Where to stay on a US road trip

Continuing this month's theme of planning a road trip in the USA, we look at one of the most challenging aspects: where to stay
Kitsch comfort – the Wigwam Motel in Arizona, (photo by Richard Nowitz )
Kitsch comfort – the Wigwam Motel in Arizona

Kitsch comfort – the Wigwam Motel in Arizona is a great place to stay while on a US roadtrip. Photo by Richard Nowitz / APA Publications

Fortunately, you’ll find various types of lodging available in just about any populated part of the country, from luxury hotels to independent motels and to reliable mid-range chains such as Holiday Inn, Best Western, or Hampton Inn.

If your route is fairly fixed or you have specific needs (or simply want to stay at the best hotels), booking ahead is a good idea. However, if you prefer to leave yourself open to going where the mood takes you, it’s generally not too difficult to find a decent motel room as you go along, provided you’re able to be somewhat flexible about location and amenities.

If you're not familiar with the lingo, a hotel usually has interior corridors, and automobiles are parked in a general lot. In a motel, there is an exterior corridor, and rooms are entered directly from outside. In many motels, there is a parking spot directly in front of the door to your room.

It’s worth noting that youth hostels are rare in the US. They can be found in the major cities, and if you’re on a tight budget and are looking for a backpacking-style vacation, it’s a good idea to join the Youth Hostel Association, as many hostels offer beds to members only.

If you’re camping, there’ll be a range of developed campgrounds just about everywhere you go, except for in city centers. Most campgrounds have electricity and water hookups for RVs and camper vans, as well as sites for more traditional tent camping. Restroom and shower facilities are generally located in a central building, and laundry rooms and a convenience store may also be available, along with recreational facilities such as pools or games rooms. Some campgrounds also have rustic cabins, although you will need to provide your own bedding, and sometimes even your own mattress. If you’re planning a longer trip, consider joining Kampgrounds of America (KOA), whose low annual membership fee provides discounts at member campgrounds all over the country, along with other benefits.

Campgrounds, both developed and basic ones, can also be found in many national parks, national ­forests (www.forestcamping.com), state parks, and other public lands. For these sites, you may have to reserve a pitch in advance. Contact the Parks Service for more information.

Plan your US road trip

To read more about what to see in the United States, visit Insight's USA destination pages. Or choose from one of our fantastic USA travel guides, including US on the Road...

Discover more with Insight Guides

Travel the Northern Route: East coast Boston to west coast Washington state

Tour the Atlantic Route: New York City to Key West, Florida 

Explore the Pacific Route: From San Diego to Seattle

What you need to know: Tips on renting a car for your journey