USA Itinerary: 8 Plans for Exploring the Land of the Free

From developed beaches to dramatic mountains, vast deserts to sprawling metropolises, the USA offers visitors a chance to experience an incredibly diverse part of the world, rich in culture, musical heritage, history, and culinary traditions. But where should you start? What should you see? To help you experience the best of America the Beautiful, we’ve compiled the top 8 itineraries designed to let you discover everything from spas to swamps, antebellum plantations to gigantic theme parks. You can print any of the following trips for your next vacation, and if you think we’ve missed a really great one, use the free USA trip planner from Inspirock to create it from scratch.

The National Parks USA Itinerary

Half Dome Yosemite National Park by: Airwolfhound (CC)
Half Dome Yosemite National Park by: Airwolfhound (CC)

The USA is practically synonymous with national parks, so do yourself a big favor and spend at least one vacation appreciating the country’s stunning natural beauty. This, and all the other itineraries featured here, can be stretched or compressed for time depending on your availability and interests. Plan to take this trip in the summer, when you’ll have the advantage of long days and lots of sunshine. Many of America’s best parks are in the West, so you can make San Francisco or Los Angeles your base of operations. Rent a car, stuff it with snacks, cold drinks, and a few warm blankets, and set off on one of the world’s greatest road trips. You can make stops in Yosemite National Park to see giant sequoia trees, and Death Valley National Park, North America’s driest, lowest, and hottest area.

Want to see more national parks? Take a peak at this 3-week USA itinerary:

The West Coast USA Itinerary

San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge by: torbakhopper (CC)
San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge by: torbakhopper (CC)

Here’s another trip allowing you to explore the western section of the USA, only this time instead of national parks, you’ll be visiting stops along the Pacific coast. This is an ideal journey for families with kids, single backpackers, cyclists, amateur photographers, and driving enthusiasts itching to get behind the wheel. But you don’t have to drive to enjoy this type of vacation—instead of spending days cooped up in a car, you can travel by buses and trains. This north-to-south journey starts in booming Seattle, a hip intellectual and cultural center. From there, make your way down to Portland, known for its organic food scene and microbreweries, and San Francisco, a historic city on a beautiful bay.

Look for more West Coast fun on this 3-week USA itinerary:

The Northeastern USA Itinerary

Boston by: Dale Cruse (CC)
Boston by: Dale Cruse (CC)

And now for something completely different: America’s northeastern section, which includes scenic and historic New England. You’ll find lots of nearly empty roads the farther north you drive, though urban settlements are usually within convenient reach. Put an interesting twist on the experience by starting in Washington DC, which boasts world-class museums and some of America’s finest monuments. Other historic cities on this itinerary include Philadelphia and Hartford, where you can pay homage to the likes of Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Base your New England portion of the trip in Boston, equally rich in colonial-era history and modern restaurants. And, of course, home to some of America’s top sports teams.

See more of the Northeast on this 14-day USA itinerary:

The Northern Route USA Itinerary

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Chicago by: Conal Gallagher (CC)

This trip takes you to a less-traveled part of America, the section stretching just below the Canadian border. First stop, Chicago: ideal as a base for exploring the Great Lakes area, this midwestern metropolis also packs in plenty of culture, cuisine, and architecture. Spend at least one day in the Windy City, before setting off in a northwestern direction. This itinerary also includes lots of iconic American beauty in places like Badlands National Park, desolate and magical at the same time. In Montana you’ll have a chance to cross into Canada, or stay below the border and explore Glacier National Park, home to alpine lakes, snowy mountains, and, as the name suggests, icy glaciers. End the trip in Seattle, from which you can fly back to your starting point or catch a connecting flight to another destination elsewhere in the world.

