Sure, traveling by car isn’t always the fastest way to get where you’re going. But just look at the positives. No congested airports or delayed flights. No timetables. No expensive airfares. No rules about when and where you can stop. All truly great road trips have one thing in common: The belief that the big adventure lies in the journey, not the destination. Our favorite planning sites are designed to get you excited about the open road and everything that lies between A and B.
Plan your route
Best for: Discovering AmericaO beautiful for spacious skies! This terrific government site is dedicated to National Scenic Byways, the jewels of our national road network. These are the eye-candy roads that make you glad you have a car, not to mention a camera. Some routes were chosen for their scenic beauty, others for their archaeological or cultural richness, still others for their historic importance. Click on a state and you’ll get a trove of excellent information: maps and directions, photos, suggested itineraries, a calendar of events, and more. Scenic byways run the gamut from short jaunts to roads that are hundreds of miles long. This site has everything you need for planning a single day admiring the purple mountain majesties or an entire summer rambling from sea to shining sea.
Best for: Downloading free, printable highway travel guidesThis itinerary-building site is a collaborative effort by hundreds of “Highway Guides” throughout North America. Each guide—typically a local business owner in the tourism field—has adopted a section of US or state highway and provided information about nearby attractions and amenities. The downside of such a collaboration? Inevitably, there are inconsistencies in the depth of information and a tendency for some reviews to read like thinly-veiled advertisements. When at its best, however, MileByMile can deliver an impressively detailed, insiderish snapshot of a locale. The most compelling reason to visit is that you can download free, printable guides.
Save some coin
Best for: Finding cheap gas on your routeWhile most gas price-monitoring sites let you search by city and zip code, the AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report is useful for finding the cheapest areas to gas up along your route. You can also track average state-by-state prices, which is useful for plotting longer journeys.
Best for: Finding cheap gas in a localityMapQuest’s new gas-finding tool lets you search by type of fuel (premium to regular gas, diesel, bio-diesel, and more). This site is particularly handy if you’re going to spend several days touring around a single destination.
Keep the kids entertained
Good for: Printable car games, activities, and much moreWow. 101 kid-friendly ideas for car trips, all organized by age group. As you might expect, there are oodles of coloring sheets, instructions for card games, and song lyrics galore. Yet nothing beats the collection of printable versions of tic-tac-toe, dot-to-dot, travel scavenger hunts, and Car Bingo featuring roadside items and different vehicles.
Good for: More printable car games, aimed at preschoolersWe love these printable, pictures-only Car Bingo cards for the under-6 set. You’ll also find instructions for classic games with a Sesame Street spin, like “The Count’s Number Game” and “Oscar’s Grouchy Game.”
Good for: Free, downloadable audio storiesLoad up the iPod or MP3 player with these lovingly-told audio stories made just for kids. There are always a half-dozen available free for downloading, and you can buy more from iTunes if you wish. Good, wholesome entertainment for planes, trains, and automobiles.
Good for: Free, downloadable music for kidsHere’s another one for the iPod or MP3 player. This wonderful site offers free downloads of classic kid’s tunes dating back to the '40s and '50s, the golden age of children’s records. Many of these recordings were extravagant Hollywood productions on major record labels and featured big time celebrities and composers. Enjoy.
WeJustGotBack.com is an authoritative online guide to family trip-planning. The site features reviews of kid-friendly hotels and resorts, expert planning advice, readers' travel tips, destination insider guides, vacation deals, and more. Subscribe to our newsletter to hear about resort specials and exclusive, money-saving offers.