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Road trip from New York to Los Angeles

Updated: Feb 12

This road trip has something for everyone whether you are traveling with family, friends, or in a group. Driving from the east coast to the west coast or the west coast to the east coast takes approx. 42 hours if you drive non-stop covering a distance of 2,790 miles and it can take anywhere between 4 to 7 days.

It's one of the best cross-country road trips in the United States driving from New York to Los Angeles, which passes through some of the most famous tourist attractions, national parks, and scenic routes in the country. However, this road trip isn't something you rush during the drive, instead, it's for fun and joy.

New York to Los Angeles Drive Options

There are a couple of options for the New York to Los Angeles drive. Both the drives are approximately 2800 miles long and almost take the same time ~42 hours.

One is via I-80 W (the blue line on the map above) and the second is via I-70 W and I-40 W (the bottom grey line on the map above). You can see different states on both routes which will help you decide which route to take.

Option 1 (via I-80 W)

Over a period of 7 days, you will drive through 12 different states: New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Arizona (optional), and California.

Arizona is optional if you wish to pass through. I love Arizona for its vivid landscape - Antelope Canyon, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, and Horseshoe Bend, hence I extended my trip to drive through Arizona.

Below is the picture of Horseshoe Bend in Arizona, I love this nature's creation.

Option 2 (via I-70 W and I-40 W)

The second option is to drive via I-70 W and I-40 W and drive through New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.

You will be driving through 4 different time zones (EST, CST, MST, PST), probably the longest road trip you can imagine in the United States, and trust me you will love it.

A road trip is always fun for people who love driving and if you are driving in a group it will be more memorable.

I have mentioned the hotels, locations, routes, and drive hours that I followed. You can tweak it if you have any other plans.

Unfortunately, I was the only driver for the whole trip. However, I was not alone, my wife helped me to keep me awake with her poor jokes ;)

My Initial Plan

You can plus/minus extra days in between if you like/dislike the place. Don't book hotels in advance, instead, book them on the same day so that you are independent to change your plan.

  • Day 1: New York to Chicago, IL

  • An extra day to roam around Chicago

  • Day 2: Chicago, IL to Omaha, NE

  • Day 3: Omaha, NE to the Rocky Mountains, CO

  • An extra day to roam around Colorado

  • Day 4: Rocky Mountains, CO to Page, AZ

  • An extra day to roam around Arizona

  • Day 5: Page, AZ to Las Vegas, NE

  • An extra day to roam around Vegas

  • Day 6: Las Vegas, NE to Los Angeles, CA

  • Roam around Los Angeles, and San Diego ;)

Day 1. New York to Chicago, IL (11 hours, 745 miles via I-80)

Eleven hour's drive is too much, isn't it? Yes, but I planned to drive maximum on the first day because the first day I was full of energy, also stopping at Chicago was a good idea.

However, you can split this drive into two days (7+5 hours drive) making a stop at Cleveland, OH if eleven hours drive is too much for you.

You can visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame if you get some time in the evening, it's located on the shore of lake Erie in downtown Cleveland and it's beautiful.

I have already visited Cleveland a couple of times so I didn't have much to explore there.

Anyways, I stayed at Cool Springs Inn, Michigan City approximately an hour's drive from Chicago due to a couple of reasons.

The first reason cost, hotels in Chicago were too expensive, approx. 3-4 times costlier than what I paid in Michigan City ($45). Secondly, Chicago is hardly an hour's drive from this place. So you can wake up a little early in the morning and roam around Chicago if you want.

You can visit the Navy Pier, Willis Tower, Cloud Gate, John Hancock Center, Shedd Aquarium, Art Institute of Chicago, etc.

There is a lot to do in Chicago (in fact a day is not enough for Chicago) so get a city pass and try to explore as much as you can.

At the end of the day, you can drive back to Cool Springs or book another hotel nearby.

Palmer House is a good option if you want to spend more time in Chicago downtown, I had been there a couple of times. It's a little costlier (~$150/night), and you have to pay extra for parking (~$50) but the place was awesome.

Day 2: Chicago, IL to Omaha, NE (7.5 hours, 466 miles via I-80)

Well, I didn't stop at Omaha (Horizon Inn Motel) according to my initial plan, instead, I drove another 8 hours to stop at Rocky Mountains, CO which was actually my day 3 stop.