Planning A Journey To California? Right here’s EVERYTHING You Want To Know

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Pack your baggage as a result of California is looking! If that is your first time planning a visit to California, it may be robust to resolve the place to start out. Our California journey information is designed to reply each query you’ll have in your journey planning course of!

big sur california

From deciding when to go and what to see, to how one can get round and what to pack to your California street journey, we are going to stroll you thru every step so that you simply’ll have the very best California trip doable! Let’s get starte

The place is California?

Earlier than deciding the place to go in California, you will need to have a common concept of the geographical location of the Golden State and its huge cities.

Let’s take a fast have a look at the map of California under.

Map of California


California stands on the far western finish of the USA. It meets the Pacific Ocean on the west whereas sharing borders with Arizona and Nevada to the east (Las Vegas is close by and it’s generally included on a street journey to California). 

The sunny state stretches from the Mexican border within the south for almost 900 miles (1448 km) to the state of Oregon within the north. 

Northern California (NorCal)

Within the northern a part of the state, you’ll uncover forests with redwood bushes which can be about 380 toes (115 metres) tall—in regards to the size of a soccer area! East of the redwoods is Mount Whitney, the very best peak within the 48 contiguous states and a part of the Sierra Nevada mountain vary. 

Huge cities in northern California embody Sacramento (the capital), San Francisco and San Jose. The world’s largest tech hub Silicon Valley and America’s most celebrated wine area, Napa Valley, may also be discovered right here.

Central California

The centre of the state contains Santa Cruz County within the north and all of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties within the south. The sun-kissed coast is dotted with idyllic seaside cities. One of many prettiest drives is the Huge Sur, providing memorable ocean vistas between Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea and the northern tip of San Luis Obispo County.

Southern California (SoCal)

As you journey south, you will see that the crowds. Some come to Los Angeles for Hollywood’s star energy, and a few make magic occur at Anaheim’s Disneyland Resort. Some journey east to the 25,000-square-mile Mojave Desert, whereas others spend glad days on sunny seashores in San Diego.


When is the very best time to go to California?

golf course in pebble beach via 17 mile drive

Most of California advantages from a nice Mediterranean local weather (cool, wet winters and dry summers) that makes it a preferred year-round vacationer vacation spot. Having stated that, it’s a giant and various land so the local weather varies extensively relying on the terrain (coast, inland, mountains) you’re visiting. 

The coast enjoys a light, temperate local weather, however is roofed in fog in the summertime (often June-August is the foggiest). In San Francisco, the infamous fog even has a reputation “Karl the Fog,” with a Twitter and Instagram account!

Karl the fog california

Farther inland, count on excessive temperatures, colder winters and warmer summers. Dying Valley, one of many hottest locations on Earth, will get extraordinarily sizzling and dry in the summertime, working above 120℉ (49℃) within the shade throughout daytime! Snowfall is often seen within the northern mountainous space similar to Mt. Shasta and Lake Tahoe throughout winter months from December to February. 

california desert landscape

Most of California, although, is marked by solely two distinct seasons: a wet season and a dry season. The wet season runs from October to April in northern California and from November to March or April in southern California.

So once you plan a California journey, our greatest suggestion is to go to in the course of the shoulder season (April-Could, Sept-Oct), when you’ll be able to make the most of delicate temperatures, sunny days and fewer crowds.


What number of days do you have to spend in California?

Now that you simply’ve determined when to return to California, the subsequent query is how lengthy do you have to keep? California is big – do you know that it takes over 12 hours to drive from northern California to southern California with out site visitors and or any stops?

And there’s a lot to see and do in between! You actually may spend months right here if you wish to discover each single vacation spot within the State. However sadly not all of us have the posh to take months-long holidays.

Relying on what you need to see and the place you’re coming from, your California trip may simply be as brief as a weekend for a metropolis getaway to San Francisco, Los Angeles, or San Diego. Or, if you wish to see somewhat extra, take into account 1-2 weeks for a coastal street journey to California alongside the Pacific Coast Freeway. Even higher, mix city exploration with out of doors journey to get the very best of each worlds, which you’ll swing in 7 days.

