel adapters and hiking shoes.
For the Lincoln Hightway tour, bring something heavier to New York and San Francisco (it is cool day and night here); for the journey along route 66 wear light and breathable clothing, sun hat as you go through states where temperatures are very high.
- Trip duration: minimum 15 days and the ideal is 20
Route 1: Chicago to Santa Monica along Route 66
There are many roads, but none are like her: Route 66, the mother Road, the most famous American road. It crosses the country for nearly 4.000 km starting from Chicago, the classic journey is in fact from east to west.
The stages are: Springfield (Illinois), St. Louis, Oklaoma, the state where Route 66 is the longest, Tulsa, Texas and Amarillo. Again, New Mexico, Midpoint (which marks the exact half of Route 66), Santa Fè, Gallup, Halbrook (Arizona), Flagstaff, Colorado, Las Vegas, Mojave Desert, Los Angeles and, finally, Santa Monica.
I remember that, officially, with the birth of new faster highways, Route 66 was deleted from the list, it no longer exists. Only 80% is passable, while some sections are uneven.
Practical info and prices
- Arrival Airport: Chicago O'Hare Airport (Flights from € 421,43 per person)
- Departure airport: Los Angeles airport
- Distance traveled: 3.940 km
- Trip duration: 15 days
- Costs per person: from € 3.000 to € 5.000 - ask for a personalized quote
- Chicago: one of the largest metropolises in the USA, it is known for its museums, skyscrapers, bold architecture. Here you will find signs marking the beginning (in front of the Art Institute of Chicago facade) and the end of Route 66 (near Grant Park).
Recommended tours: Skydeck - Architectural River Cruise - Skip-the-line access to the observation deck
- Gateway Arch: called "gateway to the West" is the symbol of St. Louis and, from its 192 meters, dominates the city on the banks of the Mississippi River.
- Oklahoma City: capital of the homonymous state, it is home to the Stockyards, one of the largest livestock markets in the world. Don't miss the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, where the centerpiece is a collection of weapons that belonged to John Wayne.
- C: it is located in Amarillo (Texas) and is an installation made up of ten cadillac cars planted upside down in the ground and covered with graffiti.
- Midpoint: along the road from Amarillo, in the village of Adrian, there is the sign that marks the exact half of Route 66, the Midpoint. A photo here is a must!
- Santa Fe: the variety of this New Mexico city is striking, that is, old Mexican-style houses alongside skyscrapers, mountains and prairies. A few kilometers away do not miss Los Alamos, the laboratory where the first atomic bomb was built.
- Grand Canyon: is an immense gorge created by the Colorado River located in Arizona. Given the vastness, the viewpoints are many and besieged. Choose yours in the South Rim, including Desert View, Buggeln, Grandview Point and Mather Point.
Recommended Tours: Arizona: Gorgeous Grand Canyon Airplane Tour - Grand Canyon Spirit South Rim Helicopter Tour - Grand Canyon, Antelope, Zion, Bryce and Monument Valley
- Las Vegas: the city of sin and entertainment on a world level, you cannot miss it! Walk along "The strip", the main street and you will be dazzled by the lights, flashes and music that thunders in the street. Enter and leave the amazing hotels: it is one of the greatest entertainment.
Recommended tours: Night helicopter flight over the Las Vegas Strip
- Mojave Desert: the landscape is thrilling (and not for the temperatures, which are nothing short of hot!), but for the succession of dunes, stretches of sand and cacti. Here is the Death Valley, the lowest and hottest point in North America.
Recommended Tours: Death Valley - Full Day Tour from Las Vegas
- Santa Monica: seaside town with immense beaches, the characteristic marina and the Ferris wheel that are often portrayed in postcards. A place made for recreation and relaxation, but don't forget a photo with the famous "End of the trail" sign, because this is where Route 66 officially ends.
Recommended tours: Santa Monica and Venice: 3-hour electric bike tour - Malibu: Star homes tour from Santa Monica Pier - Segway tour to Santa Monica and Venice Beach
Route 2: New York to San Francisco along the Lincoln Highway
On the Lincoln Highway you can do the real coast to coast journey, being a 5.454 km highway connecting New York with San Francisco. Precisely it starts from Time Square and goes up to Lincoln Park.
