Route 66 is the iconic American road trip, the 2448 mile drive passes through 3 time zones and 8 states from the shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago to the beaches of Santa Monica, California.
Planning the drive is not as easy as just sticking it into Google Maps as Route 66 was actually decommissioned in 1985 having been bypassed by the interstates. However, in recent years the Mother Road as seen a resurgence in popularity especially for those of us who hark back to the classic days of motoring.
How Long Does It Take To Drive Route 66?
There will never be enough time to do everything on the route, we have spoken to people that drive it regularly who still have places to discover. Most of us will have limited time and the route can be done in 12 to 14 days, we are lucky to be going for 24 days. It would be great if you could afford to spend a month on the road.
If you do have limited time don’t try and stop everywhere, just enjoy the time you have.
Driving Route 66 is not about getting to your destination as fast as you can, Route 66 ‘is‘ the destination. Remember, once you arrive at Santa Monica, the trip is over!
Researching The Route – ‘Which Way Now’
You definitely need to research the route if you want to get the most out of the trip. The EZ66 Guide by Jerry McClanahan is the book everyone recommends but on initial inspection, it does look daunting, even unreadable. However, if you stick with it and use in conjunction with the ‘Here It Is’ state maps it does start to make sense. Also, with its ring binding, the book is designed to be used on the road itself.
We also have the Road Trip USA, Route 66 (Moon). This is a traditional guide and gives some very useful all-around information on the main attractions
Facebook groups can also be very helpful when planning your route. Historic Route 66 is a group of people that have a real passion for Route 66. Post your itinerary there and they will give you genuinely helpful and friendly feedback. Another useful group is Route 66 Travelers.
When planning each day don’t look at the distance instead base it on the actual driving time. Google Maps was useful to calculate the time but you need to plot all the waypoints which keep you on Route 66. By default, Google Maps shows you the direct route which isn’t necessarily the route we want to take. Although time-consuming, it does give you a realistic indication of travel time. The street view feature of Google Maps is also useful if you want to see the key features such as junctions, crossroads or places to pull over.
One other important thing to consider before setting off is your music. You need to get those Route 66 playlists sorted, we have already had a few heated discussions about the content. Here is our ‘leaving Chicago‘ playlist – 66 Songs For Route 66.
Our Route 66 Schedule
Day 1. Fly into Chicago
Day 2. Chicago
Day 3. Chicago to Springfield
Day 4. Springfield to Cuba
Day 5. Cuba to Branson
Day 6. Branson
Day 7. Branson To Carthage
Day 8. Carthage to Tulsa
Day 9. Tulsa to Clinton
Day 10. Clintom to Tucumcari
Day 11. Tucumcari to Santa Fe
Day 12. Santa Fe
Day 13. Santa Fe to Winslow
Day 14. Winslow to Sedona
Day 15. Sedona to Williams
Day 16. Williams
Day 17. Williams to Lake Havasu
Day 18. Havasu to Las Vegas
Day 19. Las Vegas
Day 20. Las Vegas
Day 21. Las Vegas
Day 22. Las Vegas to LA
Day 23. LA
Day 24. Fly out of LA
Where To Stop On Route 66 – ‘Bring On The Muffler Men’
Giant rocking chairs, big blue whales, wild burros, Glenn Frey and Muffler Men. These are just a few of the quirky roadside attraction you’ll meet on the road. There are plenty of Route 66 museums along the way, one of the best is meant to be the Route 66 Museum, Clinton Oklahoma.
How much time you spend at each one really depends on your time schedule. One of the bizarre favourites of many Route 66 regulars is the Blue Whale of Catoosa.
By the way, Muffler Men are the large fibreglass men which were used to advertise mufflers (exhaust pipes) but have been repurposed by diners and gift shops to get the attention of the passing drivers.
As well as the bizarre and quirky attractions there are plenty of historic, moving and awe-inspiring places to visit. These include Abraham Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Illinois, the Oklahoma City National Memorial and
Route 66 Food – ‘ Watch Your Waistline’
There is no shortage ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives‘ on Route 66, you will not be going hungry. Reports also say the portion sizes are BIG. However, as well as the supersize burgers and classic American diner food there are other some finer dining moments available in Santa Fe and The Turquoise Room in Winslow.
Here are some places we have been recommended:
Lou Mitchells, Chicago – the classic Chicago diner.
Cozy-Dog, Springfield – the place to go if you want battered meat on a stick
Lucky J Steakhouse, Carthage – watch a Rodeo as you eat
The Big Texan Steak Ranch, Amarillo – home of the 72 oz steak (although I don’t eat red meat!)
Midpoint Cafe, Texas – known for its ugly crust pies
Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-In, Seligman Delgadillo himself is a legend
The Road Kill Cafe In, Seligman – no maggots I hope.
The Turquoise Room La Posada, Winslow, Arizona – excellent quality dining.
Where To Stay On Route 66
We have planned to stay in a range of hotels, from the higher-end such as the Loews Chicago to the more moderately priced like the Holiday Inn Express and some classic motels including the Motel Safari in Tucumcari and the Boots Court Motel in Carthage.
Over the whole trip the hotels have averaged out at around $120 a night.
If you plan to do the trip during the peak period it is definitely advisable to book the classic motels in advance to make sure you get a room and not to waste time trying to find last minute accommodation.
The Final Stretch – ‘The Drive To LA’
Like the final scene in ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’, we head across the desert to LA. The slow drive of Route 66 will make way for the hellish traffic of Santa Monica Boulevard as we crawl slowly towards the Pacific Coast.
Hopefully, with lots of good memories and the urge to cancel the flight home and instead, get back in the car and drive all the way back to Chicago.