Making a cross-country move often involves a road trip to reach your new home. To ensure your long-distance move goes smoothly, it’s important to carefully plan what to pack in your car — and know how to make it fit so you minimize stress and mitigate surprises.
It’s also a great opportunity to turn your relocation into an adventure. Our national park guides are just the ticket for stretching your legs; exploring the nation’s greatest treasures enroute to your new address; and aligning when you and your belongings arrive.
Want to familiarize yourself with the outdoor resources near and around your new home? Here’s where to start.
- National parks of the West Coast
- National parks of the Interior West
- National parks of the Southwest
- National parks of the Midwest
- National parks of the Southeast
- National Parks of the Northeast
And read on for some added tips that’ll make your move a road trip to remember.
Visiting National Parks During a Cross-Country Move
Granting access to some of the country’s most breathtaking, pristine and remote landscapes, visiting national parks during your long-distance move is a great way to stretch your legs, all while getting to know the resources enroute, as well as near and around your new home.
Here are some tips to turn your cross-country move into the road trip of a lifetime, while breaking up the drive and beginning to acclimate to your new surroundings.
Mapping Your Route
The boxes are packed. You’ve figured out what you’ll bring via car. Now, it’s time to get the lay of the land before visiting the country’s national parks. After all, these destinations are among the remotest areas on Earth.
As such, you’ll lack access to certain necessities; cell service can be spotty; and weather and road conditions can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t be deterred! With a little advance planning you can turn your move into an experience you’ll never forget.
Since a national park drive can mean traveling hours through exhilarating terrain, plan your routes carefully and map out everything in advance. While technology is great, consider buying hard-copy maps, like National Geographic’s waterproof trail map series. They not only include topography, but also roads and routes not detailed on regular maps — or, frankly, the ones you receive at a national park gate.
Watch the Weather
Check the parks’ official website for things like road and trail closures before you visit — otherwise you could be met with a closed road, entrance or trail that can derail an otherwise well-planned adventure. This is the wilderness, after all, and you’re at the mercy of mother nature every day.
Because the parks are so vast, timing is everything. Yellowstone, for example, spans nearly 3,500 square miles. Group viewpoints and hikes by regions within the park; note the distance and time between destinations; and know how to your must-sees in advance. No one wants to end up mid-mountain and crunched for time. Account for the fact that these drives can take longer than expected — mountain, unpaved and meandering roads are that way.
If it was possible, you likely timed your move for seasonally favorable conditions. However, that’s not always possible.
Whatever the circumstance, weather is something to be mindful of. Not surprisingly, summer heat can be oppressive, while winter has the potential for seasonal road closures that make roads — and parts of national parks — off-limits for months at a time.
By contrast, off-season, cross-country moves and national park visits prove more peaceful and less populated during spring and fall, while providing a beauty of their own. Still, there can also be times when certain regions receive the most rain.
Tips for National Park Visits During a Long-Distance Move
Here are some important considerations and rules of thumb when planning national park trips during your cross-country move:
- Get an annual national park pass
- Buy a park passport — and stamp it at each visitor’s center
- Book early — nearby accommodations fill up well in advance
- Bring proper gear — and prepare for weather changes
- Dress in layers and bring a daypack
- Drink water — and lots of it
- Slather on sunscreen, regardless of the weather
- Pack a picnic, as dining options are limited-to-non-existent
- Stop by the gift shop — they tend to be great
- Gas up the night before — hours vary, and options are few and far between
- Combine camping with a stay in a historic lodge or Airbnb
- Befriend park rangers for insider information
- Download park, weather and GPS apps in advance
- Check the park website for time entry requirements
- Leave no trace
Pack Layers of Clothing for Enroute Adventures
Naturally, you need clothes for a road trip of any kind. Depending on where you’re moving, you may experience a variety of climates — even unpredictable weather — throughout the journey. So, packing, and dressing in, layers is wise.
That’s especially true if you are traveling through varied elevations, and if you planned stops at outdoorsy spots, like national parks, along the way. Weather patterns are simply beyond your control. Here are some ideas for thought:
- Clothing for varied weather conditions
- Comfy clothes
- Hiking boots or sneakers with traction
- Extra underwear and socks
- A flashlight
- A rain poncho
- Bear spray, depending on the park
- Bug spray
Consider Your Comfort
No road trip is complete without a few creature comforts. Be selective about what you bring, but do consider adding these items into the mix:
- Your favorite pillow
- A light blanket
- A sleep mask
- Audio books
- Road trip games
- Travel-friendly toys
- Hand-held gaming system
- Tablet for streaming shows and movies
- Cords for charging your gear
- Portable chargers
- A reading light
- Think of your pets
Traveling with furry friends? You need to keep them comfortable and safe, too.
Remember that not all state and national parks allow pets on trails. However, most do allow pets on paved areas, such as sidewalks and parking lots. Most parks also allow pets in your vehicle during scenic drives — some of which bring you through national parks from end to end. But don’t ever leave your pets in the car — even for a short while. Here are some additional tips for moving with pets.
Prepare for the Expected — and the Unexpected
When making a move, there are some things you’ll need sooner than others. Carefully pack first night moving bags or boxes with the items you need to keep close at hand. Be sure to allow space for them in your car — or above it.
If you plan on packing luggage or equipment on the top of your vehicle, ensure it is securely tied down. It helps to use a specially designed cargo compartments — such as an adjustable, waterproof, soft-sided roof rack — that can be secured to the top of a vehicle. Never pack valuables on the exterior of your car since they could be stolen.
As for how to keep it all organized, clear plastic bins let you see what’s inside, so you don’t have to dig. Soft-sided bins work well for items you’re less likely to need access to.
As for heavier items, they should go inside — not on top of — your vehicle. Take care to pack them below lighter items that could get damaged or crushed.
Whatever you’re headed on your long-distance move, be sure to have fun. Taking a hike, having a picnic and exploring your surroundings is a great way to make memories as your new chapter in life begins.
Our immersive national park guides are designed to spark ideas and help you start exploring the natural resources enroute to, and that surround, your new home.
Looking for more tips on how to streamline and simplify your long-distance move? Visit our blog for expert tips and tricks.