Motor & Wheels

Are BMWs Good For Road Trips? (Checked & Explained)

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It is common knowledge that BMW is one of the most luxurious brands in the market.

They’ve also been around for over a hundred years, so naturally, that creates trust.

However, let’s ensure your trust isn’t misplaced.

In a moment, you’d find out if they’re great for road trips.

Table of Contents

Here’s the short answer to whether BMWs are good for road trips:

We very well know BMWs to be all-rounders. They’re not only comfortable, but are also packed with power that anyone embarking on a road trip would need. Since these are the major requirements for road trips, it’s safe to say BMWs are perfect for them.

best bmw for road trips

How Comfortable Is a BMW for Long-Distance Road Trips?

Luxury cars are usually comfortable and BMWs are no different. Keep in mind that we’re not just talking about leather seats.

They usually come with quality interior materials that aim to deliver the utmost comfort on trips.

The BMW 7-series is a perfect example of this luxury. Talk about lumber support.

On top of the quality, you can make several adjustments to the seats to suit your best seating position. This means any driver can have the seat tweaked to their taste.

Of course, a modern infotainment system would make a road trip much more exciting. BMWs also don’t disappoint in this aspect.

They have impressive touch screen monitors and audio systems. There’s an endless list of convenience features in BMWs today. You won’t get bored on that road trip of yours.

How Much Stuff Can You Pack in the Trunk of a BMW?

The monstrous looking BMW X7 can fit in 33 carry-on suitcases with all back seats folded forward. This amounts to over 90 cubic feet, with all the rear seats folded.

best bmw for road trips

Check here about problems with the BMW X7 models .

It has just 12.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row seats.

While these dimensions seem impressive, reviews imply that they’re disappointingly small for a full-size SUV. Note that the X7 is the best-case scenario of a BMW trunk. Let’s look at other options.

The BMW 3-Series is a small sized luxury car. The luxury sedan has 17 cubic feet of trunk space, which isn’t bad for its size.

According to Car and Driver, the BMW 3-series can fit 6 carry-on suitcases in its trunk. With the rear seats folded, you’d be able to fit in 17 carry-on suitcases.

Considering these two cars, it seems BMW underperforms in its large segments and over achieves in its smaller cars.

Does It Have GPS Built-In?

The average BMW comes with satellite navigation as standard equipment. Usually, built-in satellite navigation systems aren’t as effective as aftermarket options. However, BMWs stand out with their impressive satellite systems.

While aftermarket options are exceptional, the BMW’s satellite system functions awesomely. It comes embedded into the iDrive infotainment system.

Its sensors are remarkably impressive, and they keep track of the car’s location at all times. This means even without a strong satellite signal, it’ll function effectively and you won’t get lost.

You’d also get accurate information on traffic situations on your desired routes. This means you don’t have to deal with heavy traffic if you can avoid it.

Can You Drive Cross-Country in a BMW?

The BMW 3-series is arguably the most popular BMW model, thus, it makes sense to use it for our comparisons.

First, its ground clearance is about 5.3 inches high. While it is workable for off-road trips, it isn’t really ideal.

While the BMW 3- Series is very popular, not every generation is the best, and some models should be avoided .

The BMW 7-series also shares a similar ground clearance.

best bmw for road trips

We expect this from executive cars, since they rarely ride high, just like limousines.

If you really must go on a cross-country trip with a BMW, consider other options.

The BMW X7 has a whopping 8.7 inches of ground clearance. With a height like that, you can easily navigate through rocky roads and mud.

For optimum experience, ensure that you use the biggest tires as possible. This helps your ground clearance a lot.

If the size of the X7 bothers you, step down to the BMW X6 or X5.

It’s a great car, though all cars also have issues. We have an article here with the most common problems with the BMW X5 models .

The X6 brandishes up to 8.35 inches of ground clearance while the X5 also stacks up to 8.23 inches.

However, be sure to be aware of the most common issues with the BMW X6 models .

Thus, any of the above cars would serve you well on your road trip. This is not only because of their ground clearance alone.

Their powerful engines and all-wheel-drive features mean you’d have more than enough power backing you up.

How Reliable Is a BMW Over Long Distances?

This may very well be the one aspect they don’t excel in.

RepairPal gives BMW a 2.5 out of 5 rating for reliability. Although this seems like a 50/50 assessment, the BMW’s rank is low compared to other car brands.

It also costs an average of $968 annually to maintain a BMW. This is over $300 higher than the average for all car models.

BMW also has a high frequency rating for generating problems, thus they are more likely to need unscheduled repairs.

They get taken for repairs more than twice as frequently as other car brands. Last, their problems also are more severe than the average for other car brands.

It would seem BMWs have zero advantages in reliability.

However, that doesn’t mean they’re all unreliable. The BMW X1 has a 3.5 reliability rating which is impressive for a BMW.

best bmw for road trips

Check also the most typical problems with BMW X1 models .

However, its annual repair costs are higher than the average for luxury compact vehicles.

On the plus side, BMW has a lower probability of developing severe problems, and that’s commendable.

Hence, even though BMW as a brand has low reliability ratings, there are top models with high ratings. You can’t go wrong with them.

Related:  7 BMW Models You Can Lease (And Some You Cannot!)

How Long Can a BMW Drive With No Breaks?

BMW models have fairly large tank sizes. Some of their sedans and SUVs have tank sizes that amount up to 20 gallons. However, some sedans still have tanks that contain only 10.6 gallons of fuel.

Smaller SUVs hold only about 16 gallons of fuel. This means some sedans hold more fuel than some SUVs.

With such impressive tank sizes, BMWs can usually deliver over 400 miles on a single tank, although the distance may be less, depending on several factors, such as the road conditions.

You may also get as much as 570 miles from larger fuel tanks. The X5 Hybrid engine may deliver close to 900 miles of non-stop travel.

While these are all impressive figures, it’s best not to test the limits. If you want to prolong your engine life, that is. Always top-up before the fuel level gets critical.

Compare your tank size to its highway mileage to be sure.

If you’re considering one of the model of the BMW M series, you should make sure to check our list of common problems with the BMW M5 series and we also have a rundown of the known problems with the bigger M6 models from BMW .

How Long Will a BMW Last If You Use It for Road Trips?

The average BMW vehicle has the potential to last over 200,000 miles . Thus, BMWs are like Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

With the proper maintenance, and driving habits, a BMW may even get to 250,000 miles before major parts break down. The longevity of a car has little to do with road trips and is more dependent on the driving conditions.

To get the most out of your vehicle, you’d have to monitor certain parts. The tires usually wear out faster when used for off-road trips. You’d need to replace them more regularly if you frequently go on such trips.

Unless they’re off-road trips, long distance driving may actually be good for your car.

Quick trips usually involve frequent acceleration and deceleration and this causes wear on the engine components. With long trips, you could be on the road for hours at a time.

With that in mind, expect nothing less than 200,000 miles from any BMW when you follow the rules.

Related:  5 BMW Models With Most Recalls (Check Before Buying!)

Does a BMW Offer Good Mileage Over Long Distances?

BMWs, like most cars, have higher fuel economies when driven over longer distances without frequent stops because of traffic. That’s the reason city mileage is usually much lower than highway mileage for any vehicle.

Over longer distances, your BMW is most fuel efficient.

The BMW 3-series, for example, usually delivers over 30 miles per gallon on the highway, depending on the model year. The 2022 model year delivers a whopping 36 mpg .

With a 15.6 gallon fuel tank, it can mathematically go over 560 miles. We don’t suggest you do so, though.

With the BMW, you can be confident enough to expect over 22 mpg for highway driving. Sedan or not.

How Many People Can Comfortably Go on a Road Trip in a BMW?

Whether you opt for a sedan or an SUV, you’d get plenty of head and leg room to stretch. Sedans can accommodate 5 people, however, for a luxurious experience, 4 people would do.

The BMW 8-series, for example, has 5-seat and 4-seat variants depending on the class. For road trips, consider the rear middle seat as merely a bonus to make the ride more comfortable. Unless a child sits there, it should be empty on road trips.

Thus, the average BMW sedan should contain 4 adults maximum.

However, their SUVs speak a different language. The X7 comfortably seats 7 adults. So even though it’s not so fuel economical, it provides enough space for a large family.

What Are the Best Cars for Long Road Trips?

Although there’s no one-size-fits-all vehicle, these cars perform well on road trips.

  • Honda Accord: If not for anything else, its reliability and affordability earns it the number one spot on the list. This is why the Accord is so popular for road trips.
  • Kia Soul: The Kia Soul is an SUV, yet it delivers very good fuel economy. Though its cargo space isn’t as grand as the other SUVs, it’s a splendid car on a road trip.
  • Nissan Altima: The Altima is like a BMW because of how it focuses on luxury, too. We all know it has hurt no one to bring a little extra luxury on a road trip.
  • Chevrolet Tahoe: The Tahoe is the perfect vehicle for off-road adventures. It is not only durable; it has outstanding towing capabilities and delivers on passenger comfort.
  • GMC Acadia: Though not as large as the Tahoe, the Acadia has spacious seats that can accommodate large families.

