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California Road Trip Itinerary Map

20 Places and Experiences to Add to Your California Road Trip Itinerary

by Family Globetrotters

Deciding What You Should Include in Your California Road Trip Itinerary? From Whale Watching to Minnie Mouse To Breathtaking Valleys and Waterfalls, It’s No Wonder California Continues to Attract Travellers from All Over the World.

If you’re dreaming of exploring California by road but don’t know where to start, perhaps this California road trip itinerary might be able to help you out. We have put together an itinerary starting off with a West Coast road trip of California and looping back down through the National Parks. This itinerary has been collated with personal travel stories by experienced travel writers, travel bloggers and travel photographers. Each of them shares why they loved their time at a specific destination in California and their main highlight at each place. We hope this will give you the inspiration to stop at all these great spots and give you some ideas of things to do in California.

TRAVEL TIPS YOU WILL FIND:

CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP ITINERARY PIT STOP #01 – SAN DIEGO

Angelica Omaiye @ Good Trip, Bad Memory

Being in San Diego is one of the most memorable California experiences I have. San Diego epitomizes what everyone loves about California; sunny skies, perfect 70s temperatures, surfer lifestyle and the laid-back vibe. There are so many things to do in San Diego and is one of the only places you can lay on a coastal beach, and then drive to mountains, lakes, and deserts in the same day! Since the San Diego weather is so nice and everyone is so relaxed, every day feels like you’re on vacation. As it’s the second biggest city in California, there are endless parks, museums, and outdoor activities for you to enjoy. Plus, if you’re a foodie, the city is home to some of the biggest California-Mexican food trends like California burritos and carne asada fries. There is something for everyone in San Diego, and that’s why it’s one of my favourite California experiences!

CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP ITINERARY PIT STOP #02 – TORREY PINES & LA JOLLA

San Diego to La Jolla – 14 miles / 23 km, 0.5 hour drive.
By Cydny Voicechovski @ GOAL Traveler

One of my fondest memories in San Diego was a day out in nature. Torrey Pines State Reserve provided a hike that isn’t too demanding but long enough to really dive into a day in nature. Start working your way up to some of the best panoramic views of the Californian coastline. You continue through various rock formations and ledges peering over the ocean. As you work your way down you end right on the beach, a perfect time to kick your shoes off and wiggle those toes in the sand. This hike provided all levels of views for one to enjoy.

After my time in the reserve I decided to reward myself with a nice meal in downtown La Jolla, one of the cutest towns full of plenty of eateries and window shopping. But first, a visit to the famous seal sighting at La Jolla Cove. It’s amazing how many of them gather in this location and how comfortable they are with the people around them. If you are an animal lover, then you have to check out the La Jolla Cove seals and sea lions relaxing with their pups.

CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP ITINERARY PIT STOP #03 – SALVATION MOUNTAIN

La Jolla to Salvation Mountain – 160 miles / 257 km, 3 hour drive.
Kay @ The Awkward Traveler

Whilst you’re in Southern California, YOU GOTTA check out the desert. There are some of the obvious choices like Joshua Tree or Palm Springs…but what if I told you there was a giant mountain covered in 100,000 gallons of paint? Because yeah, there is. It’s called Salvation Mountain and is located in the California Desert area of Imperial County. It was built by one man, Leonard Knight, and took him 28 years and a whole lot of patience and dedication to complete. Colourful walls, whimsical rooms, and even playfully modified trucks – Salvation Mountain is candy to the eye. Knight built the mountain as a symbol of the love he felt from God and the simple idea that “God is love.” You can totally climb the mountain, which is awesome! You get a whole view of the valley, which….is mostly desert. But you can even spot the Salton Sea (you probably smelled it on the drive down). That said, the mountain is art, so be respectful and stay on the designated paths at all times!

Tips for your trip to Salvation Mountain: make sure your gas tank is full and BRING WATER! I went in April, and even though the temperature was only 88F, the Salvation Mountain weather felt like 100. It’s a bit out of the way, but a sight to be seen for sure. The mountain also raises money for the local art community and other charities #givebackgamestrong. Salvation Mountain was also featured in a few movies, including “Into the Wild.” Even Kesha made an appearance at the mountain in her music video, “Praying.” I would go just for Kesha alone. Plus, it is at the entrance of Slab City, nicknamed “the last free place on Earth.” How tempting does that sound??

