Plan your Route 66 Road Trip
Definition of Plan
"Noun. A set of actions that have been thought of as a way to do or achieve something"
A check list to plan your trip
Your Vacation on U.S. Highway 66
Just like you would do for any other vacation, you will have to gather information to plan your Route 66 trip.
This means you have to do some research, read tips and suggestions to learn more about the attractions that you will enjoy during your journey.
Actually, planning a trip along US 66 is part of the fun.
The four steps that we outline below combined with our Route 66 Route Planner Tool will help you design the perfect Route 66 Road trip.
How to Plan a Route 66 Trip
Our step-by-step checklist will help you to outline your journey and consider everything that you should take into account when planning your trip.
1. Collect information and analyze it
You should first learn about your destination (in this Route 66 is the destination):
A map and Route 66: start living your adventure!
- What are the main sights and attractions?
- When will we drive it, summer, fall, spring?
- What sort of weather will you encounter during that season?
- Will you drive the whole Route 66 or part of it?
- Check a map to identify the main places you will visit (Grand Canyon? Petrified Forest? side trip to Las Vegas?)
- Drive the original alignment or stick to the freeway and only stop at the interesting cities?
These basic questions will help you to outline your trip and gather information.
If you have friends who have done the trip, ask them about their experience both planning their trip and enjoying it, and also, what they would have skipped and what they are sorry they did not visit during their vacations.
Write a rough outline of the trip, and a "wish list" of must-see sights.
You can gather all of your Route 66 vacation planning data here in our website; check the following links:
- Route 66 itinerary planner, an itinerary of the mother road, from Chicago to Los Angeles
- Towns & Cities a link to each and every town along Route 66. You will find all the attractions and sights of that town.
- Attractions a complete list with links to all the attractions and landmarks: motels, diners, gas stations and Route 66 classic sights, listed by state.
- Historic Sites all the "historic places" along US 66, listed by state.
- State by State a summary of each the top 10 sights in each state along the Mother Road
- National & State Parks for those interested in outdoors and nature
Step 1 outcome: A first outline of your trip
You now have a rough outline of where your trip will start and end; the towns, attractions, landmarks, must-see places and other sights. Now you can write down an initial draft of your Route 66 trip plan.
The next step will be to try to fit your initial plan into your allocated time frame, see Step 2 below
Step 2. How long will your trip be?
How much time do you need for it?
Map showing airports close to Route 66
How much time can you spare? Your trip will change depending on how much time you have available.
But don't be discouraged, a one-week or a one-month trip can be planned so that you can pack as much fun and adventure as possible into it; it all depends on how you Plan your Route 66 road trip.
a. Getting to Route 66
In step one you defined the possible starting and ending cities of your road trip; now you can use our Route 66 Road Trip Planner to check their location on the map, and see the distance and driving time between them.
Also, start thinking about getting from your home to the starting point and from the end point back home.
In case you have to fly to Route66, it will come in handy to see which options are available regarding flights and which are the airports closest to the Route 66 start & end points of your journey:
See our Flights page, with full information on flights and airports.
Check out our International Visitors page for useful travel tips.
Factor in the time it will take you to get to US 66. A visitor from the UK will need to calculate the flight times from Britain to the U.S., and the connecting flight to the point where you will start your trip. And then, the return flights to get back home.
A U.S. road-tripper or a Canadian one may choose to drive instead. Calculate the time you will need to "Go to and from Route 66".
Actual Driving Time
Driving Time: Take it easy
Driving is fun and road trips are all about the driving experience. However Route 66 is also about the sights, the people and enjoying the trip.
Drive too many hours and you will get too tired to have fun. So try not keep driving at less than 6 hours per day.
You may also want to take side trips to visit nearby attractions or stick to the side road and avoid the Interstate. These roads may mean a slower pace.
It is a road trip so it is pretty obvious that you will be driving. So plan your driving time: From Chicago to Los Angeles it is 2,278 miles (3,665 km). You can drive along the old road in some parts, and in others you will have to drive along the Interstate. So assuming an average speed of 50 mph (80 km⁄h) you could drive the whole road in about 46 hours.
But you need to consider the towns, cities and villages (with their speed limits and traffic), stopping to take in the scenery, to visit the sights, to eat, fill up with gasoline, walking and relaxing; driving on Old Route 66 isn't like cruising along the Interstate, it is a slower trip.
Driving Route 66 planner tool
Route 66 planner
Check our Route 66 travel planner Tool; it will let you calculate the total distance of your journey between the starting and ending points that you select. It will also give you the total driving time and the Trip duration at the selected driving speed and hours of driving per day, plus a map showing the itinerary.
Play around with the planning tool using different starting and ending points for your trip.
So you can calculate how many days you will actually have for your trip, knowing:
- How much time you have for your trip (i.e. 7 days)
- How long it will take you to go and come from Route 66 (i.e. 2 days)
In this example you have 5 days for your road trip. Now refine you Route 66 Trip Plan by estimating:
- How many hours you will drive each day (i.e. 5 hours)
- Your average driving speed. Tip: err on the safe side; calculate a lower average speed (i.e. 40 mph).
