Route 66 Road Trip Guide: Everything You Need to Know

The Ultimate Route 66 Road Trip Guide

Planning a road trip along Route 66? Read our guide to find out how to plan, what you need, and what to definitely include in your itinerary.

Route 66 is the ultimate road trip. Stretching from Chicago to Los Angeles, this historic road was built in 1926 and decommissioned in 1985. Passing through eight states, the route connects small, rural towns with the big city on the coast.

So much of America’s history stems from this famous road, from the mass migration resulting from the Great Depression to much of its commercial culture.

Also read: The Ultimate 14D USA West Coast Road Trip Itinerary for First-Timers

Now, the route continues as a tourist attraction. Despite parts being inaccessible today, the legacy of Route 66 still inspires hundreds of travellers each year. Are you thinking of planning the road trip of a lifetime?

Things you need to know before your Route 66 road trip

route 66 arizona

Image credit: PatternPictures

Road trips sound quintessential, just you, the car, and the open road. Unfortunately, however, beginning Route 66 requires a little more preparation than that. Don’t worry — we’ll share everything you need to prepare for your trip.
What do you need?
To begin your trip to the US, you need to organise travel insurance, passports, and visas. With trips under 90 days, you will need to apply for an ESTA — for more information, head to the official website.

You should also check the USA COVID-19 entry requirements to ensure that you can enter the country.

Now, for the more exciting part of preparation. Firstly, you need to get in touch with a hire car company. You need a valid driving licence (from your home country will be acceptable). Most states require you to be over 21 to hire.

Secondly, you need a map. Route 66 has now been replaced by modern interstates. In places, it overlaps or obstructs the original route. As Route 66 is no longer officially in use, many GPS navigators will struggle to pick it up. Therefore, a good, old-fashioned map will be handy to traverse the route.

Finally, make sure you have a playlist ready to accompany your once in a lifetime trip.

How long does it take?

If you drive non-stop, it should only take about eight days to complete Route 66. While the views from the road are excellent, there are many unmissable stops along the way that will make the trip longer. With 3666 kilometres to traverse and infinite stops, it could take you between two weeks to a month to complete.

The route travels through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.

Where should you stop along Route 66?

route 66 road trip guide

Image credit: juanwa

Route 66 is packed with exciting tourist attractions, historical monuments, and bustling cities. Starting in Chicago, make sure that you check out the city’s museums, architecture, and gardens. There are plenty of places to stay in Chicago before embarking on your journey. Also, take breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s, the famous diner at the starting point of Route 66.

Depending on how much time you have, you might need to restrict your itinerary. The main cities to visit are:

  • Wilmington
  • Bloomington
  • St. Louis
  • Springfield
  • Tulsa
  • Oklahoma City
  • Shamrock
  • Amarillo
  • Santa Rosa
  • Santa Fe
  • Albuquerque
  • Holbrook
  • Los Angeles

If you’re pushed for time, you might need to prioritise some cities over others. However, make sure you include these unmissable stops in your itinerary.

Meramec Caverns

Meramec Caverns

Image credit: Meramec Caverns

In Sullivan, Missouri, the Meramec Caverns is a 7.4-kilometre tavern beneath rolling hills. Used by the native Americans hundreds of years ago, the caverns display underground natural wonders and spectacular sights.

You can tour the unique rock formations, go on an underground riverboat, or experience the zipline through the caves. You can even stay at the Meramec Caverns motel or camp before continuing your road trip the next day.

Blue Hole

In Santa Rosa, New Mexico, Blue Hole is a breathtaking pool of water. Famous for swimming and diving, the Blue Hole is definitely worth a stop.

A turquoise hole amid the desert, the sight is undoubtedly spectacular, even if you choose not to swim.

While you’re in Santa Rosa, make sure also to check out the historic courthouse and Route 66 auto museum.

Meteor Crater

A 500,000 meteor crater in Winslow, Arizona, is an impressive 1200m in diameter and 170m deep. There is a visitors centre to explore the history and science behind the meteor crater, such as its discovery by the Barringer family and its use for astronaut training in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

There is also an observation deck on the crater’s rim to take in the spectacular sight yourself.

Calico Ghost Town

This interesting stop along Route 66, Calico Ghost Town, is an old west mining town in San Bernardino County, California. Abandoned in the 1890s after silver decreased in value, Calico has been restored to its historic look. You can now explore the museum, an authentic silver mine, and railroad, among other activities.

You can tour the ghost town in an afternoon or make it an overnight stop on the final leg of your journey, should you wish.

About Author

Helena Vila
Helena Vila

Helena is a full-time traveller who wanders all around the world just for adventures. She loves breathtaking sceneries in Southeast Asia, and definitely a foodie. She writes adventures and organizes new journeys for other people!