Posted inRoad Trips

American Road Trip: Ideas, Routes and Tips

American Road Trip

Dreaming of embarking on a comprehensive road trip across the vast landscapes of the USA? This huge nation is an ideal destination for those seeking an unforgettable journey. If you’re serious about hitting the road in search of the true essence of America, our American road trip guide will help you.

Essential Preparations Before Traveling to the USA

Eager to start your road trip? Before you hit the road, there are several essential things you need to take care of to ensure a smooth experience. To avoid pitfalls that could mar your journey, consider the following:

Apply for your ESTA or travel visa well in advance

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is a crucial program for vetting foreign nationals from visa waiver program countries. Note that obtaining an ESTA doesn’t guarantee entry, as admission remains at the discretion of border guards. If you’re not from a visa waiver nation, applying for a tourist visa at an American diplomatic mission is necessary. Ensure your visit is for pleasure, demonstrate financial capability, provide return travel arrangements, and establish strong ties to your home country.

Take the time to complete your road trip

The suggested routes in our American road trip guide promise breathtaking views and encounters with friendly locals. To truly savor the experience, allocate ample time for your journey. The vastness of the United States means driving times differ significantly from compact European routes. Even the shortened Pacific Coast Highway (San Francisco to Los Angeles) spans over 1,000 kilometers. Plan a minimum of three days for shorter trips and at least three weeks for extended journeys.

They drive on the Right

Visitors from countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, and Japan should adjust to driving on the right side of the road in the USA. Stay in the right lane, exercise caution with left turns, and note the counter-clockwise flow in roundabouts, although they are rare.

What you’ll need before hitting the road

With your ESTA or visa in order and crucial information at your fingertips, it’s time to plan the road trip segment of your adventure. Ensure you have the essentials and some extras to make your journey comfortable and enjoyable.

An international driver’s permit

Unless you’re from Canada or Mexico, securing an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) is essential to drive in the United States. While not mandatory in all states, some have restrictions on the length of stay. Research where you need an IDP and obtain it in your home country. Remember to bring it along with your government-issued driver’s license.

A car. Of course!

Select a vehicle that suits the nature of your road trip. A short jaunt through the Florida Keys may only require a rental car, while a more extensive journey might call for shipping a campervan. Traveling on a budget? Consider purchasing a used car or camper, selling it at the end of your trip.

A Fully-Stocked Cooler

Be prepared for varied days, including sightseeing, extended stops, and long drives. A well-stocked cooler with water, soft drinks, yogurt, sandwiches, and snacks will keep you fueled, reducing the need for frequent stops.

A prepaid SIM card with wide coverage

Enhance your road trip with a prepaid SIM card from providers like T-Mobile or AT&T. Ensure your phone is compatible (GSM), and download essential road trip apps like Waze, GasBuddy, Roadside America, and Spotify for navigation, fuel updates, and entertainment.

Plan your trip around these wonderful routes

Now that you’re ready to hit the road, choosing the right route is paramount. While numerous fantastic drives crisscross the nation, our guide highlights three favorites.

The Pacific Coast Highway

The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) offers stunning views along California State Route 1. Whether opting for the San Francisco to Los Angeles segment or the full Washington State to San Diego drive, allow for flexibility to appreciate isolated beaches, coastal cliffs, and charming towns.

Things to Do:

  • Explore Santa Cruz’s lively beach boardwalk.
  • Visit Monterrey’s outstanding aquarium.
  • Admire the dramatic sea cliffs of Big Sur.
  • Experience the decadence of Hearst Castle in San Simeon.
  • Enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of San Luis Obispo and the Spanish style homes of Santa Barbara.
  • Discover the beach homes of the rich and famous in Malibu.

Where to Eat:

The Galley Seafood Grill & Bar in Morro Bay for fresh seafood.
La Super-Rica Taqueria in Santa Barbara for authentic tacos.

Where to Stay:

Ventana Campgrounds in Big Sur for a camping experience.
Old Monterey Inn for a comfortable stay.

Route 66

Route 66, synonymous with American road trips, runs from Chicago to Los Angeles. While portions have been replaced by interstates, it remains a nostalgic journey symbolizing westward expansion.

Things to Do:

  • Explore Chicago’s iconic attractions.
  • Experience small-town charm in Pontiac, Illinois, and Carthage, Missouri.
  • Visit the Cadillac Ranch in Texas.
  • Discover the San Miguel Mission in New Mexico and the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
  • Conclude your journey at the Santa Monica Pier in California.

Where to Eat:

Miz Zip’s Cafe in Flagstaff, Arizona, for a classic American diner experience.
Big Vern’s Steakhouse in Shamrock, Texas, for juicy steaks.

Where to Stay:

The Wigwam Village Motel #6 in Holbrook, Arizona, for a night in teepee-shaped rooms.
Camp at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon for a memorable camping experience.

US Route 1

Spanning from Northern Maine to the Florida Keys, US Route 1 offers diverse American experiences. Pass through major cities like Boston, NYC, Philadelphia, Miami, and Washington DC, but be prepared for city driving challenges.

Things to Do:

  • Explore the coastal regions of Maine and New Hampshire.
  • Discover historical landmarks in Boston, including Faneuil Hall and the Liberty Trail.
  • Experience the iconic sights of New York City.
  • Visit the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
  • Explore the museums of Washington DC.
  • Enjoy the beaches and nightlife of Miami.
  • Conclude your journey in Key West, the southernmost point in the continental USA.

Where to Eat:

Indulge in lobster rolls in Maine, pizza in New York City, and cheesesteaks in Philadelphia.

Where to Stay:

Camp in the woods of Maine and on the beaches of the Florida Keys.
Opt for comfortable accommodations like the 414 Hotel in NYC or The Setai in Miami Beach.


A road trip across the USA offers a myriad of experiences, from coastal beauty to historic landmarks. Whether you choose the Pacific Coast Highway, Route 66, or US Route 1, plan wisely, savor each moment, and create memories that will last a lifetime. Enjoy the journey!