This Is the Perfect U.S. Road Trip According to Scientists

When most people dream of using their vacation days, they fantasize about European castle tours or Caribbean cruises or African safaris — really anything outside of the United States (except maybe Hawaii). But for those of us who want to burn rubber on the good ol' Interstate System while channeling Jack Kerouac, there’s finally a U.S. road trip map that tells us exactly where to go.

The mapcreated by Randy Olson with help from Tracy Staedter, pinpoints a mix of 50 major national landmarks, national historic sites, national parks, and national monuments. If you follow the route suggested, you’ll travel across all 48 contiguous states and never leave the country. Take a look for yourself below.

If you actually plan to execute the trip, you should budget 13,699 miles of driving — or about 224 hours. Attempting to do the trip in one go would take about 9.33 days, although Olson believes it would actually take 2-3 months to finish in reality. And don’t even think about shortcutting or not following the map. Olson used a genetic algorithm that found the best routes with little backtracking. The result is a map using “true distance,” which is the “shortest route by road between every landmark.” You should probably take Olson's word over anyone else's, considering he's a fourth-year graduate research assistant at Michigan State University.

If you’re more into seeing cities than, say, Mount Rushmore, Olson also created a similar map that prioritizes TripAdvisor’s most recommended metros. This trip is only 12,290 miles but excludes cities from North Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia, since TripAdvisor says there's nothing worth stopping for in those states. Here's what the journey looks like:

Sure, the map seems daunting, but road trips do mean blasting Spice Girls on the stereo, and who doesn't love that?

Liz Seibert