Related:  Are Honda Accords Good For Road Trips? (Explained)

Final Thoughts

BMWs don’t depreciate easily. That means you can still get a high price for it afterwards.

Of course, there are many factors that make cars suitable for road trips. It is almost impossible to find a car that satisfies all factors. However, BMWs satisfy many of them and that’s why they’re so ideal.

Before choosing a car for your road trip, make sure it meets your needs.

If you’re on a budget, you’re better off with a Toyota Corolla than a BMW M760i.

BMW Reliability | RepairPal

BMW 3-Series | Car and Driver

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Best BMW for a long-distance road trip

Home » Best BMW for a long-distance road trip

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Nico DeMattia

March 16, 2018 / 2 minutes read

best bmw for road trips

Who doesn’t love a great road trip? A grand tour, if you will. Thousands of miles to your destination, all the time in the world to get there and a great car to drive while doing it. It’s every car enthusiast’s dream. The destination doesn’t even really matter. In fact, sometimes the best road trips are ones without actual end-game destinations but rather open-ended ones. The only real question is — which car do you choose? Being BMW enthusiasts, it’s likely we’d all choose some sort of BMW.

But BMW has an incredible history of making truly great grand touring cars, cars you’d want to spend thousands of miles in, at high speed and in style and comfort. It’s almost too difficult to choose just one. Plus, it’s Friday and time for weekend fun to start. So let’s play a little bit of a game. Pick one car from BMW’s current lineup and one classic BMW (any car that is no longer being developed). Money is no option. I’ll go first and then you readers let us know which cars you’d choose in the comment section.

best bmw for road trips

The car I’d choose from the current lineup is the ALPINA B7 . Some might think that’s a big of a cheat because it’s technically not a full-on BMW. However, it’s sold through BMW with a full warranty, so it’s counts. After having spent a week in the B7, recently, I fell in love with it. It’s an astonishing machine that’s equal parts luxury sedan and destroyer of worlds. Never in my life have I ever felt something that was so luxurious yet so ferociously quick. It’s fun to drive through twisties, as well. So if I were to come across a nice canyon road, it won’t disappoint. It might not be scalpel sharp the trade off is that it will also be supremely comfortable when I want to just calmly cruise and listen to the wonderful Bowers & Wilkins surround sound.

For my second, and classic, car, I’d go with the BMW 507 . I was tempted to go with the Z8 here, to be honest, but the 507 is the epitome of a BMW grand tourer. It’s achingly pretty and just seems like the most romantic car to drive long distances in. It has a rumbling V8 up front, a manual gearbox in the middle and drive going to the rear. It’s also comfortable and supple, so long stretches of road won’t be taxing in the slightest. I also wanted to go first-gen 8 Series but the 507 is just that much prettier, that much more romantic.

best bmw for road trips

So, fine readers, what do you think of my choices and which cars would you choose?

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  • X5 E70 (2007 - 2013)

X5, is it comfortable car for long journey driving?

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I am in the market for suitable SUV & considering x5 as a first option. But not sure, if it is comfortable car for long journey driving with the family or not.  

It's brilliant, and my young family is loving it! I'd recommend steering clear of the sports suspension and 20 in wheels though which for many make for a harsh ride.  

best bmw for road trips

AzNMpower32 said: I think any BMW is good for long-distance driving. For the X5, get the optional comfort seats- I think the standard seats are very mediocre, giving me a backache after 90min stuck in traffic (yes, I did fiddle with the lumbar support). Click to expand...

Thanks for the feedback .. I suppose all X5s are provided with sport suspension only! Is that right?  

Not at all! I have the X5 40d M Sport, but deselected the sports suspension. It's still a very taut car and handles brilliantly - defies laws of physics - yet loses the harshness over the bumps. I love it!  

best bmw for road trips

I am looking at these MJim whats the economy like please?, the 40D is my choice :thumbup:  

best bmw for road trips

BMW is the ultimate driving machine, the X5 is the ultimate road trip machine! Best long distance car I've ever owned. And despite size and 4 wheel drive, gets good mileage on trips. I have the 35i, just took trip to delaware last week, averaged 24.5 mpg for entire trip, including city driving in Wilmington. Can't beat that!  

Our X5 35d has been a superlative road trip machine. (2011 sport package, no active handling, with 20" sport wheels, 18" winter tires when seasonally appropriate.) In the eleven months that we've had the X5, my wife and I have driven it to western Michigan twice over the winter, to Augusta, Georgia last fall , and to Washington DC a few weeks ago. It is comfortable even when my fat butt was planted for 16 hours a day in one of the two front seats. It carries a prodigious amount of stuff with no apparent change in handling. And the mileage that we've gotten on long, mountainous trips surprises me still. So, yes.  

best bmw for road trips

I think any BMW is good for long-distance driving. For the X5, get the optional comfort seats- I think the standard seats are very mediocre, giving me a backache after 90min stuck in traffic (yes, I did fiddle with the lumbar support).  

best bmw for road trips

Absolutely agree. The standard seats are lame. I'm ordering the active ventilated seat package.  

Yes Its VERY comfortable on long trips, not one complaint from me, the wife or my son on any given distance driven.  

best bmw for road trips

Especially when you get the comfort seats....unbelieveable comfortness  

best bmw for road trips

Maybach or Bentley... don't mess with a BMW. Will you be doing ophthalmic surgery in the back during these journeys???  

best bmw for road trips

ard said: Will you be doing ophthalmic surgery in the back during these journeys??? Click to expand...
Gator Neil said: To be honest about it, I wouldn't say it is. The standard seats are terribly uncomfortable on a long drive. And if you're doing highway driving and there is any sort of high wind condition, it does not handle well. Wind pushes it all over the road making it tough to control sometimes. If there's no wind, then its fine in this regard. What I do like though is the diesel engine. Great torque and great mileage on a long trip. Click to expand...


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I'm getting c high 20s mpg at the moment. That's a mixture of short journeys and longer ones, and with the engine still loosening up - I've only done 700 miles or so. I've picked up from other 40d drivers that you're unlikely to achieve anything like the manufacturer figures, and best that can realistically be expected is 33/34/35. All figures based off UK not US measurements. I really cannot recommend the 40d highly enough. The engine and gearbox are nothing short of phenomenal. Real shove right off the line, and such an effortless cruiser. I actually find myself driving slower on motorways as the car is such a great place to be that I no longer have such urgency to get to my destination. Conversely, it is v easy to find yourself doing high speeds without realising! I strongly recommend the adaptive cruise control which also makes longer motorway trips much less tiring, also the heads up display which projects speed/limit/directions and cruise control settings to your line of vision, and also the birds eye parking cameras which makes manouevreing the large car easy. Plenty of others too e.g. upgraded hifi, but thought I'd pass on a few of my experiences.  

Thanks for the info :thumbup:  

To be honest about it, I wouldn't say it is. The standard seats are terribly uncomfortable on a long drive. And if you're doing highway driving and there is any sort of high wind condition, it does not handle well. Wind pushes it all over the road making it tough to control sometimes. If there's no wind, then its fine in this regard. What I do like though is the diesel engine. Great torque and great mileage on a long trip.  

Gator Neil said: T And if you're doing highway driving and there is any sort of high wind condition, it does not handle well. Wind pushes it all over the road making it tough to control Click to expand...

Thanks all for your input. :thumbup: I need a test drive.  

I came from a VW Touareg and never had this issue either. I did read in a review of the X5 about a year or so ago and the author said about highway driving, "it handles like a tissue box on wheels."  

Go with a GL550. Your family will thank you. However, you will be cursing in the back of your head that you are driving a non-connective, non responsive land yatch and you spent all this money, when you could be driving a BMW. But hey, your family is happy, right because it is so smooth.  

Lol. I should have known better than to try to be objective about a BMW on a BMW forum. When you've spent $60K + on a vehicle, insecurity runs pretty high when someone dares to challenge your vehicle/brand choice. Don't get me wrong, I like the car. It does a lot of things really well, but not everything. I can assure you, it has nothing to do with my wheel alignment and uncomfortable seats are not a sign that there's "something wrong with my car." :tsk:  

Objectively, there are LOTS of things wrong with BMW's, starting with the stupid over-reliance on RFT's and the new Nav vendor. And most owners make no bones about carping - spend 10 minutes on the F10 forum if you don't believe me. But the OP asked if the X5 was comfortable for long trips, and the majority of folks who have driven them for a long time (e.g. long enough to have figured out the headlights) find them perfectly acceptable. Yes, there are bound to be a statistical outliers, and you appear to be one of them. Perhaps the OP will have your same anatomy and share your concerns. But most do not. Next time, you should probably spring for the comfort seats. Or buy a Volvo.  

I have the standard seats in my 2011 X5d. I find them to be extremely UNcomfortable. It's as though I can't deflate the lumbar support enough. Feels like a bunched up towel pushing against my lower back. The seat bottoms are far too flat and stiff. Thinking about selling the car due to these problems.  

