My top US road trip guidebooks (yes, books)


Although significant travel events have been a bit scarce around here lately, mine is a road-tripping family at heart.

Whenever it’s time to plan one, there are a few guidebooks that I turn to again and again, because they are well-edited, accurate and it’s easier to skim through them than it is to plow through a jillion websites of dubious vintage.

You’ll notice that none of them are kid-specific;  I like the unusual, unknown and offbeat, and my children usually do, too. Plus, hey, I’m driving, so I get to pick.

Other than my other favorite tips (see my earlier post on how to plan a tailpipe-kicking road trip) here are my favorite references….

***  Road Trip USA – This is a top reference for me because Jamie Jensen’s Road Trip USA finds the most wonderfully obscure stuff. The book covers 6 major routes, and if my trip area isn’t included it doesn’t do me much good, but I always check it first (and the Road Trip USA blog, of course.) The series now has books for certain routes, like the Pacific Coast Highway.

***  Off the Beaten Path travel guide by Reader’s Digest – Yes, the old fogies at Reader’s Digest have one of my favorite guidebooks. Off the Beaten Path is packed with useful information about unusual sights that I don’t find anywhere else; I always check it for each state that I’ll visit.  Worth tracking down a copy, along with Most Scenic Drives in America and See the USA the Easy Way (great loop tours.)

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***  Insiders’ Guide: Off the Beaten Path – from Globe Pequot Press, these are easy to find in the travel section of any bookstore. Super-detailed and usually written by locals, the Missouri and Kansas versions were invaluable to me when I drove from Texas to Chicago and back for BlogHer a few years ago, exploring the “Square States.”

***  1,000 Places to See Before You Die – Overly dramatic title, but I do find good things here, arranged by state.

***  Anything Frommer’s – my favorite general guidebook. I always have the current edition for wherever I’m living (currently Texas.)

***  RoadFood by Jane and Michael Stern – because, well, food. Must have. Preferably not from yet another Chili’s, although they’re fine in a pinch.

***  For any particular city where I’ll spend significant time, I look for the TimeOut guides. Very British, very detailed, very thorough. Can read them over and over during subway rides and never be bored.

My biggest guidebook surprise over the last decade?

The quirky and detailed Lonely Planet Guide to Louisiana and the Deep South, used to death during our Great American South road trip from Florida to Arkansas and back. At the TBEX travel blogger’s conference recently, I had the pleasure of telling the US Lonely Planet editor, Robert Reid, how much I used and adored this guidebook.

What are your road trip planning favorites? Please let us know in the comments.

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