Planning a Route 66 Road TripBy Ashley Friedman; Updated June 08, 2017
Taking a trip on the world's most famous highway
Route 66 is one of the most-famous and best-loved roadways in America. Although Route 66 no longer exists as a single entity, large swaths of the two-lane highway remain. Making the drive from Chicago to Los Angeles is one of greatest road trip experiences on the North American continent. Because the route itself has been fractured by construction and topographical changes, it's important to do some planning before heading out on the road. A number of resources are available on the internet and in books that offer comprehensive guides to traveling the road's remaining thoroughfares. By selecting the stops you'd like to make before you head out, you'll go a long way toward ensuring that the only unexpected surprises you encounter will be the good kind.
Before heading out on the road, book the places you're going to stay. As with any other amenity or stop along the way, booking considerations vary from traveler to traveler. Some drivers and passengers may choose their reservations based on proximity to restaurants, nightlife, music or cultural venues. For others, it's about being as far away from city life as possible and as close to the quiet of nature or the center of a small town as possible. Choose what appeals to you most about each destination you're planning to hit, and do your lodging research accordingly. Make sure you are well aware of cancellation policies before you depart. Part of a road trip's fun is the possibility of spontaneity, so you'll want to be sure that you can cancel your reservation and keep on traveling if the mood should strike. Along the route you'll find some famous lodging options, including the Historic Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona, where visitors can stay in one of 15 concrete teepees complete with a shower, toilet and sink.
Cost considerations are something best discussed and settled on before you leave for your trip. For each day of the journey, decide what you want to spend for accommodations, food and entertainment. Be sure to factor in the cost of gasoline, and always make sure you set aside a dollar amount for emergencies. Carrying a certain amount of cash is wise, particularly in areas where cellular service may be out of range; a bank card or electronic payment may not be possible in some areas. Different legs of your journey are going to require a different budget. Decide where you want to spend the most time, because chances are that will be where you end up spending the most money. Be sure to leave a little wiggle room so that if you decide to splurge on a fancy dinner, an amazing show or a perfect souvenir, you won't be sorry.
Much of the Route 66 highway ‒ approximately 85 percent ‒ is still traverseable by car. The route runs from the Midwest through the Southwest to Los Angeles, and given the climate considerations, it is best to make the journey in the spring or fall. In summertime, temperatures climb and can be uncomfortable. High summer also sees an influx in travelers, which means more traffic and higher rental rates for lodging. Don't travel parts of Route 66 in the wintertime to avoid snowfall, icy roads and other inclement conditions.
Notable landmarks and sites
Along Route 66 are dozens of landmarks and historic sites, some as grand as national parks, others as small as a famous filling station. A combination of natural wonders and mom-and-pop soda shops make up the small-town Americana feel that gives Route 66 its charm. Some key spots to consider for a stop on your journey include The Grand Canyon and the Petrified Forest, the Snow Cap Drive-In in Seligman, AZ, the World's Largest Totem Pole in Foyil, OK and Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX.
Finally, before setting out, a number of other considerations must be taken into account. First and foremost is the condition of your vehicle. If you have not gotten your vehicle inspected before the start of this trip, that's the first step. Ensuring that brakes, tires, transmission, oil, coolant and alignment are in excellent condition before heading out on the road should be the first order of business. Also, be sure that your insurance is in order and will cover any other drivers who might be driving your vehicle during the course of the trip. Another important consideration is making sure that you have access to roadside assistance, either through your own insurance, or an organization like AAA in case of any roadside emergencies. Phone chargers, ample water, a spare tire, a flare gun and a first-aid kit are other road-trip must-haves to check off your supply list before you hit the road and head out on what is sure to be a road trip to remember.