12 useful tips for traveling Route 66

Route 66 shield in California

By Emily Priddy

During the recent Miles of Possibility conference in Edwardsville, Illinois, guidebook authors Jim Ross and Jerry McClanahan offered advice for travelers planning a trip on the road.

Here are some of the suggestions they offered during the hourlong session:

  1. Do your homework ahead of time, and go beyond guidebooks — learn the history of the people and places you’ll encounter.
  2. To see the whole road without having to rush, you may need a month. If you don’t have that much time, pick just one section of the road and explore it in depth.
  3. While they may be necessary for some popular sites, advance reservations lock you in, and you may misjudge your travel time and end up behind schedule. Instead, wait until afternoon and call a motel in the town where you expect to be that night.
  4. Avoid chains. The National Historic Route 66 Federation’s Dining and Lodging Guide can help you find good mom-and-pop places to eat and sleep. Well-kept neon is also a good sign, McClanahan said.
  5. Expect the unexpected. Street names may change, and roads may be rerouted. In addition to your Route 66 maps and guidebooks, take current maps along as backup in case you get lost.
  6. For safety’s sake, exercise common sense. Conceal your money and your valuables, and be conscious of the climate and topography.
  7. Explore abandoned roadways — carefully. Many older alignments of Route 66 are accessible in a regular sedan, but some may require an SUV, and a few may be accessible only on foot. Don’t drive too fast, and take provisions in case you get stuck.
  8. It’s legal to take photographs from a public highway, but if you’re on private property, try to ask the owner’s permission before you photograph it, and leave if asked. Be aware that special rules may apply on tribal land.
  9. Try to upload photographs and sort them into folders every night so you don’t forget where you were when you shot them.
  10. Keep a journal — either in a notebook or on a digital recorder — to remember your trip.
  11. Take along an extension cord, a three-prong outlet adapter and, if you have room for it, a power strip, as outlets may be at a premium in motel rooms, and older properties may not have any three-prong outlets.
  12. Use earplugs or a white-noise machine to keep unfamiliar sounds from disrupting your sleep.

(Image of Route 66 in California by Randy Heinitz via Flickr)

2 thoughts on “12 useful tips for traveling Route 66

  1. And you don’t want to be out there on the “Mother Road” without your copy of Route 66: The Last Mile. It’s a great ride, a great read and getting your copy is a great tribute to Martin Milner.

  2. If you don’t have ear plugs or a white-noise machine but *do* have a radio, just turn the dial all the way to the left and adjust the sound to a comfortable level — the static is just like white noise. ;D (Besides, that’ll make it easy to find the local public radio station in the morning: NPR stations are usually at that end of the dial.)

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