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The Best Books to Help you Plan an Epic US Road Trip

Tonya Prater, Owner

When it comes to road trip planning, there’s nothing I like more than to grab my notebook, a great travel book and a cup of tea and begin jotting down ideas of things to do .

A stack of road trip books and a globe.

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I use many sources when it comes to road trip planning. I talk to friends, read blogs and buy books. I love to thumb through a book, fold back the corners, highlight what I want to do, add a date for when I was at an attraction I visited and write notes in the margins. I don’t look at those things as destroying the book, but more along the lines of preserving my memories. I guess you could say that the book becomes my journal, something I hope will be passed down for my own children to use and who knows, one day, even grandchildren.

Today, I’m sharing some of my favorite road trip books. I own most of these but there are a few that I’ve not read (the Secret series) but plan to purchase when I visit a corresponding destination. I hope you find a few to inspire you to travel.

Road Trip USA by Jamie Jensen is still my all-time FAVORITE road trip book. If you can only choose one book off my list and will be traveling on one of the eleven routes mentioned, this is THE book for you. I leave my copy in my vehicle and refer to it every single time I road trip along one of the routes mentioned in the book.

Note: This isn’t a road trip book about all 50 states, simply some of the most well-known routes in America.

I may be biased, but if you’re traveling to Cleveland, my book is a must. Secret Cleveland: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure shares the stories behind some of the attractions you may already know about while introducing you to some that you didn’t.

Where can you find a bridge to nowhere? And why is it there?

What’s the story behind the Free stamp?

Does the Haserot Angel in Lake View Cemetery really weep black tears?

These are only a few of the secrets my co-author and I shared in Secret Cleveland. If you’re planning on heading to the city, pick up a copy of our book and browse through it. I’m sure you’ll find a few things you didn’t know- even if you’re from Cleveland.

If you love all things secret, you can’t go wrong with the other books in the series. I admit I’m hooked. When my husband and I visited Columbus for our anniversary in July, I picked up Secret Columbus: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure by Anietra Hamper. We used it as a guide to find several Lustron homes in the city, to discover what happened to the popular Kahiki, and even read about the history of the popular Hotel LeVeque that we were staying in.

And because I LOVE the Secret Books, and plan to buy all of them, here are a few more to consider:

Secret Philadelphia: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure by Mary Dixon Lebeau

Secret Detroit: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure by Karen Dybis

Secret Chicago: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure by Jessica Mlinarac

Secret Louisville: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure by Kevin Gibson

Secret Dallas: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure by Mark Stuertz

Secret Charlotte: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure by Sarah Crosland

Secret St. Louis: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure by David Baugher

Secret Route 66: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure by Jim Ross and Shellee Grahame

Secret Cincinnati: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure by Kathyrn Witt 

Secret Pittsburgh: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure by Karyn Locke

A popular radio show host, podcaster, and traveler, Bill Clevlin draws from his extensive travel across the United States to share what he considers 100 Things to do in America Before You Die. Use this fun book as inspiration or a bucket list guide when planning things to do across the country.

In addition to the above book, Bill has also written Driving America: Tales from my Life on the Open Road that shares all the joy and wonder of travel and reminds us of the good in people all across the United States and Finding the American Dream: A Guided Tour of Places Where Americans Changed History.  

Before heading to the OBX this past summer, I bought Did you See That? On the Outer Banks: A GPS Guide to the Out of the Ordinary Attractions on the North Carolina Coast by Joe Sledge. This book pointed me in the direction of some of the more unusual attractions and history of the Outer Banks. From shifting sand dunes that covered an entire village, to howling with red wolves, to vacation homes in the Southern Shores built in the 1950s that are a stark contrast to today’s modern (and often massive) vacation homes.

Because I can never get enough of Route 66, I picked up Route 66: The Mother Road by Michael Wallis. This meaty guide is for anyone who wants to learn about this historic highway beyond the attractions and destinations. This book is packed with stories of the people who grew up along the Mother Road and is designed as a take a long book to read the stories as you go. I had the pleasure of listening to Michael present at a conference and he was mesmerizing.

This may not be a travel planning book but is perfect for nights in the hotel room. I bought the Route 66 Splendor Adult Coloring Book by Jo Ann Kargus for my mom. She and my dad traveled part of Route 66 with me two years ago and I knew she’d enjoy this. I almost bought one for myself as well.

The huge Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton is my FAVORITE book when it comes to weird and quirky. I even had a major fangirl moment when I met one of the co-authors, Dylan Thuras at a conference a couple of years ago. In addition to their massive work, they now offer children’s books.

If you’re heading to Nebraska, allow my friend Gretchen M. Garrison to introduce you to the must-see and do’s in the state in her book, Detour Nebraska: Historic Destinations and Natural Wonders. Gretchen has also authored, A History Lover’s Guide to Lincoln which would make a great resource when road tripping through Nebraska. 

There are many more books in this series including 100 Things to do in Omaha Before You Die by Tim and Lisa Trudell and the book I co-authored with Deb Thompson, 100 Things to do in Cleveland Before You Die

My husband and I are in the process of planning an epic van camping winter road trip. We’ll be heading to the Southwest so here are a few books I’ve been reading and have found really helpful:

Arizona and New Mexico: 25 Scenic Side Trips by Rick Quinn – I really like the way this book is laid out. Each road trip starts and ends on the interstate but takes you through the back roads of Arizona and New Mexico so you see beyond the highway for an authentic look at the state.

Arizona Day Trips by Leigh Wilson is another great resource to use when passing through or exploring the state. 

I loved reading Seeing God in America: Devotions from 100 Favorite Places by Larry Libby with my husband each night before we went to sleep. Not only have we been to many of the places mentioned in the book, we actually visited places (the International Peace Garden in North Dakota) because we read about them. Each entry includes a corresponding scripture, devotional, and short prayer. This is a great book to pack in your suitcase and pull out when you reach your destination for a renewed look at the world around you.

And because we all need to eat, Roadfood, 10th Edition: An Eater’s Guide to More Than 1,000 of the Best Local Hot Spots and Hidden Gems Across America by Jane Stern is a great option for those of us looking for great places to eat in the U. S.

Which of these books would you like to read before setting out on your next road trip?

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Books to help you plan your next road trip.

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Gretchen Garrison

Friday 29th of May 2020

Thanks for including my book in this great list!

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