Top Tips for Driving Route 66
Is there a more iconic road trip in North America than Route 66? This famous stretch of road from Chicago California is legendary and has been featured in numerous films, tv shows, songs and books.
Route 66 was established on 11 November 1926 and was an important link between the east and west of America. This journey takes you on a proper journey through the American heartlands and takes in so many incredible places along the way.
Riding Route 66 really is something you need to tick off your travel bucket list, something which John Steinbeck proclaimed ‘The Mother Road’ in his famous novel The Grapes of Wrath.
Although the original road was decommissioned decades ago, you can still ride a lot of the former sections including along state highways, byways and side roads. If you a dreaming of going backpacking in the USA and taking the ultimate road trip on Route 66, before you go there are lots of things to consider.
Here are some essential planning tips, things you should know before you go and also advice for making the most Of Route 66.
How Long Does it Take to Drive Route 66?
Route 66' is a huge 2,488-miles in length and runs through eight states: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
Riding the whole route from Chicago to Los Angeles can generally be completed in a fast paced two weeks but it really depends how many stops you want to make and how many hours you want to drive per day for how long it takes. You also need to decide if you want to complete the whole length of Route 66, or just do a section.
Three to four weeks is a recommended amount of time to dedicate where you can enjoy a leisurely pace and also take in the more popular tourist sites, towns and cities.
How to Drive & Rent a Car in the USA
To rent a car in the USA you need to be at least 21 years old with a valid drivers license from your home country. Some companies are more strict than others and some might require you to be aged 25. If you don't plan to return the car to where you hired it from, you might need to pay an extra fee.
Some of the best rental companies to consider booking with who have branches nationwide include:
What Car to Hire & Tips for Driving
When choosing a car you will need to decide your budget and the type of car you want. There are lots to choose from including compact, saloon, 4WD, sports, classic).
The Subaru Ascent is a popular option whilst if you really want to traditional American experience, you can't go wrong with hiring a convertible Ford Mustang. One option which you might also want to consider is to hire a motorhome, this is more expensive than your average car but remember you will save lots of money on accommodation.
Driving in the US is fairly easy especially when outside the major cities, most cars are also automatic which can make it easier. Be sure to take lots of breaks and try to avoid driving too many hours per day to avoid tiredness. Be sure to check out the local radio stations or get a car with Bluetooth speakers so you can play your own tunes.
Be sure to get travel and car insurance just to be covered incase you have any accidents or emergencies.
Plan Your Itinerary
Although it is good to have a bit of flexibility, you will need to research in advance of where you want to start, finish and also visit.
Filling Up Fuel
You can find gas stations along most routes you travel usually every 30 - 40 miles but in some states like Arizona they can be Moore spread out. Make sure you are always at least half full of fuel just incase you don't find any gas stations nearby. Prices vary depending on the state and it is common in the United States to have to pay for the fuel before actually filling the tank up.
Get Advice Along the Way
You can get lots of information online but when you stop off at hotels, restaurants, gas stations and state welcome centers you will get the chance to meet local people with lots of knowledge to share. Be sure to pick their brains and don't be afraid to ask for help.
Best Places to See Along Route 66
You can take in so many sites and places of interest, including local diners, drive in movie theatres, cities and local towns.
Here are some amazing places to add to your Route 66 itinerary:
- Cadillac Ranch (Amarillo, Texas)
- The Painted Desert (Indian Wells, Arizona)
- The Milk Bottle Grocery (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)
- St Louis and the Gateway Arch (St Louis, Missouri)
- Route 66 Hall of Fame Museum (Pontiac, Illinois)
- Ed Galloway’s Totem Pole Park (Foyil, Oklahoma)
- Petrified Forest (Holbrook, Arizona)
- Santa Monica Pier (LA, California)
- The Blue Whale (Catoosa, Oklahoma)
- The Wigwam Motel (Holbrook, Arizona)
- Palo Duro Canyon State Park (Amarillo, Texas)
- Lou Mitchell’s Diner (Chicago, Illinois)
- Route 66 Museum (Clinton, Oklahoma)
- Tee Pee Curios Shop (Tucumcari, New Mexico)
- Meramec Caverns (Stanton, Missouri)
- The Gemini Giant (Wilmington, Arizona)
- Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
- Rialto Square Theatre (Joliet, Illinois)
- Mojave National Preserve (Baker, California)
- Seligman (Seligman, Arizona)
- Santa Fe (Santa Fe, New Mexico)
- Santa Monica Pier (Santa Monica, California)
Best Side Trips & Places to Check Out Near Route 66
Amazing side trips to consider slightly off the traditional Route 66 route include Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater, Four Corners, the Lake of the Ozarks and Monument Valley.
Classic American Bars & Diners
Be sure to add these places to your Route 66 itinerary if you are after great places to eat and drink along the trip:
- Lou Mitchell’s, Chicago, Illinois
- The Ariston Cafe, Litchfield, Illinois
- Tia Sophia’s, Santa Fe, New Mexico
- The Museum Club, Flagstaff, Arizona
- Emma Jean’s Holland Burger, Victorville, California
- The Green Mill Cocktail Lounge, Chicago
- Hotel Monte Vista Cocktail Lounge, Flagstaff, Arizona
- Dollar Bill Bar, Oatman, Arizona
- Musso & Frank Grill, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California
You can find lots of hotels and motels along the route, most you do not even need to book in advance. As you are outside of the main tourist hotspots prices are very cheap.
You can search places along the route on websites or apps like Booking.com - be sure to research some quintessential places to stay too, we recommend:
- Three Roses Bed & Breakfast, Pontiac, Illinois
- The Wagon Wheel in Missouri
- Blue Swallow Motel, Tucumcari, New Mexico
- Campbell Hotel, Tulsa, Oklahoma
- La Posada Hotel & Gardens, Winslow, Arizona
- Silver Saddle in Sante Fe
- The Wigwam Motel, San Bernardino, California
All these places offer a classics and quintessential American old style or unique accommodation - a lot better than modern bland hotels.
Essential Things to Pack
No matter whether you are just heading away for a few nights or you are planning to travel the full Route 66, you need to make sure you have all the essentials in your car. These are some of the most important things you should put in your car when you travel this amazing route.
- Clothing (pack for the season)
- Comfortable trainers
- Rain coat
- Phone and charger
- Roaming wifi device (optional)
- Pillow and blanket for the car
- Reusable water bottle
- Gadgets + adapter
Route 66 Tours & Alternatives to Driving
If you aren't 21, or don't have a drivers licence, you will either need to travel with someone who can drive, or you might like to consider USA tours a lot of which include Route 66 in the itinerary. Some cross country bus services also include parts of the Route 66 itinerary.
Driving America’s most iconic highway really is the ultimate road trip of a lifetime and hopefully our tips have given you some ideas and helped you to plan the trip.
If you have ever travelled along Route 66 and have any advice or recommendations to share let us know in the comments section below.