Route directions are often given on request in situ, requiring the inquirer to remember the directions. Previous work has shown that landmarks are more memorable than street names. However, in those studies, the names of landmarks were more vivid and distinctive than the street names. In two experiments, we disentangled vividness/distinctiveness from landmark/street. The major factor in memorability of routes was vividness/distinctiveness, with a slight advantage to streets. Route directions were remembered better when either the landmarks, the street names or both were more vivid and distinctive. Those high in mental imagery read the descriptions faster and remembered them better. Thus, vividness in the stimuli and visual imagery in the mind augment constructing and remembering spatial mental models because forming spatial mental models relies in part on spatial structure but also on associative learning, and vividness and visual imagery promote associative learning. The findings have implications for learning in general. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.