California Itineraries

This article includes links to TripAdvisor forum threads that contain self-drive itineraries.  Use these as a basis for fashioning your own itineraries based upon the amount of time you have, your interests, and the needs of your co-travelers.  Also, consider the weather, starting and ending points, and hours of daylight.   Some things to remember about California as you plan your visit:


  • Between October and the end of May, one of the popular Eastern Sierra routes via Tioga Pass is closed due to snow.  Crossing the Sierra

  • In Summer, Death Valley is very hot with temperatures well over 110 degrees Farenheit; take extra care driving through this area.

  • Winter does not include a lot of rain in California but there is snow in the mountains.  The popular drive along Highway 1 to the Central Coast Region known as Big Sur may have some temporary closures due to mudslides, especially late into the rainy season.  It is a always good idea to check road conditions before leaving.  CalTrans Roads


  • There is no one place that serves as a base to see Southern Californa.  (However, Anaheim -- home to Disneyland -- is about an hour's drive from Los Angeles and a 90-minute drive from San Diego so, if you had to choose a central point, Anaheim would be it).  Most locals, however, would suggest separate stays in LA, in Anaheim and in San Diego to see those areas. Major cities need at least 3-4 days at a minimum. 

  • National Parks such as Yosemite National Park need at least 2-3 days.

  • The coastal drive from SF to LA on Highway 1 / Pacific Coast Highway needs at least one overnight but 2-3 overnights would make this a more comfortable drive.

  • Please take time to read the TOP QUESTIONS in the California forum and the specific city forums.  A wealth of info on what to do, what to see, where to stay has been collected for your use! 


Visitors may see a common set of suggested places to visit as one goes through the posts  The largest cities in the State are the Southern California cities of Los Angeles and San Diego; they're followed by the Northern California cities of San Francisco and San Jose.  Thanks to the TripAdvisor regular contributors whose names are displayed in the various forum posts for their assistance. 

Around California Itineraries

These links will open up in the same webpage so you may need the back button to get back to this article.   Read these threads to glean useful information to build your itinerary.  Please do not add your questions to someone else's thread.

A trip report along the California coast that can help one plan an itinerary 

A family of 4 with teens went around the State in Summer 2014  Here is their trip report  

Family of 4 Trip report SF- Big Sur - Yosemite -- Death Valley 

LA -Vegas - Grand Canyon -- Yosemite - SF 

Three-and-a-half weeks, family w/ 3 kids, January, Brazilian visitors:

Two weeks, family w/ older teens, February, Australian visitors:  

Two weeks, family w/ 2 young kids, May, Australian visitors

Four weeks, family w/ 2 young kids, May, Australian visitors  

Two weeks, young couple, July, UK visitors

Two weeks, single traveler, August, Polish visitor:

Seventeen nights, two friends, September, UK visitors 

Two weeks, adult couple, October, Singapore visitors: 

Sixteen nights, adult couple, October, UK visitors: 

Eleven nights, single traveler, October, NZ visitor, focusing on northern half of California: 

Two weeks, couple, November, no home location: 

Two weeks, unknown group, December, US visitor:

3 week trip report and photoblog, couple, September, Canadian visitors.

3 week trip idea, late May - early November, any visitors 

Less than a week from SF to LV through YNP and the Eastern Sierras 

Three week trip around California and then Grand Canyon and Las Vegas   Sept/Oct 

A trip review and advice from a family who visited in Fall from SF to Vegas to LA and up the coast 

Advice from TA regulars on a California Winter Honeymoon

Pacific Coast or Highway 1 or Big Sur  LA to SF or vice versa Itineraries  

One week, couple, September, Canadian visitors: 

Three nights, couple, September, UK visitors:   

Trip Report -- Doing the california coast from LA to SF  in two days 


Northern California Itineraries 

SF, Monterey, Big Sur, Paso Robles, Yosemite, Sonoma:

Northern California Holiday:

Coastal Itinerary Ideas:

Mendocino, Eureka, Redwoods, Tahoe Itinerary Ideas:

Seattle to Big Sur -- A Travel Discussion:


There is more content to be found on the right side of the California Forum page

where you'll find the"Top Questions" and "Trip Ideas" areas.

Have a great time in California!