Hi all! My goodness – I’m so sorry I haven’t blogged in ages, but if you follow me on social you’ll know I’ve just been on a California road trip! Yes, I travelled to the West Coast of America in a convertible for my belated honeymoon. This California road trip was incredible and I’m almost unsure where to start, or what to tell you first, so I thought I’d take you back to the beginning and break down how we planned our trip to sunny California. I’ll briefly go over each area we visited, but stand-alone blogs for each location will be coming soon.
I picked up cheap flights from Norwegian Air, who had some flights at a ridiculously low price. I am a subscriber to Jack’s Flight Club and that’s where I found the cheap deal. Now, if you don’t know Jack’s Flight Club is a subscription service where Jack and his team scope out all the hottest bargains and mispriced airfare. You get an email which says where it is and who it’s with over the various dates available. So, yes, we booked flights because of that. We hadn’t planned to head to California for our honeymoon, but it was pushing nearly 3 years since we got married, and this felt like a good spot.
Planning the trip
The biggest part was always planning the actual itinerary, where do you even start with a trip like this? We crammed so much in initially but eventually pulled a lot of things off the list because we would be exhausted. We tried to do a lot of the active stuff on the first part of the trip, then the more chilled outside towards the end. We got a lot of information from the main tourist board website actually, the place is so vast and we only had a short amount of it. Take a look at Visit California.
Obviously, with all this travelling, we needed a car! We went with a company called Alamo, that after researching reviews, looked to be a top car hire company. It has all your insurance included in it, we still took out some additional coverage at a low rate, but it’s basically all included, unlike many other car hire places that will sting you with the additional insurance. We wanted either a Mustang or a Camaro, heck, this was out ‘honeymoon’ so we needed to ride along the PCH in absolute style regardless of it being March! Just to highlight we stuck out like a sore thumb at points when the roof was down, it was hot to us, but the rest of California were in coats! The process of picking up and dropping off the car was super easy, we really miss Colin (as we named him) the Camaro. But Alamo was affordable, staff were polite and it had great customer service too.
Before we went
I took out travel insurance that covered all my tech equipment more so than anything else, always have travel insurance wherever you go, especially if you have connecting flights. We took dollars with us in cash but also had a specific travel money card to use for bigger transactions. Get your ESTA done well in advance, it lasts for two years once you get it, and if you travel into the USA again it’ll be an easier process because you’ll have been approved.
March in California from North to South is a mixture. I packed a bit of everything from jeans to shorts basically. We had rain on two days, but that was it and for those days I had a mac, jeans and trainers to keep me dry. The more south we went, of course, the warmer it got. It wasn’t ridiculously hot either, it was perfect for theme parks and spending the majority of the day outdoors.
The price of items will never include the tax, you will always need to pay the tax on top of whatever you purchase. Tipping is a big thing here, normally at home we tip but we aren’t obligated to, here, you have to tip. Luckily most receipts now have the percentages of how much extra it’ll be to your bill once you had the tip. Anyone who carries your bags in the hotel, or takes them up to your room, you will need to tip as well. We did all our own lugging about, so it didn’t happen to us but it does happen.
Uber was my best friend. Nick was driving so if we wanted to relax and have more than one we did buses there and ubers back. It was super easy and far more cost-effective than flagging down a taxi. I don’t use uber much in the UK as the town I’m from doesn’t even have uber drivers, so this was a big lesson for me at the same time.
- San Francisco
We knew we would be flying into Oakland Airport, (40 mins away from San Francisco) therefore we decided to start by doing San Francisco. We landed in the late afternoon, then it took me… 2 and a half hours to get through immigration at Oakland Airport. Luckily I was feeling like a Zombie from the flight, but I did start to lose the will to live. I had my ESTA all done beforehand, but if anything I’ve learnt is that I will pay the extra money to have a pre-entry done, I lost a lot of time we could have explored because of that hold-up. We later discovered Oakland Airport is one of the worst for immigration queues. After collecting the car we stopped over in a boutique hotel, then started the day off doing Alcatraz and riding the trolley.
