National Road Trip Day occurs on the Friday before Memorial Day in the U.S. (on the last Monday of May), so this year it falls on May 26. There’s a reason why ‘The Great American Road Trip’ is now a catchphrase — because the U.S. is the one country where road trips count as a holiday in themselves. Whether it’s to pay tribute to fallen national heroes by visiting war memorials across the country, or an excuse to get out of town and have a change of scenery; the road trip has been loved by Americans throughout history. From great works of literature inspired by the road to songs that we know and love — road trips mean something to everyone, which is why we are excited that the road trip has a special day of its own. Plus, who wouldn’t want to make the most of the long weekend by going out of town, and that’s where we come in, with tips to help you scratch that travel-bug itch.
History of National Road Trip Day
National Road Trip Day became an official holiday in 2019, thanks to Pilot Flying J, the largest travel center operator in North America. They chose the Friday before Memorial Day because of the long weekend ahead and, with May being the start of summer, it kickstarts the travel season, too. Since travel stories are ingrained into the very history of America, with wagon trains heading out West in the 1840s and Native Americans exploring the country long before that — it makes sense to observe a day that celebrates travel by road.
The first recorded road trip across the U.S. began in 1903 with a bet. Someone bet Horatio Nelson Jackson (a physician and automobile pioneer) that he could not travel from San Francisco to New York City in less than 90 days. Accompanied by mechanic Sewall K. Crocker, and a dog named Bud, they set off in a 20-horsepower Winston to prove them wrong. Despite numerous mishaps, Jackson and Crocker completed the trip in 63 days.
By the 1930s, the famous Route 66 opened America up for cross-country travel. Many began to migrate West, while others took to the road for vacations. By the 1950s, America was the world’s largest car manufacturer, and nearly 75% of American families owned a car, which became a symbol of American pop culture. Road trips became the typical holiday of the American middle classes, leading to a boom in drive-ins and roadside motel businesses, too. Hippies in the ’60s then converted the road trip into a full-blown lifestyle, turning vans and buses into homes on wheels.
In the ’80s and ’90s, road travel dipped with the rise of air travel but, today, the road trip still has a special charm of its own. The ‘Great American Road Trip’ stands for the freedom and adventure that only the road can bring!
National Road Trip Day timeline
George Washington walks almost 1,000 miles to deliver a letter near modern-day Pittsburgh.
Horatio Nelson Jackson and Sewall K. Crocker successfully go cross-country in a car.
Henry Ford introduces the Model T, a game-changer for mass car production in America.
One of the first highways to span the width of the nation opens up.
Pilot Flying J, a large American travel company, officiates National Road Trip Day on May 24.
National Road Trip Day FAQs
What is the best road trip in the U.S.A.?
The eight most popular road trips in the U.S., according to HGTV are:
- Downeast Maine.
- Blue Ridge Parkway.
- California’s Pacific Coast Highway.
- Jackson, Wyoming to Glacier, Montana.
- The Outer Banks, North Carolina.
- Hana Coastline, Hawaii.
- Olympic Peninsula, Washington.
- Route 66.
Are road trips worth it?
Yes, survey results often show that the top three reasons that people take road trips are: it’s more affordable than other forms of transportation, they have more control over their trip and the plans they make, and they like having the freedom to stop whenever and wherever they want along the way. For many people, it’s not just the destination that they look forward to, but the bonding experience during the trip as well.
Why is Route 66 famous?
Officially known as U.S. Highway 66, and popularly called ‘Route 66’, it was the first all-weather highway linking L.A to Chicago. Route 66 reduced the distance between Chicago and Los Angeles by more than 200 miles, which made it very popular among thousands of motorists who were heading West in the years to come. It was a benchmark in the government’s plans to build more highways and interstates to connect the nation.
How To Celebrate National Road Trip Day
Plan your next trip
Even if this year is not looking like a possibility, plan your next road trip! The best-made plans can sometimes turn out to be the best-made holidays, so don’t shy away from opening up your map and making lists. Even a virtual road trip can be on the agenda for this summer. Hop onto trending social media campaigns (like #RoadTripReimagined) to find out more.
Take a trip down memory lane
Scrapbook your favorite road trip memories or get creative on social media by posting your favorite road trip images/stories/memories.
Read some great American road-trip literature
Why leave the comfort of your couch when you can let your imagination travel for you? Here’s a list of some of the classics: “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac, “Roughing It” by Mark Twain, “Travels with Charley” by John Steinbeck, “The Lost Continent” by Bill Bryson, or “America Day by Day” by Simone de Beauvoir. And in case you prefer off-the-beaten-track literature, Google is your friend!
5 Tips For Planning Your Road Trip That Will Guarantee Happy Campers
Use a travel app
In this day and age, apps are everything, so why not leverage technology to help you plan your route.
Soup up your ride
Check everything out beforehand — from wipers to registration papers, leave no stone unturned.
Plot a course
Keep in mind important factors like traffic flow, bathroom stops, and roadblocks/diversions.
Compile a playlist
The majority of travelers say that what you listen to can make or break your trip experience, so prep well.
Stakeout your take-out
While snacks are essential, plan your meals and take-out stops in advance, too.
Why We Love National Road Trip Day
Not only is a road trip infinitely more affordable than air travel, but it also enables you to experience many of the things that people look for in traveling — cultural immersion, different cuisines, exposure to different sub-cultures, and geographical diversity. With America being such a melting pot of cultures and people groups from all over the world, your experience of diversity can begin at home.
Road trips shape culture
There is an entire canon of road-trip literature (both fiction and non-fiction), as well as music and TV shows; that spans across the globe and has been inspired by road trips. The idea of the Great American Road Trip is also a special one as it opens up travel opportunities for those who may never get to leave the country.
Its a universal bonding experience
Give people the option of an open road, a vehicle, and a map to take them anywhere and they’re bound to make memories that will last a lifetime. It teaches us to expect the unexpected, especially when it comes to making connections, either by deepening the ones we have with our travel buddies or by forming new ones with strangers along the way. It’s rightly said that half the fun is in the journey, not the destination.
National Road Trip Day dates