The Ultimate Guide to California Road Trips

The Ultimate Guide to California Road Trips

I love living in California for so many reasons, but I think I am most grateful for the fact that no matter which direction you drive in, you can find yourself in a totally new landscape in a matter of only a few hours. From the beaches & the coastline to the deserts & the mountains California has one of the most diverse and wide ranges of landscapes in the country. What better way to take it all in than a scenic road trip! 

Road Tripping over the course of the pandemic has really been the only way to safely travel, and this year I road tripped more times than I could probably count. With that, I can safely say that road trips can be romanticized-- the cramping legs, the playlist on repeat, and stopping for what feels like the 100th time, we’ve all been there. That being said, road tripping is a great way to see lots of places otherwise inaccessible, while traveling on a budget. I’ve come up with some tips, tricks, and secrets to make sure your next road trip goes off without a hitch. 

Where to go: 

California has so many places you can road trip to. No matter what direction you go in, you are bound to stumble upon a new spot to explore. Coming from LA, If you want to go south, San Diego & Newport Beach are phenomenal beach towns to road trip to within a few hours. You can go inland and see Joshua Tree National Park which is one of my favorite spots in the whole state. Something about the quiet landscape and the unmatched sunsets of the desert always keep me coming back. Going north, you can stop at Ventura, Santa Barbara, or any of the beautiful places along the central coast like San Luis Obispo or Carmel. Each of these towns offer gorgeous beaches and hikes to explore. If you’re up for a little longer of a drive, Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks are sure to impress. 

What to pack: 

If you’re anything like me, it’s easy to get carried away when packing for any kind of trip, but road trips especially. One moment I’m packing my essentials and then the next I’m walking to the car with four bags on each arm. But, something to remember is that if you are road tripping, you’re sure to be near places to pick up the forgotten toothbrush, so don’t worry if you forget something! It’s also good to research your destination beforehand and check the weather so you could plan out your outfits! 

No matter where you are going, start with a packing list. Of course, this list will differ depending on where you’re going, but make sure you write out everything you think you’ll need before you even start the dreaded packing process. Chargers, emergency medicine, toothpaste, books, and even the obvious underwear and socks--  don’t leave anything out! Making a comprehensive list helps me to visualize what I will actually need, and prevents me from packing tons of miscellaneous items (like that one pair of shorts I haven’t worn and never will). It also helps me keep my clothing minimal because I always end up wearing the same thing anyway. 

Here are some random things I never regret bringing: a camera,  journal or notepad/pen, a big cozy sweatshirt and fuzzy socks, a face mask or something to pamper yourself with, body lotion, face cleanser, an empty tote bag for day trips/excursions, OTC medicine for allergies, headaches, etc.; a portable phone charger, a speaker, and art supplies. 

How to pack:

Deciding what to pack is only half the battle; the other half is the how-on-earth-do-I-fit-all-this-in-the-car battle. For this, I think a larger tote or duffle bag is good for the trunk of the car, stuffed with your non-negotiables and essentials. I prefer fabric/material bags, as opposed to hard-case luggage, for this purpose so the bag can be stuffed in the trunk or folded up if needed. 

For the car, I like having my purse on me so I can keep all my personal essentials near me-- like Airpods, my wallet, a mask, sunglasses, and my phone. Our ACTIVE Recycled Fanny Pack is perfect for road trips because it is small and compact, so it will fit easily next to you in the car, but functional so you can be strapped with everything you need literally. There’s nothing worse than digging for your Airpods in a moving car or aimlessly searching for your wallet at the gas station snack stand. The ACTIVE Fanny Pack fits and organizes everything you need so you can hop in and out of the car without the worry of leaving something behind.  

Another idea I’ve liked in the past is taking a small, compact bag, like the ACTIVE Fanny Pack, and putting it in a larger tote for the car ride. That way, you can keep bigger items, like your laptop or sweatshirt, near you, while keeping smaller items organized and in place. 

What to do:

Road Trips are fun, don’t get me wrong, but there are always those lulls on hour five that leave me wondering why I ever thought the drive was a good idea. By this point, all playlists have been exhausted and every conversation topic has been discussed. It’s in these moments that I have to reach into my toolkit of entertainment to occupy me and my fellow road-trippers. 

#1 Podcasts: Listening to a podcast is a great way to pass the time and is a nice change from music. The podcast you may choose depends on who you’re with, but here are some of my favs: Crime Junkie, The Goop Podcast, IGNTD, Ted Talk Daily, Almost 30, Press Send with Chinae Alexander, and Serial. 

#2: Games! Obviously, games are perfect for the car, and there are so many to choose from. To name a few: would you rather, truth or dare, 21 questions, I spy, and the license plate game. 

#3: Research your next destination. You can pass time in the car by organizing the next stop of your trip. My favorite things to research are restaurants, places to shop, and hikes.