Planning a California road trip? Check out my top tips for driving the Pacific Coast Highway and make sure you get it right!
Driving the California Coast is one of the world’s most iconic road trips, and it is important you take your time to explore it properly. Many try to combine Yosemite, Napa Valley and even Arizona into this trip, but I highly recommend you don’t. Each city and region deserves time to appreciate it, and you will want to spend some time relaxing on the beach at the end. My top tips for driving the Pacific Coast Highway will help you make the most of this amazing road trip.
1. Drive North to South.
To make the most of the sea views, drive North to South. Otherwise you will be on the wrong side of the road and have to cross it every time you want to stop for photos. San Francisco is an ideal place to start.
2 Be clever with your car hire.
I suggest that you take a transfer from the airport and wait until you are leaving to collect your hire car. You don’t need to have a car in San Francisco and parking charges are exorbitant.
Make sure you book a car for collection ‘downtown’ so you don’t have to taxi back to the airport. If travelling with kids, check the prices of booster seats before you pay for them. It might be cheaper to pick one up in a local Wallmart than pay the daily rate.
3. If travelling with kids – be prepared.
Tablets or iPads are a godsend on a long journey so upload movies or games before you go. Some kids tend to feel nauseous when watching tv, try sea-bands, they worked a treat with my kids.
Research your stops beforehand. As well as multiple theme parks near LA and San Diego, there are plenty of great museums and attractions that are child friendly.
Alcatraz, Hearst Castle, the California Science centre and the USS Midway museum, were all suitable for kids. Ask at the information centre for children’s guide books, many offer a treasure hunt system where kids have to find answers to questions and receive a prize upon completion.
My two particularly loved the junior rangers badges they got on Alcatraz and climbing onto airplanes and helicopters at Midway.
4. Plan your stops carefully.
When driving the PCH, the journey is the destination so make sure you allow plenty of time to see it. The speed limit is 55 miles per hour on most of the journey – and people stick to it. You will also want to stop for photos so allow at least two hours per 100 mile journey.
Try to plan your itinerary as much as possible and use your valuable lunch times to stop in the ‘right’ places along the way. I almost missed places like Hearst Castle ( below) which was well worth a visit. For information on my favourite stops, read my blog here.
5. Fly Direct, or if this is not possible, fly home from San Diego not LAX.
Plan your route before you book your flights, it doesn’t have to be exact but at least plan where you will spend the last few days. I always recommend using direct flights if possible, but if the price is too expensive, or there are no direct flights from your location, then fly home from San Diego if you are spending your last few days there.
Google maps will tell you it’s a two hour drive to LAX from San Diego – its not! Well maybe it is at 5am, but for the most part of the day there is traffic, and it can take up to four hours, allowing for one or two wrong turns! The last thing you need on your last day is the stress of thinking you might miss your flight. Flying home from San Diego might be a better option if you are staying there.
If this isn’t possible, make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to get to LAX. There are some great restaurants in the airport, so get there early and enjoy a nice meal before you board.
These are my top tips, have you any more to add? I would love to hear them, please comment below 🙂