"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new
landscapes, but in having new eyes."
Driving Route66 requires a bit of advance planning: US Highway 66 is not the ordinary Interstate highway; it is a historic road which winds away from the beaten path.
Below we outline how to Plan your trip, When to travel and What to bring with you. Enjoy the process of planning your journey along Route-66
Main Street in Williams, Route 66 in Arizona
On occasions the original US 66 alignment is not clearly marked with road signs so following its path across America requires some preparation.
How to Plan your Route 66 Trip
All trips require a bit of planning, map reading (online or paper), briefing up on the weather, the sights to see and things to do along the way. The process can be summarized as follows:
Read more here: Road Trip Planner
Pack your luggage and hit the road.
Do a basic research on your destination. Check out some maps, try to read up on the attractions, accommodation, services. Do a rough outline of what you will be doing.
Talk to friends and people that you know who have done this trip before. Ask them what they liked and also what they disliked and would do differently the next time they travel.
How much time do you have? Two weeks? Three? One Month? This is a key element because you can work out how much of Route66 you will be able to drive, how much time you will have for doing side trips or visiting attractions along the way.
It will also take time to reach Route 66, whether you live in London, Texas, or London, England, you will still have to get to the Mother Road (it will take a bit longer from the UK). Factor in this time to "come & go" from Route_66.
The whole Route-66 is 2,278 miles (3,665 km) long. At a very conservative 50 mph (80 km⁄h) this means around 46 hours of total driving time. So you could drive the whole Route 66 in a week. Of course, stopping along the way and savoring the local flavors is much more fun, and also takes more time.
Driving Time, Less is more
Driving is fun, especially during a road trip, but don't overdo it. Drive too many hours and you will miss the sights along the way and tire yourself in vain.
Aim at driving not more than 6 hours per day.
Factor in the time you will be stopping to fuel up, eat and just sip a cup of coffee.
Remember that U.S. 66 is not an interstate highway, so you will go slower. Also take into account the occasional detour and side trip to visit special attractions that are not located on U.S. 66.
What is your style?
Some travelers like to have a detailed itinerary and know beforehand their stops, the sights that they will see and the hotels where they will stopover.
Others prefer an open plan, and let the road lead them to unexpected destinations.
A sensible approach is to outline a general idea of your road trip, book key accommodations beforehand and define which attractions and sights should be visited.
Leave room for unexpected scenic spots that may tickle your fancy.
How much time do you have?
Your time window will define how much time you will spend on the road and going to and from it. Once you know how much time you can dedicate to your Road Trip, you can define its scope.
You may want to drive the whole route or just drive a segment, you may want to skim along the main sights and attractions or on the other hand focus in detail on a specific portion of the road.
What do you want to see?
Knowing what you want to visit, drive, experience and savor, will help you define the sites and attractions that you will visit on your journey.
Make a Wish List
When doing your research about the sights and landmarks you want to see, make lists of "Must See", "Would Like to See", "Can Skip", that way you can add or cut off places according to your needs later during the trip, but not miss the "Must Sees".
Something critical, is to define the start and end points of your trip:
Start and End points for your Journey
Maybe you want to drive from Chicago to Los Angeles or just focus on a segment (Los Angeles to Albuquerque or Amarillo to Saint Louis). Once you know your starting and ending points you can begin to plan your trip.
Main Street US 66 in Seligman, AZ
You can work out the distance between both tips of your trip and calculate your driving time. You can check out the attractions along the way. Estimate how much time you will spend at each landmark or place. Work out where you will have to stopover and, of course the time that you will need to be able to reach your starting point and get home from your ending point.
Define your Itinerary
Knowing your starting point, end point, time availability and basic attractions to visit will let you define a draft itinerary, with stopovers and rough date estimates.
See our Itinerary page with a detailed description of the whole Route 66, state by state, town by town.
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 Route 66:
See our Flights page, with full information on flights and airports.
Places to Visit & Things to Do
Each town along Route 66 has its special and peculiar attractions, large and small, famous or little known. Do some research on the towns you will be passing through, take note of the museums, curio shops, vintage diners, classic service stations, notable places, landmarks, Nostalgia filled main streets or whatever tickles your fancy.
Check Attractions & Sights along Route 66.
Sights and Attractions
Learn what Landmarks, Historic places, sights, vintage motels, service stations or points of interest can be visited along your route. Calculate how much time will be needed to stop and visit them. Review your draft Itinerary.
