Ever since I found out I would be moving to British Columbia and buying a car, I decided I would be spending my two-week Spring Break driving down the coast of sunny California. That was back in June, so I can’t believe how close we are to departure date!
I have been to California twice before: once in high school for a weeklong field trip and once, four years ago, with a friend. On the first trip, I didn’t get to choose where we were going, and on the second one, we didn’t have a car, which limited our travels. It has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember to visit Death Valley and drive down Highway 1. Having been to most touristy California destinations, I am packing this trip with places that I loved and bucketlist items.
One of my friends is coming along and she has never been to California or to any Disney park (:O). I can’t wait to show her how beautiful California is and why Disney is so special to me. For now, we are slowly planning our trip. From the itinerary to the accommodation and, my favorite, the activities we will enjoy, without forgetting the packing and travel insurance, the whole process is exciting!
1. The itinerary
This part has been on my mind for the best part of the last 6 months. While it was easy to decide which cities and national parks I wanted to visit, our time is limited and it was hard to choose where we wouldn’t get to go. The both of us researched and compared the cities and parks we were interested in and calculated the distance and time it would take to go from one to the other. While we want to do and see as much as possible, we also want to enjoy it and not fall asleep at the wheel or on a hike. We have finally decided on hitting Napa Valley, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Disneyland, San Diego, Death Valley and Yosemite. Unfortunately, we won’t have time to visit Lake Tahoe, Palm Springs, the Mojave Preserve or the northern parts of California, which are all places I would love to visit. It will be a jam-packed trip and we won’t get to spend as much time as I would like in each place, but I am very excited about each of the things on our itinerary. I think the most important thing to do while planning your itinerary is to prioritize the places where you want to go and make sure you have enough time at each place. Also consider carefully the distances and how long you can drive without it being dangerous. Other than that, have fun with your itinerary and consider the off the beaten track destination.
2. The Accommodation
Hotels and hostels are so expensive in California. Especially with the exchange rate so low for us Canadians. In an attempt to save some money, we decided on camping on the nights where it is possible (camping locations in the middle of LA are not exactly easy to find), staying at hostels where it is worth it (sometimes it is cheaper to stay at motels than rent two beds in a hostel), stay at a nice motel once in a while to enjoy some luxury (a pool and comfy beds with more than one pillow is considered luxury :P) and stay at Airbnbs for the rest of the trip. We have made reservations for all of our destinations except for certain nights when we will be camping at State Parks where it is first come first serve. By carefully checking different websites and considering all the possibilities we managed to find places close to what we want to see and attractions we want to visit for less than 500 CA$ per person for 17 days, not bad! When choosing accommodation, it really comes down to whether you have more time or money. Selecting cheap, but still nice, accommodation and browsing different websites to check for better prices takes time, but you can save a lot of money by doing it.
3. The Insurance
Okay so my situation is a bit complicated… I am currently in my own country, but in a different province so, for the insurance companies, already on a trip. Since my “trip” has already started, most companies won’t insure me for my trip to the United States. I had to call a bunch of different companies to find one that will insure me for the whole year inside of Canada and then for my trip to California. So that was for the travel insurance. It cost me 60 CA$ in total, not so bad. (Send me a message if you want their phone number, I can give it to you no problem) Now for my car insurance… I already have insurance for my car, which is crazy expensive in BC and does cover me in the States, but I am only covered for 1 million dollars. That is enough in Canada since no one will sue you for more, but they tend to sue for a lot more than that in the United States after an accident. Because of that, I need to pay for a higher insurance. Settling everything was complicated and took a lot of time, but I am now set for a stress free trip! The main think to remember is that you need to be safe during your trip, so no matter how complicated the procedure, having an insurance can save you from being deep in debt.
4. The Car
The trip we have planned is over 5000 km. As most of you probably know, an oil change is recommended after every 6 months or 6000 km. That means I need an appointment for an oil change right before we leave and probably right after we come back as well. At the same time, a check up to make sure everything is in order is a good idea as I don’t want to stay stranded in the middle of the desert because the engine stopped. Since someone backed into my car while I was in Quebec over Christmas, I am paranoid something like that will happen right before we leave and prevent us from going. I have been parking at the complete back of the parking lots every time I go shopping and try not to park in the streets as much as possible. I am telling you, everyone must think I am insane when they see me!
5. The Luggage
Honestly, I have started packing and making lists because of how excited I am for this trip. My friend and I have decided to pack our clothes in multiple smaller bags instead of one bigger suitcase to make it easier to fit everything in my tiny car. Plus, this will allow us to only bring a small tote into our hotel rooms or tent since we are moving almost everyday, so carrying the suitcases in and out everyday would be a hassle. We are bringing a small three-people tent and our sleeping bags, as well as a cooler, so we can go grocery shopping and make our own food instead of going to the restaurant everyday. California is tricky for the clothes because they have all seasons in one state. We will be going to the beach, cities with warm weather, cities with cold weather, the desert, mountains where there is snow: that means a lot of layers and a lot of different pairs of shoes! Good thing we are not going by plane! I will be making a more detailed article of exactly what I am bringing to California as well as a packing list.
6. The Activities
Planning the activities was my all time favorite thing to do for this trip. There are some I have already done like walk on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and go to Venice Beach, but there are also a lot that I have never done like visit a vineyard in Napa and hiking in Big Sur. We did a lot of research on Pinterest and the Visit California website, we watched movies and checked the movie releases and special events happening during our trip. We have a lot of great things planned. I am sure I will have more insight on which activities are worth the visit and which you could pass, so a complete article with lots of pictures will be posted right after our trip. Stay tuned for so many articles coming at the end of March that I can’t wait to write!
Have I told you yet that I am very excited for this trip? Well I am telling you again!! After California Dreamin’ for the last 8 months, California here we coooome!! My playlist of all the California songs is ready to go, my heart shaped sunglasses are cleaned, my bikinis are packed (as well as my winter boots for Yosemite) and, in just two weeks, I will be driving down the California Coast singing along to Party in the USA!
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