To get probably the most out of the state, we’d advocate planning a visit to California that lasts at the least two weeks.


The place do you have to go when visiting California for the primary time?

Our recommendation to first time guests to California is to start out your journey in one of many huge cities with main airports—San Francisco, Los Angeles, or San Diego. 

Comfort performs a key position as these cities are simply accessible by air, which is essential for worldwide travellers. They’re additionally full of pleasure and have sufficient selection to maintain you entertained, irrespective of your pursuits. Lastly, you’ll be able to simply get round with out renting a automotive.

Right here’s what you’ll be able to count on in every of the metropolitan cities in California:

  • San Francisco: The hilly metropolis boasts jaw-dropping ocean views, world-class delicacies, hip cafes, and vibrant Victorian fashion homes. We like it for its laid again tradition and the way it maintains a stability of historical past and modernity. Town is huge but manageable for exploration for first-time travellers. Doubtlessly, Golden Gate Bridge is the highest attraction in SF and we by no means get bored taking a look at it!
Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco California
  • Los Angeles: Residence to the Hollywood signal, the town is the leisure capital of the world. Simply as you noticed within the film La La Land, that is the place individuals who want to make a reputation for themselves in present enterprise come to understand their dream. You may get behind-the-scenes seems into the world of filmmaking and tv broadcasting at studios like Paramount Photos Studios and Warner Bros. Studio. Those that love action-packed leisure ought to look into spending a day or two in Common Studios Hollywood or Disneyland in Anaheim! 
hollywood los angeles california
  • San Diego: There are various causes to go to San Diego, however with 70 miles (112 km) of shoreline, the southern metropolis provides a number of the most lovely seashores within the nation! And the nice and cozy local weather makes it an interesting vacation spot for seaside actions like browsing, paddle boarding, swimming, and boating.
san diego city skyline california

Every metropolis has its personal enchantment and is so completely different from the others. The best plan is to decide on one of many 3 cities as your start line, keep there for 2-3 days, then add some close by locations talked about under to your California street journey itinerary.


What different locations do you have to embody when planning a California street journey?

California has a wealth of pure magnificence – from large redwoods and snow-capped mountains to expansive deserts, and idyllic seashores. Listed here are the very best locations value exploring in California:

Northern California

  • Redwood Nationwide and State Parks: contains one nationwide park (Redwood) and three state parks (Del Norte Coast, Jedediah Smith, and Prairie Creek). It’s residence to the tallest bushes on earth!
  • Lake Tahoe: the second deepest lake within the USA. It sits between California and Nevada.
  • Sonoma & Napa Valleys: These two valleys have over 30 various rising areas, producing a number of the nation’s – and the world’s – most celebrated wines. When planning a visit to Napa Valley, our recommendation is to plan your tastings, particularly on the well-known wineries, in the course of the week to keep away from huge crowds.

Central California

  • Monterey Bay: a hotspot for wildlife viewing. Sea lions, seals, otters, and whales can usually be noticed by the coast. 17-Mile Drive is a must-see. Should you’re staying in a single day, we recommend reserving your lodging at Carmel-by-the-Sea, an enthralling fairytale village close by!
  • Huge Sur: a rocky stretch of shoreline alongside the Pacific Coast Freeway between Carmel Highlands and San Simeon. One can find loads of climbing alternatives and exquisite photograph spots (Bixby Bridge, Pfeiffer Seaside) alongside the best way. 
  • San Luis Obispo (SLO): A sleepy city alongside Huge Sur. In contrast to the bustling scene at Santa Monica, the historic city has a laid-back appeal stuffed with historic structure, eclectic retailers and hip eateries. 
  • Yosemite Nationwide Park: probably the most well-known and standard nationwide parks within the US. It’s best recognized for its gigantic granite domes and cliffs, large sequoia, and towering waterfalls
  • Dying Valley Nationwide Park: lies within the Mojave Desert and is the house to barren Badwater Basin, which is the bottom level in North America, in addition to the Furnace Creek – one of many hottest locations on Earth.

