There’s something about the summer that makes you want to hit the road.
Warm sunshine, wind in your hair, music blasting on the stereo—that’s the
stuff dreams are made of. For most of us, our first road trip is a mile marker,
a rite of passage, a life-long memory we will never forget.
According to USA Today, car travel still has the potential to be cheaper than air travel, despite climbing gas prices.
If you’re hoping to plan a budget road trip instead of taking a plane to your destination, make sure to compare costs carefully before embarking on your journey. Also, make sure your car has proper insurance coverage. You can check out our car insurance calculator or look into temporary car insurance options. If money is your main concern, this rule of thumb applies:
Road trips estimated at four hours or less are likely to be cheaper than flying.
Here are a few fun facts
about road trips to rev your engine
Dollar bills and coins for tolls and pit stops.
… or printed
Bring your regular
bag clips for
Clips will keep your
snacks from spilling
Great for taking
out stains and
wipping up spills
Empty the container at every pit stop to keep it from overflowing.
*Mileage is approximate. Based on a vehicle receiving 24 miles per gallon. Average price per gallon estimated to be $3.73 per gallon for 2011.
Take a drive through the Talladega National Forest (headquartered in Montgomery) if you’re looking for “spectacular Southern scenery.” The forest is home to Cheaha State Park, the location of the highest point in Alabama; the National Forest was established by Presidential Proclamation in 1936.
The Prince William Sound is an unforgettable sight to see on a long-term, RV-friendly road trip through Alaska. The Sound is located in the Northern Gulf of Alaska, discovered in 1778 by James Cook.
While the Grand Canyon may seem like a rookie road trip choice, the indescribable view is worth every mile traveled. The Grand Canyon is 227 miles long, 18 miles wide, and more than 1 mile deep.
Crater of Diamonds State Park is just 120 miles away from Little Rock, Arkansas. There, you’ll be set loose in a 911-acre park to dig for precious stones in the only public diamond-bearing site in the world.
Your California road trip will not be complete until you drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and witness the breathtaking views firsthand in San Francisco. The Golden Gate Bridge was built in 1937 and stretches 1.7 miles long above the San Francisco Bay.
Take a detour through the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings near Mancos, Colorado, home to the southwestern Anasazi culture more than one thousand years ago.
The 17-acre Mystic Seaport maritime museum is the perfect addition to a family-friendly road trip; take a glimpse into the life and times of early American seafarers through restored period buildings and ships.
The 105-room Nemours Mansion in Wilmington, Delaware, offers regular tours to the curious traveler; the stunning house encapsulates the history of the high-society family of Alfred du Pont, gunpowder tycoon.
Aspiring astronauts will never forget a trip to the Kennedy Space Center outside of Jacksonville, Florida. The Kennedy Space Center has hosted the launch of every human spaceflight in America since 1968.
The biggest swamp in North America, the Okefenokee Swamp, is a natural wonder worth the trip—located on the Florida-Georgia line near Folkston, Georgia.
Hawaii may be a tropical paradise, but it is also home to an important piece of history, the USS Arizona Memorial. Take a quick drive up to Pearl Harbor, site of the 1941 Japanese attack against US forces that signaled the start of World War II; the memorial site is accessible by boat.
Bogus Basin, Idaho, has been a premier ski resort for more than 70 years, credited to producing six US Olympian skiers. Bogus Basin is rumored to have gotten its name from a bogus 1863 mining claim involving $50,000 worth of fool’s gold.
On a drive through downtown Chicago, don’t forget to look for the Willis Tower, erected as the world’s tallest building in 1973.
The thrill of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was introduced to Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1909; the Speedway has hosted more than 248 races to crowds of over 400,000 people.
Take a hike to stretch your legs on the High Trestle Trail Bridge near Madrid, Iowa, with a stunning view of the Des Moines River Valley. The High Trestle Trail Bridge is the fifth largest trail bridge in the world at 2300 feet long.
Take a journey to Dodge City, Kansas, before you “get out of Dodge.” The Wild Western frontier town dates back to 1871, home to the famed town marshal Wyatt Earp.
If you time your road trip right, you might be able to see a real, live Kentucky Derby at the 1 ¼ mile track in Louisville, Kentucky. The first Derby was held for 10,000 people on May 17, 1875.
As you drive through Louisiana, don’t forget to stop in the French Quarter District of New Orleans; the French Quarter is a National Historic Landmark and the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans, home to Bourbon Street.
Cape Elizabeth’s Portland Head Light was built by George Washington in 1787 to provide a much-needed beacon for ships on the Stateline’s rocky coast. The impressive lighthouse oversees the shore at 80 feet tall.
Celebrate authentic America with a Fort McHenry pit stop in Baltimore, Maryland; the flag raised over the fort during the Battle of Baltimore inspired Francis Scott Key’s Star-Spangled Banner.
