How to plan a California road trip

California is the go-to state for many road-trippers since it is full of exciting cities and epic spots. Home to some of the most beautiful beaches, national parks, and other natural wonders in the entire United States, it’s no surprise that California road trips top many bucket lists.

Putting together a successful road trip takes some serious planning so that you can make the most out of your journey. Creating an itinerary to bring along the right stuff and investing a little prep time can make the difference between a bad or epic road trip.

If you’re looking for some California road trip ideas, then you’re in the right place. Check out our California trip planner for some extra tips that will help you make the most out of your time in the Sunshine State.

How to plan a road trip in California

How Do I Make the Most Out of My Road Trip?

There are a few things you can do to enhance your trip. Depending on how long you plan to travel around California, you’ll need to ensure you have the following:

  • Appropriate clothes: If you’re going walking in Garrapata State Park, then you need hiking gear. Alternatively, if you’re doing a coastal route, then remember to pack some beach clothes, and make sure you dress for the season!
  • A great camera: You’ll want to capture shots of all the places you visit. Investing in a decent camera will ensure that all your photos come out in HD quality.
  • Smartphone and power bank: You’ll need your smartphone to check your location on Google maps, make last-minute bookings and reservations, or keep in touch with friends at home. Make sure to bring a power bank to keep it fully charged!
  • VPN: Although it may not seem like an obvious choice, using a VPN while driving through California is essential. VPNs change your geo-location, enabling you to access content from your home country while on the road. Moreover, a VPN hides your internet activity, protecting you from rife government surveillance in California.

A road trip is a great way to explore California

What is the Best Road Trip in California?

Being the third-largest state in the United States, travelers have plenty of California road trips to choose from. Here are our top routes:

  1. The Pacific Coast Highway

Probably the most well-known road trip route globally, the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) or Route 1 takes you on a journey along California’s stunning coastline. This west coast road trip can be done in a week and enables you to stop at many beautiful sites along the pacific ocean.

Most travelers start in Los Angeles to check out famous spots like the Santa Monica pier before hitting Santa Barbara. After this, you can drive up to Pismo Beach and Morro Bay to take in the beautiful ocean views in the area. From here, you can stop at Big Sur to get some photos before visiting Santa Cruz and the San Francisco bay area, visiting landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge.

2. Los Angeles to Joshua Tree

Another popular California road trip route is from LA to Joshua Tree National Park. Although this is a relatively short journey, there are plenty of places to stop at along the way.

You can get a mixture of city life and natural beauty, starting in LA and seeing well-known sites like the Hollywood sign and the Hollywood walk. From here, travelers can drive to the park, making a pit-stop at Palm Springs for an entire day.

To get the most out of your time at the park, you can camp overnight, waking up early to enjoy hiking trails, rock climbing, and incomparable views.

3. The Sierra Nevadas

The Sierra Nevadas, otherwise known as Highway 395, takes you on an inland route around some of the most beautiful mountainous sights the state has to offer. Before heading on over to the Hot Creek Geological Park, you can first visit Death Valley National Park.

From here, you have a few choices and can either drive to Yosemite or South Lake Tahoe. Finishing your trip in the beautiful lakeside town will give you a couple of days to relax and rejuvenate.

Traveling by car in California

How Do I Plan a California Road Trip Itinerary?

First of all, what do you want to do and see when you visit California? Are you more interested in driving up the coast or visiting the Californian deserts and national parks? Deciding what is most important for you to see will help you to choose the best route.

Ensure that you designate enough time in each spot on your route and plan ahead so that you’re not rushing or missing out on anything. If you’re starting your journey in LA, then allow extra time for traffic since the city is known for its road congestion.

Another thing to take into account is your budget. Road trips in California can be costly, especially if you plan to stop over in cities and stay in hotels. You can use a VPN to change your location to California, to check out the best hotels, and book rooms beforehand at a cheaper price.

California Travel Guide: Things to Do and See in California
California Travel Guide: Things to Do and See in California

How Many Days Do You Need to Explore California?

There is a lot to see in the Golden State, with incredible sights in northern California and southern California. A few days will definitely not be enough to explore amazing places like Yosemite National Park, the Colorado Desert, Glacier Point, and the Grand Canyon. (See 10 Top Things to Do in California

Moreover, many of these sites are located far away from one another, meaning that you’ll need a few weeks if you want to see everything. We recommend at least 2 weeks to visit a few places in California and get the most out of your road trip.

Read More: 10 Best Road Trips in the USA



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