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Your fail-safe guide to planning a Californian road trip

  • Published 27 March 2019

From the rugged coastline of the Pacific Highway and the barren desert of Death Valley, to the sweeping mountains of Yosemite and the heady heights of the LA skyscrapers, the vast landscape of California is one that can only be truly experienced by car. Heading west coast in an open top Cadillac isn’t the stuff of dreams or blockbuster films anymore, with accessible highways from San Francisco right along to Los Angeles and San Diego. Or, if the neon lights of Vegas are calling your name, throw in a route via Sin City to complete the Golden Triangle, with the option to head into the desert or see the Grand Canyon as well. Freedom from a rigid itinerary and pre-arranged transfers can be bliss, but there are a few things to consider before jumping in the driver’s seat and throwing on your Ray Bans. With a team of personal travel managers on hand, we've got the tips and tricks to planning a failproof road trip across this magnificent state.

While spontaneity seems like the running theme of a road trip, don’t presume that you can leave everything to the last minute. 

1)    Road trips should never be planned on a tight time restraint and you should always take the scenic route. Many stretches of road between towns and cities will have an alternative road which takes less time, but the scenery won’t compare.

2)    Get as big a car as you’re comfortable with because you’re going to need the space, especially if you have children. Making sure you have a satnav is also a top tip although most rental cars come with one now. Oh, and don’t worry about your orientation anyway, heading off the beaten track is pretty safe around this route and you’ll struggle to get truly lost.

3)    Long amounts of driving are a given-on road trips, especially in a state two times bigger than the UK! Personal travel manager, Claire Baker said: "Always do at least a two night stay in the city or town you have arrived at if you have long drives either side. Remember, concentration can take away from the fun, so making sure you have regular breaks and longer stays along the journey is vital."

4)    Luxury is Winged Boots’ middle name and we absolutely love scouring the top properties to give you the most indulgent stays and exquisite hotels. But when it comes to hitting the open road across Cali, sometimes a feathery pillow to sink your head into is all you need for some shut-eye before the next part of the route. Alternatively, if you’re a lover of the finer things in life then make sure to book some five-star gems at the beginning and the end of the getaway – a true American road trip is really about the location, not what’s necessarily inside the hotel walls.

5)    Our top tip is to upgrade your vehicle if you can. California dreaming couldn’t be summed up any more than with a sixties roof-down Cadillac, 'Born in the USA' playing and an iced-tea in hand. Sometimes a step up to a beautiful classic car is only a few hundred pound extra, so it’s definitely worth asking your personal travel manager to see what upgrades they can score. Driving routes around the state also lend themselves with ease to a motorbike trip, so if you’re more into your Royal Enfield than Rolls Royce, we can cater to every preference.

6)    Any longer route across California is bound to weave through or skim past some stunning national parks. Yosemite and Death Valley are the well-known favourites, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. However, not all of them are open all year round so make sure to check the specific parks along your route before you travel.

7)    While spontaneity seems like the running theme of a road trip, don’t presume that you can leave everything to the last minute. If you’re thinking of heading down the highways during the peak season (June to August) then pre-booking your accommodation is advised. But don’t worry, leave it all up to our team of personal travel managers who can take your ideas and dates and make a bespoke itinerary with their expertise. 

8)    If you’re new to driving long distances and don’t fancy throwing yourself in the deep end straight away, you can always fly part of the route. For example, if you want to do the Golden Triangle, you could drive from San Francisco to San Diego then fly to Las Vegas to end your journey there. Just let us know whatever you feel most comfortable with and we can plan your method of transport around you. Remember, we can arrange for you to pick up the car from wherever suits you best in the city you’re arriving in and drop it off at the final stop.

9)    We recommend making sure you start and end your route in places where you can get about by means other than driving. That way you get either a bit of breathing time to build the excitement, or a well-earned break from the wheel to let loose. And speaking of letting loose... 

10)    It’s come to the end of your exhilarating road trip through the varied plains of Cali, and the chances are you’ve packed a lot of exploring into each and every day. After living out of a suitcase, you’ll be grateful for a few days in one place, and we recommend choosing your final destination as somewhere you can really treat yourself for a few days, whether it’s a blowout or a chill out. The glamour of Vegas or the beaches of Santa Monica are the ideal endings to your American adventure.

11)    Finally, and we hate to point out the obvious, but make sure to have fun! Road trips can be the best time of your life, creating unforgettable memories and seeing scenery you just couldn’t experience in any other way. Just make sure to pack your camera charger- you’re going to need it!

California’s collection of sun-soaked beaches, snow-capped mountains and man-made structures to marvel at provide endless amounts of wanderlust, and we’re here to make that dream a reality. Our team of personal travel experts have a wealth of experience when it comes to creating, organising and delivering bespoke itineraries, designed with just you and your travel partners in mind. Whether it’s the dizzy height of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge that lures you in, or the dramatic rocky edges of Malibu, give our team a call on 0203 816 0985 or enquire here and start planning your American road trip, and make sure to follow all our top tips!

Tagged: California
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