Southern California

  • Joshua Tree Nationwide Park: It’s a deal with to discover its dramatic geography. The odd-shaped Joshua Bushes make for unbelievable photographs!
  • Palm Springs: a desert oasis metropolis recognized for its mid-Twentieth century trendy structure. An ideal place to play golf, loosen up and revel in spas!


Tips on how to get round California?

delta plane in the air

By air: Save time by hopping on a flight! 

Three main airports service northern California: San Francisco Worldwide Airport (SFO), San Jose Worldwide Airport (SJO), and Sacramento Worldwide Airport (SMF) within the Central Valley. 

In Southern California, main airports are Los Angeles Worldwide Airport (LAX) and San Diego Worldwide Airport (SAN).

Quite a few smaller regional airports are scattered all through the state serviced by home carriers. For instance, Avelo, JetBlue and Southwest all have complete networks of California flights.

amtrak california train by the coast

By practice: Take a scenic practice experience on Amtrak

The rail service not solely operates long-distance trains that join the state with different components of the USA, but in addition run regional trains and connecting buses to greater than 150 locations throughout the Golden State! On a rail journey, you’ll be able to simply discover prime cities similar to San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Francisco and Sacramento, journey by nationwide parks like Yosemite, and escape to seashores like Malibu!

uber driver google maps

By taxis and ride-hailing companies: Uber and Lyft supply companies all through the state. You may get an estimate right here for Uber and right here for Lyft.

road trip california car travel

By automotive: For the utmost comfort and adaptability, lease a automotive! Nonetheless automotive rental  comes with some hassles similar to parking. Is that this a very good choice for you? Carry on studying within the subsequent part.


Do you want a automotive in California? In that case, how do you lease a automotive in California?

Huge cities in California have an intensive public transportation community. In San Francisco, for instance, you need to use the Muni system, the town’s community of buses, subways, streetcars and cable vehicles, to discover all corners of the town. Equally, Los Angeles is well-connected by L.A. Metro by way of bus, rail and bike, and San Diego’s MTS operates a dependable bus and trolley system within the area.

los angeles metro station

You possibly can simply get by with no automotive in huge cities. In actual fact, it’s simpler to discover with out the automotive as a result of discovering parking within the cities is a nightmare!

Nonetheless, if you wish to discover outdoors the town boundary, go to the nationwide parks, or drive the well-known Pacific Coast Freeway, then you definitely completely want a automotive. 

You’ll find automotive rental firms like Hertz, Avis and Nationwide, stationed at main airports or within the downtown core of a metropolis. 

Examine costs and discover the very best automotive rental offers on!

Most automotive rental firms require you to choose up and return at their storefront. Should you want to have the rental automotive delivered to you, take into account Kyte! We fell in love with this service as a result of its hassle-free operation saved us a lot time!

driving car in california

What do you have to lease a automotive?

To lease a car, you’ll sometimes should be at the least 25 years previous, maintain a legitimate driver’s license, and have a significant bank card.

For out-of-the-country guests, an Worldwide Driving Allow (IDP) is required in case your license doesn’t have a photograph or isn’t written in English. Make certain to hold your property license along with the IDP.

Moreover, California legislation requires legal responsibility insurance coverage for all autos. Verify your auto insurance coverage coverage again residence or your bank card’s journey insurance coverage coverage to see when you’re already lined. If not, there’s often an choice to pay $10 to $30 per day for an insurance coverage bundle on the automotive rental place.


What’s parking like in California?

Parking is often plentiful and free in small cities and rural areas, however usually scarce and costly in cities. Downtown and resort parking garages in San Francisco and LA could be expensive, starting from $30 to $50 per day.

