The Golden State makes an excellent location for a road trip, with history, natural beauty and unique cities abound. In California, you’ll experience miles of breathtaking countryside, majestic mountains and stunning coastal views while traveling from one destination to the next.
Follow our long-distance road trip tips and read through our California road trip itinerary to plan your adventure and ensure a one-of-a-kind experience.
How to Plan a Road Trip in California
Before your adventure, follow our tips for planning a road trip in California:
1. Consider Your Vehicle
No matter what state you’re road tripping in, always consider whether your vehicle can handle the drive. Make sure your car is in top working order before you put several hundred extra miles on it. If you don’t think your car can handle it or you need more seating or trunk space, rent a car before your trip so you have a reliable and comfortable way to get around.
2. Choose Your Destinations
It’s essential to choose your stops before setting out on your trip. This way, you can plan for appropriate activities within the allotted timeframe.
First, think about how long you want to be out on the road. Then, you should consider where you want to go and how long it’ll take you to get there. At each destination, plot out one or two activities that you want to do the most — the rest of the time can be for sightseeing, resting or in-the-moment fun.
3. Map Your Route
Many people who go on road trips enjoy taking scenic roads to their destinations. Before your trip, plan a route using a map so you know exactly which roads you’ll be taking. If you prefer a back road over an interstate highway, work that route into your road trip itinerary. Although it may take longer to reach your destination, you’ll appreciate more interesting views at a slower speed to take everything in.
4. Allow Spontaneity
While you’ll want to organize your destinations and map out your trip, give yourself time to explore places off the beaten path. Taking a few hours to explore a small town on your way to another location can allow you to experience a unique restaurant or a stunning national park. Spontaneity is an essential part of the road trip experience!
Where to Stay on a Road Trip
As you’re planning your trip, you’ll need to book a few nights of accommodations along the way:
Hotel: Hotels provide the comfort travelers seek, though you’ll want to look for one that meets your needs and preferences. Compared to resorts, hotels usually offer less space and fewer amenities.
Hostel: A hostel is a dorm-like living situation where you share your space and facilities with fellow travelers. While hostels are affordable and can be fun to meet new people, they aren’t ideal for large groups or those looking for a space to stretch out and unwind privately at the end of the day.
Vacation rental: A short-term rental can provide a flexible stay for your road trip where you can relax and make yourself at home. However, you’ll want to read the fine print before booking and ensure your stay doesn’t come with strict cancellation policies.
Resort: Compared to hotels, resorts provide more options for a short period. You’ll find numerous food options, relaxing pools and entertainment all in one place, such as music, comedy, casinos and more.
Tips for Packing for a Road Trip
As you plan out your routes and destinations, be sure to check out our list of long road trip essentials for an easier and more enjoyable experience:
Healthy snacks: Bring along the healthy snacks that will keep you energized throughout your trip. This way, you don’t have to stop for expensive fast food or gas station snacks.
Navigation apps and paper directions: It’s essential to have both online and offline navigation throughout your trip. You’ll want to know where you’re headed while avoiding traffic and any disruptions that could make your trip more complicated. Pack a paper map in your car if your phone or GPS dies or loses signal, and mark out gas stations along the way.
Sunglasses: Make sure you have a pair of sunglasses handy to protect your eyes from the California sun.
Car phone chargers: Come prepared with car phone chargers for your phone or GPS, so you never run out of music and navigation capabilities.
Comfortable clothes and walking shoes: Pack enough outfits for your trip and comfortable shoes for walking and driving in the car for long hours.
Playlist: Bring along a playlist with upbeat music and sing-along classics to pass the time with your loved ones.
First aid kit: A first aid kit with medication and bandages are essential for injuries or headaches experienced on the drive.
Water bottle: Pack water bottles to keep you hydrated throughout your road trip and for hiking and sightseeing stops.
The Best California Road Trip Itinerary
California road trips tend to fall into two categories — coastal and inland:
Coastal Road Trip
If you follow the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), you’ll drive through various cities, including San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. Enjoy the unique and gorgeous natural viewpoints along the coast, from beautiful beaches and coves to majestic mountains and cliffs. Visit these landmarks and cities along the way:
Orange County: Orange County is known for Disneyland, hidden coves characteristic of Laguna Beach and historical places such as San Juan Capistrano.
Big Sur: This scenic byway is bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Saint Lucia Mountains to the east. Big Sur is known worldwide for its stunning views of the coast, from impressive cliffs to a roaring sea stretching 100 miles along Highway 1.
San Francisco Bay: If you’re traveling from San Diego to San Francisco or vice versa, you’ll want to visit San Francisco Bay. Make a quick detour to visit the scenic Point Bonita Lighthouse, then drive across the Golden Gate Bridge to the giant redwood forest of Muir Woods.
Inland Road Trip
If you prefer to cut back the time spent traveling from Los Angeles to San Francisco, opt for an inland route for your road trip through central California. Make stops between the two cities to enjoy various attractions and destinations such as:
Lemoore: You’ll find a variety of entertainment and sightseeing options in the city of Lemoore, California. From Sequoia National Park and the Fresno Art Museum to zoos and luxury casinos, you won’t want to miss this area when you plan your California road trip.
Colorado and Mojave Deserts: Follow the inland route and find California’s two deserts — the Colorado and Mojave. In the Colorado Desert, you’ll find Joshua Tree National Park and Palm Springs. Traveling through the Mojave Desert brings you to Death Valley, another famous and fascinating national park.
Yosemite National Park: Plan a camping or hiking excursion at Yosemite National Park, known for its gorgeous sequoia trees, Bridalveil Fall and the granite cliffs of Half Dome and El Capitan.
Include a Stay at Tachi Palace Casino Resort in Your Road Trip Itinerary
Plan your road trip through California accordingly to enjoy the unique sights, attractions and stays. As you make your way across the Golden State, unwind at the luxurious Tachi Palace Casino Resort in Kings County. Here, you’ll find a restful stay packed with eventful activities for all to enjoy, including comedy shows, slots, live music and more!
For an unforgettable road trip experience, book your stay today.