There are many sites that are quite close to Route 66 and are worth taking a detour to visit. Factor in some side trips to your Route 66 Road Trip: the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam or Monument Valley are some examples. The West has great landscapes with State Parks and National Parks offering plenty of adventure, sights and a chance for some outdoor recreation.
Detours to Special Attractions
Some impressive State and National Parks are located close to US 66. Decide which to visit and adapt your Itinerary to include them.
Book your accommodations
You can drive the route on an open plan and stop at any motel that catches your eye. But it is risky, especially during summer holidays or vacation period. Reserving a hotel or motel in advance is safer. The main hotel and motel chains offer rooms along Route 66 so you should have no problems in booking your rooms in advance.
Some key lodging may be fully booked months in advance, so pinpoint these locations and reserve with plenty of time.
Carry proof of your reservation (i.e. your confirmation number) just in case.
There are of course the Vintage and Route 66 "must see" hotels with thematic rooms, and also the "classic" lodging places along the road. These places should be booked well in advance. Demand is high.
We include a link in each town, sight and attraction to the lodging that is close to it. You can also check hotels & motels along Route 66.
Lodging along the Route
Check out the hotels and motels at your stopover points, book a room in advance if you will travel during peak tourism season.
Estimate a Budget
Take your GPS and Maps. A. Whittall
Calculate how much your trip will cost you and include the following:
You have to drive - fly from your home to the starting point of your journey and get back home from the ending point. Calculate these costs.
Knowing how many miles you will be driving (add a +10% to it just in case) and estimating the average mileage per gallon (km⁄l) of your car, you can work out how many gallons of fuel you will need to do your road trip.
Check the current Gasoline and Diesel Fuel prices.
Work out your lodging costs, based on how many nights you will be spending on the road.
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: Travel Insurance
Renting a Car, RV or motorcycle
Car, motorcycle or RV rental. Maybe you will rent a vehicle to do your road trip (if you are an international traveler this will be the case). Check costs and availability.
Renting a Vehicle
See our RV Tips page for some interesting tips on Motorhomes & Recreational Vehicles.
This cost is a bit tricky... will you eat at restaurants? Have Lunch and Dinner? Buy snacks or stock up at the local supermarket?
Perhaps you can set a daily food budget and stick to it.
Money Saving Tips
1. Buy the essentials at home.
2. Choose a hotel that offers free amenities: free wi-fi, parking, local calls...
3. Check special deals for students, seniors, groups, families. Are you a member of AAA? you may get discounts or free gifts.
Entrance fees to National or State Parks, Museums, events... calculate these too.
Set some cash aside for tips, taxis, small gifts, souvenirs, emergencies and those once-in-a-million gifts that you may encounter.
How Much Cash
In the US you can pay almost everything with your credit card. But you do need some cash sometimes. Go over the different items of your trip and find out where you may be needing actual cash (tips, taxi ride, a bus, tolls, emergency cash).
Prepare your first Budget estimate
Add up all the items and calculate your first Draft Budget. Now refine it:
Go Over your Plan again and again
Review your first draft; give yourself more time to see things, for shopping or to visit some cultural attraction. Fine tune your trip to and from Route 66. International visitors should review flight options, connections to local airports, the time frame for picking up and returning your rented car. American visitors with their own vehicles should reckon where to stop along the way from their homes to their starting point on Route 66.
Planning your trip is part of the fun, enjoy the process!
When? The best time of the year
Seasons and Route 66
US 66, like most attractions around the world has its High and Low Seasons. Summer vacation period is more crowded, and winter with its threat of snow and inclement weather has slacker traffic.
See our page on When to Visit Route 66
Weather and Seasons
Relax and enjoy
The period of the year that spans from the middle of spring until mid-fall, including summer (May to October) is the best season for driving Route 66./p>
If you travel earlier (January to April), or later (November and December), you run the risk of encountering snow and cold weather. Bear in mind that US 66 runs all the way from Chicago in the North to balmy Los Angeles in the Southwest, so it runs through several climate zones.
Tornados (see our page on tornadoes) can and do take place during any month of the year, but they are less frequent in winter and more common during spring and early summer (March to June).
Summer can be pretty warm in the Western areas of Route 66, but that is no problem with air-conditioning in cars, motels and diners. Just dress comfortably for the hot weather.
