Overland holidays in the US: Rough it or road it?

Dec 14, 2023 BY Mark Pawlak

Thanks to Hollywood films, good infrastructure and a magnificent landscape, overland holidays in the US are, and always will be, incredibly popular. But should you rough it on public transport or road it behind the wheel of your own vehicle?

overland holidays in the US Flickr CC image by foto_graffiti

Overland holidays in the US

Stretching from its chilly border with Canada down to tropical Mexico, and incorporating thousands of small towns and mega-metropolises along the way, there’s more variety in this vast country than the pick and mix counter at the cinema.

You could do follow the Pacific coast perhaps combined with a West coast surfing road trip From Seattle to San Diego. Take on the iconic route 66 to cross the country. Or even follow a music inspired route from Nashville to New Orleans.

Alternatively you could embrace nature by exploring the Rockies in Colorado and Utah – skiing and snowboard in the winter and biking and hiking in the summer. Or take a less well known trip through the state parks in Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama and Louisiana.

Why not combine Yellowstone with Grand Teton in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana – here take on some of one the best USA trekking holidays. Or hit the East coast to explore some of the top kitesurf spots in the Untied States on the Atlantic.

Grand Teton on USA Trekking Holidays Flickr image by miquitos

But if you’re planning overland holidays in the US you have a dilemma to face, to rough it or to road it?


With options ranging from deluxe 35-foot motorhomes complete with satellite TV and dishwasher, to the back seat of a public bus, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to getting from A to B.

So, before you set off decide what it is you want from your overland holidays in the US. Is it an easy life, cruising the highways and byways in relative luxury? Is it value for money, as you try to see as much as possible on a tight budget? Or do you want complete freedom over your destination and the music you play on the stereo?

Road it in your own vehicle

If it’s luxury you’re after, you couldn’t get better than a top-of-the-range motorhome. Available for hire throughout the US, RVs allow you to travel with all of your home comforts, including the kitchen sink.

overland holidays in the US Flickr CC image by David~O

Although they may be more expensive to hire, motorhomes can actually save you a bit of money by cutting down on accommodation costs. Although any savings will probably be cancelled out by the hefty fuel costs.

Taking a step down the price ladder is the tried and tested car option. You may not have a built-in washing machine on hand, but driving a good old American automobile across the country is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

With almost complete freedom over your itinerary, cars can give you as much or as little comfort as you want. Many hire companies now allow you to return your vehicle to a different city than you picked-up from, making it easy to customise overland holidays in the US when you hire a car.

Rough it on public transport

With plenty of destinations on offer but a lot less legroom, it’s that classic of American budget travel: the Greyhound bus. With a network covering pretty much the entire country, travelling by bus gives you the freedom of travel without the responsibility of driving.

With no need to worry about insurance, parking fines or petrol stations you can simply book your ticket, pack up your bag and go. Just make sure you are at the right stop at the right time!

overland holidays in the US Flickr CC image by njt4148

Though not exactly glamorous and definitely on the rougher end of the scale, there is a certain romance about travelling by bus. Although you may need some reminding of this after 15 hours if you’ve been sat next to the loo. Prefer bus to RV?  Here’s how to get discounts on Greyhound tickets.

Rolling on the Amtrak

Amtrak is the US long distance train service and one of the greatest travel bargains around. Book in plenty of time and you’ll get incredible value considering the distances involved. Take care to check timetables though, some of the ultra-distance routes only have one departure per day.

Benefits over the bus include more legroom and space to walk around, and some of the routes cut right through remote regions you’ll just not see from the road. Routes to consider are L.A. to New Orleans, skirting the US/ Mexico border and The Empire Builder  (Chicago to Seattle) for the jaw-dropping Glacier National Park and North Dakota Plains. Here’s the page for the latest Amtrak deals – and there are some incredible offers.

Amtrak train overlanding in the US

Overland holidays in the US: Other options?

If you really want to rough it, the cheapest option is of course to hitchhike. There are also some great ride sharing sites, such as OpenRide, if you prefer to ‘hitch’ from your tablet or phone than from the side of the road.

There are plenty of other sites that offer a forum where drivers with empty seats and travellers with empty pockets can safely arrange travel plans. Making life safer and easier for all concerned.

We hope you found this article about whether to rough it or road it on overland holidays in the US inspiring. Be sure to check out our overlanding holidays worldwide to plan your next adventure.


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