My parents take the 325i for long trips. The X5's standard seats don't cut it even for 30min trips no matter how we fiddle with the adjustments and lumbar. And yes, the bottom cushion just doesn't seem to provide the support needed.  

best bmw for road trips

Yes it is a great long hauler. I have about 12k miles on my 2011X5D and also have the 2009 335D with sport. I highly recommend staying away from the sport suspension if u want comfort. I have the sport seats in the 3 series, and standard in the X5, the X5 seats are much better over longer term driving. If you're doing long trips, go with the diesel. I havent experienced any of the wind problems some people have discussed. It is as good if not better than any other large vehicle I have driven.  

I have drivin to and from san diego to yellowstone wy and from san diego to san antonio. This thing handles like a dream. The wife n i ofyen play games on who can get the trip computer to read what the max miles we can get on one tank. We have a one year old n she just loves the smooth ride n the quietness of the cab. Great vehicle for long trips.2 thumbs up. But i would sudjest getting a escort 9500ix radar detector with it updated cause u will loose concept of speed n ull get a nasty gram in the mail when u get home.  

Oh and if you drive at nite with the low beam lights on also turn the fog lamps on. Itle help out so u can see a little bit more on the sides.  

If by comfort you mean "ride comfort" then I don't think the X5 is "best in class" as they say. It handles fantastic and I would not replace with anything except another X5. But if you want a luxury SUV and the main concern is ride comfort then I would look at the Mercedes GL-350 or GL-450. The GL is an awesome long distance cruiser (smooth and quiet ride). If you do go with the X5 then I recommend you get the multi-contour seats as they are very comfortable.  

Great car for road trips, family can be happy with their own temperature, sunscreens good for blocking sun in the rear, premium seating with massaging driver seat and cooled seats also adds to the comfort. Before the X5 I would road trip with a 2002 Suburban 2500 and much prefer the X5, but they don't really compete with one another. I do wish America's highways were a little more windy like Europe, would make driving even more exciting in my option.  

best bmw for road trips

Man a midget should never call one of their own a dwarf, thats highly disrespectful. Now back to the subject at hand, how does a dwarf climb into the X5 anyway?  

with those aesthetically-functional running boards....  

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BMW electric vehicles have more than enough range to satisfy your needs, and you can take that range even farther by knowing the factors that boost electric range.

Drive smoothly, gently accelerate, maximize regenerative braking, go easy on cabin heating and cooling whenever possible, and pre-condition your vehicle while plugged in.

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Pre-Conditioning: Start your trip with a comfortably conditioned cabin all year-round. When you pre-condition while plugged into the charger, you not only optimize the cabin, but also the battery temperature – which maximizes your range.

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Intelligent Climate Control: This intelligent climate system considers the number and position of passengers to ensure the best climate comfort and minimum energy usage. 

Intelligent Battery Pre-Conditioning: Enter a DC Fast Charging destination in your navigation and your BMW will optimize your battery temperature for the fastest charging speeds.

Efficient Heating and Cooling Hardware: The heat pump provides an efficient way to keep you comfortable and even uses excess heat from the electric motors to warm the cabin and battery. 

Radiant Heat Package: In addition to the heated steering wheel and seats, this infrared heating technology surrounds passengers with invisible heated panels that efficiently radiate warmth throughout the cabin. It can even be activated remotely from the MyBMW app.


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best bmw for road trips

As far as I’m concerned, BMWs are about having fun on four wheels. Not just at the track, or on the autocross course, or in a rally, but in things we do every day. Who hasn’t pushed their Bimmer just a bit on the apex of the freeway on-ramp to accelerate earlier into the merging lane? Or practiced applying the brakes so smoothly and expertly that the passenger can’t feel the actual point at which the car is no longer moving?

I have fun taking trips in cars, especially in BMWs, since they are so comfortable and handle so well. Long road trips are great both for the fun at the destination as well as en route. I’m no Cannonball Baker (do an Internet search if you don’t know who he is), but I do enjoy using cars to get to faraway places.

Last week, for example, Betty and I completed an 1,100-mile run from Kansas City, Missouri to Canandaigua, New York, with a stopover in Columbus, Ohio. The purpose of the trip was to spend the week visiting family and friends, and meeting some of my high-school classmates during an informal class reunion.

The vehicle of choice for this trek was our 2016 BMW X5 xDrive35d. It handled the trip so nicely that it gave me time to reflect on how it compares to other cars we have owned and driven on long journeys.

My first long-distance cruiser was a 1971 Lotus Europa—but in fairness, I should mention that while it occasionally completed a long trip, it occasionally didn’t, so as a cruiser, the Lotus comes in dead last. But it was the best-handling last-place car I ever had—when it ran.

I drove my 1976 BMW 2002 all over the place, crisscrossing the country between New York, Virginia, Colorado, and Pennsylvania many times. It was reliable, economical, and completely devoid of air conditioning, if you don’t count the wing window, which usually provided ample ventilation and the occasional large bug. It scored high as a cruiser but not quite as high as some later air-conditioned models.

Take our Euro-spec 1983 BMW 635CSi, for example. It could cruise all day at 140 mph (on the German Autobahn) in luxurious comfort. It had a back seat that was comfortable for adults, and it also had a trunk large enough to hold everyone’s luggage. I consider our current BMW i8 as a grand-touring car in the same tradition as the 635CSi in comfort and performance, but while the i8 achieved better fuel economy, it fell woefully short of the Sixer in rear seating and trunk space.

best bmw for road trips

Best all-around BMW and One Lap of America veteran.

My E36 M3 did everything well, not the least of which was long-distance cruising. We all know how great the car is on the track or getting groceries, but the M3 also loved the open road. It was the car that completed not one but two of the ultimate long-distance road trips known as One Lap of America. For me, M3 was near the top of the list for seat comfort—an essential quality for a distance cruiser. This may be a case where beauty is in the backside of the beholder, but my ’95 M3’s Vader seats were the most comfortable stock seats I’ve ever had. My back would feel better after ten hours in the M3 than before I got in the car.

best bmw for road trips

Beautiful, classy, smooth: the E39 5 Series.

Our E34 and E39 5 Series sedans were super-comfortable, well-performing, and extraordinarily reliable cruisers. Betty’s ’97 528i—which Betty still drives daily—took us to four straight Oktoberfests in Florida, Indiana, South Carolina, and New Hampshire. On top of being a great cruiser, it is also the car in which we won our very first TSD rally at Oktoberfest ’98.

Up to this point, I’ve discussed how our various cars stacked up as grand-touring machines. But in 2002, we parked a new kind of BMW in the garage that would challenge the cars for the title of best long-distance cruiser.

Full disclosure: I was aghast when BMW announced its sport-utility vehicle. How could an SUV possibly help BMW’s reputation as a builder of high-performance premium cars? I didn’t realize then where the market was headed, and that Porsche, Audi, Bentley, Rolls-Royce, and Lamborghini would follow suit.

I was wrong about the X5, however, both for me and for the company. In 2001 I had to replace my totaled Dodge pickup, and there to fill the bill was the E53 BMW X5 4.4i. It was a competent tow vehicle for taking the M3 to races, and on non-towing days, it proved to be an excellent daily driver.

best bmw for road trips

The BMW X5 4.4i was a great cruiser.

But its real forte was long trips. It was a great highway cruiser. Its high seating position provided the best visibility since my 2002, and with more than enough luggage space, packing for trips became an afterthought rather than an intensive logistical planning exercise. As an added bonus, when the highway ended, it gave us off-road capability, like on our trip to the Grand Tetons, where we went off-road searching for hard-to-find shooting locations from Shane .

To top it off, the X5 excelled at TSD rallying, gathering first-place trophies at Oktoberfests in Colorado, North Carolina, Michigan, and New York—all while keeping us quite comfortable with zero concerns about reliability.

best bmw for road trips

Our first diesel X5, the E70 was a terrific tow vehicle.

We replaced the gasoline-powered X5 with a diesel version in 2010, hoping that the oil-burning E70 X5 would be a capable cruiser and tow vehicle. It wasn’t just capable; it was superior in every way, with more power, more space, and better fuel economy. It went to the top of my list of long-distance machines until 2016, when it was replaced with an F15 X5 xDrive35d. (Full disclosure: the diesel E70 X5 needed to go because a small turbo shaft snapped at 72,000 miles—the first problem we had with it—and we decided to replace it rather than fix it. Fortunately, the failure happened around town and not on a trip, but for that reason alone, it dropped out of the top cruiser spot.)

So far, our current X5 has taken us to Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, New York, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania, and has earned its place on the top of the list as our best cruiser. It doesn’t hurt that it tows the M3 like it isn’t even there, and also has a first-place Oktoberfest TSD rally trophy. Fuel economy on trips often exceeds 34 mpg, and we easily go 600 miles before stopping for fuel. We usually stop sooner than that for other things, however.

I drove the newest G05 X5 last September during its U.S. press launch. It impressed me to the point where I was looking forward to when the miles on our current X5 would convince us to invest in the next-generation model. Sadly, while BMW continues to manufacture diesel X5s in Spartanburg for the rest of the world, it will not sell them to us. So our next X cruiser will probably be powered by gasoline and we will lose the exceptional fuel economy of the diesel.

best bmw for road trips

Not as high or roomy as an X5, but the luxurious 635CSi Euro devoured the Autobahn at speed.

