Summer’s here! And for many people, that means taking the most iconic of all vacations: the road trip. But how do you plan out the best route? Well, thanks to big data and one man’s curiosity, you don’t have to spend hours planning anymore.

Randy Olson, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, took up a “data tinkering” project to discover the best route. After devising an algorithm to help Where’s Waldo fans plot the most efficient search path through the book’s illustrations, Olson set out to create an algorithm for the most efficient American road trip. So, if taking a road trip, visiting natural wonders, and photographing historic sites is on your bucket list, read on.

Devising the perfect road trip

Using information from the Google Maps API (and a bit of Python coding), Olson was able to calculate the distance between 50 points of interest across the contiguous United States from over 2,500 individual routes. Sound simple? To put it in perspective: without this algorithm, it’d take a computer billions of years to account for every segment of this trip.

Without traffic, Olson’s proposed route makes a complete trip around the U.S. in 224 hours (or about 9 days) and over 13,699 miles of pavement — something that would typically take a couple of months to accomplish.

The all-American road trip

So where exactly does this algorithm take you? Check out this Google Map of the route, which includes popular landmarks like the Grand Canyon, Gateway Arch, NOLA’s French Quarter, Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell, San Francisco’s Cable Cars, and Washington DC’s White House.

And if you’re less of an outdoorsy type, retreat to America’s urban jungles with the big-city version! For those of you who identify as city slickers with a preference for fine dining, shopping, and museums, this route lets you closely follow the same path with 1,409 miles to spare.

Road-tripping across Europe

But what if you’ve already explored all the wonders this great country has to offer? You’re in luck because Olson also created an algorithm for a European road trip.

Encompassing 16,287 miles (or 14 continuous days on the road), this map is based off of Business Insider’s 50 Places in Europe You Need to Visit in Your Lifetime.” So, if the Parthenon, Eiffel Tower, Alhambra, and Coliseum are calling your name, here’s a map just for you, along with points of interest to consider.

Alternatively, you can customize the perfect road trip using Olson’s python-based algorithm.

Using data for innovation at Esurance

At Esurance, we’re no strangers to data analytics. With CoverageMyWay™, for example, we use smart technology, complex algorithms, and more than a little secret sauce to help personalize the coverage that’s right for you. So you can take that road trip knowing you have the right coverage for your needs. Get a free quote today.

Related links

Road Safety: The 10 Safest (and 10 Most Dangerous) Countries for Drivers

Span-tastic: The Top 10 Most Amazing Bridges in the U.S.

Esurance DriveSense®: A Discount Based on Your Driving


Smart technology | Travel hacks


about Basil

Basil is a member of the internal communications team here at Esurance. He moved to the Bay Area and joined the company after living and working in the Middle East for a few years. He enjoys writing about travel and social causes, and wants to help make our diverse world a more inclusive place. When he’s not working, you can find him exploring San Francisco on foot and documenting his travels on Instagram.