Last updated: 07:00 AM ET, Sat March 21 2015

How to Optimize Your Road Trip and Hit Every State in the Lower 48

Features & Advice | Tom Bastek | March 21, 2015

How to Optimize Your Road Trip and Hit Every State in the Lower 48

There is no denying that Randy Olsen is a bloody genius. Just last month he used an algorithm to figure out the most optimal way to find Waldo of “Where’s Waldo” fame. Well now, with a little prodding from Discovery News’ Tracy Staedter, Randy has done it again. The two teamed up and decided what would be the ultimate (and most optimal) road trip around the entire 48 contiguous United States. 

There is a lot to see out there, so the two of them had to narrow it down. The trip had but three rules:

1. The trip must make at least one stop in all 48 states in the contiguous U.S.

2. The trip would only make stops at National Natural Landmarks, National Historic Sites, National Parks, or                 National Monuments.

3. The trip must be taken by car, and never leave the U.S.

Well, hell, that sounds easy, right? Well it isn’t. You have to think about where each point is, what the actual driven distance is between every site (That is 2,500 Google Directions searches right there). Anyways, I won’t give you math that I don’t understand and you might not either but I will say this: This would be one epic road trip.

To make the trip you would travel 13,669 miles and will take you about 224 hours of driving (with no traffic and no time at the stops). To see an interactive version of the map above click here. You will hit all 48 states with a stop in D.C. and two stops in California. Not too bad if you don’t mind a healthy share of outdoors.  But what if you do?

No problem, Randy has you covered with the map below:

This map charts the Trip Advisor Rated “Best Cities in the U.S.” and stops at one in every state. These destinations are not only a little bit better known, but for some of us, a little more interesting. As in, “I am only going to stop at one place in Georgia and that is going to be Okefenokee Swamp Park?” No it certainly is not. It is Savannah, or Atlanta, or Sea Island, or any of 100 other places before a swamp park (no offense swamp people). 

Anyways, Randy includes the Python code if you want to customize your own trip or the interactive maps if you are just interested in seeing it up close and personal. No one says you have to play by the rules or color in the lines, but if you are an engineer and you are married to an engineer, these road trips probably make the most sense to you!  Have fun!

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