The length of the Mother Road is typically stated as 2,448 miles; the distance changed over the years as new alignments were added. It IS a long way from Chicago to Santa Monica, California!
This question "how long does it take" is asked often ... but is difficult to answer. Total time to drive the route, assuming no stops, is in the 32-38 hour range. But we would never recommend doing that.
On some of our road trips across the USA, we drive 500 miles a day, or more. At that rate, we could drive the entire Route 66 in about 5 days. But we would never do that!
We like to take it slow, remain flexible, stop to visit attractions, and catch all those great photo ops on The Mother Road! As an example, on our recent road trip in 2022 on Route 66 in Oklahoma, Google Maps estimated travel time on our trip from Tulsa to Joplin, Missouri, to be 1:45 ... but in actuality, it took us 8 hours!
For leisurely trips on Route 66, many experienced travelers recommend planning for 200 miles a day, at least on those stretches with lots of attractions. At that rate, the trip across the entire length of Route 66 would take 10-12 days.
Ideally, plan on an absolute minimum of 10 days to make the trip from Chicago to Los Angeles. However, for a more leisurely and complete trip you might want to plan for 14-21 days, or even longer. It all depends on how many stops you take along the Route, any side trips to places like the Grand Canyon, and of course the weather.
Looking at the map below .... it IS a long way across Route 66, just the driving time to cover nearly 2,500 miles. Factor in several nights of lodging, and stopping at dozens, or hundreds, of attractions, and the time needed to drive the entire distance adds up quickly!
Map of Historic Route 66 from Illinois to California
State - Miles (1926 Alignment)
TOTAL - 2,448
|It's time to stop for a "selfie"!
The arch in Grants, New Mexico on Historic Route 66
Route 66 travels through vastly different climates, from the mid-western plains and cornfields to dry, arid areas in the west, from near sea level in California to the peaks along the Continental Divide. Thus, weather conditions are diverse, and sometimes unpredictable.
That said, the most ideal weather for the trip is in the spring, from March into early June. Likewise, the fall months of September, October and November are typically pleasant and offer good driving conditions. Winter months can produce ice and snow storms, while summer in the desert areas of the great Southwest are hot.
Travelers will on occasion experience snow storms, dust storms, flooded roads and high winds. So watch the weather forecasts, and adjust your itinerary appropriately. We've driven Route 66 in ice and snow, and in dust storms (see photos below).
Midpoint Cafe & Gift Shop in Adrian
Different people want to experience different things on Route 66. And that is great! Transportation options and speeds vary, from personal vehicles, rental cars, motorcycles to RVs.
Some travelers have as their objective to drive every single mile of the old road, or every mile of the original alignments. Some enjoy following the immense detail of turn-by-turn directions, maps, and mobile apps.
Other road trippers don't want to be constrained by such details, and just desire to experience the scenery and freedom along the open road: the expansive farms in Illinois, green hills of Missouri and the wide open spaces of Oklahoma and Texas ... and the mountains and deserts of New Mexico, Arizona and California!
Some love history, some geography. Some like classic service stations, quirky attractions, and quaint motels, while others enjoy exploring the many museums along the route. Some road trippers like big cities such as Chicago or Albuquerque, others enjoy smaller spaces like Catoosa, Seligman, Litchfield or Lebanon. The Mother Road offers something for everyone!
All that said, a road trip on Route 66 offers many options, and can be tailored to individual interests, and time constraints.
Enjoy planning and driving YOUR next Route 66 road trip!
Popular Route 66 resources for your next road trip!
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Many travelers on Historic Route 66 enjoy documenting their road trips with stamps collected in "passports" that they gather at different stops along the Mother Road.
A number of passports are available, including these:
Route 66 Passport
The new Fourth Edition 2023/2024 82-page edition of the Mother Road Route 66 Passport is now available to Route 66 travelers and enthusiasts.
Passport holders collect unique stamps, free souvenirs and exclusive discounts at 44 carefully selected locations on their adventure along Route 66. Special pages are also provided to collect autographs or write notes, as well as illustrated maps.
The popular passport is available for purchase at many Route 66 passport distribution points, and the Touch Media website as well as at other online locations.
Oklahoma Route 66 Passport
The Oklahoma Route 66 Passport from the Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department helps Route 66 travelers find new destinations to explore and document their progress along the way.
The Route 66 Passport, which is available free at TravelOK.com, features 66 of the state’s memorable Mother Road attractions. It includes iconic stops like Catoosa’s Blue Whale, the Stroud’s Rock Cafe and Clinton’s Oklahoma Route 66 Museum along with many newer favorites.
Get your passport stamped at each stop, then take it to a Tourism Information Center to be verified and earn an exclusive Route 66 coin.
Arizona Route 66 Passport
The Arizona Route 66 Passport is your guide into the heart of America. Cruise along the Mother Road, collecting stamps at locations along the way. Each passport comes with a free Traveler's Guide.
It is published by the The Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona, a non-profit organization, dedicated to the preservation, protection, and promotion of both the surface, and the memories along Arizona’s portion of Route 66. Proceeds from the sale of Passports benefit this cooperative marketing initiative.
Purchase an Arizona Route 66 Passport online or pick one up at one of the locations where stamps are given.
Illinois Route 66 Passport Stations
When driving Route 66 in Illinois, don’t forget to bring a notebook and a pencil to collect all of the Illinois Route 66 Passport Stamps!
When you discover a stamp on a Wayside Exhibit simply place a piece of paper over the rubbing station and use your pencil to collect a unique engraving. See sample location in the photos below ...