California Road Trip Itinerary Salvation Mountain

Kay Discovering Salvation Mountain, a Project by Leonard Knight That Took 28 Years!

CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP ITINERARY PIT STOP #04 – JOSHUA TREE

Salvation Mountain to Joshua Tree – 64 miles / 102 km, 1.25 hour drive.
Taryn Nicole @ Happiest Outdoors Blog

For years I only thought of California with sunny beaches, palm trees or dramatic mountain views. But then this year I went to Joshua Tree National Park in south eastern California. The desert landscape was so different from my previous perceptions of California! The jumbled rocks were straight out of a cowboy movie and the crazy Joshua trees looked more like something Dr. Seuss dreamed up than actual plants.

Joshua Tree National Park is pretty big: we spent hours driving around to see the sights. But my favourite part was definitely getting away from the crowds and hiking off into the desert. We hiked 7 miles on the Willow Hole Trail into the Wonderland of Rocks, a jumble of strangely shaped giant boulders. The trail twisted and turned through the narrow canyons. It was so quiet we could hear the wind in the bushes on the sides of the trail. The sun beat down and we were thankful for the extra water and sunscreen that we brought. And around every corner was a new incredible view. Eventually it was time to turn around and head back to the car. You might think you’ve seen California if you’ve gone to the beach or been to the mountains. But I think you haven’t really experienced California until you’ve hiked in the desert in Joshua Tree National Park.

CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP ITINERARY PIT STOP #05 –  PALM SPRINGS

Joshua Tree to Palm Springs – 49 miles / 79 km, 1 hour drive.
By Jill Bowdery @ Reading the Book Travel

One of my most memorable experiences in California was a two day visit I made to Palm Springs. This desert playground is well known for its pool parties and lavish hotels, but travelling as I did in July, the summer heat means the city is quieter. To escape the hot Palm Springs weather, I took the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to the top of the mountain that sits just behind the city. Up there, the air is pleasantly cooler and there are beautiful hikes to be taken through the forest, spotting squirrels, chipmunks and bluebirds along the way.

Another day I made a visit to the Indian Canyons, where lush palm groves shade the valley and I could stroll along the river and check out the Native American history of the canyons, which are still designated tribal lands today. With so many things to do in Palm Springs, it is a great location for a weekend break, and well worth the visit whatever the time of year!

CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP ITINERARY PIT STOP #06 –  DISNEYLAND

Palm Springs to Anaheim – 90 miles / 145 km, 1.5 hour drive.
By Kris Morton @ Nomad By Trade

I grew up going to Disney World in Florida regularly, but as a lifelong Disney fan, it had always been my dream to one day visit Disneyland. I wanted to see the original Disney theme park and check out all of the classics as well as the unique rides that can only be found in the Anaheim parks. Perhaps most of all, I was dying to see California Adventure’s night time show, World of Color, which I had been drooling over since it was first announced a few years earlier. I decided that it was finally time to make these dreams come true when I found a great flight deal to LAX. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t round up any friends who had the rare combination of travel funds and vacation time. I packed my bags and hopped the flight solo.

The Disneyland Anaheim opening hours is from 08.00am to midnight but for my first morning there, I was so excited that I showed up at the parking garage an hour before the park even opened. It was the perfect way to start my day because I had only allotted one day for each park and being there at the opening meant I got to ride 3 attractions within the first hour. I spent the whole first day at Disneyland, experiencing legendary rides like the Matterhorn and Indiana Jones Adventure – which was by far my favourite ride there. I dined in the famous Blue Bayou restaurant solo, right along the water while Pirates of the Caribbean boats floated past (Try the monte cristo sandwich. It’s divine.)

I spent a second day at California Adventure and fell in love with the Radiator Springs Racers and California Screamin’, which has now been rebranded as an Incredibles-themed Incredicoaster. The World of Color show capped off my time at Disneyland in the most fitting way possible. It was beautiful and everything I’d dreamed of. I left with a set of mouse ears, a camera full of character photos, and a million memories and now I’m waiting anxiously until I can return.

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California Road Trip Itinerary Disneyland Anaheim

The Happiest Place on Earth.

CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP ITINERARY PIT STOP #07 – LOS ANGELES

Anaheim to Los Angeles – 27 miles / 44 km, 40 minute drive.
By Michelle Dudamel @ Itinerary Shelly

Los Angeles, the City of Angels, is truly a fascinating city. It’s amazing the number of things you can do in such a metropolitan area. Shopping, swimming, biking, hiking, celebrity site seeing – you name it, LA’s got it. That’s probably why I enjoyed my time in Los Angeles so much. In a matter of two days I did so many Los Angeles attractions that I felt like I visited 5 different cities.

Visiting Hollywood and walking along the famous stars was a treat. Especially when you see Reese Witherspoon in your hotel! Followed by some window shopping in Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive, I definitely felt the glamour of the city. Biking on Venice Beach and wandering around Muscle Gym was an entirely different experience than Hollywood. Hiking up to the back of Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles was probably my favourite experience. The views are unreal and the hike itself is challenging. LA, you were a showstopper and I can’t wait to return.

CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP ITINERARY PIT STOP #08 – SANTA CATALINA ISLAND

Los Angeles to Santa Catalina Island – 1 hour by high speed ferry
By Christine Emhardt @ And The Story Goes

Only hour from Los Angeles, you can do a Catalina Island day trip. It was originally a destination for the wealthy and famous, but is now a destination for young families, relaxation, and most importantly, adventure! My favourite thing to do on Catalina Island is the Zip Line Eco Tour. The tour takes about 2 hours as your group makes their way down 5 different zip lines. The best line is #2 as it has the most elevation drop so if you pull your knees to your chest, you really start flying! The whole course is in a canyon that overlooks the ocean so the views are amazing the whole way down.

There are two guides for every Catalina Island zipline tour. I’ve been on 3 tours and the guides have not only been funny to talk with, but they’ve been informative about the island’s natural habitat. To make your adrenaline rush even faster, they offer night tours where you walk off the platform into complete darkness.

CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP ITINERARY PIT STOP #08 – SANTA CATALINA CONT…
Allison Boyle @ She Dreams of Alpine

Visiting Catalina Island is a common California day adventure for many weekend warriors and California travellers, but many people often overlook that Catalina Island offers some amazing hiking and backpacking trails all across the island. If you have more than a day to spare, the Trans-Catalina Trail, will give you the best tour of the island that one can have. You start your hike in the town of Avalon and trek 39 miles across the length of the island, camping along the coast and hiking the island’s rugged terrain. At the end of your hike, you’ll find yourself at another small island town, Two Harbors, where you can wait for your return ferry in style, cold beers and food in hand as a reward for the challenging yet beautiful coastal Catalina Island hike.

Depending on your skill level or your desired pace, you can hike the Trans-Catalina Trail in 3 to 5 days, and as the trail has over 8,300 feet of total elevation gain, you will be rewarded with beautiful weather and views of the ocean in all directions. Trekking on Catalina Island will allow you to find solitude, but you are never too far from the comforts of home due to the trails proximity to its island towns. If you are lucky, you might just run into one of the islands free roaming bison. Backpacking the Trans-Catalina Trail has been, by far, the most rewarding way I have explored Santa Catalina Island, and I’m willing to bet you would love it too.

California Road Trip Itinerary Catalina Island Hiking

Allison Hiking the 3-5day Trans-Catalina Trail.

CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP ITINERARY PIT STOP #09 – Malibu

Long Beach (ferry drop off) to Malibu – 52 miles / 84 km, 1 hour drive.
By Sarah Etinas @ Borders & Bucket Lists

I’d been living in Malibu, California for nearly a year when I heard the rumour that there was a sea lion “base” just a few miles away.  Being the adventurer that I am, I was determined to find this pack (and observe from a safe distance). After a bit of research, I figured out that these sea lions were just past Pirates’ Cove.  However, once we got to Pirates’ Cove, we realized it would be a little difficult to get past it, due to the crashing waves and sharp rocks.  Instead, we decided to head back to the parking lot.  I mean, it didn’t look like we had any other option. But once we reached the parking lot though, we noticed a sandy hiking path that seemed to go up above the sharp rocks and huge waves.  We shrugged our shoulders and decided to try it.

While the path wasn’t too steep, it was quite sandy, so I decided to kick off my flip-flops and just hike barefoot (I honestly think that was the best option, or else I would have been lugging around a ton of sand as I walked).  Eventually, we were hit with a strong fish smell, and we knew we were close.  We wandered a little off of the path to get a view down towards the shore.  We had found the sea lions.  There were dozens of them just sunbathing on the rocks as the waves crashed over their bodies.  We sat down on the sandy Malibu cliffs and embraced the relaxing lifestyle of the sea lions.  After an hour or so, the sun began to set, so we decided to head out and say goodbye to our new fish-smelling friends.

CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP ITINERARY PIT STOP #10 – CARPINTERIA

Malibu to Carpinteria – 55 miles / 89 km, 1 hour drive.
By Emily Bloor @ Luxury Backpack

California for me always meant Los Angeles. So when we headed North and stumbled upon the surfer town of Carpinteria we were in luck. The perfect big city antidote, Carpinteria is more Beach Boys than muscle beach, where surfing travellers rock up in their VW campers for a picturesque escape, wedged between mountains and ocean.

We sat and watched the waves roll in, sipping avocado beer at the local brewery, feeling like we had finally found the true heart of Southern California. Next time I’ll go back in October, when avocado lovers head to Carpinteria for the ultimate avocado experience, the annual Avocado Festival – three full days celebrating everything avo!

CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP ITINERARY PIT STOP #11 – MONTEREY

Carpinteria to Monterey – 247 miles / 397 km, 4 hour drive.
By Rachel Clarke @ Earth’s Magical Places

During a road trip along the West-Coast, I had many memorable experiences. From bumping into Matt Damon to hiking to the top of half dome in Yosemite National Park, my trip to California had it all! But the stand out moment? Whale watching in Monterey.

I wasn’t blessed with the best weather for my Monterey Bay boat trip. A bad storm several days before meant that the water was choppy and the wind high. However, just 20-minutes into the excursion one of the crew members spotted something remarkable! A mother Grey-Whale and her young calf. Watching the two interact, I really appreciated how intelligent they must be. What’s more, despite their sheer size there’s an elegance to whales swimming in the wild that’s hard to put into words. Seeing these beautiful creatures in the wild is an experience I’ll never forget and one I’d recommend everyone to add this to their California road trip itinerary!

CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP ITINERARY PIT STOP #12 – SAN FRANCISCO

Monterey to San Francisco – 114 miles / 183 km, 2 hour drive.
By Kathrine and Pam @ Everywhere Forward

When you think of California, one of the things that probably comes to mind is the Golden Gate Bridge. This landmark and icon of California spans across the “Golden Gate,” the strait connecting the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Walking or biking across the Golden Gate Bridge is worth experiencing during a visit to San Francisco. In the early morning, the Bridge is blanketed with fog and mist and during the day, it’s a stunning sight for locals and tourists alike. If you visit Crissy Field, a former US Army Airfield, you can walk along the Bay and get beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Another interesting experience in San Francisco is visiting Alcatraz Island. 1.25 miles offshore lies the remnants of the former federal Alcatraz jail that once housed some of the most notorious criminals like Al Capone. You can take a short 15 minute ferry ride to the island and listen to an audio tour that tells you the history and famous stories of Alcatraz. After a visit to Alcatraz when you get off the ferry at Pier 33, take a walk to Fisherman’s Wharf Pier 39. Here, you can see the California sea lions!

California Road Trip Itinerary Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge is Stunning Anytime of the Day.

CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP ITINERARY PIT STOP #13 – BRENTWOOD

San Francisco to Brentwood – 55 miles / 84 km, 1 hour drive.
By Jackie Szeto and Justin Huynh @ Life Of Doing

Our annual tradition is to go cherry picking in Brentwood, located only an hour’s drive from San Francisco. It’s fun and perfect for families and friends to spend a few hours outside. The best Brentwood fruit picking time is from May to mid-June and there are a few dozen farms to pick cherries from. We love choosing our own cherries as the size, texture, and flavour is of a higher quality than store purchased ones. Plus, we can pick as much as we want to purchase. We usually harvest over 10 pounds of cherries for each visit and enjoy them for a week. After you’re done picking, stop by other farms to pick other seasonal fruits (i.e. peaches and plums) and vegetables. Thank you, California farmers for your hard work and dedication to grow fresh fruits and vegetables!

CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP ITINERARY PIT STOP #14 – NAPA VALLEY

Brentwood to Napa Valley – 68 miles / 110 km, 1.25 hour drive.
Evonne & Darren Wong @ The Globetrotter Collective

Napa Valley is one of the most popular destinations in the world for those of you who are huge fans of food and wine like we are.  There are 7 Michelin stars restaurants in Napa Valley alone and hundreds of wineries to choose from for your tasting pleasure.  A great way to see region is taking the 3-hour Napa Valley wine train that takes you along 18 miles of wineries from downtown Napa up to St. Helena and back.

