Everybody loves a road trip, at least in theory. Whether the word conjures up a solitary motorcycle ride, a cross-country trip with best friends, or childhood family vacations, there’s something about hitting the road that we just can’t resist. And a lot of us, when we build our own families, jump at the idea of taking our kids on a great adventure.
Download the old hit, California Dreaming, and start planning. Get the whole family involved — from where to go and what to see, to when it’s time to get out and stretch your legs. California is huge and unless you are planning on taking a 2 or 3 month trip, you can’t see and do everything. So pick a focus.Greetings from ca
Will it be beaches and coast line? With over 1000 miles of California Coast, you can choose sunny southern California beaches, California’s own Riviera along the central coast, or even farther north with towering 2000 year old trees.
How about mountains and National Parks? Focus on geology with a visit to Volcanoes and mud pots. Or start at Mt Lassen and visit different national parks all the way to Death Valley including Yosemite, Kings Canyon & the Sequoia Redwoods. Or choose pristine mountain lakes for a unique fishing adventure.
Or you can focus on the historical. Drive the El Camino Real and visit the 21 Spanish Missions. Wander Highway 49 and learn about California’s gold. You’ll want to include a side trip to San Francisco & Sacramento. Both cities were deeply involved in the gold rush. Or how about visiting California’s old forts? Start with Ft. Humboldt up in Eureka, stop at the Russian built Ft. Ross, choose from several in and around San Francisco, include Monterey – the state’s first capitol, stop at others along the way and finish with Ft. MacArthur near Los Angeles.
A new favorite — foodie road trip. With California’s exquisite vineyards, microbreweries and world famous restaurants, following the emerging “farm to fork” trend and plan your trip around gastronomical delights.
Make it all about nature. Visit California’s Redwood groves starting in the north and ending at Sequoia National Park. Make a trip around spring wildflowers or become a fall “leaf peeper.” Don’t forget about the 90+ wildlife viewing sites in California.
We haven’t even mentioned a trip focusing on theme parks, lighthouses, white water rafting, San Juan Bautista Historical Trail, farmers markets, shopping adventures, world class museums, local festivals and fairs…it’s California, the list is endless!
Start first at Camp-California.com/Discover California. Here you can find articles and links about many of the above ideas. Also check out the events list to see what may be happening during your visit.
Once you decide your route & theme make sure to visit California State & National Park websites to see what’s along the way.
Checkout recommendations and other possible events at VisitCalifornia.com and local visitor websites. These are packed with great ideas on things to see and do in and around the area you will be visiting.
Be realistic. Be generous with your timeline as you travel from A to B to C. It’s not a scavenger hunt. A family vacation means making memories together that you’ll all remember forever, and that means taking your time and enjoying every part of the trip.
Be flexible & spontaneous. If you see a billboard for some off-the-wall store or a crazy attraction, GO! Don’t get caught up in an itinerary or time schedule. Take the scenic route whenever you can. You may be surprised how different and beautiful California can be. You wouldn’t waste a trip to the Louvre by rushing past every exhibit, just to check things off your list. The same goes for your family adventure. Flexibility is necessary, and if you need to skip one monument or state park in order to go somewhere more exciting for the family as a whole, make it a family decision and go for it.
Notify your bank. Driving hundreds of miles each day, filling up with gas and buying groceries in a different town each day can be a red flag to your financial institutions. If you aren’t carrying much cash, your debit card will be important and the last thing you want to deal with is having your account frozen with no cash in the middle of nowhere. Yes, it has happened before. A quick phone call to let your bank know that you’ll be traveling will solve any potential problems.
Service Your car/RV. Your most important element of a road trip is your car or RV, which needs to be both reliable and safe. Have it serviced before leaving. Have the spare tire and brakes inspected. Spare yourself the hassle of spending a day at the mechanics. Don’t forget to service the operations in the RV as well. Make sure the frig and hot water heater are working. Fill the propane tanks. Make sure to pack potable and non-potable hoses, lanterns, tables, chairs, etc.
Consider Renting an RV. For car campers, an RV is indeed a home on wheels. Consider the convenience. Forget about repeated unpacking, just load and go! RV are equipped with a bathroom that includes a toilet, sink and shower (with hot water), and a kitchen equipped with a sink, stove, fridge and even a microwave oven. For others, renting allows you to try various types of RVs and learn from actual experience which one best suits your particular needs. It’s like taking an extended “test drive” with your family and belongings.
Have good maps, camping guides, and GPS systems. However, don’t always rely on GPS. Roads with tall pines and redwoods can block the signal altogether. Also call ahead and make sure you don’t end up on a dead end street as even the best mapping systems have flaws. Consider the route you have planned and try to drive at low traffic times or against commuter traffic. Also check out construction projects that could impact your travels. You’ll make better use of your vacation time. If you have a 40’+ motorhome check out the CalTrans information. Not all roads allow big rigs.
Make reservations if needed. Depending on the day of the week, holiday, time of season or local events you may need to make reservations. Visit individual campground websites or call ahead to make sure.
Reduce boredom – Conversation will be your number one source of entertainment, but plan for those times when boredom sets in. Car games are great for keeping family interaction going – Alphabet Game, I Spy, Count the Cows (or any other common site), License Plate Game, Scavenger Hunt or Storytelling. When those games lose their spark, make sure to have audio books & movies downloaded. Throw in some activity gear, like a soccer ball to kick at road stops, a Frisbee to throw, and a pack of cards for a game or two during breaks or lunch stops.
Shop local – Rather than stocking up on two-weeks-worth of food before you go, pack only enough for the first few days. You’ll want to have pantry items like oil, spices, coffee and dry goods on hand. For fresh ingredients, shop at local stores and farmer’s markets. One of the best parts about traveling is the regional cuisine and seasonal food. Shopping local also supports the communities in the towns that rely on tourism for their local economy.
Document your trip with pictures and words – Make sure to take plenty of pictures. And everyone should keep a journal of their experience. When you get back home, journal entries are great in personalizing your adventure’s scrapbook. Share your stories with us at [email protected]
Sign up for Capture California Adventures – Create your team and team flag, submit your photos of approved adventures and win points and prizes!
Once you get home start planning for your next California Road Trippin’ Adventure. Here are some ideas to get you started:
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Camp-California is concerned about the health and safety of our campers and adventurers. While camping and outdoor activities do offer the ability to self-isolate, we are encouraging all California residents and travelers to shelter in place until further notice. We recognize that getting outdoors is what you do best, and we will be here to reacquaint you with nature once we're cleared for adventure again!
Most private parks are open with 14-day minimums. If you are a full-time RVer looking to shelter in place, a member of the traveling medical profession, or a utility worker looking for a park please call our office and we can connect you with an appropriate location.