USA Road Trip Planner: The Best Tips for Exploring America

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This USA Road Trip Planner introduces you to our road trip philosophy. We also share road trip tips from years of exploring scenic roads and off-the-beaten destinations in the U.S., as well as ideas from guest writers. You’ll also find the online resources, products and gear that Alan and I use while roadtripping.

Baby boomers and U.S. road trips are a natural combination. Most of us grew up taking summer vacations in the family car so roadtripping is a natural way of travel for boomers.

Now that we’re empty nesters and mostly retired, it’s time to revisit America’s scenic places on boomer road trips. If you enjoy slow journeys filled with old favorites or new discoveries, you’ve come to the right place.

Highway traveling towards mountains
Is the open road calling your name?

What you'll learn in this road trip planner

  • tips on getting started
  • how to choose a road trip itinerary
  • where to find the best places to stay on the road
  • how to stay healthy and safe on a road trip
  • where to find the best online road trip resources
  • which US road trip books and guides to use
  • which road trip gear is best for your next trip

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Tips on getting started with road trip planning

When I see Alan sitting at the kitchen table with maps spread out in front of him (yes, we still use paper maps), I know there’s a potential road trip in the works. Once we agree on theO route that Alan has planned, I arrange the accommodations. After discussing potential activities like hikes, off-road fun, or cute towns to explore, we use online sites and guidebooks to compete our road trip research.

Choosing a road trip itinerary

River in a canyon surrounded by red rock cliffs
Check out our suggestions for the best USA road trips.

When creating road trip itineraries, we avoid the interstate as much as possible in favor of two-lane highways or country roads. If the map shows a dotted road, Alan and I know we’re in for a scenic ride.

Need itinerary ideas? Check US Road Trips for the articles that we’ve published—from our experiences and those of guest writers. You’ll find itinerary inspiration covering the entire U.S. To make your road trip research easier, the articles are divided into regions: West, South, Northeast and Midwest.

But who says a road trip has to be a long, drawn-out journey? Sometimes you just want to go on a quick, beautiful drive. You’ll find those in our favorite scenic drives.

And Our Tips for Planning a Fall Road Trip will help you prepare for a glorious, leaf-peeping road adventure!

Finding the best place to stay on the road

yellow building with green roof surrounded by trees and a lawn
Looking for a unique place to stay? Start here.

We like to stay in bed and breakfasts for their intimacy and connection to the local scene, as well as the opportunity to meet other travelers. I start my research by checking out the b&b’s website, if they have one.

Then I read online reviews—ignore the best and worst reviews to find the true story. I also compare prices, especially when looking for hotels, inns and lodges.

A couple of boomer road trip tips:

  • When booking hotels on busy interstates, ask for the quietest room away from traffic noise.
  • Park your vehicle so that it’s visible from your room. Theft happens.
  • Pet-friendly hotels are convenient for pet owners, but do you want to sleep in a bed where an unknown-to-you pet slept the night before? Look for hotels that do not allow pets if that’s important to you. It is to us.
  • If you’re staying in a bed and breakfast or inn, especially over a weekend, inquire if the property will be hosting a wedding. That’s a no-no for us.
  • Take it slow. Two or three nights at each destination is definitely more fun than changing hotels rooms each night.

Staying healthy and safe on a road trip

man checking tire pressure
Alan is a real car guy (and knows what he’s talking about). Have you read his tips for creating a winter driving kit?

With all the sitting that a road trip requires, you’ll want to read our tips for staying healthy on the road. Wearing a fitness tracker is another good idea. It might inspire you to walk around the gas station parking lot before continuing your journey.

Then there’s the matter of getting along with your travel partner. As we all know, stress isn’t good for your health. Read our advice in surviving a road trip. And here are more happy road trip tips.

Being prepared is the best way to stay safe on the road. If you’re roadtripping on a cold weather trip, reading Alan’s tips for  making a do it yourself winter driving kit is a must.

Online USA Road Trip Resources

two jeeps on a dirt road with mountains in the distance

Whether you’re planning a road trip or scenic drive, online travel resources equal instant information at your fingertips. But we’ve found that too much information complicates research rather than speeding it up.

That’s why you’ll find only the best online resources in our USA Road Trip Travel Resources. Bookmark our favorites for your boomer travel planning. We’ve also included  favorite apps.

