The Griswolds certainly knew how to make a road trip look challenging.
For those who don't remember the 1983 hit movie National Lampoon's Vacation, it involved the Griswold family making a cross-country drive that was riddled with mishaps. From having the family car get tagged by vandals, to being stranded in the desert and accidentally killing a pet dog, the disasters the family faced were never ending.
Hollywood comic relief aside - road trips are suddenly becoming easier then ever thanks to gas prices reaching an all time low. The current national average is $1.70, according to AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report. That's the cheapest gas has been since January 2009, says AAA spokeswoman Julie Hall.
Some of the states with the lowest gas prices at the moment are Oklahoma ($1.46), Missouri ($1.47) and Kansas ($1.51), says Hall. There are even reports of sub-$1 gas.
Now factor in a number of apps designed to help drivers locate the cheapest gas prices while traveling, and a handful of websites aimed specifically at devising interesting road trips, and the time certainly seems ideal for setting out on the open road.
For those who may not be aware, for instance, AAA's TripTik Travel Planner (available online and via the AAA mobile app) helps users find current gas prices and locate gas stations along their route.
There's also Gasbuddy.com, a website that tracks gas prices and lets users search fuel costs by city, state and zip code. The site includes listings for all cities in the United States and Canada, updated in real-time.
In terms of deciding which roads will make for the most visually appealing, unique or memorable trip, there's a variety of websites to help with that as well. Among them, Roadtrippers.com, a travel planning site and app that helps drivers map out journeys and find the coolest things to see and do along the way.
The site includes both iconic American trips and lesser-known adventures. Some of the more unique suggestions on Roadtrippers.com include the Extraterrestrial Highway and the Loneliest Road in America.
The Extraterrestrial Highway, also known as Nevada State Route 375, a nearly 100-mile segment of roadway that has had countless UFO sightings, leading to its current nickname. The Loneliest Road in America, meanwhile, is more commonly known as Highway 50 and passes through the Nevada desert. In the mid-1980s Life magazine ran an article about the drive, giving it the sorry nickname that remains today.
"There are definitely things to see and do along the route -- you just have to know where to look," Roadtrippers.com writer Anna Hider says of Highway 50. "There's some national parks, such as Great Basin National Park. There's a ghost town, some scenic old charcoal ovens and places where you can tour historic buildings."
There are also ancient and mysterious petroglyphs along the route and 225-million-year-old fossils. Hider describes the highway as a slice of authentic America, minus the crowds and chain restaurants and stores.
Inspired by that enticing description, we've identified a few more unique, picturesque, and quirky road trip options to consider. Happy road tripping.
Relive the Griswold's Route from National Lampoon's Vacation
When you have the same last name as the fictitious family in this cult movie, it's hard to avoid taking the road trip that the film made famous.
At least that's how Atlanta resident Steve Griswold explains the inspiration for his family's road trip that traced the journey made famous by Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo.
The real-life family spent ten days driving Route 66 from Atlanta to Walley World (aka Six Flags Magic Mountain) in California. They even drove a 1984 station wagon that was an exact replica of the vehicle used in the movie.
Other highlights of the trip, which were also part of the movie, included stopping at the Grand Canyon, participating in the 72-ounce steak eating challenge at the Big Texan in Amarillo, Texas, and spending a night at the Wigwam Hotel in Arizona.
"So few people do road trips these days," says Griswold, owner of Pixie Vacations. "Instead people are all about getting to a destination quickly. But when you drive somewhere, you get to experience so many fun things along the way. I was amazed at how much the kids enjoyed it, and how everyone came together in all those little moments."
Eerie East/Spooky West
The travel company Hayes & Jarvis has launched a U.S. road trip recommender on its site, which includes 45 different themed routes.
One of the interesting suggestions from the company is called "Eerie East," a trip that begins in Salem, Mass. and ends in Orlando, Fla. Along the way, the trip includes stops at a variety of haunted destinations and hangouts. Among the highlights of the trip are Eastern State Penitentiary (a former prison that held some of America's most notorious criminals, such as Al Capone), the Gettysburg Battlefield and the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (a long-closed former psychiatric hospital that is said to be haunted.)
The Extraterrestrial Highway
An officially designated route, the Extraterrestrial Highway has countless quirky, alien-themed offerings, making it a bonanza for those intrigued by the strange or extra-terrestrial.
Some of the must-see stops include the Little Alien Motel, where locals are happy to share information about the best ways to get into the legendary Area 51.
The Little A'Le'Inn is one of the most famous stops along the drive. The diner is adorned in alien memorabilia of all forms. And while eating, make a point of chatting up the wait staff, says Hider of Roadtrippers.com, because it's likely they will share details of alien sightings.
"This road is really popular with UFO enthusiasts," says Hider. "If you're driving it, it is probably doing because you like the strangeness of all of it."
I-10 from California to Florida
Grab a camera; a group of friends cool enough to appreciate art, history and a good old-fashioned road trip; and set off along the southernmost transcontinental highway in the United States - I-10. The road is magnet for art lovers.
Some of the highlights include Houston, where drivers can witness a variety of quirky David Adickes's creations such as the "We Love Houston" sign or his "Mount Rush Hour" - four giant busts of Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.
Houston is also home to the Art Car Museum. Fondly known as the "Garage Mahal," the museum houses contemporary art with an emphasis on quirky art cars.
Take the I-10 through Baton Rouge meanwhile and visit the Louisiana Mud Painting Gallery, which features exhibits made exclusively with color palettes from the earth. The gallery is an ode to the purity of paintings from decades past.
At the end of the I-10, spend some time stretching your legs perhaps while experiencing the Jacksonville Downtown Art Walk. The area, which is about 15-blocks, is home to more than 40 galleries, museums, and cultural venues.
"It's a great way to showcase the country, driving along I-10," says Leah Fillion, of the Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau. "I-10 passes through some major landmarks. I've done portions of it. It takes you through desert, the beaches and some of the most cultural cities in the country, including Houston, New Orleans and Lake Charles."
"It's a great time to take a family road trip," she adds. "When we hop on plane, we just arrive someplace and we've skipped all the good stuff in between. It's really nice to take some time to explore your own country."