It is hard to imagine the United States without its iconic road trip scenery. The automobile explosion of the 1950s led to Americans and foreigners having access to whole new parts of the country. The road trip in the United States represents something that can’t be found elsewhereHere at Visit USA Parks, we believe the best way to experience the United States and Canada is by car. Great conversations, listening to music, sipping a cup of coffee, and discovering beauty and cultural differences in real time can’t be beat. The best part? It’s super easy to drive in the United States given all the rental cars and RVs that come with automatic transmission, cruise control, cupholders, and comfortable seats.
Believe it or not, America’s national park system has had a large impact on road trip culture. Many famous roads were built to connect with public lands across the open spaces. Road tripping is almost like going back in time to see how America was built and connected via most scenic highways throughout the country.
Photo by Emily Taylor
Is an American Road Trip right for me?
For most people, yes! However, it comes with questions: are you ok driving long distances, 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 to the unexpected? Road trips have no guarantees. One day, you might have a flat tire, in a rainstorm, 50 miles from anything. But the next day? Maybe you’ll have the most incredible conversation with a stranger in a coffee shop while you wait for the mechanic to call. With every unforeseen challenge comes opportunity.
Driving in the United States and Canada is a fairly safe experience, with an excellent highway system that connects national parks and major metropolitan cities. The impressions many have of the dangerous and questionable characters one meets on the road tend to be overblown. 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. And remember the old saying, “it’s the journey, not the destination.”
Photo by David Rule
Planning a 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. We recommend planning ahead and starting with a map and/or road trip app. Investing in good printed old school map is a good idea, as your phone may not always have service in remote areas. There are three things you should plan ahead:
1. 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 impact this decision.
2. Reserve your vehicle
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 insurance so that you are fully covered, or check to see if one of your credit cards offers free car rental insurance (many do!). You can either choose a tour operator/travel agent or find your deals about rental cars online. In case if you get an RV, you should calculate extra budget and insurance. Don’t forget that there are many things inside and outside the RV that can be damaged. Take photos of your rental vehicle if there is any damage prior to leaving.
3. Decide where to stay
Make hotel reservations or camping reservations early. In some of the more crowded national parks, like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite, 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. Many public camp sites in the United States are first come first serve basis. Some campgrounds allow you to make reservations in advance. For reservations inside national parks and state parks, visit the individual national park sites for more information.
Photo by Dino Reichmuth
Top 10 Road Trip American Road Trip Ideas and Itineraries
We have put together a list of our favorite road trips, trips that we believe will be the vacation of a lifetime for you. Please note, no road trip itinerary is perfect for any one individual. Half the fun of road tripping is discovering cool things along the way. These itineraries cover at least suggested overnight stays, distance between your stops, and the best activities and local secrets. Get planning!
Covering the incredible national parks of Arizona and Utah, this is a great traditional first-timer road trip for anyone who wants to see the Grand Canyon and see the iconic desert towers of the American southwest.
From Seattle to the Rocky Mountains and back This is a road trip of epic proportions as you travel from sea level to 10,000 feet and back again. From the pacific Ocean to the Rocky Mountains, visit Washington, Montana, and Idaho, and travel through the North Cascades and Mount Rainier National Parks.
The great land up north is full of amazing scenery and beautiful landscapes interspersed with some great cities and a kind and welcoming people. In this epic road trip, we guide you from the Pacific to the Atlantic and highlight all the great stops, national parks, and iconic areas in between.
The Epic Coast to Coast Itinerary trip takes you from the shores of the Atlantic to the golden coast of California. Traveling in a line across the United States from East to West gives visitors the opportunity to see cities and country, national parks and hidden small towns. This is the ultimate way to see everything America has to offer.
From Chicago all the way down to the tip of Texas, this road trip will take you on an adventure vertically down the center of the United States. In this trip you will visit America’s second city, see a number of great parks, and even visit the home of Elvis along the way!
The northwest is one of the United States’ great treasures. From rocky coastlines to fog shrouded mountains, desert basins, and world-class cities, this trip will give you an experience of some of the best this country has to offer. See the northwest, California, and Idaho!
Colorado has some of the most staggeringly beautiful landscape in the world, and you will be seeing all it has to offer as you travel the state along the spine of the Rocky Mountains, then down into the desert basin, before heading North again to Pikes Peak.
The deep south of the United States is full of rolling forested hills, deep flowing rivers and sun-soaked beaches. In this trip you will get to experience it all and create memories of a lifetime along the way.
Get ready to experience some of the most unique cities and parks the United States has to offer. This trip will take you into some of the most famous cities in the world like Boston and New York, as well as coastal hideouts and gorgeous views.
Have you ever seen a bison before? Visit four amazing states, two national parks, and one superb national monument. You travel along the Rocky Mountains and down into the high plains in this classic western road trip.