Planning a route this complex can take quite a while. I would recommend the following considerations before commencing planning your route.
1. Decide what is a “must see”
There is no point in designing a route which doesn’t go where you want to go. Make a list of 5 or 10 places which you really want to see. Your travelling partner should do the same. This will then give you a basic skeleton for your trip.
For me, I really wanted to go to New York, Washington DC, Baltimore, Seattle, Portland (Oregon) and some strange places, like the Mall of America and the world’s only public diamond mine in Arkansas. I also love the Disney Parks, so seeing DisneyWorld and DisneyLand were both non-negotiable. My husband also added Winslow Arizona, Chicago and several native american sights to the list.
2. Set out your basic Route
Using your must see sights you can now design a basic route which travels between all those areas. I also utilised some maps which show some efficient paths between states. This page outlines a mathematical analysis of the easiest path between states and is one of my favourites because it also analyses the best route between state capitals. While I did not use this map precisely, I did use it as a reference for an efficient path.
3. Select interesting places along your basic route
This is the tricky part. Where to go in the thousands of different places across America? For this I utilised a few websites and apps.
My favourite app is called “instant distance”. While this app is not one you would use to replace a GPS or driving instructions, it does allow you to easily click on one place and another to get a reasonable idea about the driving distances between both and allows you to navigate easily with the touch screen. It also provides a good estimate of how long it may take to drive between locations.
I also used basic travel sites, such as trip advisor. This website is great for quickly identifying whether a place is likely to be interesting or not. This will also allow you to decide how long you need in each place.
4. Confirm your route
While it may be fun to go anywhere at anytime. You do need to have a pretty good idea of where you are going to be when. This will assist in booking hotels and attractions at a good rate and ensure that you can actually do the trip in the amount of time allocated.