When parking on the road, take note of the restrictions (e.g. street-cleaning hours, permit-only residential areas) and coloured curbs, or chances are you’ll be ticketed and towed. In Carmel, we have been careless with road parking, missed the pink curb marking, and ended up having to pay a $50 positive! 


The place to remain in California?

Metropolis breaks

California cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, and San Jose want little introduction. There’s a large vary of lodging choices out there to satisfy your price range and wishes. 

Discover the very best resort offers for:
Los Angeles on Agoda // Expedia
San Francisco on Agoda // Expedia
San Diego on Agoda // Expedia
San Jose on Agoda // Expedia

Seaside holidays

Away from the town lights, California guarantees spectacular shoreline, dotted with stylish seaside cities, very good surf spots and huge stretches of wilderness.

Should you’re planning a coastal street journey, we extremely advocate reserving an evening or two at a comfy AirBNB or stylish seaside property in Carmel-by-the-Sea, Santa Barbara, Malibu, or Laguna Seaside.

You possibly can delight in that Californian sunshine and admire the rugged seashore. Monterey is a well known vacation spot; nonetheless, this can be very touristy so we advocate staying in Carmel as a substitute for extra privateness.

Mountain escapes

For the final word mountainous escape, break up your itinerary by lodging within the huge Yosemite Nationwide Park, Dying Valley Nationwide Park or the Sequoia Nationwide Forest.

Palm Springs, alternatively, provides a retro gateway to the wonders of the Sonoran Desert — and boasts sizzling springs, fashionable accommodations, and spas. Alternatively, look into the ski accommodations and resorts round Lake Tahoe when you take pleasure in cooler climates. 


Wine lovers would take pleasure in a visit to the wine areas. Napa, Calistoga, and St Helena are good locations to start out. For a quieter and extra secluded expertise, chances are you’ll need to take a look at quaint cities close by like Glen Ellen. Severe foodies wouldn’t need to miss Healdsburg or Yountville, which has extra Michelin stars than another city within the USA!!

Professional tip: To get the very best offers on lodging, make your bookings upfront, particularly when you’re visiting in the course of the busier months. We use TripAdvisor to match pricings throughout resort web sites and third social gathering reserving platforms, then resolve the place to e book primarily based on the costs.


What to eat in California?

in-n-out burger california

Many individuals affiliate In-N-Out burgers with California. It’s true that the chain began within the Los Angeles suburb of Baldwin Park, however what precisely is Californian delicacies? 

The kind of dishes you’ll discover in California focuses on contemporary, easy preparation and the usage of native and sustainable substances. You can even look forward to finding meals that’s inventive, fusion, and health-conscious (assume acai bowls and avocado toast).

With 89 Michelin star eating places in California (as of 2022), the world’s finest eating places are at your fingertips – probably the most within the nation! You’ll definitely don’t have any shortages of high-quality eating places to strive when you fancy a memorable eating expertise. Simply make sure you safe a desk properly upfront!

Lazy Bear San Francisco Michelin Star Restaurant

Within the southern area, the exceptionally wealthy Mexican tradition offers rise to Mexican-inspired delicacies (aka Cal-Mex), because of the large Mexican inhabitants! In distinction to Tex-Mex which is essentially beef and pork, Cal-Mex makes use of extra rooster and seafood. It additionally tastes lighter, not as spicy and extra delicate, in comparison with the bolder, spicier flavours in Tex-Mex dishes. Alberto’s Mexican Meals is a well-liked chain in SoCal – it’s inexpensive, genuine, and its carne asada fries are to-die-for!

mexican street food tacos


How a lot would a week-long California street journey price?

Planning a street journey to California and questioning how a lot a 7-day journey will price? It will depend on what kind of journey you need to expertise, what sort of traveller you’re and what experiences you need to take pleasure in.

We all the time plan our journey round meals and don’t thoughts paying somewhat extra for good eating places and distinctive boutique accommodations so our price range displays that. However there are many selections for cheaper meals and lodging if you’re working with a small price range. 