Follow the northern route by printing out this 2-week USA itinerary:

The Deep South USA Itinerary

Bourbon Street New Orleans by: Eric Gross (CC)
Bourbon Street New Orleans by: Eric Gross (CC)

From the far northern reaches of the country, we now shift our focus to the opposite end of America, the Deep South and Florida. Home to some of the best food and some of the greatest music icons the USA has ever produced, this part of the country remains as mysterious as it is appealing. In New Orleans, you’ll be able to chase after the ghosts of Lestat and Louis from “Interview with the Vampire,” while in Savannah you can search for the locales used in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” In between the two, Alabama’s capital Montgomery inspires and educates with monuments to the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King, Jr. Wrap up your visit on one of Florida’s beaches, or drive across the Keys to access hundreds of diving and fishing spots, as well as the old haunts of writer Ernest Hemingway.

More southern charm and hospitality on this 2-week USA itinerary:

The Great Southwestern Adventure USA Itinerary

Antelope Canyon by: Chetan Kolluri (CC)
Antelope Canyon by: Chetan Kolluri (CC)

A perennially popular destination among both domestic and international tourists, the arrestingly beautiful American Southwest is packed with natural wonders, pristine national parks, and thriving cities. Start as far west as you wish (think San Francisco or LA), but make sure your itinerary includes Arizona’s and Utah’s star attractions, like Antelope Canyon and Bryce Canyon National Park. This diverse itinerary also includes big cities like Las Vegas, which needs no introduction, and Santa Fe, known for its arts and food scenes.

Look for more things to do on this 2-week USA itinerary:

The Epic Cross Country USA Itinerary

Historic Route 66 by: Randy Heinitz (CC)
Historic Route 66 by: Randy Heinitz (CC)

Here we go folks, the mother of all USA trips, the one that’ll take you from the Atlantic all the way to the Pacific. This is the Grand Tour done American-style, so it’s best experienced by car: a private vehicle will give you the freedom to stop when and where you want, which you’ll definitely appreciate after a few days behind the wheel. You’ll have a chance to drive on nearly empty country roads, and multi-lane highways designed to get you from A to B the quickest and easiest way possible. Feel free to grab a hard-copy USA map and check out which roads work best for you, but make sure you spend at least part of the trip on Route 20, America’s longest road running between Boston, MA and Newport, OR. Another iconic road you can drive is the legendary Route 66, which ends in California. This trip is truly epic, so if you can’t do it all at once, split it into two vacations, or fly across sections of the country you’ve already visited or plan to see at a later time.

Buckle up, everybody, and check out more stops on this 15-day USA itinerary:

The Theme Parks USA Itinerary

Paradise Pier Disneyland by: Hubert Yu (CC)
Paradise Pier Disneyland by: Hubert Yu (CC)

To show you that it’s possible to plan a USA trip based on something other than geographic regions, we’ll wrap up our virtual tour of America with this theme park-oriented itinerary, focused on popular attractions in California and Florida. This is the vacation for anyone who doesn’t like planes, trains, and automobiles. Travel between sites and activities is minimal, with many of the complexes featured here offering accommodations and dining options, so there’s no reason to go anywhere else for a well-rounded vacation experience. Top picks include places like Universal Orlando Resort, where you can “ride the movies,” and Disneyland Park, built by Disney himself as the “happiest place on earth.”

Look for special appearances by Mickey, Shrek, Indiana Jones, Spiderman, Superman, and many other famous faces on this 2-week USA itinerary:

Land of Fun

Our suggested itineraries span the entire United States, featuring stops in big cities where you can rest, shop, and dine. Most work exceptionally well for drivers and motorcyclists interested in sightseeing at their own pace. All are kid-friendly, which makes them ideal for those setting off on a family adventure. Pick one that works best for you and use it as is, or tweak it until you reach perfection with Inspirock’s free USA trip planner.

Tamara

Tamara

Educated in Chicago and based in Serbia, Tamara travels with passion and believes that one written word can be worth at least a thousand pictures. When she's not conquering the world one blog post at a time, she likes to eat pizza and take long naps--preferably at the same time.
Tamara