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Preparing for an American Road Trip

Date Published 15.06.2016
Topic Travel Insurance

Preparing for an American Road Trip | AIG Ireland

It’s the stuff dreams are made of; wide open spaces, breath-taking scenery, coastal towns or small town USA all from behind the wheel of an automobile. Drive in cinemas, baseball games and breakfast in an all American diner; all the things we grew up watching in movies and on television in Ireland.


The great American road trip is the holiday of a lifetime for a lot of Irish people. Whether you are planning to cruise the California coastline or get your kicks on Route 66 there is a lot of preparation to do before you go. But where to start?


1 year in advance:


First things first, you have to decide which part of the vast United States you want to see on your American road trip. There are a number of things that will impact this decision.

  • Personal choice: ultimately this is going to guide where in America you travel on your road trip. Are you a Thelma and Louise fan? Or a surfer who has long dreamed of catching a wave on some of the west coast’s isolated beaches? If music is your thing, a road trip through the musical south home to jazz, bluegrass and country music might be for you. Let your imagination run away with you when it comes to location…then decide what you can afford!
  • Time: a coast to coast trip might seem like the perfect option, see it all at once but it won’t be much fun if you are trying to squash it into your two weeks leave from work. Distances in the USA are huge in comparison to anything in Ireland or even Europe and some drives don’t have much to keep you entertained. Do your research and get the best bang for your buck when it comes to seeing things in the time you have.
  • Tip: try and get off the freeways and spend some time off the beaten track. The roads will meander more but you will get to see some of small town America, something you won’t get on the freeway.
  • Budget: Don’t underestimate the cost of travelling in the States. There’s no doubt petrol will be less expensive than here, but chances are not much else will be. And remember to factor in all the fabulous things you are going to want to do everywhere you stop!



Once you have decided where you want to fly in and out of, booking flights is next on the list. Keep an eye out for seat sales to the USA. If you don’t catch a sale, there are guidelines on how far in advance it is best value to book flights and the least expensive months to travel. Not all American cities are included but it is a useful guide.


6 months to go:


When you are on a road trip in America, it’s definitely worthwhile having some flexibility in your schedule, so if you are enjoying a particular place you can stay an extra night or get out of dodge if needs be! Still, it is nice to have some accommodation booked to keep you on track and avoid miles and miles of ‘no vacancy’ signs when you are road weary and in need of a shower and good night’s sleep.

First couple of nights: we would definitely recommend booking the first 3 nights if you can. The flight across the Atlantic is long, you may be feeling jet lagged and will still be getting used to the time difference so having a room to call your own to catch up on some shut eye will make for a relaxing start to your holiday.

National parks: if you are traveling to or through national parks with limited accommodation, particularly during the summer months, we recommend booking accommodation in advance as it can fill up fast. A night in a National Park sleeping in a car may not be as appealing once you are there as it seems reading this!

Cities: a highlight of many American road trips is the chance to visit multiple cities on the way. Although you are bound to find somewhere to stay eventually in a city it might not be in the area you wanted or the hotel you were hoping for, so booking in advance during busy holiday periods especially is recommended.



This holiday is going to involve a LOT of driving and it’s better to plan the kind of car you are going to need a little in advance. A couple of things to remember:

  • Cars drive on the right in the USA
  • Most American cars have automatic gears
  • You may need an active credit card that matches the name on the drivers licence
  • You need an international driving licence to rent a car
  • In the US you must be 21 to rent a car


Generally try to rent the largest car you can afford for comfort.

Tip: Consider renting a classic car for a day or so if you want to recreate the American golden age. We know it’ll be a fabulous day riding around in your automobile but after a day in the sometimes oppressive heat you might be happy to return to the air conditioned confines of a modern rental!


Go retro for the vintage feel of America
Go retro for the vintage feel of America


Don’t get caught out with car hire excess when you are renting a car in the USA.


3 months to go:


If you are an Irish citizen you don’t need a visa to visit America but you do need to complete an ESTA online. The recommendation is to complete it more than 72 hours prior to travel but why not get it out of the way early? The ESTA costs $14 and is available from this website. You will usually be approved or denied permission to travel within a few seconds. If you are told your application is pending you may have to wait to receive a response. If you have been denied permission to travel you will have to contact the US embassy to get a visa before traveling. This can be a time consuming process so is worth starting early.


You will need an international drivers licence to hire a car for your American road trip, so make sure you get this in order before you travel. To get an international licence you must have a full Irish licence, a passport photo signed on the back and the fee of €15. More details can be found on citizen’s information.


Two weeks to go:

Now the fun stuff can start…


No American road trip would be complete without an accompanying sound track so pick your medium of choice whether it is Spotify or a traditional CD and load it up with American anthems to keep you entertained behind the wheel. What’s even better, your road trip songs will forever remind you of your American road trip. 


Tip: Don’t forget to take some time out to listen to some local radio on your journey, catch a revival live from South Carolina, country music in Tennessee or classic American rock and roll in California.


Just avoid singing 'I am a real American' when possible.
Just avoid singing 'I am a real American' when possible.



Although luggage allowances across the Atlantic are more generous than the low fares airline’s in Europe offer, try not to bring too much over because you know you are going to want to buy lots while you are over there! Worth remembering that you can only bring €430 worth of clothing, gifts and souvenirs per person back into Ireland without paying duty.



Healthcare in America is expensive, very expensive, so it is really important you are covered should an accident happen. There are options for travel insurance with AIG that will cover you for health and loss while you are away, so no matter what happens you know we have your back. You can check out the best option for you or if you are not sure give us a call, we would be happy to help.


Of course there are lots of other things to do in preparation for a trip like this, what else would you add?


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