Listed here are some common pointers that can assist you ballpark the price of your journey:

Lodging: This can in all probability be the most costly a part of your price range. For many metropolis stays, when you select to remain in a mid-range resort you’ll be able to count on to pay at the least $200-400 per night time. For luxurious lodging, it ranges between $500-800 per night time relying on the season and placement. Prices will likely be decrease for extra distant locations.

Rental automotive and gasoline: Rental automotive is crucial for a California street journey, and gasoline is one thing you received’t need to overlook when planning your trip price range! The typical price to lease a automotive in California is roughly $170 per day. A gasoline estimator like GasBuddy is helpful in providing you with a tough estimate of how a lot your journey will price.

Meals: You possibly can eat at cheaper locations or splurge on costlier choices. We might price range round $50-$70 per individual per day for consuming out at mid-level locations (not together with drinks and ideas).

Actions and leisure: Issue within the excursions you propose to go on throughout your journey. Do you propose to lease a kayak? Are you going for a wine tasting? Are you becoming a member of a whale watching tour? Are you spending a day at Common Studio? 

For a cushty price range, we’d recommend beginning with at the least $250-300 per individual per day. That is with two individuals sharing lodging and a rental automotive. You’ll then consider further prices for excursions and actions you propose to take. 


What practicalities do you have to watch out for in California?

Make be aware of those few issues previous to visiting California:

Electrical energy

Electrical voltage within the USA is 120v, with energy plugs of Sort A & B (two pin or three pin). 

Should you’re coming from a lot of the remainder of the world, together with Europe, the UK or Asia, you’ll undoubtedly want a journey adaptor. 

Most electronics like laptops and cellphone chargers settle for a common voltage whereas larger energy units like hair dryers don’t. Nonetheless, it’s all the time a very good observe to test in case your tools or units assist the 120v provide.

Web Entry

You’ll find free WiFi at most accommodations, cafes, and eating places. 

Should you want fixed entry to the web, we advocate shopping for a journey SIM, both within the type of a bodily SIM or an eSIM. Please be aware that this can require your cellphone to be unlocked. We now have personally tried TravelSim and KnowRoaming earlier than, each present eSIM service. Between the 2, KnowRoaming has extra inexpensive plans.


Faucet water is usually secure to drink in California. Just about any restaurant or bar will serve faucet water free of charge, although you would possibly must particularly ask for it. 

Automobile security

Automobile break-ins are an enormous concern in California, particularly in huge cities like San Francisco. One piece of recommendation that each Californian would offer you is to by no means go away issues in your automotive–not even your cellphone cable!


What paperwork do you have to journey to California?

For travellers coming from outdoors the USA, you’ll want to arrange the next paperwork earlier than you journey to California:

  • A sound passport for six months ranging from the day of the arrival;
  • A customer visa or ESTA to get into the USA (Canadians don’t require both to enter USA);
  • Proof of vaccination;
  • A world driving license when you plan on driving in California;
  • A bank card;
  • A journey insurance coverage that covers each medical emergencies in addition to journey cancellation and interruption. That is optionally available and all the time good to have as you by no means know what may occur.


What to pack to your street journey to California?

Listed here are some necessities to pack to your journey:

  • eSIM: we’ve personally used KnowRoaming (primarily based in Canada) for its eSIM service and it labored easily for our journey. 
  • Water bottle
  • Sunscreen
  • Sun shades
  • Waterproof rain jacket
  • Digicam: take into account a compact, light-weight digicam like GoPro for out of doors adventures

For extra particulars, take a look at our complete California packing listing.


What souvenirs to convey again from California?

Wish to convey a bit of California again with you? Listed here are some (edible) present concepts for you!

  • Napa Valley wine
  • Sweets from See’s Candies or Ghirardelli
  • Salt water taffy
  • California olive oil: we’ve heard nice issues about Olive Crush and Olivina
  • Palo Alto Firefighters pepper sauce
  • Spices from Oaktown Spice Store



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