Want to take in the breathtaking view of this beautiful valley with rolling hills and gorgeous coastline?  You can join a hot air balloon ride, or a bicycle/hiking tour and even a kayak tour in the Napa River.  There is no shortage of things to do in Napa for both adults only and families with children.  We hope you get to visit this amazing place that is our “backyard!”

California Road Trip Itinerary Napa Valley

Gorgeous Napa Wine Country

CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP ITINERARY PIT STOP #15 – SONOMA

Napa Valley to Sonoma – 24 miles / 39 km, 0.5 hour drive.
By Neha Sharma @ Nomadic Dreamz

When my sister and I were planning our visit to San Francisco, we knew for sure that we wanted to include a day-trip to either Napa or Sonoma from there. How can you be in California and not visit wine country, right? We eventually settled on Sonoma, a short one-hour drive north of San Francisco. Because of the weather we decided against a traditional winery tour and opted to book a rental car instead and drove to the town of Sonoma in the heart of Sonoma Valley.

Sonoma town is a historic place, and some of the 19th-century Adobe structures are still accessible for tourists to take a look at. The town thrives around the central square or plaza, which is the largest such plaza in California. Around it, you will find charming little boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, ice cream shops, and a museum. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant here and were delighted to see the large variety of Californian wines they had on offer for tasting and subsequent drinking. Needless to say, it was a long and very pleasant lunch.  We spent a couple of hours afterward walking around town buying handicrafts and looking at the art in the galleries. If you wish to visit a winery, the Buena Vista winery is a short 10-15 minute drive away and offers tours and tastings daily. The Sonoma wine trail is well worth the visit if you have the time.

CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP ITINERARY PIT STOP #16 – MENDOCINO COAST

Sonoma to Mendocino Coast – 129 miles / 207 km, 2.45 hour drive.
By Margie DQ @ DQ Travel

We had so many memorable experiences during our visit to the Mendocino Coast. We hiked around the Mendocino Headlands and took in gorgeous vistas of the cliffs and the Pacific Ocean. We also went kayaking through sea caves on the coast and experienced the spectacular views from sea level. Perhaps my favourite activity though was biking along the Big River. We took two canteens (one filled with water and the other with wine) and would stop periodically to enjoy the peaceful surroundings. After our bike ride, we walked along Big River Beach, where it met the Pacific Ocean. Our time in Mendocino was filled with outdoor activities and unparalleled sea views. We cannot wait to return!

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California Road Trip Itinerary Mendocino Coast

The Clear Blue Waters of Mendocino Coast.

CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP ITINERARY PIT STOP #17 – YUBA CITY

Mendocino Coast to Yuba City – 169 miles / 271 km, 3.3 hour drive.
By Amy Chung @ Family Globetrotters

Having now driven along the western coastline of California, it’s time to explore the cities and counties in the centre. First stop is Yuba City which is also known as the Gateway to the Gold Fields. Gold mining was a prevalent occupation in the mid-19th century and intertwined with the fact that it was originated from Native American settlements, Yuba City is brimming with rich history. There are heaps of things to do in Yuba City including boating, swimming and fishing in its many rivers and lakes as well as being able to go hiking and biking in their protected forests. Other Yuba City attractions include the Sutter County Memorial Museum has a range of exhibits on local stories and history, the West Coast falconry for some exciting demonstrations as well as some wineries for you to explore. If you’re looking for that classic American small-town experience, this is the perfect pit stop.

CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP ITINERARY PIT STOP #18 – LAKE TAHOE

Yuba City to Lake Tahoe – 108 miles / 174 km, 2.15 hour drive.
By Amy Chung @ Family Globetrotters

No California road trip itinerary would be complete without stopping at Lake Tahoe. A big region to explore, it is perfect anyone who loves the outdoors with a plethora of activities to do in any season of the year. If hiking is your thing, you can’t go past Emerald Bay State Park. Carved millions of years ago by passing glaciers, this inlet is well known for its granite cliffs and breathtaking scenery. And of course, you have to get on the lake with its largest beach in the north. This whole area is great for swimming, kayaking, boating and water skiing. The beauty of the diverse Lake Tahoe weather means there are also winter activities. Squaw Valley to the west has some of the world’s best alpine ski resorts. What’s there not to love?