- How many hours you will dedicate to visiting the attractions during each driving day. (i.e. 3 hours). So you will be using 8 hours each day between actual driving and sightseeing.
Our Route 66 travel planner Tool lets you do this calculation easily, try it! You can select driving time and speed.
So, in this example, you will have 8 hours between your check-out and check-in times. If you leave at 9 AM, you will arrive at 5 PM. You will be driving 5 hours x 40 miles⁄hour= 200 miles per day on average.
In your allotted time span of 5 days you will have driven: 1,000 miles
You also know the distance you will cover each day (in this case 200 mi.) so this will let you reckon where you will stop to spend the night. And let you plan your accommodation for the night.
Step 2 outcome: outline of itinerary and time required
You now have a draft of your itinerary (distance, main sights) and the duration of your trip (including the driving time and the time to go from your home to Route 66 and back.
The next step will be to calculate how much will it cost. See Step 3 below
Step 3. Calculate a Budget
How much will the trip cost? You must have a reasonable idea of the cost of your road trip. Take into account the following:
The cost of reaching the Mother Road (and getting back home after your trip) depends on whether you will fly or drive to and from your home to the starting and ending points of your journey.
Calculate these costs, which may include: air fares, getting to the airport, parking, airport taxes, taxi, gasoline, tolls, food while you are traveling to get to US66, etc.)
Gasoline for your Road Trip
In Step 2, you calculated the total mileage you will be driving (add a +10% to it just in case). Now estimate the average mileage per gallon (km⁄l) of your car -yours or the one you wil be renting- and calculate how many gallons of gasoline you will need for your trip.
Turn this into dollars by checking the current Gasoline and Diesel Fuel prices in the US.
This is a key element in your budget, and the cost will depend on the season (high or low) and the type of lodging (will you stop at some icon landmark motel? or a regular chain motel?).
To calculate your lodging costs take each of the stopover towns that you identified in Step 2, and the starting and ending points of your journey (in case you spend a night there) and look for hotels to stay at.
Tips for Booking your accommodations
Book your hotel on time!
If you plan to drive Route 66 during the high season summer holiday period, reserve your hotel or motel in advance. Some key lodging may be fully booked months in advance, so pinpoint these locations and reserve with plenty of time.
There are of some Vintage and Route 66 "must see" hotels with thematic rooms which should be booked well in advance. Demand is high.
Read our Tips on Accommodation.
RV parks and campgrounds
Visit our RV Campgrounds page for a State-by-State detail of the RV Campgrounds on Route 66 or
close to it. Full information on each RV Park and campground for your Recreational Vehicle or Motorhome.
A State by State, Town by Town detail with contact information so that you can check the camp ground's features and book your space now, online.
What if you fall ill or suffer an accident?
For our international visitors: Are you covered? If you are traveling outside of your home country, your health and accident insurance may not cover you.
Your travel insurance should cover cancellations or other travel mishaps.
Learn more about Travel Insurance.
Renting a Car, RV or motorcycle
You'll need a vehicle for your Road Trip...
Car, motorcycle or RV rental. If you are an international traveler, you will surely rent a vehicle to do your road trip. Calculate the rental costs and the different options available.
Tips on Renting a Vehicle
Hiring a Car is expensive. For complete information, check out our pages on Renting a Car.
Calculating the cost of food depends on how you like to eat: Will you eat at restaurants? Fast food or more formal meals? Have both Lunch and Dinner? Buy snacks or stock up at the local supermarket?
Attractions and admission fees
You will have to pay an admission fee at National Parks, Museums and events... calculate these too. The fee for National Parks is between $25 and $30 per car per park. There are some senior and annual Passes which may interest you.
Always set some cash aside for the unexpected, for souvenirs, emergencies and whatever may tickle your fancy.
Step 3 outcome: your expenses and a budget
You now know how much your trip will cost. You can now iron out the details... See Step 4 below
Step 4. Check your Plan again and again
Review your first draft. Get some more details. Add or remove sights and attractions, perhaps give yourself more time to see things, for shopping or to visit some cultural attraction. Factor in some side trip. Read more, and improve the original rough draft.
Review flight options the connecting flights, the car rental pick up and return points. Check other lodging options.
Planning a trip on Route 66 is part of the fun, it is about the journey not the destination; enjoy the process!
Trips are lived three times: when we dream them, when we live them, and when we remember them
How much should you plan?
Some travelers like to have a very detailed Route 66 trip plan detailing all their stops, the sights they will see and the hotels where they will stay at. This is perhaps a good idea if you have a tight schedule, so that you can optimize your trip.
Others, especially those with more time on their hands, prefer an open plan, and are open to letting the road take them to unexpected destinations.
A middle-of-the-road approach is to outline a general broad idea of your Route 66 vacation, and then book key accommodations with plenty of time. Leave room for unexpected scenic spots that may surprise you along the way.
See our One Week Route 66 Road Trip Itinerary
We have put together a 1-Week Route 66 Road Trip Itinerary from Chicago to Santa Monica.
You can use it as a starting point for planning your own road trip.
Some sponsored content:
>> Book your Hotel in Santa Monica
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Banner image: Hackberry General Store, Hackberry, Arizona by Perla Eichenblat