While our F15 X5 leads the league in almost every long-distance driving category, and I consider it the best long-distance machine we’ve had, I can’t bring myself to call it my favorite cruiser. That title still belongs to the 1983 BMW 635CSi Euro, because while I can have fun driving any long-distance trip, it’s even more fun when you can do it at 140 mph. On the Autobahn, of course. —Scott Blazey

[Photos courtesy Scott Blazey.]

best bmw for road trips

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About The Author

best bmw for road trips

Scott Blazey

Scott Blazey joined the BMW CCA in 1981. He has been a Roundel contributor since 1994 and served on the BMW CCA National Board for seven years, including four as national president. Scott is a BMW CCA Club Racer, a member of the Kansas City BMW Club, currently serves as a BMW CCA Foundation trustee, and throughly enjoys his ’95 M3, ’15 i8, and ’16 X5d.

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Consumers' Favorites: Best Car for Long Road Trips

A practical performer, the BMW 3 Series wagon took 1st with an impressive 35.9 percent of the vote. Second went to the rugged 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel at 15.3 percent, while the fuel-frugal Volkswagen Passat TDI took 3rd with 13.3 percent.

See how the rest of the field did in the full results below and make sure to exercise your right to vote in our next Consumers' Favorites poll .

BMW 3 Series Wagon

1. BMW 3 Series Wagon (35.9%)

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What says: The 2014 BMW 3 Series is a well-rounded and highly desirable entry-level luxury car. Whether you're drawn to its sporty driving character or its high-end cabin, it's one of our favorites in this class.

Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel

2. Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel (15.3%)

What says: If you want a midsize SUV that does a little of everything, the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee is tough to beat. Its well-trimmed cabin is comfy for five, and it can handle a daily commute as easily as it does an off-road trail.

Volkswagen Passat TDI

3. Volkswagen Passat TDI (13.3%)

What says: Distinguishing itself with European-style refinement and an efficient diesel option, the 2013 Volkswagen Passat is a solid choice for a family sedan.

Chevrolet Impala

4. Chevrolet Impala (6.6%)

What says: The 2014 Chevrolet Impala is now a fully modern car, with a spacious, well-built cabin, a comfortable ride and a host of new tech features. It deserves consideration if you're shopping for a full-size sedan.

Honda CR-V

5. Honda CR-V (6.3%)

What says: In the wake of last year's redesign, the Honda CR-V carries over unchanged for 2013.

Mazda CX-9

6. Mazda CX-9 (5.9%)

What says: Easily fulfilling typical family needs, the 2013 Mazda CX-9 also benefits from a healthy dose of driving excitement.

Ford Mustang Convertible

7. Ford Mustang Convertible (4.3%)

What says: Even without any dramatic changes for this year, the 2014 Ford Mustang continues to offer style, thrills and value. It's our top pick among muscle cars.

Nissan Altima

8. Nissan Altima (4.2%)

What says: Now in its fifth generation, the 2013 Nissan Altima is the most refined, fuel-efficient and upscale Altima ever. Sharp handling, a well-made cabin and energetic engines instill the Altima with more character than the typical family sedan.

Toyota Prius V

9. Toyota Prius V (3.2%)

What says: The 2013 Toyota Prius V gives buyers a larger, more family-friendly alternative to the standard Prius hatchback.

Hyundai Santa Fe

10. Hyundai Santa Fe (2.7%)

What says: The redesigned 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe has what it takes to unseat the class-leading crossovers, with quality, power, comfort and style.

Ford C-Max Hybrid

11. Ford C-Max Hybrid (1.8%)

What says: The 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid is an interesting alternative to compact crossovers, wagons, minivans and hybrids. Its fuel economy and refined driving manners make it especially appealing.

Kia Forte

12. Kia Forte (0.6%)

What says: The 2014 Kia Forte has plenty to offer in terms of quality and value, and its sharp new look pushes it farther toward the head of the class.

best bmw for road trips

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Natural highlights: the best convertible car road trips

16 February 2021

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You can also listen to this article via Changing Lanes, the official BMW podcast. 

Apart from this and other narrated articles, Changing Lanes offers you fresh new episodes every week, packed with exclusive insights on tech, lifestyle, design, cars, and more – brought to you by hosts Sara and Jonathan. 

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It would be a shame to drive it in one day, as there’s so much to enjoy on the Great Ocean Road in southeastern Australia. For a distance of just over 240 kilometers, this legendary route leads from big-city Melbourne to the resort of Torquay, passing lush rainforests, cool surf spots, and picturesque seaside locations. From the tumbling waterfalls of Otway National Park and the chilled-out surfers’ hangout of Bells Beach, to whale watching and the stunning limestone formations of the Twelve Apostles, one thing’s for sure – the Great Ocean Road is so much more than just a road trip. It’s a journey into a series of different worlds.

A Convertible Car Road Trip along Australia’s Great Ocean Road

This insider’s tip is one of the most impressive roads in the world: the “Transfăgărășan” in the mountains of Transylvania. Forming part of the Romanian national road DN7C and reaching an altitude of 2,042 meters, it is one of the highest paved mountain pass routes in the whole Carpathian range. On a road trip along its almost 100 kilometers of serpentine binds, drivers are treated to views of the man-made Lake Vidraru, the glacier-fed Bâlea Lake, and the nearby Bâlea Waterfall. Note, however, that in the darker months of the year, from November to June to be precise, the road is closed – though probably not because of vampires! 

A Convertible Car Road Trip along the Transfăgărășan, Romania

With its fascinating architecture and roller-coaster feel, the eight kilometer-long Atlantic Road forms part of Norway’s County Road 64. It is without doubt one of the world’s most beautiful highways. A particular highlight is the Storseisundet Bridge, the dramatic sweep of which creates a stunning impression. Norway’s “construction project of the century” traces a slalom-like route across coastal skerries and heathlands to bare hilltops. The road is in essence a single extended bridge linking multiple islands. In 2007, the British “Independent” newspaper named the Atlantic Road as one of the most beautiful automobile routes in the world. The Norwegians themselves, however, have a different favorite: the Trollstigen, or “Troll Footpath.” Drivers who prefer the mountains should certainly take this route to the south of the Atlantic Road. The Trollstigen offers hairpin bends, steeply sloping gorges, a magnificent waterfall, and a series of stunning views.

A Convertible Car Road Trip along Norway’s Atlantic Road

United Arab Emirates

How do you cool down in the desert? The answer: simply drive up a mountain, such as Jebel Hafeet in Abu Dhabi. On the summit of the 1,340 meter-high peak, the temperature is likely to be six to eight degrees cooler than on the plain. Building the road up to the viewpoint, however, was a real civil engineering challenge – a fact belied by its impeccable asphalt surface today. The route covers just under twelve kilometers in a series of 60 bends. Drivers who complete it are rewarded with a magnificent view, ranging in clear weather from the infinite light brown of the desert to the oasis city of Al-Ain.

A Convertible Car Road Trip up Jebel Hafeet, United Arab Emirates

New Zealand

The far side of the world – New Zealand – is well-known for its scenic beauty. This can be enjoyed on the breathtaking drive to Milford Sound in the southwest of the country through the 12,500-hectare Fiordland National Park. Sweeping valleys, towering peaks, jagged crags, and lushly verdant rainforests bear witness to the many adventures available along the almost 120 kilometer-long Milford Road, from Te Anau to Milford Sound. This almost untouched natural landscape creates such an enchanted impression that it was famously used as the backdrop for the movie versions of Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” series.

A Convertible Car Road Trip to New Zealand’s Milford Sound

Hovering over the ocean, the 205 kilometer-long Overseas Highway constitutes the southernmost section of U.S. Route 1. Positioned between the Gulf of Mexico and the wide Atlantic, this unique road links the 40 islands of the Florida Keys with one another. The Overseas Highway is a delight for both nature lovers and culture fans. The most famous of the bridges along the way is the Seven Miles Bridge, made famous in a scene from the James Bond film “License to Kill.” The idyllic route leads to the cosmopolitan resort of Key West, where such world-renowned literary figures as Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, and Ernest Hemingway lived and worked. Before driving the 240 kilometers back to Miami, it’s therefore well worth taking the time visit the Hemingway House and Museum in a building where the Nobel Prize-winning author lived during the 1930s.

A Convertible Car Road Trip to Key West, Florida

With its 48 bends covering 25 kilometers, Italy’s Stelvio Pass is the perfect destination for adrenaline addicts. The high mountain pass connects Bormio in Lombardy with the provinces of Trentino and Alto Adige. At an altitude of 2,757 meters, the Stelvio Pass is one of the highest paved roads across the Alps. On the winding northeastern approach from the village of Prato, the 48 numbered bends make the steep and very narrow road challenging for cars and drivers alike. In 2008, the challenge was taken up by the presenters of the popular British motoring show “Top Gear.” They awarded it the title of the “greatest driving road in the world.”  