First of all, start with itinerary articles at the My Itchy Travel Feet Road Trip Destination Guide! You’ll find articles based upon the first-hand experiences of Alan and me or those of our well-qualified writers.

The travel inspiration at Roadtrippers will keep you occupied for hours. What we like: a free trip planner that syncs with our smartphone, interesting guides and the Roadtrippers app is free, too (but includes in-app purchase).

Travel apps can make a great trip even better. Read our recommendations for best road trip apps.

We could get lost in the scenic drives and destination ideas suggested by the Federal Highway Administration at America’s Byways. Alan would like to drive every one of them!

You’ll find planning tools like a fuel calculator and a map wizard at RoadTrip America. There’s also an active forum. Registration is required to use most of the resources.

Don’t let road construction or delays mess up your trip. Be in the know by checking U.S. Department of Transportation’s website, National Traffic and Road Closure Information, before you go. The Department of Transportation in each state is also a helpful resource.

Once you plan your itinerary, use the National Register of Historic Places to find interesting historical sites to visit along the way.

When we want to do some online road trip dreaming, we click on over to Photo Gallery of U.S. Road Trips from National Geographic.

US road trip books and guides

two-lane highway traveling through a rock canyon
Books and maps help us make the most of our road trips.

Although we do most of our research online, Alan and I still enjoy holding an atlas or photo book in our hands. We’re big believers in taking an atlas on road trips, especially Benchmark Road & Recreation Atlas for western U.S. adventures. Delorme Atlas & Gazeteer is a good choice for other states.

Of course we load our favorite travel guides into Kindle, because good Wifi and road trips don’t always go together. This is especially true if we’re traveling on remote two-lane roads or to off-the-beaten-path

Road Trip USA: Cross-Country Adventures on America’s Two-Lane Highways: Want to travel off-the-beaten-path along two-lane highways in the U.S.? This book is for you. Roadside curiosities, popular attractions, big city explorations—you’ll find it all in the mile-by-mile highlights.

The Most Scenic Drives in America: Daydream about your next road trip with the 120 suggestions in this book. Arm chair travelers will especially appreciate the 400 color photos.

The Milepost: Driving the Alaska Highway is the ultimate U.S. road trip. But don’t leave home without The Milepost. This well-rounded guidebook gives locals and visitors a lot of insight into driving Alaska and the Far North. 700 pages of travel goodness that we highly recommend!

Moon Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip: Travel the western U.S. coast on a road trip to California, Oregon and Washington. The travel guide includes tips from locals, a selection of itineraries as well as what to see and where to sleep.

And if you’re looking for a sweet little road trip from Tucson to  northern New Mexico, there’s a book for that and we wrote it! New Mexico Backroads Weekend Adventure will take you off-the-beaten-path.

Road trip gear for your next trip

woman drinking coffee sitting on the tailgate of an suv in a snowy valley
The key to a great road trip is bringing the best gear.

AAA 66-Piece Severe Weather Road Kit: Although it’s designed for cold weather, many of the items in this auto travel kit can be used year round, especially the emergency first aid kit. If you think this is overkill, go for the regular AAA Emergency Road Assistance Kit.

Keep your coffee hot with a stainless steel heated travel mug. It plugs into your car’s 12 volt charger. And the rubber base will keep the mug from tipping over.

A travel pillow keeps your head from snapping forward when you fall asleep in the passenger seat. Come on, admit it, we all get sleepy in the car. Now you’ll avoid a crick in your neck.

Stay organized with a car trunk organizer. Made of durable oxford polyester, includes removable partitions for creating larger or smaller sections within the organizer. There’s even a fold up section for cold or warm storage.

Check out the My Itchy Travel Feet road trip gear shop for the products that Alan and I recommend. Would you prefer to go straight to Amazon? Click through to my Amazon list of road trip gear for boomers? I keep it updated with new items while removing any that are no longer available.

Have we given you enough ideas for planning your next road trip in the USA? Check back as we continue to update our resources and advice so that you have the best boomer travel experiences possible.

Don’t forget to sign up for our Road Trip Newsletter for the best road trip itineraries, interesting destinations, valuable tips and road trip gear. Subscribe by clicking here.