The California road trip. Every year, millions of tourists and native Californians pack up their bags, get in their cars, and head to the Pacific Coast Highway to see some of the most beautiful sights in the world.
Now, no one can see all there is to see in California in just a week or two. In fact, it may be best to stick to just one region of California. You can go to northern California with its wineries, nature, and San Francisco, or head to southern California with its beaches and Los Angeles.
However, if you are feeling ambitious and want to see as much of the state as you can, here are some tips for how to prepare and some critical spots where you must go to for the perfect road trip.
What to do before you go: Get your car checked
It does not matter where you plan to go on your road trip — if your car is not ready for it, it is going to be a very short and unpleasant vacation. Consumer Reports has a valuable checklist of things you should inspect your car for before setting out, but always be vigilant. Even a small problem like misplaced alignment can become huge after several hours on the road.
Also, learn how to actually change a spare tire by yourself, because there are far too many people without this skill.
Where to start: San Diego
One important thing to decide for your California road trip is which roads you intend to use. If you want to see all of California quickly, then Interstate 5 would probably be your best bet. If you are interested in a more scenic route, then take the Pacific Coast Highway.
While San Diego is not on the Pacific Coast Highway, it is still a good place to start and see California’s history before heading up one of the most beautiful roads in the world.
San Diego above all is known for its beaches, but if you want to take some time to visit the interior, then there is the Old Town, where you can spend a few hours learning about the early history of California.
What to do along the way: Stop
If you’re driving from one end of California to the other, you may be tempted to have a massive stretch where you just keep driving on and on until you just can’t go anymore. But health experts recommend that you should stop every 20 to 30 minutes. Sitting for too long can dull your senses, and in the worst case, can form blood clots in your legs.
While you may not actually be able to stop this regularly on some stretches of your road trip, do at least try to stop every 2 hours and take a break. And any road trip will become easier if you can switch drivers.
Where to go: San Jose
Everyone wants to go to San Francisco, and it is a beautiful city. But it is an incredibly expensive city, and you may leave it looking at your empty wallet and wondering if it was really worth it.
If you really want to go to San Francisco, it may be better to stop by San Jose and then take a short jaunt to San Francisco from there. San Jose is the home of personal finance and banking in California, but it is also an interesting spot in its own right. If you’re interested in learning about its technology, then you can stop by the Tech Museum of Innovation. San Jose is also known for having some excellent food and shopping along Santana Row.
Where to go to really see California: National Parks
No matter where you are in California, there is almost always some national park which can show off what a beautiful state this is. If you are in the southeast, there is the Mojave National Preserve and Death Valley National Park. A bit north from there is the famous Yosemite. And if you head all the way up north, Redwood National Park is near the Oregon border.
Whether you want to see redwood trees, desert, beaches, or rivers is up to you, and you can certainly go to more than one place. If you have a California road trip where you just stick to the cities and never really walk amongst nature, you won’t have much of a road trip.
These are but a few of the many attractions you can experience on your California road trip. You may also want to check out Los Angeles itself, the Napa wine county, and the famous beaches. But no matter where you choose to go, California is a state which offers something for everyone. And while you will almost certainly miss something on your first California road trip, that is all the more reason to have another one in the future.
Featured photo credit: Rian Castillo via flickr.com