A Convertible Car Road Trip Across Italy’s Stelvio Pass

South Africa

For many people, South Africa’s Garden Route is the ultimate convertible car road trip. To the west of Cape Town, however, there’s a panoramic road that puts the Garden Route in the shade: Chapman’s Peak Drive. What’s remarkable is that the road shouldn’t really exist at all. Because of the sheer stone walls of the mountain, construction of the route once seemed impossible. It was only thanks to workers enduring perilous conditions that the road came to be built in the early 20th century. Cut into the solid wall of the mountain, the ten kilometer-long drive links Hout Bay and Noordhoek. Despite being so short, it is renowned as one of the world’s most beautiful coast roads. Situated within the Table Mountain National Park, the route offers a great deal of variety in a small area. With its breathtaking panoramas, rest areas for picnics, and ocean views from the picturesque Chapman’s Point, Chapman’s Peak Drive represents an unforgettable experience.

A Convertible Car Road Trip beneath Chapman’s Peak, South Africa

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From Newfoundland to B.C. and the provinces in between (plus two territories!) these routes are packed with beauty and charm

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The summer is finally here, and that means it’s time to hit the open highway to see what this great country has to offer — that’s right, now’s the time to start planning that All-Canadian Road Trip! Thanks to its absolute enormous size and geographic diversity, no matter where you are or where you’ll be, Canada offers an almost endless list of stunning routes, each showcasing the True North’s diverse landscapes and cultural richness.

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11 of the Best Canadian road trips to take this summer Back to video

In fact, there are so many possibilities, we had to (sadly) overlook many solid choices that could have otherwise easily made this list; we hope you’ll enjoy our picks nonetheless.

Whether you’re drawn to majestic mountains, serene coastlines, or vibrant cities, buckle up and get ready to discover these top summer road trip routes.

Irish Loop, Newfoundland and Labrador

This picturesque 312-km (194-mile) drive through Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula, starting in St. John’s, showcases all the rugged charm and hospitality the province has to offer . Breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean, whale-watching, puffins, and — up to early summer — icebergs.

Highlights include the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve; the historic Colony of Avalon in Ferryland; the rolling hills and quaint villages of Trepassey and St. Vincent’s; as well as hiking spots in Cape Broyle and Tors Cove.

Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia

The Trail loops around Cape Breton Island, offering 298 km (185 miles) of stunning coastal beauty and cultural charm. Highlights include the cliffs of Cape Breton Highlands National Park; the town of Baddeck; and Acadian culture in Cheticamp. Other highlights include hiking the Skyline Trail; whale-watching in the Gulf of St. Lawrence; and enjoying the many eateries serving fresh lobster and maritime delicacies along the way.

Super-size things by starting in Halifax, travelling through charming towns like Truro and New Glasgow , and see the landscape transition to rolling hills and coastal vistas, setting the stage for the breathtaking experiences ahead.

North Cape Coastal Drive, Prince Edward Island

The North Cape Coastal Drive in P.E.I. puts the island’s rugged northwestern coast front and centre. This 350-km (217-mile) drive offers superlative Atlantic views, red sandstone cliffs, and charming fishing villages, such as the picturesque town of Alberton. Along the way, enjoy fresh seafood, explore historic sites, and take in the island’s world-renowned natural beauty, serenity, and maritime charm.

Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick

Charming villages, marine life, coastal hikes, dramatic cliffs, lush forests, and a chance to witness the stunning natural phenomenon of the world’s highest tides, a road trip along the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick offers it all .

Starting from Saint John and winding along the coast, this roughly 460-km (286-mile) drive takes you to Fundy National Park; the incredibly photographic Hopewell Rocks; and the lovely towns of St. Andrews, Rothesay, Quispamsis, Hampton and Grand Bay-Westfield, where you can sample local cuisine and frequently spot whales from shore.

Route des Navigateurs, Quebec

This often-overlooked 470-km (292-mile) trip follows the St. Lawrence from Baie-du-Febvre to Sainte-Luce, showcasing Quebec’s maritime heritage and charming villages. You’ll find panoramic river views, historic lighthouses, and picturesque coastal towns throughout this drive .

Highlights include the village of Kamouraska; the historic town of Trois-Pistoles; and the bustling port city of Rimouski. Plus, the route also features museums, artisan shops, and seafood restaurants, making it a cultural and culinary delight.

Toronto to Stratford, Ontario

Leaving Toronto, this 150-km (93-mile) drive through Southern Ontario’s scenic countryside transitions from urban landscapes to rolling farmlands and picturesque small towns . A popular stop is the historic town of St. Jacobs, known for its vibrant farmers’ market and Mennonite heritage.

best bmw for road trips

Once in Stratford, you’ll find Victorian architecture, lush gardens, and the serene Avon River. The town is celebrated for its arts scene, and especially the Stratford Festival, which offers world-class theatre productions. There’s also fine dining, cozy cafes, and artisanal shops, all while watching Shakespeare and seeing where Justin Bieber grew up — sweet!

Interlake Region, Manitoba

The Interlake Region in Manitoba, nestled between Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba, is a scenic road-trip destination known for its wide-ranging and gorgeous landscapes and rich cultural heritage. Highlights include the stunning beaches of Gimli, the historic sites of Lower Fort Garry, and the unique limestone cliffs of Steep Rock. The region offers ample opportunities for boating, fishing, and exploring charming towns, perfectly blending outdoor adventure and exploration.

Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan

A unique journey through Canada’s vast prairie heartland , this Saskatchewan park showcases rolling vistas; deep coulees; and an array of wildlife, including bison and prairie dogs, as well as the opportunity to explore the park’s rich history and cultural sites, such as the Badlands and ancient tipi rings, circular stone patterns left from encampments of protohistoric and historic Native Americans. Definitely a trip ideal for those seeking solitude, star-filled night skies, and a connection to the natural beauty of the prairies.

Icefields Parkway, Alberta

Stretching 232 km (144 miles) between Jasper and Banff, Icefields is a show-stopping journey through the heart of the Canadian Rockies. This bucket-list drive features snow-capped peaks, turquoise lakes, and sprawling glaciers. Highlights include the Athabasca Glacier, Peyto Lake, and countless waterfalls cascading down rugged cliffs, with numerous viewpoints and hiking trails along the way.

Wildlife enthusiasts might spot elk, mountain goats, and even bears on the route. And, like the best road trips, this journey is as much about the drive as it is about the stops, each offering a unique glimpse into the beauty of Alberta’s mountain landscapes.

Vancouver to Tofino, British Columbia

The 207-km (128-mile) journey from Vancouver to Tofino via the Pacific Rim Highway is stunning, taking you from the city through lush, rainy forests and rugged coastlines .

After a scenic ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Vancouver Island (stopping in Victoria or Nanaimo) the road winds (and winds) through charming towns and breathtaking landscapes, ending in Tofino, known for its wild surfing beaches, celebrity homes, and vibrant arts scene. Highlights include Pacific Rim National Park Reserve; the quaint town of Ucluelet; and stops at Cathedral Grove to marvel at ancient and meditative fir trees.

Dempster Highway, Yukon and Northwest Territories

The Dempster Highway in Yukon is a legendary 740-km (460-mile) gravel road that takes you from Dawson City to Inuvik in the Northwest Territories. This remote and rugged drive offers incredible views of the Tombstone Mountains, vast tundra, and Arctic landscapes. Along the way, you’ll encounter caribou, moose, and grizzly bears . The highway crosses the Arctic Circle, offering a unique adventure for those seeking to explore one of Canada’s most isolated and beautiful regions.

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Expect a record-breaking number of travelers on Fourth of July week: How to avoid traffic

best bmw for road trips

  • An estimated 70.9 million people will travel for the Fourth of July holiday, a record-breaking number.
  • The most popular domestic destinations are Seattle, Orlando, Anchorage, Honolulu and Miami.
  • The worst times to drive for 4th of July week are July 3 and 4 between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

If you’re one of the projected record-breaking 70.9 million travelers going on a Fourth of July trip, get ready to pack some patience. 

“With summer vacations in full swing and the flexibility of remote work, more Americans are taking extended trips around Independence Day,” said Paula Twidale, Senior Vice President of AAA Travel, in a statement. “We anticipate this July 4 week will be the busiest ever with an additional 5.7 million people traveling compared to 2019.”

Whether you’re going by airplane or car, traveler numbers are hitting historic highs. An estimated 5.74 million people will fly to their Independence Day destination, a 7% increase from 2023. (We can thank domestic airfare being slightly cheaper this year for that.)

This year, 2.8 million more people will travel by car than last year, for a total of 60.6 million travelers. According to AAA partner and rental car company Hertz, cities like Dallas, Los Angeles, Denver, and San Francisco are showing the highest rental car demand. 

Here’s everything you need to know about Fourth of July travel. 

Learn more: Best travel insurance

Planning your summer trip? Where to go and how to save on summer vacations

What are the most popular destinations for Fourth of July week?

