A road trip along Route 66 – the world’s most renowned highway – is arguably one of the best things you could do in America. Route 66, which begins in Chicago, Illinois and ends in Santa Monica, California, is over 2,400 miles and passes through eight states. It is used by many Midwest vacationing families visiting the Grand Canyon or Disneyland.
Over the years, as more Americans made use of travelling by road, a roadside culture arose along Route 66—motels, diners, petrol stations and tourist attractions—to cater to an ever-growing populace. So, on your next road trip, you can stop off for a hearty meal, have some drinks at a local bar or relax and play an entertaining game this summer.
Tourists are still drawn to the old roadside culture and the allure of the open road today. Songs, films, TV shows, books and even a clothing line have all been inspired by Route 66. Although Route 66 was decommissioned in 1985, visitors come from all over the world to drive along it. They stay in old hotels, marvel at bizarre roadside attractions and eat American road trip food. For some travellers, a Route 66 road trip is a voyage back in time as they rediscover a road they once travelled on during a family vacation. In contrast, for others, it is the ultimate depiction of America.
The route has been repaired, repaved, modified and rerouted throughout the years. Therefore, there is no single Route 66 but rather a multitude of alignments. In New Mexico, for example, one early Route 66 alignment passed via Santa Fe. Still, Route 66 was re-routed in 1937 to bypass the state capital, allowing today’s passengers to pick which Route 66 alignment they choose to follow at such sites.
Travellers get to take in a wide range of popular attractions, including classic vehicles, old bridges, odd roadside monuments and art installations, renovated old gas stations, drive-in movie theatres, painted murals, Old West shows, and city theatres. For more bizarre attractions, you can count on seeing a gigantic blue whale, dinosaurs, a soda bottle, gigantic cowboys, a huge cross, the famed Muffler men, the world’s largest concrete totem pole, and the world’s most oversized rocking chair.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to taking a road trip, particularly one as epic as Route 66. Today, it is estimated that over 80% of the original Route 66 is still driveable in some form or another, and you can quickly identify and drive it with the help of several good Route 66 planning assistants. Give yourself a fortnight to drive the entire route if you want to stay as true to the historic Route 66 as possible, drive extra alignments, and stop at all the major attractions.
What to bring on a road trip
There are a few essentials you should have with you when tackling Route 66 or any other road trips you may have planned.
Here’s a list of things to pack on your next road trip:
Car Documents – Remember to keep your driver’s licence in the car, as well as other necessary paperwork such as the owner’s manual, breakdown information and insurance coverage. Do you require any unique cross-border cards? Before you go, make sure you’ve done your homework.
Battery Pack – Charge your battery pack before leaving your lodgings and use it to recharge your phone battery once it’s been emptied. You can also use it to charge your action camera and portable music speaker.
First Aid Kit – It’s tedious but necessary. If you’re going on a road trip through a country, even if it has inadequate health care, bring a first-aid kit and obtain travel insurance before you leave.
Cool Box – You’ll need a cool box if you want to travel with perishable items or want to keep liquids cold. In the United States, ice can be purchased for $1 or two at gas stations. Some fuel stations throughout Europe may also sell ice in bags.
Appropriate Clothing for the Climate – a high-quality rain jacket is crucial for trips through Europe. When road touring in the UK, you can expect four seasons in one day. You can’t always expect your accommodation (or tent!) to have drying facilities.
Comfortable Footwear – Even the most sloth-like amongst us must stretch our legs at some point. With the potential scenery, a road trip provides, it would be foolish not to trek the hills. Water resistance, support, breathability, comfort and weight are all factors to consider while searching for hiking boots and shoes. Even when driving, you will want to be wearing comfortable footwear.
These are but a few items you should bring with you, however, you are encouraged to do your research in advance as each road trip is different. The list above is a good starting point for driving Route 66, the Great Ocean Road or even the Ring Road in Iceland.