An argument could easily be made that Route 66 is the most
famous highway in the world. It is a destination and a gateway to adventure, and often a source of endless frustration for those planning their first odyssey along this storied highway. Those frustrations are greatly magnified if the traveler is from Europe, New Zealand, Japan, Brazil, Australia or points in between.
Manifestations of the frustration and confusion associated with planning a trip are found on the various Route 66 groups and pages on Facebook. On any given day there are a dozen people asking for assistance, and seeking information about apps, lodging, car rentals, travel guides, restaurants, events, and airlines. The generous, friendly nature of the Route 66 community is made manifest in the quick responses, and the offers to provide assistance.
There are, however, alternatives to navigating the labyrinth of social media for the planning of a Route 66 trip. In fact there are almost as many ways to eliminate the stress of planning a trip on Route 66 as there are people interested in traveling the storied old highway. Step one is the acquisition of a good guide book. There are three that consistently receive favorable reviews and recommendations. The most popular of these is the EZ 66 Guide for Travelers by Jerry McClanahan. The others are Route 66 Adventure Handbook: High-Octane Fifth Edition by Drew Knowles, and Travel Route 66: A Guide to the History, Sights, and Destinations Along the Main Street of America by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America.
To magnify the effectiveness of a travel guide, the modern traveler will often also use an app. The search for an app is an often asked question. As with travel guides, there are many to choose from but this is a relatively new endeavor and only a few are designed to provide the traveler with an authentic Route 66 experience. Counted among the most highly rated is the Route 66 Ultimate Guide developed by Scott McCoy, former mayor of Pontiac, Illinois.
Author Jim Hinckley, through his multi-faceted Jim Hinckley’s America, is now offering a unique service. Utilizing Facebook messenger live, he is offering a one hour travel planning session that includes a discount on his travel guides. As a bonus, he will provide a cell number and email, and answer questions from the road in a rather timely manner. The fee for this service is $100.
If you prefer to not go it alone there are almost as many options for tours as there are people interested in a Route 66 adventure. The use of a tour company, obviously, is the easiest way to alleviate concerns and frustrations associated with planning a Route 66 trip. Unfortunately a number of companies offering these tours simply use Route 66 as a hook. As a result the trusting customer will usually over pay for a trip along the interstate highway with brief stops in Route 66 communities.
However, with a bit of homework, the potential traveler can find a reputable company that will maximize the enjoyment factor of a Route 66 odyssey. Your search for a reputable company should begin with testimonials, both on the company’s website and through their social media. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, directly to the company as well as on social media sites. In the process evaluate the company’s history of familiarity with the road and with the Route 66 community.
As an example, in Australia there are a number of companies offering Route 66 tours but if you dig deep it becomes apparent that in actuality there are but two that are intimate with the highway and its culture. One has a bit of a celebrity connection, especially for Aussies, but these tours are a bit rigid in their structure. However, an advantage is that if you are limited on time, the trips are just over two weeks in length. The second company offers years of experience made manifest in intimate knowledge of Route 66, a steady number of repeat customers, glowing testimonials, and a professional team for those traveling by motorcycle or car, or even exploring the road in a van with knowledgeable driver.
If your looking for a bit of freedom in your adventure but aren’t confident in your abilities to make a Route 66 trip on your own, a New Zealand based company bridges the gap between structured tours and the hassle of planning a Route 66 trip on your own. The company’s tours offer a great deal of flexibility allowing you to set the pace and choose stops of interest within a framework of set lodging, arranged receptions, and special dinners. However, they do not offer motorcycle tours. Also, after years of research and development, the company is also offering an innovative self drive tour that provides the traveler with a detailed guide as well as pre programmed GPS unit linked with the advantages of a structured tour such as lodging accommodations.
If English is not a language you use often or at all, then there are obvious advantages to selecting a company with multilingual guides. Again, ask questions, and evaluate the staffs qualifications. For example, if you live in the Netherlands there is a company that has offered Route 66 torus for several years and one of their guides, fluent in Dutch as well as English, is a founding member of the Dutch Route 66 Association.
Route 66 associations are also an ideal source of information. Some of these groups such as the Czech and German associations also develop annual tours, host events, and provide an array of assistance for those looking to travel Route 66.
The bottom line is this, if you want to make a trip along iconic Route 66, do it. As with any adventure, proper planning is key. And remember, on Route 66 you are never alone even if you are far from home.