Take a gander at where it all began, the pilgrims’ first landing at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts. A celebratory landmark was erected in 1921 at what is now called Pilgrim Memorial State Park.
The Henry Ford Museum in Metro Detroit, Michigan, is a National Historic Landmark that commemorates the rags-to-riches American spirit. The museum opened in 1929 and currently displays rare exhibits of historical significance, including JFK’s limousine, Thomas Edison’s laboratory, and the Rosa Parks bus.
The 53-foot waterfall at Minnehaha Park and Falls in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is well worth the trip; Henry Wadsworth Longfellow celebrated the majestic waterfall in his Song of Hiawatha.
The Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge located north of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, provides a refreshing pit stop for the weary traveler. The wildlife refuge was erected in 1975 to protect endangered Sandhill cranes and their wet pine habitat.
Take a drive by the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, otherwise known as the Gateway Arch, in St. Louis, Missouri. The arch was completed in 1965 as a 630-foot structure; it is the tallest monument in America, twice the size of the Statue of Liberty.
The Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument near Crow Agency, Montana, commemorates the site of the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876; the national monument also contains Custer National Cemetery.
The Chimney Rock formation provides the perfect photo op in Bayard, Nebraska; the landmark makes up part of the Westward Oregon Trail.
The Bellagio Fountains located on a 9-acre lake on the Vegas strip are an undeniable landmark in modern history. The choreographed fountains set to music deliver awe-inspiring water shows every 15 minutes at heights up to 460 feet.
The first mountain-climbing cog railway was built in 1869 by Sylvester Marsh. Today, you can visit the second steepest rack railway in the world at the Mount Washington Cog Railway in Coos County, New Hampshire.
Check out the first boardwalk ever built in America, the Atlantic City Boardwalk constructed in 1870. You’ll find a bustling beachside culture, along with casinos and world-famous salt water taffy.
Pull over and stretch your legs as you wander through one of the best-preserved Pueblo Indian settlements in the US; the Taos Pueblo is located in Taos, New Mexico, and was built before 1400.
On your road trip through New York, Niagara Falls may require some special planning, but the breathtaking view of the 167-foot waterfall is worth it. Niagara Falls is the most powerful waterfall in North America, straddling the Canadian and US border.
The 60-foot Wright Brothers Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, is one for the history books; the monument commemorates the Wright brothers’ first flight in 1903.
If the larger-than-life buffalo statue in Frontier Village in Jamestown, North Dakota, doesn’t impress you, then maybe the replicated Wild West town will; the town is reconstructed with an authentic railway station, schoolhouse, and jail.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is a nonnegotiable stop in Ohio; the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation was founded in 1983 by Atlantic Records.
Home to the original hideout of Jesse James, Robbers Cave State Park in Wilburton, Oklahoma, was renamed from Latimer State Park in 1936.
Crater Lake in Southern Oregon is an intriguing body of water with a sordid past; the lake was formed when the Mount Mazama volcano collapsed.
History comes to life at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The impressive Georgian-style building was constructed in the 18th Century and birthed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
The 70-room Breakers Mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, is perhaps the most majestic “summer home” you will ever see. Constructed by Cornelius Vanderbilt in 1893 on a 13-acre estate, the home cost $12 million, now estimated at $335 million.
The notable Fort Sumner tour begins at Liberty Square in Charleston, South Carolina; the fort is best known as the location where shots were fired to start the Civil War in 1861.
The most coveted road trip destination in South Dakota is Mount Rushmore, located in Keystone. There you will find the prestigious faces of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt sculpted out of granite in 1941.
Take a drive through Great Smoky Mountains National Park with your sights set on Clingmans Dome. The dome provides a view of seven different states at once at 6643 feet.
Remember the Alamo — downtown San Antonio, Texas, is home to this unforgettable historical landmark of Texas independence, established in 1836.
The Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah, is the largest Mormon temple that took 40 years to construct; Salt Lake City founder Brigham Young laid the cornerstone himself.
The third highest mountain in Vermont provides a majestic photo op; the Camel’s Hump within the Green Mountains can also be found on the state quarter.
Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello estate in Charlottesville, Virginia, is worth the drive-by. The third president’s striking home was built in the 18th Century based on Parisian townhouse designs.
The impossible-to-miss Space Needle was built in Seattle, Washington, for the 1962 World’s Fair; today, you can enjoy the sights in a rotating restaurant at 500 feet or from the observation deck at 520 feet.
Take a trek through the Lost World Caverns with a family-friendly Wild Caves Expedition in Lewisburg, West Virginia; the underground natural caves were registered as a National Natural Landmark in 1973.
Detour through the summer home of the esteemed architect Frank Lloyd Wright in Taliesin, Wisconsin; Wright was best known for his Guggenheim and Fallingwater designs.
What would a visit to Wyoming be without a glimpse of Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park? Old Faithful was the first Yellowstone geyser named in 1870.