California Road Trip Itinerary Lake Tahoe

Enjoying the Serenity on the Boulders at Lake Tahoe.

CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP ITINERARY PIT STOP #19 – SIERRA NEVADA

Lake Tahoe to Sierra Nevada  – 83 miles / 134 km, 2.15 hour drive.
By Julie Boyd @ Bound To Explore

Walking through a grove of golden aspen trees during Fall in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains is a special experience in California. Many people joke that we don’t really experience seasons in the Golden State, but we do, you just have to know where to look. The first time I witnessed the leaves change in person was when my family and I visited the June Lake Loop. The splendour of the craggy, snow-capped peaks and brilliant display of amber hues is breathtaking, and it has left me aching to go back each year since.

CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP ITINERARY PIT STOP #20 – YOSEMITE

Sierra Nevada to Yosemite – 32 miles / 212 km, 3.5 hour drive.
Caitlyn Calabrese @ Postcards From Cait

I always thought of California as beautiful beaches, seaside cliffs, and mountains, which already sounds like paradise to me. But, going to Yosemite National Park opened my eyes to just how much California really has to offer. I’ve visited California 4 times, and of all the places I’ve seen and things I’ve done, Yosemite holds a special place in my heart. It was the first National Park I’d ever been to and it sparked my love and appreciation for our national parks and public lands.

I spent 2 days in Yosemite exploring the valley, doing some scenic hikes and drives, and seeing bears in their natural habitat. In this one place, you can see an abundance of waterfalls (especially if visiting in the spring) and wildlife, massive granite domes, valleys carved from glaciers, and ancient groves. After just a short, easy hike, I stood at the base of the 2,425-foot Yosemite Falls, the tallest waterfall in North America and the fifth tallest in the world. At Tunnel View Overlook, I gazed in awe at one of the most famous and photographed viewpoints on Earth. And in Mariposa Grove, I walked among hundreds of giant sequoias, some of the oldest and largest living things on Earth, towering over me at over 200 feet tall. There’s a reason Yosemite National Park is one of the most visited of all the national parks in the U.S!

California Road Trip Itinerary Yosemite

Lake Tahoe in All its glory.

Phew! What an awesome California road trip itinerary that is! We hope our stories have inspired you to explore this dynamic region. The diversity in the Californian attractions and activities is second to none and there truly is something for everyone. And to think you can be in the happiest place on earth one day and then whale watching in another.

Where in the world could you find National Parks, Alpine Resorts, Surfing, Wine Country and Desert all in one road trip? What an adventure! Click to find out more #roadtrip Click To Tweet

To get ready for this epic California road trip, be sure to check out some of my recommendations below for accommodation, vehicles and the best outdoor gear. The itinerary is but only one part of the road trip planning process. Important to ensure you’re well equipped!

BONUS TIP #1 – Vehicle Hire: Holiday Cars.

So as part of the great Californian road trip, you’ll need a car! Or an SUV or a campervan! Like everything with travel, there are so many choices and we spend so much time finding the best option for what we need. To simplify this process, I highly recommend Holiday Cars. A one stop shop car hire portal that finds you the best deals across 800 car rental brands for more than 30.000 destinations around the world. Includes the big names like Avis, Budget, Hertz and Europcar. Don’t bother going to every single site when you find it all in one place.
Click here to check out current prices.

BONUS TIP #2 – Accommodation: Booking.com.

I still continue to use Booking.com as my number one accommodation research and booking site. And the reason I do this is because they have a book now, pay later option. This way, I can plan all my stays and only pay much, much closer to the time. As with all road trips, you just never know how things pan out so having the option to cancel my accommodation at zero cost to me, closer to the time is the perfect solution!
Click here to check out current prices.

BONUS TIP #3 – Camping & RV Deals: Camping World

For those of you doing the California road trip in an RV or you need all things camping especially when you hit the National Parks, Camping World pretty much has you covered. As an international traveller I wouldn’t be carrying everything I need so I would need to purchase a few things. Their online deals are awesome and I’d get it delivered to my first accommodation so I can load the car!
Click here to check out current deals.