Many travelers are headed to the coast for their Independence Day trip, with states like Hawaii and Florida topping the list. With the best time for Alaskan cruises in full swing, cities like Seattle, Vancouver and Anchorage are popular among travelers. As expected, beloved European destinations like London and Rome earned spots on the list as well. 

Most popular domestic destinations:

Most popular international destinations:

What are the best times to drive for Fourth of July week?

As is typical with holiday travel, the early bird will catch the worm, which means encountering the least traffic. Drivers should depart on their Independence Day road trips before noon on July 3 and 4. To return home, drivers should leave before 11 a.m. on July 7 and after 7 p.m. on July 8. 

What are the worst times to drive for Fourth of July week?

“Drivers in large metro areas can expect the worst traffic delays on Wednesday, July 3, as they leave town, and Sunday, July 7, as they return,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX, in a statement. “Road trips over the holiday week could take up to 67% longer than normal.”

On July 3 and 4, drivers should avoid being on the road between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., when traffic will be most congested. On Friday, July 5, the worst traffic will be between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. 

On Saturday, July 5, the worst traffic for travelers returning home will be between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. The worst traffic is anticipated to be on July 7, so drivers should avoid the road between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. 

“Travelers should monitor 511 services, local news stations, and traffic apps for up-to-the-minute road conditions,” Pishue said.

Peak congestion times in major US cities

  • Worst route: Birmingham to Atlanta via I-20 E
  • Worst day: July 7
  • Worst time: 6:30 p.m. 
  • Estimated travel time: 3 hours, 36 minutes
  • 42% increased travel time
  • Worst route: Boston to Hyannis via Pilgrim Hwy S
  • Worst day: July 4
  • Worst time: 1:45 p.m.
  • Estimated travel time: 1 hour, 51 minutes
  • 31% increased travel time
  • Worst route: Fort Collins to Denver via I-25 S
  • Worst day: July 8
  • Worst time: 2:45 p.m. 
  • Estimated travel time: 1 hour, 37 minutes
  • 56% increased travel time
  • Worst route: San Antonio to Houston via I-10 E
  • Worst day: July 6
  • Worst time: 1:30 p.m. 
  • Estimated travel time: 3 hours, 48 minutes
  • 41% increased travel time

Los Angeles

  • Worst route: Bakersfield to Los Angeles via I-5 S
  • Worst time: 2:15 p.m. 
  • Estimated travel time: 1 hour, 47 minutes
  • 29% increased travel time
  • Worst route: Jersey Shore to New York via Garden State Pkwy N
  • Estimated travel time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
  • 40% increased travel time

San Francisco

  • Worst route: San Francisco to Monterey via Santa Cruz Hwy S
  • Worst day: July 2
  • Worst time: 5:45 p.m. 
  • Estimated travel time: 2 hours, 31 minutes
  • 19% increased travel time
  • Worst route: Ellensburg to Seattle via I-90 E
  • Worst time: 4:30 p.m. 
  • Estimated travel time: 2 hours, 19 minutes
  • 35% increased travel time

Washington, D.C.

  • Worst route: Baltimore to Washington D.C. via Balt/Wash Pkwy S
  • Worst time: 3:15 p.m. 
  • Estimated travel time: 1 hours, 1 minute
  • 67% increased travel time

Kathleen Wong is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Hawaii. You can reach her at [email protected] .

The Key Points at the top of this article were created with the assistance of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and reviewed by a journalist before publication. No other parts of the article were generated using AI. Learn more .

Texas coasts to No. 1 on new list of best states for summer road trips

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HOUSTON, Texas -- Houston is already at the top of the list when it comes to the best summer travel destinations, but the expansive Lone Star State is leading the rest of the nation as the No. 1 state for summer road trips in 2024.

Texas' superior traveling potential was recognized in WalletHub's annual list of the best and worst states for summer road trips , which ranked all 50 states based on their road trip costs, safety, and activities. Over 32 metrics were considered for the study, including each state's average gas prices, road quality, and variety of attractions.

The top states are the ones that have plenty of fun things to do at relatively low costs, and provide "the best driving experience," according to WalletHub analyst Cassandra Happe. Texas was also No. 1 in 2023 .

Continue reading this article from our ABC13 partners at Houston CultureMap .

SEE ALSO: Houston soars in Forbes' top 10 best cities for summer travel

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13 Road Trips To Take In The USA That Are Bucket-List Worthy

  • Stunning coastal views and charming towns make the Pacific Coast Highway a bucket-list-worthy road trip in California. (100 characters)
  • Route 66 is perfect for history buffs, connecting small towns and offering iconic landmarks along the way. (102 characters)
  • The Great River Road, spanning 10 states, provides a scenic route along the Mississippi River for an ultimate bucket list road trip. (129 characters)

There's something inherently alluring about the open road. The wind in your hair, the sun on your face, and the freedom to explore new destinations and experiences. From adventures on the rugged coastline of the Pacific Northwest to the stunning vistas of the Southwest, the United States is home to some of the most iconic and breathtaking road trip routes in the world. This article lists some of the best bucket-list-worthy road trips to take in the USA for a memorable adventure. So, grab those keys, buckle up, and get ready for an experience of a lifetime on one of America's most scenic roads .

UPDATE: 2023/12/07 11:27 EST BY AARON SPRAY

Even More Great Road Trips To Take In The United States

The United States is famous for being one of the best places for road tripping. There are plenty of potential road trips to take all through the United States (and not only in the Lower 48). This list was expanded to include even more excellent road trip ideas to explore the nation.

Related: 10 Of The Most Scenic Byways In The U.S. (Perfect For A Road Trip)

Pacific Coast Highway, California

Staggering sheer drops and coastal views are what make this pacific coast adventure stand out.

The Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most famous road trips in the US , stretching along the California coastline between Orange County and Mendocino County, covering a distance of approximately 655 miles. The highway is considered one of the most beautiful roads in the world, offering breathtaking ocean views with stunning beaches, rugged cliffs, and charming coastal towns.

Some of the must-see spots along the Pacific Coast Highway include the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Bixby Bridge, the Hearst Castle, the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, Pfeiffer Beach, and McWay Falls. The drive also takes you through the spectacular Big Sur region, overlooking the coastline and the Santa Lucia Mountains.

  • Length: 655 miles
  • When To Go: September through October
  • Bucket List Stop: Pfeiffer Beach to see the falls

Route 66, Illinois to California

Perfect for history buffs, route 66 tells stories of america's midwestern glory days.

Stretching from Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica in California, covering a distance of approximately 2,448 miles, Route 66 is one of the most iconic highways in the US and offers plenty of places to visit along the way. The highway is a popular route for travelers, as it connects many small towns and rural areas in the Midwest and the Southwest.

Some of the must-see attractions and landmarks along the highway include the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri; the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas; the Grand Canyon in Arizona; and the Santa Monica Pier in California.

  • Length: 2,448 miles
  • When To Go: May and September
  • Bucket List Stop: Blue Whale of Catoosa to add a quirky, famed landmark to the trip

Great River Road, Mississippi River

This route covers 10 states in total, making it an ultimate bucket list road trip.

The Great River Road is a national scenic byway that follows the course of the Mississippi River from its headwaters in northern Minnesota to its mouth in the Gulf of Mexico. The road passes through 10 states, including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Tennessee, and Louisiana, covering a distance of approximately 3,000 miles.

Some of the highlights of the Great River Road include the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum in Hannibal, Missouri; the Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi; and the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana. The road also passes through several national and state parks, such as Itasca State Park, Effigy Mounds National Monument, and Natchez Trace State Park.

  • Length: 3,000 miles
  • When To Go: During the fall months , September through November
  • Bucket List Stop: The French Quarter in New Orleans for an authentic Crescent City experience

Related: 10 Bucket List Road Trips To Take In The US This Fall

Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia and North Carolina

Known for being the most scenic mountain road in the south, the blue ridge scenery is unparalleled.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a scenic drive, spanning 469 miles through the Appalachian Mountains, connecting Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. The road is among the best road trips US states have to offer, especially due to the fact it provides breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, rolling hills, valleys, and various opportunities for hiking, biking, picnicking, and wildlife watching.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most popular scenic drives, offering visitors a variety of attractions, including overlooks with panoramic views, hiking trails, picnic areas, and historic sites. Some of the most popular stops along the parkway include the Peaks of Otter, Linville Falls, Craggy Gardens, and the Linn Cove Viaduct.

  • Length: 469 miles
  • When To Go: Mid-May through Mid-September
  • Bucket List Stop: Shenandoah National Park to take in the beauty of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains

Discover the best stops along the Blue Ridge Parkway when planning a road trip adventure along this road.

Overseas Highway, Florida Keys

Seven mile bridge connects travelers to bahia honda state park, making it perfect for nature lovers.

The Overseas Highway is a 113-mile scenic road that connects mainland Florida with the Florida Keys , a chain of islands stretching southward into the Gulf of Mexico. The highway, which is easily among the best road trips in the US in terms of ocean scenery, offers stunning views of the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean - thereby also providing opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, fishing, and wildlife watching en route.

