11 Websites (& 2 Books) to Plan a U.S. Vacation that’s Exactly what YOU Want

It takes all kinds.

Some folks like peanut butter and jelly; others peanut butter and bananas; and still others want peanut butter and marshmallow fluff (AKA a fluffernutter).

Similarly, some want to vacation with a tour group for all of the info and none of the decisions. Some tear an article out of a magazine and follow the itinerary for places to stay and foods to enjoy. And then there are folks like me (and you?), who research a destination immensely and intensely to create a vacation perfectly tailored to personal interests.

Sure, the third option takes some mental Olympics to calendar-crunch and figure out geography, but that’s part of the fun! PowerPoint (yup, THAT PowerPoint)  is an awesome way to collect ideas, allocate days, and group geographies. Read a previous post for tips on how to put PPT to good use.

11 Websites to Plan a Personalized U.S. Vacation

Indeed, 11. You don’t have to use them all, but how nice to know that they’re there!

  1. The Tourism Bureau. Hey, that’s cheating! Nope, it isn’t. Those lovely people know all about their city or state and have every tiny activity collected. And it’s nicely categorized into family, nature, history, etc. Plus they often have maps by region–helps you get to know where you’re going. And once you’ve collected your list and know its geography, you can return to the tourism site and revisit that regional section for more spots to explore.
  2. BudgetTravel.com. If you don’t know anything about where you’re going, BT.com is an awesome resource. Articles from the magazine are balanced with reader blogs for the inside scoop. This is a nice overview that also has food and hotel recommendations. Makes your blank page less blank.
  3. 10Best.com. If you like David Letterman’s Top Ten List, then you’ll love this site! Type in your destination city or state and 10Best feeds back lists for family, nature, foodies…plus an uber list that combines em all. This is great for ideas, as well as to make sure you don’t go to New York City and not realize that the Statue of Liberty is there…and you didn’t know, and you didn’t go, and people ask about it, and you’re embarrassed. Oh, that only happens to me?
  4. Byways.org. Driving? Take the scenic route. It’s that simple.
  5. RoadsideAmerica.com. Like quirky? Like to see the largest Paul Bunyan holding the largest corn cob sitting in the largest chair? You’ll find out about it here. You’re welcome.
  6. FactoryToursUSA.com. Not everything is made in Asia, people. The U.S. makes Crayons and potato chips and cheese and Harley Davidson motorcycles and, and, and. See what’s being made where you’re headed. Learn something and likely get a free sample (who doesn’t love that?).
  7. Roadfood.com. Want a fabulous local meal? Diner or Five-star? Don’t do homework, go to this website and be done. And full. And happy.
  8. Festivals.com. If you aren’t on the festival circuit, you seriously need to be. Crafts that are so kitschy they’re wonderful. Celebrations that make you proud of community. Contests that make you laugh until you cry or pee your pants (or both, if you’re lucky). We’re not talking about the fancy art festival in a big-city park. No. Small town becomes a mecca for the day; fried food rules; and celebrating something agricultural or raising funds for the folks who protect us.
  9. RareVisionsRoadtrip.com. Art that’s not in a museum, but in someone’s yard (that “someone” is the person who makes the art, BTW). And it’s surprisingly good. Stop by and chat.
  10. Gogobot.com. Sometimes we have questions. If I’ve been to Cape Cod, do I need to see Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, or do I have a taste for the scene and I can move on? People who live there and have been there will write you back and respond with vehemence that only travelers have. Note: You have to “join the community” but don’t panic and consider it on par with joining a cult. Joining things is ok and it’s good for you.
  11. TripAdvisor.com.  I mostly use Trip Advisor in the midst of the trip: I’m hot/cold/hungry/tired/cranky and want to know if the last stop planned for the day is worth the energy.

There, 11 sites and they’re quite different. You can go through them rather quickly, too. Any festivals in Tennessee when we’re there? Nope–moving on. Not interested in the factory tour of those plastic things on shoelaces and it’s the only tour offered at your destination? That was an easy decision.

2 Books for Added Americana

Believe it or not, but the interweb doesn’t have all the information you need! Enter books.*

Not all State Parks are created equal–some are spectacular and deserve as much attention as National Parks. The fine folks at National Geographic took the time to decide which ones are worthy. Be sure to send them a thank you note.
National Geographic Guide to State Parks of the United States, 4th Edition (National Geographic’s Guide to the State Parks of the United States)

Driving? Follow a route from Lonely Planet. It’s got trips based on geography and themes. A roadtripper’s dream!
Lonely Planet USA’s Best Trips (Regional Travel Guide)


Which website(s) do you use to plan your vacation?

*Disclaimer: If you opt to buy either (or both) of these books, Amazon.com will pay me a commission. I’m not bragging, I’m legally and ethically obligated to tell you. Do you feel obligated to buy? You should. Really. You didn’t buy the last book I recommended–I can monitor these things, you know. So go on now, buy, buy, buy!

4 Responses


THANK YOU! Thank you, not only for the information, but for understanding that sometimes, after years of planning, one wants the service of others and might be willing to take a tour.

Great information and internet locations. Appreciate your pointing me in the right direction(s).

vacations should be whatever you want them to be!


Excellent post with useful, interesting, helpful information. Thank you.
At a recent evening with friends, someone else brought up your blog and this particular post. Others had also read and appreciated it. Just thought you should know.

I was just going through some websites I had downloaded and rediscovered this very helpful blog post. It looks like I didn’t comment the first time I saw it, so I thought I’d rectify that oversight (bit of laziness) on this go round.
Just One Boomer (Suzanne) recently posted..Turkeytopia for a Philly PhridayMy Profile

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These links may be helpful with logistics for your trip. I may not have used them, but we all want to promote our sites!