BONUS TIP #4 – RELATED ARTICLES

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20 Places and Experiences to Add to Your California Road Trip Itinerary
Disclaimer: The Family Globetrotter’s website contains affiliate links which help us to maintain this blog and assists us with our travels, at no extra cost to you. Family Globetrotters have also posted articles based on sponsored products and/or services, but all opinions are our own, truthful and unbiased.

39 comments

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Amara Jones August 5, 2019 - 7:14 pm

Thanx for share such informative article, It’s really awesome.

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Byron July 13, 2019 - 6:12 am

I’ve been crawling over all the blogs on planning our next California trip – great stuff here. I wanted to visit in 2018, but the fires scared me away – here’s hoping to some fun to report back in August!

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Family Globetrotters July 13, 2019 - 9:35 am

Thanks Byron! Think it was prudent not to go during the fires. California will always be there so better to be safe than sorry. Have a wonderful road trip next month! Would love to hear about your adventures:)

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Anna July 19, 2018 - 12:14 am

wah! Such a gem. I am going to bookmark this post to use when I’m in Cali. how long did it take you to publish this detailed trip itinerary? Thanks a lot. I have been looking for something like this. Keep exploring 🙂

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Family Globetrotters August 28, 2018 - 3:55 pm

Oh it took me ages!!!! It tok a lot of collation from these wonderful travel bloggers, mapping and understanding distances and times. But I loved putting this post together. I reckon its epic!

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Ketki July 17, 2018 - 2:12 am

Lake Tahoe would top my list in California to visit, followed by so so many others. I wonder how many months it will require for me to cover all these places??

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Family Globetrotters August 28, 2018 - 3:50 pm

I would love to see Lake Tahoe in the winter and do some skiing. It would be stunning!

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Katie July 17, 2018 - 1:34 am

Great itinerary. The desert sounds so cool especially the giant rock covered in paint. This is so unusual. Deffo one for the bucket list. I will be saving this to refer back to when i go on a trip there 🙂

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Family Globetrotters August 28, 2018 - 3:47 pm

Yes, that is so cool isn’t it? It would be such a different thing ot experience and not something you can find all over the world.

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Kavita Favelle July 1, 2018 - 7:27 pm

So much to see in California. The first time I visited was with my family, and we did a roadtrip down the coastal road, which I loved. I’ve since been back to Yellowstone, Sonoma, Napa, back to SF and a few other places, but your itinerary gives me lots of options I’ve not seen yet, such as Lake Tahoe.

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Family Globetrotters August 28, 2018 - 3:46 pm

You’ve seen a lot of California! Definitely more than most anyway. Yeah, lots more to see and do. Maybe one day you can go back!

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Shaily July 1, 2018 - 8:01 am

Wow! Incredible post! I didn’t know California has so much to offer. Napa Valley looks stunning and so does the Lake Tahoe and Mendocino Coast. The view of The Golden Gate Bridge is another fascinating sight to behold. And who doesn’t want to visit the Disneyland Anaheim? Thanks for sharing this lovely post. Saving it for future – a lot of bucket list destinations. 🙂

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Family Globetrotters August 28, 2018 - 3:45 pm

That’s exactly right! So many bucket list spots along this California road trip. The west coast sure has a lot to offer! And I agree…. who wouldn’t want to visit the happiest place on earth!

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eli June 30, 2018 - 2:36 pm

Dang, I’ve only made it to 5 of these! I really need to go on another Californian road trip. There’s so many places I missed out on and I definitely have to add a lot of these to the bucket list!

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Family Globetrotters August 28, 2018 - 3:42 pm

Better get a move on! But then again, California is just so vast! Ridiculous how much there is to do.

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BaZoooooot24 June 30, 2018 - 8:43 am

The San Diego post sums of the lifestyle perfectly 😎😎

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Family Globetrotters August 28, 2018 - 3:36 pm

Awesome:) Glad that it does to give travellers a true perception of the destination!

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Valerie Wilson June 30, 2018 - 4:59 am

I live in California and haven’t been to several of these places! Thanks for making me want to visit more in my own state!

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Family Globetrotters August 28, 2018 - 3:35 pm

Yay! Lucky you that you live in California. Its crazy how much there is to do there!

