What’s your idea of the perfect American road trip? Are you inspired by stories of ghost towns, midnight diner experiences, and quirky regional landmarks? Are there well-known tourist areas in each state that you don’t want to miss? Do you want to go on a pilgrimage to find a location from a movie, book or song?

The perfect road trip can be any of these or none of them at all. The only thing that is true about it is that it is very hard to define one road trip across the United States that will suit everyone. The 50 U.S. states are too big and too varied, and the reasons that someone may choose to hit vary based on who they are or the group they’re with.

Sources for inspiration

There are lots of places where you can find inspiration to make your perfect road trip. First, think about what your overall goal for the trip is. Would you like to explore a region of the country, view National Parks, or spend time on a certain highway like Route 66? Do you want to indulge a hobby, taste a lot of varieties of a certain kind of food, or visit amusement parks or sports stadiums? Once you know that you want to do you have a basis for structuring your drive.

A second planning step is to hit travel books or online sites to narrow down what you want to see. As you do this, consider how much driving you want to tackle in a day and be sure to leave yourself time for stops to unexpected places.

As a third step, use the internet to research accommodations. Sites like Airbnb and VRBO can be sources for, especially interesting places to stay the night. Some of these places that might be worth going out of your way for.

Experts try to craft the perfect road trip

Despite the challenges, some people have endeavored to outline a single road trip that could be enjoyed by anyone. Most recently, the publication Discovery News partnered with a doctoral candidate at Michigan State University to see if they could use science, in the form of algorithm development, to create one road trip that would be right for everyone. Their methodology determined they could only pick one attraction for each of the lower 48 states, except for California which received two, and a single pick for Washington D.C. They also determined they would focus on national landmarks, historic sites, parks, and national monuments.

Other “best of” road trip guides focus on a single goal, such as enjoying the best in craft beer across the 50 states, experiencing iconic American highways like Route 66, or indulging in a passion such as visiting Civil War monuments, Old West towns, or heralded movie locations. Whatever the focus is, they reflect the passion of the drivers. They may also provide some inspiration for how you’d craft your own road trip.

Online tools can help

When you’re planning your road trip, you don’t have to go it alone. ONline tools like Rand MacNally’s trip maker or MapQuest’s map planner can help. Once you’re on the road, if you get lost and have a solid online connection, an online app like Ways or Google Maps can be useful. Another app, Roadtrippers, can suggest the best route for you if you put in your preferred destination.

Examples of creative road trips

Even with a lot of planning suggestions crafting your own perfect road trip can be overwhelming. To help, we’ve gotten specific with some examples of road trips others have taken, what they’ve planned and what they found. Maybe these ideas will help you find the creativity to plan your best adventure.

Extraterrestrial road trip

The American Southwest can provide an ideal road trip experience for space buffs. Starting at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Huston you can venture through Austin and then across the broad swath of Texas, passing wildflowers and rangeland before reaching New Mexico. There you can find a number of space-oriented attractions including Roswell, where aliens may have once been sited, and the Very Large Array, a series of satellite dishes made used to observe space and famous by the Jodie Foster movie Contact. Other fun stops on the way: the hot springs in Truth or Consequences New Mexico, and a pie-focused restaurant in an area called PieTown was featured on the Food Network.

National park road trip

Visiting a string of national parks can be a great way to determine a road trip. For example, if you decide to head to Yellowstone consider a pre-visit overnight stop at Driggs, Idaho where there’s an outdoor movie theater founded in 1951 called the Spud Drive-in. This is one example of the kind of accommodations you can find online. Guests can sleep in a refurbished vintage camper parked just outside of the large screen, and enjoy some of the best milkshakes and hamburgers in the area while the movie plays. Following that great first night, travel proceeded to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and finally to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.

Mississippi river road trip

Though there are often faster ways to get to New Orleans, driving the road from Cincinnati to Louisiana is great for road trippers. As you follow the Mississippi River you can take the interstate straight to the Crescent City or, once you reach Nashville, switch roads to what has been called the “blues highway”. As you drive in either place, you can feel the landscapes and cultures change under your wheels and visit musical sites, civil war landmarks, and food hotspots.