Thinking of a California road trip? Not only is this one of the best road trips in America, it has to be one of the best in the world. Check out my top tips for driving the Pacific Coast Highway and make sure you get it right!
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 literally have to cross it every time you want to stop for photos. San Francisco is an ideal place to start. I would 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.
2 Be clever with your car hire.
I booked our car through Hertz and found them great. No sales pitches for extra insurance and no lengthy delays dropping the car back. You will need a sat nav, dont rely on google maps as many places there is no phone signal. The PCH is relatively easy to navigate but once you stop in cities such as LA and San Diego, a sat nav is imperative. Check the prices before you go, they can be up to $15 per day to rent. It is cheaper to buy one locally in a Walmart or similar store. If travelling with kids do the same for car seats, you will buy a booster seat for $15 – $20, instead of paying $13 per day to rent one. Make sure your car is adequately insured and finally don’t forget to create a playlist! Most rental cars have a usb port, there is nothing like driving the coast, listening to your favourite tunes!
3. If travelling with kids – be prepared.
Tablets or iPads are a godsend on a long journey. Upload movies or games before you go. I found our media share invaluable, it creates an ad-hoc wifi network of its own so the kids can watch movies at any time, in the car, in restaurants etc. Some kids tend to feel nauseous when watching tv, try sea-bands, they worked a treat with my kids. Research your stops beforehand. I was surprised at how many museums were 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. Ask your travel agent, check tripadvisor or read travel blogs for recommendations, and try to take in as much as possible. 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 home from San Diego.
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. Most people tend to choose San Diego to catch some rays and rest before flying home. Although google maps will tell you it’s a two hour drive to LAX – 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. Trust me, flying home from San Diego is a much better option. 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, particularly 3 Forks steakhouse, their aim is to serve steak that is so tender, you don’t need a knife to cut it! Get to the airport 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 🙂