Now that spring is in sight, a lot of people are itching to hit the open roads. A road trip is a great way to bond with family and save money on traveling. When you’re not paying for individual seats on a plane or train, you can save money and re-direct it towards future college funds. However, before heading out, it’s important to do a little prep work.
Some families decide to rent a vehicle to avoid adding needless wear and tear on their own car. If you do use your own vehicle, it’s a good idea to prepare your car beforehand. Otherwise, you might find yourself spending the bulk of your road trip at a mechanic shop.
Prep means a basic maintenance check to ensure there are no problems. Once you know your mode of transportation is good to go, you’re ready to start planning the itinerary. The best road trips will be dictated by your starting point, and here are a few across the country guaranteed to help you make memories:
A Classic. There’s something about tackling this stretch of road that’s a rite of passage. It stretches from Chicago to California, but you don’t need to drive the entire Route in order to make memories. Dubbed the Mother Road, it’s an important part of American culture and psyche. Along the way, you’ll be struck by the deep roots the Route has in American psyche (and probably quickly burn out of the related songs).
The popular Midwestern and Pacific Route has now been bypassed by interstates, but there are many parts of the Route that are well-preserved. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous, particularly in the Southwest. You’ll also likely find a number of areas that you recognize from films. However, if you can only manage part of the route, try to make it the Illinois portion. In Pontiac (the town), you'll find the Route 66 Association Hall of Fame & Museum and the Pontiac Oakland Auto Museum.
Photo: Unsplash/Nathan Dumlao.
If you’re on the West Coast, nothing compares to a Pacific Coast Highway road trip, particularly in California. It’s also known as Route 1 and runs all the way up the state. However, right in the middle is where you’ll find the best scenery and stopping points. Here, there’s Big Sur with its winding roads and stunning cliffs.
You’ll also go through wine country and the charming Carmel. With both mountains and the ocean at your fingertips, there’s something for everyone. Drivers have it best when heading north, and don’t forget about Hearst Castle. It’s a surprising twist of a Spanish cathedral where you’d least expect it.
With a name like that, how can you resist this Colorado gem? It’s part of US Highway 550 and takes you over two miles higher than sea level. Explore gold mining towns in this highway named after the area’s fill dirt.
It’s said it’s full of gold ore, but others say the name comes from the fact that it cost $1,000,000 per mile to build the highway. The altitude makes it a real stunner, and you’ll likely recognize scenes from Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad along the way.
The Mackinac Island Grand Hotel. Photo: Pixabay.
Michigan is full of gorgeous roads to discover, and one that is often on the backburner (wrongly so) is this Upper Peninsula byway. It’s surrounded by lush forests and there are plenty of stopping points for waterfalls. Plus, you can’t beat the Lake Superior views.
It’s’ also called State Highway 513, and it’s a good idea if you travel off course to see what the byway offers. It’s easy to get pulled into exploring the old roads, and you might even be drawn into checking out the Mackinac Island Grand Hotel that’s auto-free and boasts one of the biggest front porches imaginable.
You won’t be lonely with your family in tow. US Highway 50 in Nevada is known by this name because of the barren space around it. However, you’ll have plenty of entertainment options along the route that follows the old Pony Express. Check out the mining camps and take in the mountain scenery filled with junipers and pines. There are options for gas and dining as you head to Great Basin National Park, one of the most overlooked National Parks and home to the bristlecone pines—they are the oldest living being on the planet.
With so many road trip options available, the toughest part is narrowing down which to tackle. Consider the kinds of activities your family would love to do en route and at each destination. There’s something for everyone, especially when you have the freedom of being behind the wheel.
The best travel recommendations come from locals. Check out these Wanderguides from United States by locals sharing their travel tips and hidden gems.