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Iulia June 30, 2018 - 4:53 am

Wow! I have been road tripping California a little bit, but I haven’t gotten to half of these places :):) 🙂 this is definitely getting bookmarked for later, as I am planning another California trip soon 😛 I would love to visit or re-visit each and every one of these places. Great work with putting this together 🙂

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Family Globetrotters August 28, 2018 - 3:34 pm

Thank you! Wouldn’ it be amazing if you could visit every sot that would make for a wonderful road trip. And I find visiting a place a second time just makes you see and experience things you didn’t do the first time.

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Perri June 30, 2018 - 2:29 am

Such an awesome list of suggestions. I have visited San Francisco and loved it. Would be great to visit Palm Springs, Napa Valley and the California desert. I better get planning 🙂

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Family Globetrotters August 28, 2018 - 3:31 pm

Yup! Better get a move on! I’m quite fascinated with Palm Springs and would love to see it one day. Love that California has desert, National Parks and surf!

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Priya Florence Shah June 30, 2018 - 1:56 am

So much natural beauty. I just love Lake Tahoe. Hope I can see all of the beautiful lakes in North America someday.

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Family Globetrotters August 28, 2018 - 3:30 pm

That would be amazing if you could see all the Great Lakes! That in itself would be a trip of a lifetime!

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Yukti June 30, 2018 - 1:28 am

First of all, I am saving your post as I was looking out for detailed West Coast itinerary. Last summers I did East Coast road trip and now west coast Road trip is on my list. Visiting through scenic Lake Tahoe is high on my list. Stunning Napa Wine country is also looking worthvisiting. You have nice photographs!

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Family Globetrotters August 28, 2018 - 3:29 pm

That’s awesome Yukti! Hope you get to knock off some, if not all the pitstops! What places did you visit in your East Coast road trip? Any highlights?

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Shane June 29, 2018 - 4:12 am

It’s always been a dream of mine to do a west coast road trip! I love the diversity in options – it has me itching to go right now!

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Family Globetrotters August 28, 2018 - 3:28 pm

DO IT!!!!

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Ann June 29, 2018 - 2:30 am

The trouble with California is always that there are SO MANY amazing destinations that it’s overwhelming. This is a GREAT set of stops along a big California road trip — and very do-able in a two week trip — or to break into two shorter trips. I would love to fly to San Diego and hit all of your suggestions and having the end/culmination be in Yosemite. It would be an amazing trip —

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Family Globetrotters August 28, 2018 - 3:28 pm

California is vast! Did I hear rumours of talks of potentially splitting it into 3 states?? Doesn’t this road trip sound like a dream?

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Verena June 29, 2018 - 12:42 am

I love California and will definitely come back. Your post gives me some inspiration about places I haven’t been yet – especially Lake Tahoe!! What season would be best for visiting this region for water activities, but without the big crowd?

Btw, I also wrote a post about my roadtrip on Highway #1 – in case you are interested 🙂
https://postcardsfromv.com/most-beautiful-stops-on-highway-1/

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Family Globetrotters August 28, 2018 - 3:20 pm

The most popular time to visit Lake Tahoe is the winter for the snow season and the summer. It is fairly busy all year round but perhaps the Spring and autumn would be best.

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Valentina June 28, 2018 - 10:55 pm

So many incredible things to see and do in California, I wouldn’t know where to start! I’m a big nature lover, so I wouldn’t miss Yosemite and the stunning Lake Tahoe. Oh, and of course a pit sto in Napa Valley for some great wine tasting! 🙂

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Family Globetrotters August 28, 2018 - 3:17 pm

Hahahah! You are a girl after my own heart! That is exactly the same as my order of preference too!

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Pooja June 28, 2018 - 5:23 pm

Wow. Never knew California road trip would be so much fun. You inspire me to take this one. Lake Tahoe looks incredible.

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Family Globetrotters August 28, 2018 - 3:16 pm

I reckon of all the places on this list, Lake Tahoe would be my favourite followed by yosemite and then the wine country!

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Medha Verma June 28, 2018 - 4:54 pm

We travelled to California way back in 2012 and we did a road trip but not such an elaborate one. We only visited San Diego (I was happy to see it as the first pit stop in your post), San Francisco, Napa Valley and LA. However, I know there are so many more places that I would’ve loved to visit but could not due to the shortage in time. I especially want to visit Yosemite and Lake Tahoe so maybe I need to plan another trip 😉

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Family Globetrotters August 28, 2018 - 3:14 pm

I reckon you can only complete all of California if you have all the time in the world! Glad you did some of those pit stops though!

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