When our family took a month long Route 66 road trip vacation this summer, we did it without advance hotel reservations. Traveling “foot loose and fancy free” like we did meant we could pack as much as we wanted into a day since there wasn’t any place we needed to be at a specific time.
On a Route 66 road trip vacation, traveling without hotel reservations gives you a lot of flexibility. It also comes with a few problems. Here are some of the pros and cons we discovered in traveling without advance hotel reservations.
PRO: Set your own schedule
Part of the fun of Route 66 is taking the time to see America. Not having advance reservations gave us the time to explore all kinds of wonderful attractions without worrying about adhering to a schedule.
PRO: Added days won’t impact later reservations
Did we want to stay an extra day in Springfield IL or St. Louis, Missouri? Or veer off Route 66 three hundred miles to see Graceland? Without advance hotel reservations to tie us down, it was super easy to adjust our itinerary so as to add a couple of days here or there without impacting accommodations on down the road.
PRO: Opportunity to find unique motels
We discovered that Route 66 is filled with all kinds of restored motels that didn’t turn up in our guide books. Not having advance reservations made it possible to change our mind “on the fly” about where we stayed on any particular night without the worry of getting hit with a cancellation fee elsewhere.
PRO: Discounted lodging
There were times we couldn’t avoid staying in franchised hotels. The times we did however, we booked our rooms practically at the last minute which meant steep, steep discounts.
CONS: Miss out on iconic motels
The downside of not booking advance hotel reservations is missing out on iconic motels and hotels along Route 66. While we had no trouble in making last minute reservations in Illinois all the way to Texas, it was tough to book a room at vintage motels in New Mexico and Arizona. If you absolutely want to stay at one (or all) of these iconic Route 66 motels, advance reservations are the only way to guarantee a room.
CONS: Find yourself without lodging
Another drawback of traveling with no reservations is the risk of landing in a town that has a convention going on. If you don’t mind tacking on a couple of extra hours of driving time at the end of an already long day as you search for a vacancy, this won’t be a problem. If you don’t like gambling, then advance reservations are the way to go.
When it comes to lodging on your Route 66 road trip, only you can decide if booking advance lodging or traveling “fancy free” is for you. The only regret our family had in not booking in advance is missing out on the chance to stay at the El Rancho in Gallup, New Mexico and the El Rey in Santa Fe. Aside from those two missed opportunities, traveling without a schedule is what turned our road trip into an adventure.
More by this contributor:
10 interesting museums to see along Route 66
How much will a Route 66 road trip cost?
How long is a Route 66 road trip?