It is hard to imagine the United States without an iconic road trip. The way how this country has grown because of the massive growth in the automobile industry. The road trip in the United States represents something that can’t be found in any other country. The road trip started when couples and families started to become curious to discover the country, taking children to national parks and the outdoors. It is the best part to experience the United States and Canada, with having great conversations in the car, listening to music, sipping a cup of coffee and discovering the country’s diversity, beauty and cultural differences in real time. And, the best perk: it is very easy to drive in the United States given that all rental cars and RV’s come with automatic transmission, cruise control, cupholders and comfortable seats.
The national parks have a big impact in this as many famous roads were built to connect with public lands going through the open spaces. This will make it a perfect experience where you can go back in time to see how America was built and connected via most scenic highways throughout the country.
Is an American Road Trip right for me?
I would answer the question as an absolute yes, however it comes with questions: are you ok driving long distances in a car, for example 5 hours of driving per day straight for two weeks? Do you enjoy sleeping in a different bed every night? Are you open for the unexpected? Road trips come with dangers given that you can get into accidents and unforeseen weather changes, getting stuck somewhere or breaking down. However, driving in the United States and Canada is a very safe experience, with an excellent highway and free system that connects national parks and major metropolitan cities. You will definitely see the country’s best when renting a car spending time on the road. While it might not always be very convenient, you will experience a sense of American freedom where you meet many locals on your journey.
Planning an American Road Trip with national parks
Ultimately, visiting the national parks and driving long-distances into the wide open space will make this a vacation of a lifetime for you. Therefore, we recommend planning ahead and starting with a map. Invest in good printed old school maps as your phone won’t always have connection to Google maps in remote areas. There are three things you should plan ahead:
- Choose your route. You can either make it a round trip or a start-end destination trip with different locations. The advantage of starting/ending at the same area is often better for airfares and car rentals. However, travel time and distance should weigh this decision.
- Reserve a rental car at least 2-3 weeks in advance at the airport where you will arrive. It is fairly easy to pick up rental cars at the airport. Buy proper insurance so that you are fully covered. You can either choose a tour operator/travel agent or find your deals about rental cars online. In case if you get a RV, you should calculate extra budget and insurance given that there are many things inside and outside the RV that can be damaged.
- Make hotel reservations in some areas. Especially in national park areas with a higher visitation, such as Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Great Smokey Mountains, it might be challenging not to have a reservation. Check out our individual itineraries to learn more about when it is best to make a reservation. The other alternative is camping. Most of public camp sites in the United States are first-come first serve. This means that you should not be there later that noon to secure your spot. Some campgrounds allow you to make reservations in advance. For reservations inside national parks and state parks, you can find out more under Reserve America.
Top 10 Road Trip American Road Trip Ideas
While this is a hot topic and mainly discussed to find the “Ultimate American Road Trip”, we have put together the best road trips where we as a team believe will make this a vacation of a lifetime for you. Please note, that no road trip itinerary is absolutely perfect, however they cover at least suggested overnight stays, distance between your stops along with the best activities and local secrets.
Yosemite & Grand Canyon in the Southwest, covering California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah.
This is the traditional first-timer road trip for anyone who wants to see the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and the most scenic national parks in Utah.
The Hidden Northwestern Parks, covering California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia.
Beautiful with lush rain forests along the coast, local wines, national parks and the incredible Cascade Mountains, this trip is nothing short in experiences that might resemble you being in New Zealand, especially with the beautiful Pacific Ocean, together with remarkable cities like Portland, Seattle and Vancouver.
Rocky Mountain High Country Parks, covering Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho.
This trip is by far the highest elevation road trip with many mountain peaks, lakes, lush forrest, high-desert areas and dramatic weather that you can enjoy on your trip. Be prepared from driving through the desert up to passes that 12,000 feet high, enjoying incredible mountain scenery, outdoor activities and hikes combined with Old Western history.
The Great American Road Trip, covering Illinois, South Dakota, Montana, Washington.
This is one of the traditional one-way American road trips highlighting all the things you can discover in one country. You will start in Chicago and then head to the Black Hills, then see Yellowstone & Glacier National Park and end up in Seattle.
Back into the history of Highway 66, covering Illinois, the Midwest and Southwest.
Knows as being one of the very first long-distance highways in the United States, this journey will take you from Chicago to Los Angeles with over 2,448 miles discovering a forgotten style of the 50s in North America, together with national parks.
Coast to Coast, covering the entire country to discover from East to West.
By starting in New York City, you will discover the country as it is from the east coast to the west coast highlighting the best national parks along the way. This might be strenuous, but it is the best trip to experience the entire United States and its, cultural, natural and economic diversity.
Southeastern Beaches & National Park, covering Florida, Georgia, Louisiana.
If you like sand beaches, warm weather, national parks local foods, this would be a great way to see the best beaches in the United States and can be combined with a relaxing beach vacation. Plus, Disneyland, Universal Studios and Bush Gardens will keep your fun at an all time high.
Northeastern Metropolis, covering New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maine.
This road trip is known for the famous Niagara Falls, Acadia National Park, together with American’s most architectural cities like New York and Boston. You can also a start in Chicago, with an ideal combination of national parks and big cities.
American – Canadian Parks, covering Washington, Idaho, Montana, British Columbia.
Canada is nothing short of road trips and this covers the best national parks of both countries that can be combined in one trip. It requires some extra driving, however, you can discover two distinct countries in one trip, learning about local cultures.
Old West & Native Americans, covering New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana.
This national park is dedicated to visit the great American national parks in the Western United States while discovering ancient roots of Native Americans and learning about the History of the Old West. It will include interpretive tours, riding old trains and attending powwows along with national parks in the United States.