Some of the highlights of the Overseas Highway include the Seven Mile Bridge, Bahia Honda State Park, and the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, which features hundreds of colorful butterflies and exotic birds. Other popular stops along the highway include the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, the Dolphin Research Center, and the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, home to the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States.

  • Length: 113 miles
  • When To Go: Between January and April
  • Bucket List Stop: Bahia Honda State Park to appreciate the untouched beauty of this Florida Keys landscape, and any spring season festivals

The Pacific Northwest

In stark contrast to other pacific roads, the northwest scenic byway offers dense woods, mountain views, and scenic waterways.

The Pacific Northwest Scenic Byway, also known as the Cascade Loop, is another one of the most beautiful road trips in the US. It's a 440-mile scenic route that winds through the Cascade Mountains in Washington State, offering stunning views of snow-capped peaks, rushing rivers, and lush forests, allowing travelers to enjoy various outdoor recreation and cultural exploration along the way.

The Scenic Byway is dotted with charming mountain towns such as Leavenworth, and Winthrop, offering a Wild West vibe with wooden sidewalks and historic buildings. Other highlights of the Pacific Northwest Scenic Byway include North Cascades National Park, Lake Chelan, Methow Valley, and the Columbia River Gorge, a stunning river canyon, a popular spot for hiking, rock climbing, and waterfall viewing.

  • Length: 440 miles
  • When To Go: During the spring or summer months
  • Bucket List Stop: North Casades National park, where travelers can cross off bucket list hikes, wildflower viewing, and scenic waterfalls off their list

Related: A Road Trip To Remember: The 10 Most Scenic Drives For Your Spring Vacation In The U.S.

The Grand Circle, Southwest USA

This route takes travelers through scenic rocky canyons between utah, arizona, new mexico, colorado, and nevada.

The Grand Circle is a scenic route that takes visitors through some of the most iconic national parks and monuments in the American Southwest. The route includes the states of Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada, stretching over 1,400 miles of stunning desert landscapes, ancient ruins, and geological wonders.

The Grand Circle route typically starts and ends in Las Vegas, Nevada, passing through iconic national parks like Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, and Canyonlands, known for their towering red rock formations, stunning canyons, and unique geological features. Other highlights of the Grand Circle route include Monument Valley, Mesa Verde National Park, and the Hoover Dam.

  • Length: 1,400 miles
  • When To Go: April to May, or September to early November
  • Bucket List Stop: Monument Valley to explore hoodoos and other unique geological formations

The Great Lakes Circle Tour

Perfect for small town lovers and scenic lakeside views, this route promises all the beauty of the great lakes.

The Great Lakes Circle Tour is a scenic road trip taking visitors around the five Great Lakes. The route is approximately 6,500 miles long and passes through eight US states and the Canadian province of Ontario, allowing travelers to enjoy a variety of landscapes, from urban areas to small towns and rural countryside.

Along the way, visitors can explore national parks like Isle Royale, Pictured Rocks, and Niagara Falls, with various historic lighthouses, beaches, and scenic overlooks. One of the highlights of the tour is the Great Lakes Seaway Trail and the St. Lawrence River, offering stunning views of the Thousand Islands, known for its charming waterfront towns.

  • Length: 6,500 miles
  • When To Go: During the summer months , between June and August
  • Bucket List Stop: Niagara Falls for those who have never been, or Pictured Rocks for those who have

The Black Hills and Badlands, South Dakota

Early america can be seen on this route, in the form of several landmarks and even a former midwest mining town.

The Black Hills and Badlands route is a scenic driving route passing through some of the most iconic natural landmarks in South Dakota. The route covers approximately 150 miles, taking visitors through a variety of landscapes, including the rugged badlands, towering granite peaks, and pristine forests, including several iconic attractions, such as Mount Rushmore National Memorial, the Crazy Horse Memorial, and Badlands National Park.

Some other notable stops along the route include Custer State Park, Deadwood gold-mining town, and the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame, which celebrates the history and culture of motorcycle enthusiasts.

  • Length: 150 miles
  • Bucket List Stop: Badlands National park to witness some of the most famous landmarks in American history

Related: Hit The Road: 10 Unforgettable Adventures Await With These U.S. Road Trip Ideas

The Texas Hill Country

Small towns and country that span for miles exude the true charm of the texas hill country route, offering the best views in the state.

The Texas Hill Country route offers picturesque views of beautiful rolling hills and charming small towns of central Texas. The route is approximately 200 miles long, extending between Austin and San Antonio. The region is known for its stunning landscapes, historic sites, and unique cultural attractions. The road through Texas Hill Country takes visitors through several scenic small towns, such as Fredericksburg, Gruene, and Luckenbach. These are some of the best towns in the Texas Hill Country , each particularly known for its charming shops, restaurants, and live music venues.

One of the highlights of the route is the scenic drive along the winding roads of the Hill Country. Visitors can enjoy stunning views of the landscape from the many lookout points and scenic overlooks along the way.

  • Length: 200 miles
  • When To Go: During the months of April, May, and October
  • Bucket List Stop: Fredericksburg, which is a bucket list destination for small town lovers

The Dalton Highway, Alaska

With this route being the only one that crosses the arctic circle, the dalton highway is the definition of "bucket list".

The Dalton Highway is the northernmost highway in the United States and the only road trip in this list that crosses the Arctic Circle. The Dalton Highway is an all-weather road but also incredibly remote and one that requires extensive planning (be prepared for breaking down in the remote Alaskan wilderness).

The Dalton Highway runs from Fairbanks (the main city in Interior Alaska) and ends at Deadhorse in Prudhoe Bay (near the Arctic Ocean).

  • Length: 414 miles
  • When To Go: June to mid-July , when the highway is usually dry
  • Bucket List Stop: Finger Mountain Wayside, which also has an interpretive half-mile hiking trail for those seeking more scenic overlooks

Hawaii Big Island Circuit Drive

While hawaii might seem out of the way, the big island circuit drive is worth the flight to see active volcanoes and stunning coastal landscape views.

The Big Island of Hawaii is by far the largest island in the Hawaiian Island Chain and is home to some of the world's most active volcanoes and some of the most stunning landscapes. One of the epic drives to consider is to drive around the Big Island. The two main roads on the Big Island are Highways 11 and 19 and taken together they create one big loop around the whole island.

  • Length: 300 miles
  • When To Go: During the months of April, May, August, September, and October
  • Bucket List Stop: Pepe'ekeo Scenic Drive is at the start of Highway 19, just north of Hilo

Seattle To Fairbanks North American Drive

It wouldn't be a bucket list trip if it didn't have a unique route, and the drive from seattle to washington and fairbanks, alaska, also brings travelers through canada.

This suggested road trip from Seattle in Washington to Fairbanks in Alaska is the only American road trip to also pass through Canada. This is a mammoth 2,150-mile road trip passing through some of the remotest landscapes of North America (including British Columbia and the Yukon Territory). Alternatively, to keep it an all-American 'road trip', consider taking the Alaska Marine Highway - a ferry network that is part of the American highway system that bypasses Canada.

  • Length: 2,150 miles
  • When To Go: During summer months, preferably early June and July
  • Bucket List Stop: While Fairbanks is the ultimate bucket list stop, saving some time to explore Canada can also add a unique aspect to this road trip

13 Road Trips To Take In The USA That Are Bucket-List Worthy

best bmw for road trips

Top 7 Destinations for Your Next BMW Road Trip

BMW has long prided itself on creating the ultimate driving machine. However, most motorists only get a small taste of their vehicle’s power on short Sunday joy rides and weekday commutes. So, if you’re itching to take a longer, more scenic drive, why not hop in your whip and take a road trip? 

Put pedal to the metal and  explore new cities, take in spectacular views and experience the sheer driving pleasure that defines BMW. Add one of the following destinations to your list of stops to make your trip truly unforgettable. 

1. New Orleans, Louisiana

If you’re a northerner who wants a taste of the south, take the Great River Road all the way from northern Minnesota to Louisiana. This 3,000-mile byway follows the Mississippi river through 10 states and takes about 36 hours to complete. Along the way, you’ll enjoy scenic views of rivers, valleys, farmland and towering bluffs. 

End the trip in New Orleans with jazz, beignets, a mint julep or whatever else you fancy. Be sure to visit the Voodoo Museum and St. Roch Market before taking the long road back home. 

2. Big Sur, California 

Breathe in the fresh, salty air and enjoy miles of beautiful coastline on Calfornia’s scenic U.S. Highway 1. Take your M8 or Z4 for a top-down, sun-soaked drive up the west coast and make frequent stops to take panoramic photos. Enjoy stunning views of Monterey, Pebble Beach, Carmel and Big Sur all in one day on this 90-mile joy ride. Keep an eye out for wildlife like seals, dolphins, California condors and whales, too. 

best bmw for road trips

3. Clearwater, Florida

Florida is home to dozens of scenic drives, including the Clearwater Memorial Causeway. Sure, this half-mile-long drive is rather short. However, it offers great views over Clearwater Harbor and is part of FL 60, a cross-Florida highway that goes all the way to Vero Beach on the state’s Atlantic coast. If you start there, you can easily make Clearwater your final destination. There, you can go swimming at the beach or explore the many wineries and breweries that dot the city. 

