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Driving around CA - good idea / bad idea???

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3 reviews
Driving around CA - good idea / bad idea???

Hi.....i'm planning a shortish trip to CA next month, flying into LAX and heading down to Santa Barbara from there. Ill be in that neck if the woods for about 10/12 days and want to pack in as much as possible - would look to see vegas and San fran - can anyone suggest a good Itinerary??? i quite like the idea of a road trip and hiring a car - but i'm not sure how far away all these places are - it looks tiny on a map!!!!!

would i be mad planning to drive it all?? i'm flying back home from LAX...

thanks a mill - i appriciate any help or tips you have!!!;)


San Jose
Destination Expert
for California
Level Contributor
11,343 posts
82 reviews
1. Re: Driving around CA - good idea / bad idea???

A good way to get an idea of drive times is to use Mapquest, Yahoo Maps, etc. Then decide how much driving you are comfortable with. Distances are definitely not tiny. Also, do you want to move every day or are you interested in spending multiple nights in each location - that will also help determine how many destinations you can reasonably fit into your time frame.

Renting a car is the best way to go as public transportation between cities isn't great and you miss most of the scenic parts using public transportation anyway.

Orange County
Level Contributor
98 posts
35 reviews
2. Re: Driving around CA - good idea / bad idea???

If you have honed your driving skills on the Emerald Island, then you will have absolutely no problem making your way on the California roadway system.

Driving from LA to SF is around 6 hours via Interstate 5, a relatively straight, inland shot with virtually no scenery. Using Interstate 101, it will take about 8 hours or so. And then, I would recommend staying in any number of the coastal towns (e.g., Santa Barbara, Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, etc.) along the way. The California central coast is very special ranging from vineyards and coastal plains dotted with oak trees in the south (Santa Barbara) to coastal redwood forests to the north (Big Sur). You may have read about our wildfire epidemic, but according to experts the Big Sur fires should be under control by the end of July.

If you are interested in Vegas, it is about a 5 to 6 hour drive from LA. You may want to consider flying on a local airline (e.g., Southwest). The costs difference between flying and driving will not be very much. Also, August is a very warm (ok, very hot) time of year to be driving through the desert between LA and Vegas.

Sorry to be so general, but there is so much to do in LA and SF, and between on the Central Coast, I really don't know where to start. Perhaps if you could provide some thoughts on what you like to do, number in traveling party, things that you would like to see, etc.

Santa Clara...
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27 posts
22 reviews
3. Re: Driving around CA - good idea / bad idea???

Like Kelpfighter suggested, what would you like to do - Wine tasting, sightseeing, food tasting, hiking, etc. Driving between LA and SF you can hit all of the categories mentioned. Right now there's forest fire between SF & LA especially in and around Big Sur.

It's the same for between LA and Las Vegas (LV). What would like to do and how many days do you have? It would be best to fly to LV and then rent a car. That way you can drive south to see Grand Canyon as well as spending your money on the slots in LV.

Do reply and let us how you want to spend your days and most likely we'll be able to give you more recommendations. Mine would be to go wine tasting in the Central Coast. It's so fun.

I hope this helps...

4. Re: Driving around CA - good idea / bad idea???

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