The road was completed in 1925 and can be covered entirely thanks to signage maintained by the Lincoln Highway Association.
The stages along the Lincoln Highway they are New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Nebraska, Colorado, Nevada and California. Many villages and cities owe so much to this road, to the point of dedicating monuments located along the way to it.
Practical info and prices
- Arrival Airport: New York airport (Flights from € 335,39 per person)
- Departure airport: San Francisco airport
- Distance traveled: 5.454 km
- Trip duration: 20 days
- Costs per person: from € 4.000 to € 6.000 - ask for a personalized quote
- New York: we start from here, so how not to visit this huge city, famous for its skyscrapers and the Statue of Liberty? To see, among others, Time Square, Central Park and the Empire State Building.
Recommended Tours: One World Observatory: Skip-the-Line Entry - Multilingual Statue of Liberty Cruise - New York: Harbor Evening Lights Cruise
- Lincoln Highway National Museum: located in Galion (Ohio), it is the museum dedicated to this ancient street with archives and historical documents concerning it.
- Lincoln Highway Bridge: is located in Iowa and is a historic bridge, built in 1914, with steel sleepers. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
- Giant Coffee Pot: it is a bar from 1927 located in Pennsylvania in the shape of a large coffee shop, it is really very special. Unmissable!
- Chicago: a stop in one of the largest metropolises in the USA cannot be missed. You can visit its museums which hold several masterpieces, admire the skyscrapers and the bold architecture.
Recommended Tours: Chicago Skydeck Ticket - Classic Lake Michigan Cruise - Organized Crime Bus Tour
- Lincoln Highway Diner: is a restaurant located in Nebraska. It will give you the opportunity to taste the typical dishes of the United States ... in a place out of time!
- Pittsburg: is a city of art and culture in Pensylvania. It offers beautiful views, important monuments and museums, such as the one dedicated to Andy Warhol who was born and raised in Pittsburg.
- Cheyenne: is the capital of Wyoming, the center of the cowboys and the inspiration of many country songs. See the Plains Hotel and Phoenix Block, iconic buildings of the city, the museums and the State Capitol, with the gold leaf dome, Cheyenne's landmark.
Recommended tours: Foothills and Garden of the Gods: Jeep Tour
- Sacramento: capital of California. Don't miss Old Sacramento, an area between the river and the modern area; the Old Schoolhouse, the Discovery Museum, the Eagle Theater and the Pony Express Monument.
- San Francisco: California hill town, surrounded by perennial fog, is known for the Golden Gate Bridge, trams and brightly colored Victorian homes. In the bay is the island of Alcatraz, home to the infamous penitentiary.
Recommended Tours: Golden Gate Bay Cruise - San Francisco: Escape from The Rock Cruise - San Francisco by Hop-on Hop-off Bus: Classic, Premium or Deluxe
Route 3: From Miami to Los Angeles
From Miami to Los Angels there is no road to follow like Route 66 or Lincoln Hightway, but for better or for worse there are nearly 5.000km.
The countries that you cross along the route are: Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona and California.
Alternative routes involve passing through New Mexico, then following a road a little further north and going a few more miles. They are all fascinating itineraries, so you will not go wrong for sure!
Practical info and prices
- Arrival Airport: Miami airport (Flights from € 354,58 per person)
- Departure airport: Los Angeles airport
- Distance traveled: 4.400 km
- Trip duration: 17 days
- Costs per person: from € 4.000 to € 5.000 - ask for a personalized quote
- MiamiHere you can feel the Cuban influence in the bars and cigar shops that populate Calle Ocho boulevard, while in Miami Beach there's South Beach, a neighborhood full of colorful Art Deco buildings, seaside hotels and trendy nightclubs.
Recommended Tours: From Miami: Everglades Small Group Airboat Tour - Everglades, Seaplane & Alligators: 5-Hour Tour - Millionaire's Row: Scenic Cruise - Miami Double Decker Bus & Boat Tour
- Orlando: it hosts numerous theme parks, such as Walt Disney World which includes, among others, the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and some water parks. In Universal Orlando there are the parks where there is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, dedicated to the literary saga.
