Travel from New York to LA Without Flying

Travel from New York to LA Without Flying (Car, Bus and Train Options)

Travelling from New York to LA by land can be done by car, bus or train. We delve into each option here.

To really get the feel for a country, you need to plan your travel carefully. Traveling by plane gets you there faster, but it skips a lot of the detail. You lose out on getting up close and personal with the terrain, the people and all the little adventures along the way. But there’s plenty of options beyond flying and because we’re feeling kind, we’re sharing all the best way to travel from New York to LA without ever waiting in line at airport security!

A few facts and tips before we get going:

  • The distance between New York and Los Angeles (as the crow flies) is 3,944 km or 2,451 miles
  • The distance is longer over land and can be covered in four days, but this doesn’t give you much time to explore
  •  Five to six days is the average time travellers take on this journey
  • It’s recommended to try and spread it out over eight days to make the most of the scenery and stops along the way

Travel From NY To LA By Car

Travelling by car gives you the freedom to stop whenever you want to check out the scenery, take a photograph, explore a small town or visit a local restaurant. You’re travelling on your own time and when you want to go the distance between New York and Los Angeles, you have to keep it interesting to relieve the monotony.

Car LA from NYC
Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

Most importantly hire the best car you can afford. You’re going to be eating up a lot of miles and you want to make it as comfortable as possible. Make sure you get full insurance which includes road-side assistance.  My other tips would be take a proper old-style paper map. Sat Navs and GPS can sometimes lose their signal and it’s good to have a reliable back up. On a lighter note a big part of an American road trip is the playlist so don’t forget to add a soundtrack to your trip.

If you see something that looks a bit interesting, different or quirky you just stop, get out of the car and explore. You never know what gems you might find. You can only do that if you’re travelling by car. We loved our Californian road trip so much so that we’re taking another trip in September. This time we’re exploring the Deep South and taking in New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville and Jackson with a music themed trip. I’ve already compiled the playlist! – Suzanne, The Travelbunny

There are a number of different routes you can take. This is a direct route that gives you the advantage of seeing quite a bit of landscape:

  1.  From New York, take the I-80 to the north-east of Colorado
    o The I-80 goes through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska before it intersects with the I-76
  2. Take the 1-76 from the intersection down to Denver
  3. Take the I-70 from Denver to central Utah
    o Travel west through Colorado and most of Utah before it intersects with the I-15
  4. Lastly, take the I-15 south-west through Las Vegas, Nevada down to Los Angeles

Make sure you have a loose plan, but still leave room for exploring! You are going to want to know where you are spending the night (some don’t but most do) and how long between cities, but keep an open mind and be flexible! Don’t plan every step of the way! Perhaps plan for the first few days and go with the flow for the next few and see where it leads you! With a car, you can stop and explore the smaller things that would be missed by plane or train! You can take as long or as little as you want and choose to take the major highway or meander through winding back roads seeing what you can discover! You can even sleep in your car or camp out of it if that is your thing and wake up to a stunning view of a sunrise over a beach or mountain. – Victoria, Follow Me Away

Driving off the interstate highways will take a lot longer, but it will afford you the real, authentic American experience of driving through picturesque towns and countryside. If you’ve got the time to spare, off the beaten track is the best way forward!

The most important piece of advice is the most obvious: be sure the vehicle you’re driving is road ready. If you’re driving your own car take it in for service and let the mechanic know you’re going on a road trip. If you’re renting a car then a lot of the work is done for you. Just be sure you know who to call in case of an emergency and have 24/7 assistance information ready. Now for the fun stuff: take music that you love with you. Download a playlist or listen to that book on tape you’ve been wanting to read but never seem to have time for. And don’t forget to stop and enjoy the scenery! Road trips are fun for so many reasons: the ability to take time to explore something that catches your interest. Enjoying the scenery along the way. And the opportunity to travel to places that are not easily accessible by train or plane. The downside to road trips is that you do need some time or they can become exhausting very quickly. They are a great opportunity to really get to know the culture and vibe of the USA. The USA is all about the car culture; what better way to discover it than the open road? – Penny, Adventures of a Carry On

I’m a big fan of a plan and love creating the perfect itinerary, but if that’s not you, you could simply open that map and pick a new spot everyday as you make your way from point A to point B! The most important thing is committing to doing it and making sure your car is prepped and packed for every eventuality! The biggest advantage of a road trip is that you can operate on exactly your own time frame. You can spend as long or as little if you like in each stop, you can change your mind about where you go, and you can get to some really off the beaten path locations. On the downside, driving can be tiring – especially if you are hitting the road solo, and the lack of help with planning/driving could be a source of stress for some people. – Vicki, Make Time to See the World

Travel From NY To LA By Bus

jon flobrant pic
Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash

If you’re not keen on driving or the responsibility that comes with it, travelling from New York to LA by bus is another fun, exciting and pretty relaxing option. The buses that travel these routes are luxurious, air conditioned, and have a defined itinerary, which will help you plan your sight seeing. Booking your ticket in advance should also result in a decent discount on your travel with Greyhound.