Rain. Should be expected and planned for: take rain gear with you, don't let it spoil your outdoor activities during your trip.
Cold weather and low temperatures can be encountered even in summer; in the West, there is a large swing between day time and night time temperatures. Carry a light jacket with you, even in summer.
In each of our attraction or town pages we include a description of the weather and the current forecast.
Tourists and Travelers
A map, Route 66 and live your adventure
Route 66 is a popular destination and it is becoming even more popular. You will encounter bikers riding in groups and even buses with tour groups, cars with families and couples all along the Mother Road.
Tourists travel more frequently during the summer vacations period, during June, July and August. Then, after mid-September, as the school year begins (and the folks get back to their jobs), there is less tourist traffic along US 66.
Take this into account when planning your trip: hotels are cheaper off season and easier to book off-the-cuff. During the High Season you will pay more for the same lodging and you should book in advance.
The Best Time to Travel
We are all subject to our daily lives, our work, our families and our obligations which may not give us too much leeway when it comes to choosing the dates for our vacations.
But in our opinion, the best time to travel is when you have the chance to do so, in the company of a good travel mate (spouse, friend, family).
Plan your trip and enjoy yourself during the whole process, from planning to driving Route 66. It is all part of the fun.
Route 66 in Arizona
What should you bring?
Being prepared for contingencies is important, so you must jot down a "things to bring" list to avoid surprises once you start your Road Trip. You can always buy forgotten items at the local supermarket or drugstore, but some things can be complicated to purchase (reading glasses, prescription medicine, etc.). Make a list and cover all bases.
Map or GPS? Both; neither are foolproof but they complement each other.
A current paper map is always handy even though our smartphones have maps, navigation apps like Waze or a GPS in them. A GPS / navigation app is fundamental: Driving to an unknown destination is much easier with a GPS or Waze prompting us along. Make sure you have the address of your destination jotted down or in your smartphone.
The paper map is critical because it can help you plot your next moves, calculate distances and driving times.
It also lets you see what other sights and attractions are close to your route and may be worthy of a small side trip to visit them. We did this when we were in Arizona and drove to the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, with its amazing rocks formations.
If you rented a car, all you will need is the phone numbers of their emergency assistance. Keep it handy just in case.
If you are using your own car, then make sure that your spare tire is ok. Pack a set of spare keys, write down the phone numbers of your roadside assistance (AAA or similar).
The legal documentation for driving: car registration, insurance proof, your driving license. International visitors, will need their passports with appropriate visa to enter the U.S.
First aid and toiletries
The usual First Aid kit includes Band-Aids, bandages, antiseptic, ibuprofen, aspirin, plus your regular medication (bring enough of it to cover your whole trip).
Hand sanitizer is useful, lip-balm, bug repellent and very important: sunscreen (it is sunny in the Southwest).
Small size laundry soap it comes in handy.
If you are allergic, do not forget your allergy medications.
Plastic trash bags for collecting the trash and disposing of it at service stations. Paper napkins or a roll of toilet paper for some unexpected stop along the way.
Zip-loc bags to keep important items dry. Wet Wipes
A couple of rolls of quarters. They come in handy at the laundry and toll roads.
Some healthy and easy to carry food: granola bars, nuts, peanuts, dried fruit, raisins, fresh fruit and water are a must. Sometimes the next stop is far away.
Summer travel is easier with a cooler. You can stock it with water and non-alcoholic drinks, carry fruit, cheese or sandwiches. And keep things cool with ice from the ice-machine at the hotels you stop at.
Chargers, for your phone, your camera, your notebook, tablet and GPS. A USB cable, power cords, socket adapter (for foreign visitors), spare battery for cameras,
Think weather: will it be hot or cold, rainy or sunny. Winter or Summer. Prepare for the weather you may encounter along the road. Dress comfortably for the road trip. Pack a windjammer or a sweater. Cap or hat to fend off the sun. An umbrella just in case it rains. Don't forget a swimsuit.
Pack the basics, in colors that can combine easily. If you spend more than a week on the road you will need to wash your clothes. Book lodging at a hotel that has laundry facilities or ask for a Laundromat when you reach your destination. Light quick-drying clothes are also handy should you choose to wash your clothes in your hotel room.
Tips for Healthy and Safe Travel
If you have a health condition (heart, diabetes, asthma, etc.), check with your doctor before you travel. He may have advice on what you should or should not do.