Recommended Tours: Kennedy Space Center Admission Ticket - SeaWorld Orlando: 1, 2, or 3 Park Ticket - Universal Orlando 1-Day 2-Park Ticket
- Thallahassee: is the capital of Florida, home to well-known universities and colleges. To see the Capital Falls Greenway (natural park), the numerous lakes, the Maclay Park (another green lung of the city) and the various buildings, including the Old Capitol.
- Pensacola: located in Florida in a bay on the Gulf of Mexico. Relax at Pensacola Beach, where you'll find beautiful white sand beaches and turquoise waters waiting for you.
- New Orleans: Louisiana city located on the Mississippi River, near the Gulf of Mexico. It is known for its fast-paced nightlife, vibrant music scene and unique spicy cuisine unique in the world.
Recommended tours: New Orleans: jazz steamboat cruise - New Orleans: French Quarter, cemetery and voodoo tour - New Orleans: airboat ride
- Houston: it's a big Texas metropolis. In the center are the Theater District, home to the renowned Houston Grand Opera, and the Historic District, with examples of th century architecture. Houston is linked to Space Center Houston, the visitor center of NASA's astronaut training and flight control complex.
Recommended tours: city tour and access to NASA Space Center - Walking tour with local guide
- San Antonio: located in Texas, it is famous for the Alamo building (also called Fort Alamo), a Spanish colonial mission located in the historic center, the Alamodome, a five-storey stadium that does not go unnoticed and the downtown, the lovely historic area.
Recommended Tours: San Antonio Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour
- Joshua Tree National Park: here two deserts meet, the Mojave and the Colorado, for which different landscapes alternate. See the Skull Rock Nature Trailna, a striking skull-shaped rock and the expanse of rocks of the Jumbo Rocks Campground.
- Tucson: rises in the Sonoran desert, in Arizona, and is surrounded by several mountain ranges. To visit the residences of the historic district of El Presidio, the red brick houses of the Barrio Historico, the vintage shops, the cathedral and Congress street.
- Los Angeles: in the City of Angels, Hollywood, with its Walk of Fame, Universal Studios, the Chinese Theater, Berverly Hills and Santa Monica, a tourist destination on its coast, is not to be missed.
Recommended tours: Universal Studios Hollywood: 1- or 2-day ticket - Los Angeles: Warner Bros. Studios tour - Los Angeles: 1-hour flight for 2 people
Custom organized tours
Many agencies propose customized tours that combine the 3 itineraries proposed.
For example, one of the coast to coast tours of this kind, lasting 15 days, includes the following stops: New York - Niagara Falls - Washington - Los Angeles - Las Vegas - Yosemite - San Francisco with fees starting from € 4.000.
Or, tours that include the east and west coasts of 14 days, touching the major cities such as New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami with quotas starting from around € 4.500.
Obviously they include a guide and, therefore, they are ideal for those who do not like "do it yourself", who wants to visit a place in an exhaustive way, seeing as much of America as possible in complete tranquility.
There are also organized motorbike tours, in which you are accompanied by a guide for the whole trip, with costs ranging from around € 2.000 to € 4.000.
General tips for an On the Road trip
Organizing a road trip is not easy, however planning and booking everything well in advance is essential to avoid nasty surprises, but above all to save money.
Here are some useful tips:
- establish the point of departure and arrival, with the relative stops and possible excursions;
- book accommodation in advance by choosing places near major cities or parks;
- book your return flights in advance;
- choose good health insurance;
- consider at least 15 days of travel, especially in the case of car rental;
- consider about 300 km a day to stay on schedule (it may vary according to the route);
- in case of car rental, you will need an international driving license, credit card, passport and purchase voucher. The most reliable companies are Alamo, Hertz and Avis with rates from € 35,00 per day;
- for the rental of the motorbike the rate starts from € 60,00, for the camper we are about € 300,00. In the latter case, obviously, you save on food and accommodation;
- leaving the vehicle in a place other than that where it was picked up will result in a surcharge (approximately € 200,00);
- refuel your car near large urban centers, they are usually cheaper;
- always pay attention to road signs and directions which are often scarce;
- do not use the navigator, as the GPS signal is interrupted and, in any case, it will always indicate the shortest route: it is better to opt for maps and maps;
- always have water supplies;
- for food, rely on fast food that you will find almost everywhere (think about the diet when you return!).