Before we planned the next step after San Francisco I highlighted I’d like to head to Napa Valley due to it being a wine region, and that from my childhood holiday over there, I remember it being beautiful. Why my parents took me to a wine region when I was 9 is beyond me, perhaps the same reason they took me to Las Vegas at age 13… Thanks, parents. Anyhow, the Napa I knew wasn’t the same, it was very busy unlike those many years ago, plus there had been all the fires. I wanted some sort wine region so went to Tri-Valley area to visit Livermore where all their vineyards are. Here it was like something out of a movie set, it was so quaint and beautiful in Pleasanton, Danville and Livermore. We explored the BlackHawk Museum, sampled wine and made our own wine at Wente Vineyards, and tried some of the most delicious foods at Sabio in Pleasanton and Harvest in Danville. A very cute area that feels super safe and welcoming – a nice place to step back from the hectic atmosphere in San Francisco. I’d 100% come back here, as it almost felt like it was a holidaymaker secret.
- San Luis Obispo
From there we decided to start the journey to LA, but stopping off at San Luis Obispo aka SLO for the night so Nick could have a rest. Now, this was the first part of the trip we did a proper motel stay, and we were at Motel6! We didn’t know much about the place but there was a big university, so it was similar to where I live in Loughborough, for having a big university population. Lots of craft beer houses and music, we took in a tap house along the way. This wasn’t a place we explored as such, it was mainly just a place for us to rest before the next leg of the journey towards LA. I did, however, have a breakfast at IHOP, which had been something I was desperate for when we got there. I remember loving it when I was younger, tiny bit disappointed although had no idea what I was really expecting, none the less glad to have gone.
- Los Angeles
We started the next part of the trip driving through Malibu down to LA. We are big film fans and so we stopped off at Neptune’s Net. A seafood café that played host to films like Point Break and Fast and Furious. It was amazing and if I hadn’t of been so full from the IHOP breakfast I would eat all their squid! It smelt incredible. As we carried on towards LA we stopped off in Santa Monica to see the pier and of course, Venice Beach. We spent quite a bit of time in Venice Beach, walking up and down, and finding the amazing Venice Canals too. Finally arriving in LA, we checked into our hotel Coral Sands and headed to watch the Lakers Vs Orlando Magic game at the Staples Center. The next day it was all about exploring and seeing the sights, we went to Universal Studios Hollywood and got fast track tickets to make sure we got everything in. Disney was far too big to conquer in a day, whereas Universal was such a good balance of everything. We finished off here and took a trip up to the Griffith Observatory for the views and La La Land film spot. We finally went to legendary music hotspot, Whiskey A Go Go the night before we left. I was exhausted from this part of the trip, so I couldn’t wait for Huntington Beach.
After the hectic two days here we would go to Huntington Beach aka Surf City for two nights. This place was absolutely incredible, I cannot wait to share my video and my blogs about this place. In fact, I loved it so much I’m going to go back for the Vans US Open. We surfed, we did yoga, we indulged in the surfer culture, it was just amazing. I won’t go into too much detail but this was welcomed with open arms, and even though we were still busy, it was super chilled out here.
- San Diego
Last part was going to San Diego where we’d get an internal flight back to San Francisco before we flew back home. We only had one night here because we didn’t know how easy it was for internal flights, so we left earlier than we wanted. This place was beautiful and I prefer it over San Francisco. We had such a giggle in the bars and finding great music, even drinking cocktails from our hotel rooftop. There is perhaps less to do here than other places but it’s so pretty, it just works as a vacation stop. Then we flew back to San Francisco, had one more stop over before heading on the BART (train) to Oakland to fly home. Phew! A lot to get done in 10 days – right?
So what else can I help with, what else can I tell you?
What I’d do differently
The trip was amazing and really nice and unique to us, I’m glad we pulled things off the list because it was already really busy. I’m however also glad we didn’t try to do Disney as well as Universal because the day after Universal I was exhausted! I’d also book my internal flight from San Diego to San Francisco later on because we lost time hanging out in San Diego. California is so vast and has a completely different atmosphere in each place, even down to certain areas only driving certain cars! I seriously was spoilt as a child coming here, I’m just glad now that I’m in my thirties I’m getting to enjoy it properly.