Prepare a brief medical history and carry it with you: your doctor's contact information, your allergies, blood type, prescription medications, etc.
Check that you have the required health immunizations.
Get medical insurance that covers emergency evacuation for medical care. Carry the contact details of your insurance with you.
Ask your doctor to issue prescriptions for the medications that you may need during your whole trip, you may not be able to buy them in the U.S. Carry the essential medications in your carry-on luggage.
Keep your medicine in its original packaging, you may need a letter from your MD explaining the need for certain medicines.
Above we have mentioned the basics of a First-aid kit, but remember to bring: flu or cold medicine, motion sickness medication, antibiotic ointment, upset stomach and diarrhea medication, your specific pain reliever.
If you wear glasses, pack an extra pair of glasses.
During your Flight
Avoid alcoholic drinks and coffee. Keep hydrated; drink plenty of water. Eat sparingly. Try to sleep and readjust to the local time when you arrive.
Follow the on board exercise programs to keep blood clotting in your legs to a minimum. Walk about, stretch.
Adapt to local time upon arrival to avoid jet lag.
On your trip
Don't touch wild animals. Squirrels bite and have plague or rabies.
Use sunscreen and insect repellant (ticks transmit Lyme's disease).
Wash your hands frequently.
Keep healthy habits: eat fruit, whole grains, lean meats and vegetables. Sleep well. Do not skip breakfast. Stop along the way to relax and unwind. Walk whenever you can.
Happy Holidays Suggestions
"When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money.
Then take half the clothes and twice the money."
There is some truth in Heller's quote: Don't pack as many clothes as you are going to think you are going to need. You will travel lighter and have more space to pack souvenirs in your suitcase or duffel bag. But you don't need to carry cash, ATMs are found along the route and credit cards are lighter and equally effective.
Get off the beaten track, take that side road to visit that little town. Remember that in a Road Trip, the Destination is the Journey.
Stop at the curio shops, look for that vintage diner, taste the local foods. Take your time to chat with the folks.
Stop by the tourist information post and find out about the local attractions. Shoot photographs, look at the landscape, mountains and hills, learn about the forces that built the landscape. Who lived here in the past.
Write your travel journal, feel the rain, admire the sun setting on the horizon, slow down, talk, listen, learn.
Even if you "only" drive five or six hours daily, it is a lot of time behind the wheel. So make your trip a comfortable one...
- Have an "Open Plan"
Delays are inevitable during long journeys. Weather, natural events, accidents happen, so be ready to change your plans on the go.
Avoid frustration; remember that this is "your" vacation, "your" road trip. Switch plans. Check lodging options in case you have to spend the night at a different location. Look up some new attraction to visit instead. Flow with the traffic.
- Travel in good company
Drive in good company; friends, or family are the most important part of any trip. A good travel companion makes the journey memorable, sharing experiences with somebody is marvelous. Remember that you will be confined in the small area of your car so being comfortable with your travel companion is fundamental. Avoid taking a vacation with someone who irritates you or irks you. It could ruin your trip.
- Take Turns Driving
Many guys grab on to the steering wheel and don't share it, especially if their copilot is a woman, this is a serious mistake. Road trips are long and are meant to be enjoyed.
Let go of the steering wheel and take a back seat, gaze out of the window, take in the scenery, relax, enjoy. Remember, it is all about the journey not the destination.
Music is a great part of life's experiences, it gives them a frame, a setting, memories are built with songs and tunes. Build memories of your Route 66 with good music. Tune into the local FM radios, plug in your MP3 or just sing along with your travel mates. Years from today you will hear a song that will strike vivid memories of your Road Trip.
- Sun Screen and glasses
Driving in summer especially in the Southwest will expose you to the Sun. Clear skies increase exposure: apply a generous layer of sunscreen on arms, face and neck. Take a hat too.
- Leave No Trace
Take your litter with you in your car. Use plastic bags to keep your cockpit clean and empty them when you reach your destination. A clean and tidy car makes the journey more pleasant.
- Relax and Rest
Stop at rest areas, sip a cup of coffee or some water when you stop to fill up at a gas station. Relax and enjoy. Park and take in the scenery, smell the air, feel the wind in your face.
This is your trip, let it seep into you.
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Banner image: Hackberry General Store, Hackberry, Arizona by Perla Eichenblat.