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Vacation is a journey that starts as soon as you leave home. Here are five scenic roads in the Continental United States that’ll have you Instagramming long before you reach your final destination.

Overseas Highway, Florida Keys

The drive from Miami to Key West is paradise found. Turquoise waters, lush green foliage and an ever-changing cotton candy sky set the backdrop for what’s been nicknamed a “magic carpet” ride over 42 bridges, including the famous Seven Mile Bridge. Even if you brought music for this 110-mile journey, there’s no better soundtrack than dolphins laughing, pelicans crashing through the surface of the water and the call of the great blue heron.

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The Overseas Highway has been nicknamed the “magic carpet,” and the journey will leave you enchanted.

Big Sur, California

If you’re driving a convertible, now’s the time to put the top down. This thinly populated region of California‘s central coast is a tourist destination unto itself, precisely because the drive is so stunning. Travel along Highway 1 for about 90 miles of scenic bliss — seascapes, cliffs and isolated beaches that have inspired the likes of writers Jack Kerouac (Big Sur) and Henry Miller (Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch).

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The iconic Bixby Creek Bridge in Monterey, Calif., is one of Big Sur’s best-known landmarks.

Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL

“Scenic” doesn’t have to mean “rural.” This 15-mile thoroughfare offers stunning vistas of the urban variety. Instead of mountains, there are skyscrapers. And rather than bird-watching, there’s people-watching: joggers along the Lakefront Trail, kids frolicking on the lawn of the Museum of Science and Industry and, in warmer months, sun worshippers splashing in the beaches of Lake Michigan.

Gazing upon the Windy City from Lake Shore Drive is sure to give you chills -- the good kind.

Gazing upon the Windy City from Lake Shore Drive is sure to give you chills — thegood kind.

Pacific Coast Scenic Byway, Oregon

This slice of heaven spans the length of Oregon’s Pacific coastline via Highway 101. Take in sweeping views of jagged coastline, craggy beaches and tree-covered cliffs that look like something out of a Bob Ross painting — all the while keeping your eyes peeled for gifts like breaching gray whales and sea lions gathering on the rocks.

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Mount Washington Auto Road, New Hampshire

This mountain has bragging rights as the highest peak in the Northeastern United States, and it shows its range — no pun intended — with the shifting of the seasons. In spring and summer, drive yourself up the steep, narrow road to earn a This Car Climbed Mt. Washington bumper sticker. During the snowy season, or if you’re just not comfortable driving on a road without guardrails, sign up for a tour in an all-terrain vehicle so you can enjoy the scenic views and hop out for a photo op at the top.

Mount Washington Auto Road is mostly paved. Mostly.

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Tagged: Beach, California, City, Florida, L.A.

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It’s a fine time to think about a last minute flight to Europe.

United Airlines and Lufthansa flights are on sale to top European and other international destinations. You just need to book your flights by May 7 for outbound travel starting no later than May 15.

Here are some sample airfares (not including additional taxes and fees):

Chicago to Madrid — $671
Washington, D.C., to Munich — $679
Houston to Dusseldorf, Germany — $528
Newark to Brussels — $516
Atlanta to Budapest — $653

Visit CheapTickets.com for details and more sample airfares.

CheapTickets resources:

Tagged: Flights