Who hasn’t fantasized about great American roadtrip holidays? Movies like Into the Wild, The Motorcycle Dairies, and About Schmidt have given us a glimpse of the beauty of the wide, open road. As Hollywood has taught us, a well-executed roadtrip is more than just pretty pictures, it’s a way to learn about ourselves. After all, there is nothing more contemplative than an empty road and open space.
You may be wondering how you can experience one of those great American roadtrip holidays. The good news is, it’s easier than you think.
Getting started – pick your theme
Everyone has unique likes and dislikes. One of the greatest joys of roadtripping is that you can design your experience for your preferences. New to this style of travel? Here are a few themes to consider:
America’s National Parks are popular tourist destinations for a reason. They are flat-out fantastic. The more parks you visit, the more you’ll appreciate the uniqueness of each. Traveling throughout the national park system is adventurous, beautiful, and sometimes challenging. This is a great trip for those who are outdoorsy, enjoy exercise and have a medium to high tolerance for crowds.
Having spent most of my adult life on the west coast, I am partial to the California coastline, however, the east coast has some amazing nature to offer as well. Coastal roadtrips provide plenty of beauty, unbeatable weather, fun activities, and laid-back towns full of art, wine, and delicious seafood. This is a great trip for those who want a dash a culture with their outdoor adventures.
The Southwest (Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Texas)
One of the most popular spots for roadtripping in America, this part of the country has dramatic rock formations, stunning sunsets, and a wide, open landscape that will force you to ponder the meaning of life. This area is best visited in the winter months (November – March). This is a great trip for those who are interested in history and culture, outdoor activities, and access to urban comforts.
The Northern Mountain States (Montana, Wyoming, Idaho)
This area is the perfect complement to the Southwest and is best visited in the summer months (May-September). In addition to some major National Parks, you’ll find plenty of state and regional parks to explore the stunning mountains, rivers, lakes, and valleys. This is the least populated area of the country and is covered in untouched wilderness. This is a great trip for those who want to be in nature without the crowds.
Planning for the best American Roadtrip Holidays
Executing a great trip is always a delicate balance thinking ahead and living in the moment. After experiencing both ends of the spectrum, I’ve created a method that provides enough structure for comfort but also leaves room for the unexpected.
Researching the logistics
If you are going to spend any time planning, I’d suggest using it on travel logistics. With just a little bit of legwork, you can save a lot of money and create amazing travel experiences. For hotels, my go-to platforms are Airbnb, Hotels.com, and Hipcamp. One helpful tip is to always use the “map view” when picking out your accommodations. It’s also worth expanding your radius a little bit, as you can sometimes find off-the-beaten-path options on Airbnb that will uplevel your entire trip. Don’t forget to look at your travel reward accounts as well (my personal favorite is Chase Ultimate Rewards).
If you are traveling to a new region, you may also need to look up flights and rental cars. For flights, I always look at Google Flights and Hopper. For cars, I start with Turo and Outdoorsy and then go to the major rental companies, if needed. When searching for a standard rental, I use Travelocity.
Make a list of things to do
I generally spend a maximum of 30 minutes googling my destination. Some of my main resources are TripAdvisor, Wikipedia, and local websites. I jot down every interesting activity I see and then organize them by area. I try to only skim information to save time but also to allow an element of surprise upon arrival. When it’s time to explore, I simply pick an area and start trying out activities.
Don’t forget about food
While my attitude towards daily activities is pretty laissez-faire, I have to admit that putting some thought into a nice meal, can make a huge difference in your trip. My go-to site is Yelp, but it’s also worth asking the locals as well.
Depending on where you go, however, you may not have access to very many restaurants. In this case, one of my favorite things to do is a fancy picnic. At even the most basic grocery store, you can always find a variety of cheese, meat, olives, fruit, nuts, and other snacks. Grab what inspires you and then dump it all onto a cutting board for a no-prep, charcuterie-themed, outdoor feast.
Hitting the road
Now that you’ve picked your region and drafted a plan, it’s time to hit the road. You are about to enjoy the first of many great American roadtrip holidays!
Read Next: Check out my top 5 American roadtrip experiences: