Summer is upon us, and if the United States (U.S.) is among your top destinations—whether for a holiday or a study trip—we wouldn’t be surprised. After all, it ticks all the boxes for the ultimate vacation or educational tour, with its world-famous sights and universities. But another thing that makes a trip to this country amazing is a good road trip. Yup, long drives on winding roads that they, too, are known for.
The U.S. has a massive land area, covering almost 4 million square miles—3.797 million square miles, to be exact—and while mass public transportation is widely available, the states’ roads are developed in such a way that they will be able to accommodate more vehicles. Indeed, America is a car-dependent country, so if you’re visiting, you might want to consider renting one for yourself.
Here, we’ll walk you through the things you need to know about car rental, local traffic rules, and the six classic roads you can take for a road trip to remember:
Before You Go
-Most car rental companies in the U.S. require you to be over 21 before they allow you to rent a car.
-Visitors under 25 (between the ages 21 and 24) will be charged an additional fee.
-You must be a holder of an international driver’s license. Don’t forget to bring this.
-Carry your passport with you at all times. Credit card is also a must, as it is the preferred mode of payment.
-A copy of your rental invoice if you booked your reservation online.
Renting A Car
Among the most common car rental companies in the States are Hertz, AVIS, Enterprise, Alamo, and Budget. Needless to say, the bigger the company is, the higher the price they’ll ask from you. But if you’re after quality and top-notch services, then you wouldn’t go wrong shelling out some good cash. The rates also vary depending on the location. Some states or cities might charge you more than others.
When it comes to mileage and if you’re taking cross-state trips, make sure to ask if you can return your car across the state. You also have the option to add GPS to your vehicle order, but if you have Google Maps on your mobile device, that’s enough.
KKday recommends: San Francisco Car Rental (can be returned in Las Vegas/Los Angeles)
Usually, liability insurance, collision insurance, and theft insurance are already covered by the fee you’ll pay for renting a car. But if these are not included in the amount charged to you, do consider adding them.
Here are the common types of insurance you can apply to your rental:
Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) – so the car dealer won’t charge you in the event of an accident that causes damage to the car.
Liability – another important type of insurance, as it’s illegal in some places in the U.S. to not have this. The purpose of this insurance is for compensating other vehicles or casualties in case of an accident. It covers their vehicle’s repair and medical expenses.
Personal Accident – this is for you. If you already have a travel insurance guarantee, you may not avail of this anymore.
Theft Protection (TP) – this covers the damage caused to the car if it’s been broken into. It can also pay for the belongings taken from the car.
Supplemental Liability Insurance (SLP) – this protects you against third-party injury and property damage claims.
Uninsured Motorist Protection (UMP) – this covers you in an accident if the driver at fault doesn’t carry liability insurance.
Be very mindful not to repeat any insurance policies, otherwise, you’ll be paying more. What’s important is that you maintain the CDW and the liability guarantees. The rest, you can decide to avail of them or not.
Now, if you and a companion will be taking turns in driving, it is recommended that you notify insurance providers that there is a “second driver” so, in the event of an accident, you wouldn’t encounter any issues when settling the insurance.
-Always give priority to pedestrians.
-Make a complete stop when you see the red STOP sign at an intersection. The U.S. implements this rule strictly.
-If someone else is riding with you, take the high-occupancy vehicle lane—usually, the innermost lane of the U.S. highway.
-If you see an ambulance, fire truck, or a police car with their siren on, give way and flash to the right.
-Check the speed limit. This changes in winter, especially in snowy areas.
-If you’ve been flagged for speeding, don’t ignore the police’s warning, as it may be taken as an act of resistance. Pull over, wind down your window, and be attentive to the officer who will be questioning you.
-Gas stations typically offer regular unleaded gas, special, super+, and diesel. Generally, if you need to refuel, you can choose regular.
-Self-service refueling stations are scattered across the U.S. For you to be able to pay for the gas, you’ll have to use a credit card.
-Gas stations are harder to find in the countryside. So if you’re driving to such areas, it’s best to fill your tank to ensure a smooth drive.
-It’s encouraged for you to give at least a one-dollar tip for refueling services rendered to you.
-If you are staying in the U.S. for a longer period and will be driving a lot, consider getting a gas station membership card, which will entitle you to some perks and discounts.
-For on-street parking, find a paying machine, choose the time, and clip the printed documents on your vehicle’s windshield.
-When parking, check whether the parking space is for the public’s use or if it belongs to local residents. If you mistakenly or intentionally use a homeowner’s parking space, you will be issued a ticket.
-If you illegally parked your car and a ticket is issued to you, the car rental company will not help pay for your penalty. You have to settle it yourself.
American Road System
The U.S. Highway is divided into four types of systems:
Known as the transportation backbone of the U.S., the Interstate Highways are made for long-distance travel between the states and are designed to maximize high-speed travel safety and efficiency. It has the highest speed limit among all the road systems.
This is a much older road system that now serves regional and intrastate traffic, since the Interstate Highways have taken over long-haul travels. The iconic Route 66 used to be part of this system.
Of course, each state has its own functioning road system. They highly vary in terms of standards, quality, and capacity. Abbreviated as SR-X, State Highways are known for their unique road signs that feature emblems representative of the state.
This kind of road system is found mainly in the more remote areas of the U.S. and is maintained by a county.
Classic Road Routes
The United States has a vast territory crossing four time zones. Their road network is developed intensively and uniquely for their car culture. Also known as “the nation on wheels,” the U.S. has roads that carry the American dream in people’s hearts and embody a spirit for adventure.
If you’re looking for some excitement, here are six of America’s classic road routes that you can take on your road trip:
Tagged as the legendary Mother Road or the Main Street of America, U.S. Route 66 runs from Chicago to California, traversing a total of eight states. It was completed in 1926, making it one of the original highways in the U.S. Highway System. With its significant history, this road symbolizes freedom to Americans. Today, Route 66 no longer exists on modern maps, and the actual road is unpaved. However, part of it can still be visited.
Crosses: Illinois, Chicago, Illinois, Missouri, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oklahoma, Kansas, Kansas, Texas, Texas, New Mexico, New Mexico, Arizona, Arizona, California, California, Los Angeles
Total Length: 3,939 km (2,448 miles)
Crossed Time Zones: three time zones, two hours to the west
Surrounding Places of Interest: Chicago E. Adams St. Route 66, Gateway Arch, Historic Route 66 Museum, Painted Desert, Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater, Cadillac Ranch, Santa Monica Beach
California Highway 1
One of the most scenic routes you can take in the state of California, California Highway 1 or the Pacific Coast Highway runs along the breathtaking West Coast from San Francisco to San Diego. It also passes through many serene seaside towns as well as Los Angeles. Among its most beautiful sections is called Big Sur, which sits on steep cliffs. The views here are so arresting that National Geographic included California Highway 1 on their most-epic-drives list.
Crosses: San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, California
Total Length: 1,055 km (655 miles)
Surrounding Places of Interest: San Francisco, San Francisco, Carmel, Big Sur, Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery, Hearst Castle, Danish village Solvang, Santa Barbara Santa Barbara, Los Angeles
Blue Ridge Parkway
This National Parkway and All-American road is another scenic route that’s best taken in autumn. If you’ve ever heard of the John Denver classic that goes “country roads, take me home to the place where I belong,” this song exactly describes the Blue Ridge Parkway that runs through Virginia and North Carolina. The entire road is built on a hill, passing through Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that look even more spectacular come fall.
Crosses: Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, North Carolina
Total Length: 755 km (469 miles)
Surrounding Places of Interest: Asheville, Asheville, Mabry Mill, Rough Ridge, Waterfall Glass Rock, Cataloochee Valley, Oconaluftee Indian Village
Best Time To Go: October (for fall foliage)
This road on Montana crosses the Glacier National Park in the West, The Logan Pass and the Lewis Range in the North, and St. Mary in the East. Going-to-the-Sun Road poses a lot of challenges to motorists each year because of its unpredictable snowstorms and other weather-related events. But the views it offers are definitely worth the drive.
Total Length: 80 km (51 miles)
Surrounding Places of Interest: McDonald Creek, McDonald Creek, Garden Wall, North American Watershed Logan Pass, Saint Mary Lake
Best Time To Go: only open from June to October
Oh God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
Abe says, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
God say, “No.” Abe say, “What?”
God say, “You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me comin’ you better run”
Well Abe says, “Where do you want this killin’ done?”
God says, “Out on Highway 61”
Dubbed as the Blues Highway, the historic Route 61 is made even more iconic by musician Bob Dylan in the song “Highway 61 Revisited.” A road with a deep connection to music, especially the blues, it runs from Minnesota to New Orleans, a city known for jazz. It also crosses Memphis, Tennessee, the birthplace of the King of Rock n Roll himself, Elvis Presley. The entire length of the road is predominantly lined by forests, riverside towns, and farmlands that are as charming as they sound.
Crosses: Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Mississippi, Louisiana
Total Length: 2,300 km (1,400 miles) Blues Road 637.3 km (396 miles)
Surrounding Places of Interest: Hannibal Town, Mark Twain National Forest, Graceland Mansion, BB King Museum, French Quarter
The U.S. National Highway 50 runs straight from the West Coast of San Francisco to the eastern shore of Maryland. The Nevada section of the road is often referred to as the Loneliest Road. Despite its bleak surroundings, it attracts countless travelers who revel in its unusual, sullen beauty. Keep your eyes open for animals crossing the road!
Crosses: California to Maryland
Total Length: 657.9 km (408 miles)
Surrounding Places of Interest: None—enjoy the wilderness!
Other must-try activities while you’re on a U.S. road trip:
- Visit Disneyland – get your discounted tickets here!
- Take a tour of Upper Antelope Canyon – book your tour here!
Ready to embark on your road trip adventure? You might be surprised by the countless possibilities you’ll encounter along the road!