Do your summer vacation plans include a trip along the old Route 66? While this iconic highway may have been “retired” back in 1985, the road itself is still out there along with dozens of vintage hotels, restaurants, and attractions that have the ability to pull you back into the 60s. Our family just finished a month-long trip along old Route 66. Here are 10 helpful tips that we learned along the way that may help you plan your road trip adventure on the “Mother Road”.
There are many Route 66 guides out there but the very best is one we found 200 miles into our trip. The “EZ66 Guide For Travelers” by Jerry McClanahan makes route planning a breeze with its EZ to use flip-page format complete with local maps, alternate alignments, and shout-outs to vintage attractions. Additional resources should include “Route 66 Dining and Lodging Guide” by the National Historic Route 66 Federation along with Drew Knowles “Route 66 Adventure Handbook” which details various attractions to see along the way.
Coins for Toll Roads. Route 66 starts in Chicago and getting there means several toll roads and exact change. The home page of the Illinois Tollway will help you navigate the toll roads and plan ahead for tolls.
Verify opening hours of ‘must see’ attractions. Museums, local restaurants, and other iconic attractions along the route tend to have very limited weekday hours, especially in smaller towns. If there’s something you absolutely want to see, call ahead for the opening hours and adjust your itinerary as needed.
Book vintage hotels in advance. Part of the fun of driving Route 66 is staying in restored “Mom and Pop” motels or iconic hotels such as the La Posada in Winslow, Arizona or the El Rey Inn in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We discovered that the farther west we traveled the harder it was to find retro accommodations on short notice which is why it’s a good idea to book the more popular hotels before starting your trip.
Bring a compass. It’s easy to get discombobulated when driving around in unfamiliar cities or on unfamiliar roads, especially when exploring an attraction that’s off the route. If you don’t have a GPS system, a compass can help you get your bearings.
Bring cash. Many of the small businesses we stopped at for souvenirs or food accepted cash or local checks only. We got in the habit of carrying $200 in cash with us every place we went, ‘just in case’.
Call your insurance agent. Driving Route 66 means encountering all kinds of weather from floods to hailstorms, tornados, heat waves, and dust storms. Before leaving, check with your auto insurance agent to verify that your car is adequately covered for severe weather conditions. (We dropped our deductible to $100 just for this trip).
Learn dangerous areas along the route. Between the “EZ66 Guide” and the Historic Route 66 forum it’s easy to figure out sketchy areas to avoid on your trip, roads that are tricky to drive or in poor condition, out of cell phone range, or are a long way between gas stations. Knowing these places ahead of time will help minimize problems.
Sign up for text message alerts. It wasn’t until reaching Oklahoma that a friendly gas station attendant clued us in to text message alerts from the Weather Channel which would keep us informed about severe weather conditions in the areas we were traveling that day. Signing up for weather alerts helped us dodge a tornado and avoid areas of heavy flooding.
Traveling Route 66 is best done without a plan which frees you up to explore whatever catches your fancy along the way. For travelers who prefer a plan, these 10 tips will get you started.