Way back in 2007, Route 66 was an adventure that really called out to my wife and I, but as Brits with limited knowledge of the US, we were truly starting from scratch. But for me that's where the adventure lay - the excitement of planning this trip was a huge part of the experience and almost as good as the journey itself!
We were both in our twenties and had never been to the States before. This was a whole new world for us, and we threw ourselves into the research with gusto: forums, websites, books and maps - we devoured them all. We even hung a giant corkboard on our dining room wall, with pins marking each approximate stop along the way. It really helped us to get a sense of how much ground we needed to cover each day.
And let me tell you, our geographical knowledge of the US was sorely lacking. We had to go right back to basics and learn which states were where before we could even begin planning our route. But that only added to the thrill.
The planning process was so exhilarating that it inspired me to start this website. Now, even though I'm not physically on the road, I can still experience it vicariously through others and take great delight from hearing about others taking the same trip over on our Facebook page! Of course, websites and online research are invaluable, but there's nothing quite like a good old-fashioned guidebook to keep by your bedside to dip in and out of, highlighting sections and scrawling your own notes.
We started with a few guidebooks and maps to get us going, but since then we've learned of even more that we wish we'd had. So, to save you the trouble of scouring the internet, I've compiled a list of the top 5 most often recommended guidebooks by seasoned Route 66 travelers. And if you use the Amazon affiliate links in this post to buy something, we may even earn a small commission - but don't worry, it won't cost you a thing.
All books are also available from our shop page.
When you ask anyone with experience of driving Route 66 to recommend a good route 66 guidebook the EZ66 Guide is nearly always the first on their list. Considered by many to be an essential purchase, this book offers a detailed break-down, turn by turn, of the whole route from start to finish. It's hard to get lost when using this book. It sticks as closely to the original alignment as it's possible to get and offers variations when they come available (the alignment has changed many times over the years). Jerry McClanahan is internationally regarded as a route 66 authority.
This book was invaluable to me and my trip. Every day we'd finish the drive by marking our total mileage for that day in the top right corner, and every evening we'd browse it while waiting for our meal at whichever diner/restaurant we'd managed to find that night to get a feel for the next days adventure.
The book can be used to follow the route east to west or west to east, and also highlights some specific must-see sights and attractions along the way. It's not a guide in the sense of featuring listings of motels and attractions, but more of a series of maps with text explanations of each small stage of the journey. Packed with useful advice and very specific directions the EZ66 Guide should be part of every Route 66 road trip.
Now in it's 17th edition, the Route 66 Dining and Lodging Guide is one of the Route 66 guidebooks that unfortunately passed me by when I took my trip in 2007. However, being one of the most recommended books by veterans of the mother road, and since the series has now been discontinued, this book comes with a pretty hefty price tag due to rarity!
It features recommendations by members of the National Historic Route 66 Federation and been used by thousands around the world to find the best places to stay and eat along the route. It lists over 500 dining and lodging establishments and concentrates on the vintage properties that made the Route famous.
Although several versions of this book are available, it's worthwhile picking up the latest edition (currently the 17th) if you can stretch to it as it features newer listings and updated details, although older versions will save your wallet! I love the formatting of the book. It breaks the road down into sections and within each section lists the lodging followed by the dining recommendations.
Like the EZ66 Guide this route 66 guidebook is spiral bound making it perfect for a road trip (the book can be left open on the section that you've reached). This is an excellent companion to the EZ66 Guide in that whereas the EZ66 Guide is about the actual route, this flags up the recommended accommodation and restaurants you'll pass along the way - worth a purchase.
This book has a special place in my heart - it was the book that inspired me to take on my route 66 adventure. It was given to me by a friend of a friend after they'd described to me the most amazing road trip they'd taken. I was vaguely aware of route 66 but knew nothing of it's history or mystery. The Route 66 Traveler's Guide and Roadside Companion was my gateway to the world of Route 66 travel and I read and reread the first 4 chapters over and over again because, unlike the previous two guidebooks mentioned here, it features a lot of historical and contextual information on Route 66. For someone new to route 66 this is inspiring reading.
Tom Snyder creates a vivid portrait of life on Route 66 and the people who haunt it, including cattle rustlers, gangsters, hitchhikers, and everyday travelers.
Smaller sections of this book include tips on trip-planning, roadside photography and mini-tours, whereas the bulk of the book is broken down by state, guiding you through, section by section, pointing out roadside attractions and iconic sights. I've often referred to his book over the years to fact check information for this website and for inspiration. Any book endorsed by the great Michael Wallis is a book worth reading!
Now in it's 'High Octane' fifth edition, the Route 66 Adventure Handbook distinguishes itself from others by focusing on the many wonders that you'll encounter on your route 66 road trip. From vintage motels to kitschy roadside art, this book successfully navigates route 66 with very clear passion for its subject. In terms of planning an itinerary this book is packed with tips and suggestions.
Painstakingly researched by Drew Knowles, this book provides information on how to locate unmarked portions of the mother road, contact info for Route 66 associations and local visitor bureaus, an index of all Route 66 towns, and anecdotes, trivia, attractions, and suggested side trips.
The author has a great voice which makes for real entertaining prose. This book delights in taking the reader off the beaten track and introducing newbies and veterans alike to hidden gems and long-forgotten diversions. It also includes a large number of maps.
I didn't have access to this book prior to my trip and I actually bought it back in 2010 when the idea for this website first came to me. Despite being the smallest route 66 guidebook in this list it warrants a mention due to some of the unique content it contains.
This Lonely Planet guide book has some overlap with the other books in this list but the reason why it's made it is for a very specific reason - its box-outs!
It may have many of the same features as other guide books but it has a load of very interesting features littered throughout the book including:
This is just a small taste of the great info included in this book and it shouldn't be overlooked.
So there we have it - my 5 top route 66 guidebooks for planning a route 66 road trip. However... I need to make an honorable mention...
It's not a guidebook and it's not a map, but The Route 66 Encyclopedia by Jim Hinckley is a phenomenal book on the subject of route 66. It's a large, hardback, glossy paged, full colour celebration of route 66. I bought a copy a few years back and my only two regrets were that I didn't buy it sooner and that I couldn't get a signed copy! It's exactly what it says - an A to Z encyclopedia of the road and it's many features. A complete triumph of passion and perseverance, this book didn't really meet the criteria for this list but it would be a travesty to overlook!