A Beginners Guide to Route 66 Accommodation
Starting to plan your Route 66 road trip can be a daunting task, particularly knowing that you may very well be spending every night of your trip in an entirely new bed. In this respect a road trip will be unlike any vacation you may have taken before. Having a little information on the types of Route 66 accommodation won't hurt, and so this post aims to outline some of the choices that you'll face. It also aims to answer a very common question - should Route 66 accommodation be booked in advance or should the whole trip be spontaneous?
I hope you enjoy reading it. If you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments or head over to the Facebook group.
Types of Accommodation
If you're not camping or driving an RV then chances are you'll be staying in a range of different accommodation types; motel and hotel, independent and chain, rural and urban, and finally... teepee!
For the authentic “Route 66” feel you’ll probably want to stay in smaller independent motels along the way – these can book up fast during peak seasons so you should definitely try to make a reservation in advance. If you're travelling at peak season then motels like the Blue Swallow, Munger Moss, Route 66 Motel or Wagon Wheel Motel are certainly worth booking in advance if you want to avoid disappointment.
However, if you don’t want to book Route 66 accommodation in advance and are happy to simply go with the flow and make discoveries, then rest assured that there are numerous independent motels ready to welcome you and grateful for your business. If you keep a copy of the Route 66 Dining and Lodging Guide in the glove box then you'll have the best advice at your fingertips whenever you're ready to end your day's drive.
If you're happy with simple, homogenous motels, such as Best Western or Super 8, then there are many chains operating along the route that’ll provide a place to rest your head after a long day’s driving. Usually you know what you're getting with a chain motel and sometimes you might be grateful for the familiarity that they offer. If you're happy to mix it up a bit, staying at both independent and chain motels, then you'll never be stuck for a local bed for the night. I've personally had very comfortable nights at the Comfort Inn in Santa Monica, and the Travel Inn in Claremore. Accommodation in both was basic but clean, comfortable and conveniently located in terms of proximity to the route.
Many of the iconic motels will be located in small towns or rural areas, but as Route 66 passes through some major cities you may want to treat yourself to the occasional fancy hotel! Some of the larger metropolitan areas along the route include Chicago, Oklahoma City, Los Angeles, Tulsa, Amarillo and St Louis. Each of these will boast a range of accommodation from budget chain motels to more luxurious hotels. I stayed the night at the Renaissance Hotel in Oklahoma City, a beautiful 4-star hotel with the best range of breakfast options I encountered on the route! Also very popular is the Wyndham Garden in Amarillo who offer a "roadie rate" if you happen to present a copy of their advert from the Route 66 Pulse.
Should I Book in Advance?
This is down to personal preference - how much freedom do you want? Finding a place to stay is generally not too difficult, and most areas along Route 66 will be able to offer basic accommodation for the impulsive traveler. However, if you know in advance that you’d like to stay in a specific motel/hotel it’s essential to book in advance during peak season. Certain iconic motels will be fully booked months in advance. A sensible option would be to stay at a mixture of booked and spur-of-the-moment lodging; this way you get to balance the freedom of travelling the open road with the security of knowing you won’t miss out on the most iconic stops. Pick the motels you’d consider a must-see, book yourself a room, and fill in the gaps as you go. Spur-of-the-moment lodging at chain motels is particularly easy to find due to the high number of such establishments.
Route 66 can be a rich experience, encompassing all from small frontier towns to large cities, and the accommodation you choose will reflect this. A mixture of pre-booked motels and spontaneous stops is probably the best way to ensure you get the most out of your trip. Personally I booked about a third of my Route 66 accommodation in advance to make sure I got to stay in particular iconic motels – there were some places I just knew I had to see. Other than that I stopped off in a variety of independent/chain motels when I got tired of driving.
A recent conversation over on the Facebook group revealed that most people planned their trip as I did: book your essential motels in advance, maybe one motel every third day, and just wing it the rest of the time just for the freedom of it all. The great thing about this approach is that it'll help you keep focused in terms of your timings. Knowing that you have a place to be every third day will not only help with your planning prior to your trip, but will also make sure that you keep an eye on your daily mileage.
Using the Trip Planner
Once you’ve decided on the type of lodging you’re after you should be able to use the Trip Planner tool found on this website to find somewhere that suits. If you’re simply wondering which motels are considered “essential” to the Route 66 experience or have a long history with the road then I can certainly recommend checking out my previous posts on Highly Recommended Route 66 Motels - Part 1 and Part 2. Each of the motels listed has a rich history and has not only served the Route 66 community for many years but, most importantly, still provides quality accommodation.
The Trip Planner tool has a selection of motels/hotels that have been recommended by users of this website which can be filtered by state. Every Route 66 road trip is different and people’s wants and needs vary greatly, so where appropriate I’ve tried to include a variety of different types of Route 66 accommodation: motel and hotel, independent and chain, rural and urban.