I cannot believe it’s been a week since Leanne and my epic west coast road trip. I’m still basking in the glory of it all…actually, I’m clinging onto it as I don’t remember the last time a holiday left such a lasting impression on me. Would I do it again? Yes, I want to…provided Trump doesn’t win the presidential election. But seriously, I do recommend it to anyone thinking about it. In fact, don’t dwell on it – just go for it.
Here are my 10 top tips/advice for a US road trip. If you have any questions, please post them in the comments box below and I will answer them.
- Go west
The West coast is where it’s at and it’s no surprise why it’s the most popular destination for people exploring this side of America. Stunning, natural scenery that will blow your mind. Where else can you drive seamlessly through forests, deserts, mountains, cities and beaches than California?
- Planning a route
We made LA our starting and finishing point, which worked out brilliantly. There are very reasonable direct flights to LAX by Norwegian Air (from Gatwick) who have new, fuel efficient planes (the 787 Dreamliner).
- When is the best time to go?
We picked April as the temperatures were forecast for the 20s. It was the perfect climate – not too cool and not scorching. If you want to appreciate the true beauty of Yosemite, around this time is ideal as the waterfalls and streams are in full flow from the snow melting off the peaks. By August lakes and rivers will have dried up. We definitely considered ourselves lucky to see the vision below.
- Google is your best friend
Google was our key source in planning our hectic schedule with ascertaining journey times and fuel costs between destinations. We pretty much stuck to it except for dropping 2 things off the list which posed a likely risk in getting stranded in a desert with a flat tyre, 3 hours away from civilisation.
I always had this impression that motels were sleazy (!) but the ones in America are of a very high standard – spotless, spacious and with wifi. Oh and they are very cheap. When we were spending most of the time on the road, we only needed somewhere to sleep for the night. We stayed in a mixture of motels with Motel 6 being a frequent choice. You get two queen size beds in a room, a clean bathroom, TV and towels. Some of the Motel 6’s we stayed in only cost $40 each! Also parking is easier at hotels when you’re road tripping but remember, motels take cash only and on arrival. We also booked airbnb for some our stay and splashed out on a lodge in the middle of Yosemite. Only downtown in San Francisco was horribly expensive for what was essentially a flea pit (a clean one, mind but very pokey.)
- 4 Wheel drive or a Ford Mustang convertible?
The Mustang convertible is highly popular – after all, it is a mighty fine looking beast but storing luggage in one isn’t easy unless you are planning to travel light. Nonetheless we hired one for the last few days so we could enjoy the drive along the Pacific coast with the roof down (we managed to hide one suitcase in the back seats).
For the tougher routes, a Jeep was a sensible choice – great suspension (did not feel the pot holes and speed bumps) and plenty of room for luggage but the Mustang was bumpy driving downhill for the Big Sur. Swings and roundabouts!
- Go lightly
Speaking of luggage, you really don’t need to take a lot with you. With only a 20kg luggage allowance, we were forced to evaluate what we really needed. For beauty and skincare, sachets and sample sizes were a blessing, which could then be disposed of afterwards and when it came to make-up, it actually wasn’t painful to be ruthless. On most days just the basics was enough to get by on and on long days like visiting Death Valley, Joshua Tree National Park and Yosemite, we didn’t bother with a scrap of slap at all. It was liberating not to mention that dose of vitamin D made our skin glow.For clothes, it was mainly t-shirts and combats and I cannot stress how important walking boots are. They were a Godsend for me – extremely comfortable when on some days I was walked nearly 10 miles. They might not look pretty but they protected my feet in the dusty, dirty conditions. Unless you’re going to Coachella, an American road trip does not equal a fashion show.
One thing we quickly realised that in the states if you’re paying cash for gas, you have to pre-pay before you fill up. Clearly Americans have a lot of patience and understanding – can you imagine this system in place in the UK? Road rage! This means calculating how many gallons your hire car can hold to the price per gallon and rates differ. The cheapest we found was less than $3 to a gallon with the dearest being nearly $6! It’s still a lot less than the UK government ripping us off. I mean, my little MINI takes £35 for a full tank and the Jeep we had guzzled £24 for twice the distance.
You will not go hungry because the west coast wins hands down for grub. Honestly, Miami you sucked. The finest food we had was in Carmel but San Diego (Er, Hash House A Go Go – thanks, Laura!), Long Beach and San Francisco also delivered. And don’t forget IHOP (International House of Pancakes) is pretty much everywhere – we made sure we got our pancake fix. And Cheesecake Factory too. Oh Cheesecake Factory…
- How much will all of this cost?
You’re probably thinking a trip like this is expensive – not necessarily. Two weeks set me back the same amount New York cost me for just 5 days. Granted that was in December but New York is an expensive city regardless. Don’t forget fuel is cheap in the states and as outlined above, stay in motels and airbnb booked accommodation because you are only spending the night in between driving to your chosen destinations so why pay for expensive hotels? Initially I wanted to stay in one of the Vegas hotels along the strip till I realised it cost twice as much as the apartment we booked and we barely slept in it for more than 8-9 hours over a course of 2 days.
And finally…there is no way I could have done this trip without Leanne. She researched where to go, organised the itinerary, accurately costed it up and was chief navigator too. Everything was flawless. Thank you, wifey!
Do you want to see more? Our very own hashtag #wifeywestcoast will lead to some of the hundreds of photos we took on our holiday. You can also watch my vlogs on this road trip on my YouTube channel but also don’t forget to check out Leanne’s videos, which are superb!