You can book your tickets through the Greyhound website, or external sources such as Wanderu and BusBud.

Plan your route in advance and try to keep from arriving to many bus stations at night. This might mean extending your trip by a few days and spending the night in different cities. Traveling the US by bus is safe, but many bus stations are unfortunately not in the best areas of town. If you do find yourself arriving somewhere at night, I’d look up 24 hour cafes in town, and take an uber there while you wait for a connecting bus, rather than waiting for hours in the bus station in the middle of the night. Traveling by bus allows you to see the country in a different light. You really get a feel for different communities, different parts of the country and a general sense of what makes the United States so eclectic. It’s also a really budget-friendly way to see the country.

For one, traveling by bus is more affordable. I also find that traveling by bus or train gives me more time to journal and reflect on my life, where it has taken me and where I hope it will continue to take me. You also meet really interesting people on the bus–for some reason this mode of transport tends to bring out a more relaxed vibe and strangers have no problem striking up conversations with you! The only thing I would say is that you do need to be a bit more careful on the bus, as the security isn’t as strong as it is by plane. Keep an eye on your belongings, watch your surroundings, and try to plan arriving to different destinations during the daytime. – Kelly, Go! Girl Guides

Travel From NY To LA By Train

nicola berntsen
Photo by Nicolai Berntsen on Unsplash

Travelling from New York to LA by train is the next level in comfort and style and can be pulled off easily using Amtrak . There is no direct train route between New York and LA, but this gives you a little bit of variety to choose from. Generally, you’ll travel from New York to Chicago, with a choice between two different routes to get there. Once in Chicago, you can choose between four routes to Los Angeles.

One of the most beautiful routes to travel between New York and Chicago is the Lakeshore Limited route, which runs along the shore of Lake Michigan, then the Mohawk River and Eerie Canal and finally through Albany to Chicago.

Overnight sleeping accommodations are included for long trips and there are a variety of on-board dining options too.

Travel to: USA

If your dream US road trip is a short or short-ish route you plan to do on paved roads, you may be better off in a smaller vehicle that gets better mileage and is easier to park, etc. However, if your US road trip will be about longer term routes that will include rough dirt roads, then a tough, 4X4 truck is the way to go because it gives you durability and power and the ability to carry gear.

Your next question becomes: what size truck? Chevy Colorado? A half ton truck? Or a truck like our monster – a Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Diesel which has the size and strength to carry our custom-built cargo system in the bed (we’ve been traveling full-time since 2006, so we need to have a wide range of gear with us) and even pull a travel trailer all while going uphill.  Your truck size decision will be based on two things: number of passengers and amount of stuff you need/want to carry.

The greatest advantage of spending more than 28 months exploring the US in our Chevrolet Silverado was the was freedom and independence the truck gave us. Our truck allowed us to go where and when we wanted including pulling an Airstream to a wild camping spot on public land right on the rim of the Grand Canyon to driving the haul road from Fairbanks to Deadhorse.

Honestly, flying sucks these days plus you never get to see or experience what you’re flying over. As already noted, traveling in our truck allowed us to explore the US (and then Canada, Mexico, Central America, and South America) virtually without limits. Our truck is a tough third partner and we wouldn’t go anywhere without it as our Trans-Americas Journey road trip continues south (10 years on the road and counting!). – Karen and Eric, Trans Americas Journey

Is it worth the effort?

There’s no doubt about it, travelling by land won’t get you there quicker, but it will get you there with a greater appreciation for American life, culture and food. If you’ve got the time…take the road trip, bus or train!

From his hometown of Sydney, Australia, Sebastian has turned travel into a profession. Starting out as a tour guide in Sydney, he then moved to Europe to lead tours across the continent, before returning home where he continues inspiring others to find their own adventures.

Up Next:

Your Italian Food Bucket List: Naples and Amalfi Coast Edition

Your Italian Food Bucket List: Naples and Amalfi Coast Edition