4. Cheyenne, Wyoming

The most popular sight in Wyoming is Yellowstone National Park, which is full of scenic views, natural landmarks and wildlife. However, if you want to skip the crowds, zoom on over to Wyoming’s capital city of Cheyenne. 

Visit one of its many museums, hand-feed bison and llamas at the Terry Bison Ranch or drive around in search of all 25 eight-foot-tall cowboy boots located around the city. Along the way, you’ll learn more about western culture and the cowboys, Native Americans and outlaws that have left their mark on the land. 

5. Glacier National Park, Montana

If you find yourself on Highway 2, dedicate a day or two to exploring Montana’s Glacier National Park. Hike one or two trails, visit its many glaciers or brave the Going to the Sun Road for a bird’s eye view of the park. 

This beautiful, albeit nerve-wracking, drive features sharp twists and turns and narrow lanes that certainly make it one for the books. However, the 50-mile stretch of road is only open in mid-June and July when the snow melts away, so you might have to wait until next year to take this road trip.

best bmw for road trips

6. Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah 

Utah is full of beautiful drives and breathtaking rock formations but, if you have need for speed, the Bonneville Salt Flats easily takes the cake. This pristine, otherworldly landscape is about an hour and a half from Salt Lake City and is unlike any other place on earth. Here, a salt crust forms a perfectly uniform, even expanse of land that’s 12 miles long by five miles wide. 

Visit the flats during August for Speed Week and watch professional drivers compete on the huge, white surface or slip into your driving moccasins and take your BMW for a spin. Test its horsepower and braking abilities and go home with bragging rights. 

Prepping for the Best BMW Roadtrip

Are you ready to shift into high gear? Take your BMW on the trip of a lifetime and avoid any mishaps by prepping and planning well in advance. Map your route, assemble an emergency kit and take your vehicle to your favorite auto professional for an inspection. 

Once you’re confident your whip can make the trip, it’s time to hit the open road and enjoy the ride. Just remember to keep an eye on tire air pressure and the gas gauge. Because the last thing you want is to get stuck in the middle of nowhere and miss out on all the fun. 

best bmw for road trips

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Iowa among best states for a road trip this summer. The reason may be due to your wallet

best bmw for road trips

Load up the car with snacks and have a playlist ready to go. Iowa is one of the best states in America for a road trip this summer, according to WalletHub .

The personal finance company ranked all 50 U.S. states to determine “the most fun, scenic and wallet-friendly road-trip destinations.” Rankings were based on factors such as average gas prices, hotel prices, number of attractions, traffic-related deaths and more.

The Hawkeye state was ranked 14, with neighboring state Illinois following. Its strong score may be attributed to it ranking high for the categories of cost and safety, coming in at No. 14 (again) and No. 3 overall respectively.

In fact, Iowa was fourth for the lowest average cost of car repairs, WalletHub found.

What is the best state for a road trip in 2024?

Texas nabbed the No. 1 spot on WalletHub’s ranking, scoring high in part thanks to its number of attractions, such as zoos and amusement parks, that those on a road trip may want to check out. Texas also offers motorists thousands of miles of scenic byways in addition to cheap hotel room prices and plenty of restaurants per capita, according to WalletHub.

Need a break? Play the USA TODAY Daily Crossword Puzzle.

The top 10 best states for a road trip this summer are:

  • North Carolina
  • Pennsylvania

What is the worst state for a road trip in 2024?

Delaware came in last, ranking especially low for activities and cost.

What was WalletHub’s methodology?

WalletHub looked at 32 metrics under the categories of costs, safety and activities to determine the best states for road trips, the personal finance company described. For cost, the lowest price of a three-star hotel room was considered among other measures. For safety, measures included the quality of roads to the number of violent crimes. Access to scenic byways and the number of historical sites per capita were just two of the measures for the category of activities. Data used is from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Park Service, TripAdvisor and more.

What are some things to do on a road trip in Iowa?

Some things to do in Iowa? Try 113 things to do this summer in Iowa.

Highlights include:

  • Travelers in southeast Iowa will want to try the swinging bridge in Columbus Junction that spans 262 feet.
  • Up north, music lovers will want to stop by the Surf Ballroom and Museum in Clear Lake, which welcomed musicians from Roy Orbison to Duke Ellington, according to the museum . Then, visit the nearby field where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. “the Big Bopper” Richardson and pilot Roger Peterson were killed in a plane crash in 1959. 

Those who have an appreciation for the outdoors may want to build in some extra time on the road trip to visit one of the best camping spots in the Midwest, according to Dyrt , located in southwestern Pottawattamie County. Or take a car tour through the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, voted the best national wildlife refuge to visit in America. There, you may spot bison, elk and other wildlife.

Fans of the supernatural will want to visit the Edinburgh Manor in Monticello for a chance to experience a haunting. It’s one of several destinations that travelers may want to take a detour for when they want something off the beaten path in Iowa.

Paris Barraza is a trending and general assignment reporter at the Des Moines Register. Reach her at  [email protected] . Follow her on Twitter @ParisBarraza .

Texas tops list of best states for summer road trips

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - WalletHub’s annual list of the best and worst states for summer road trips has the Lone Star State at the top as the best state for a summer road trip for 2024.

The list ranked all 50 states based on road trip cost, safety and activities.

Over 32 metrics were used to determine the rankings including average gas prices, price of camping, car thefts per capita, scenic byways, percentage of area designated as national parkland and average cost of car repairs.

When discussing why Texas landed in the top spot, WalletHub cited Texas’ variety of activities, scenic byways and Tex-Mex cuisine.

Texas also took the top spot in WalletHub’s 2023 rankings .

Copyright 2024 KWTX. All rights reserved.

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A record 2.6 million Michigan residents expected to travel for July 4: What to know

Fourth of July — or Independence Day — typically ranks among the busiest travel times of the year in the United States, including in Michigan.

This year, July 4 lands on a Thursday. But the volume of people taking to the roads and the skies is still expected to reach record levels.

Here's everything you need to know to get ready for the 2024 Fourth of July travel rush.

How many people are expected to travel?

A travel forecast from AAA estimated that 70.9 million people — including 2.6 million Michiganders — will travel 50 miles or more away from home during the July 4 travel period. The travel period is defined as the nine days between June 29 and July 7. This two-weekend definition is different from years past, which only counted one weekend within the travel period.

Road travel in Michigan is projected to set records for the second year in a row and easily beat pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, 1.7 million people in Michigan were estimated to travel for the July 4 holiday.

Best and worst times to travel

Generally, AAA is advising drivers to beat the traffic by traveling in the morning, and to avoid rush hour traffic on the morning and afternoon of July 8. The best times to travel on each day of the Independence Day holiday period are as follows, according to INRIX , which provides data and insights on transportation:

  • July 1: Minimal traffic disruption anticipated
  • July 2: After 7 p.m.
  • July 3-4: Before noon.
  • July 5-6: Before 10 a.m.
  • July 8: After 7 p.m.

The worst time to travel by car during the Independence Day travel period is 2-7 p.m., according to INRIX. Specifically, July 3 and July 7 will have the greatest traffic delays, as travelers leave and return from their vacations. Here's when the worst travel times will be:

  • July 2: 2-6 p.m.
  • July 3-4: 2-7 p.m.
  • July 5: 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • July 6: 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
  • July 7: 2-8 p.m.
  • July 8: 1-5 p.m.

In Detroit, the worst congestion is expected to be on Interstate 94 west from Toronto to Detroit, on July 8 at 3:30 p.m. Travelers should expect to travel for five hours and 35 minutes between the two cities — a 29% increase from the typical travel time, according to INRIX .

Weather outlook for next week

It's early and the weather forecast could change. But, in Detroit, temperatures are expected to remain in the high 70s to mid-80s, with periods of mostly sunny skies and low to medium humidity. However, as of Monday, there is a chance of thunderstorms on July 4. The UV index is projected to be very high in Detroit from July 1-6, so make sure to wear sunscreen and other forms of sun protection.

In Traverse City and on Mackinac Island, the weather is projected to be partly sunny for most of the week of Independence Day, and there's a scattered chance of thunderstorms during the week and rain at the end of the week. Temperatures will be between the mid-70s to the mid-80s in Traverse City, and hover around 70 degrees on Mackinac Island.

While gas prices nationally, at $3.44 per gallon, are lower than they were last year, the same may not be the case for Michiganders. According to AAA, gas prices averaged around $3.62 a gallon in May — an increase from last year's July 4 averages, but a recent downward trend means that drivers may be paying around the same for a gallon of gas as they did last Independence Day.

Road trip checklist

According to AAA and Chicco, a manufacturer of baby products, a few tips can help keep small children and their families safe while driving during a busy travel period:

  • Check car seat fit for children and installation inside the car.
  • Secure loose items within the car.
  • Be prepared for emergencies or car troubles.
  • Map and plan your route.
  • Have entertainment ready.

Contact Diamy Wang: [email protected].


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