Preparing our West Coast Road Trip 2018

Last year’s summer vacation was a big trip. Three weeks on the west coast of the United States, road tripping between major cities in a convertible. Even though we usually don’t want to plan everything we are going to do each day (and leave it up to what we feel like doing at the time), we did do quite a lot of preparation before going on this trip.

Driving straight through Death Valley
Driving straight through Death Valley.

That started off with deciding exactly WHEN to go. Due to circumstances at work, we were kind of forced to go a little later than we wanted to, which placed the trip in the most expensive vacation period and also during the hotter time of year in California and Nevada. We ended up going from July 19 to August 8 and paid quite a lot more for flights than you would compared to going a month or so earlier.

Next up was deciding exactly WHERE to go. I’ve been to the US west coast many times before, but Camilla has only ever been to New York. The whole point of this vacation was to show her the big cities and beautiful nature of the west side of the US, mixing the new with the familiar. I love revisiting places I’ve been before and liked, especially if you can then take someone else and show them what you think will be great to see and do. So it was pretty clear that the trip was going to include Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas and some of the national parks in the surrounding area. I was looking forward to putting together the perfect west coast road trip!

A map of the United States, showing our road trip area on the left
A map of the United States, showing our road trip area on the left.

I made many schedules in Excel, trying to squeeze in everything that seemed worthwhile and alternating between driving and staying in one location for a couple of days. I tried to include more of Utah/Arizona and even Colorado, as some of my favorite spots are there, but it became clear pretty quickly that three weeks would not be enough to cover all of it. We did end up including San Diego, as I had only been there for a short stay before and really liked it. It’s also only a relatively short drive away from Los Angeles. With those major stops decided, it was time to finalize the driving/staying schedule from day to day and including must-see things along the way.

The final road trip we planned started off in Los Angeles. After staying there for a couple of days, we would continue to Las Vegas and do the same there. We planned one extra day there, so we could take a little excursion to the Grand Canyon. From Vegas, we’d drive through Death Valley and Yosemite to some relatives of mine in San Andreas. After spending some time with them, we would leave for San Francisco and pass by Sacramento along the way. We would take the Pacific Highway down from SF, past LA and all the way down to San Diego. Here we would stay the longest, to recover from all the driving and enjoy the Californian sun at a more relaxed pace. The day before our flight home we would drive back to Los Angeles. Some of these drives were too long for one day, so we planned an overnight stay for those somewhere in the middle.

You can see a saved Map from Your Places in Google Maps above, which we used a lot to further plan out our trip. The route you see here may differ from our actual route, as roads on the route we took are sometimes closed or slower. After finding hotels for all our stops, we added all kinds of locations of interest (e.g. landmarks, national parks, restaurants, events, activities, etc.) to our West Coast Road Trip 2018 map from different sources. I added a lot from memory, Camilla from a popular Danish travel guide series called Turen Går Til (“The Trip Goes to” in Danish) and both of us from blog posts and other online resources. We also both have colleagues that provided us with additions to the map and we even had two of my American colleagues over for dinner to help us filter and prioritize the map, based on their knowledge of the area.

The final map, although sorted by city area and using different icons and colors for different locations, became too dense to show off here and even for us to comfortably use during our trip. So instead, I cut everything up into different maps per city area, so we could more easily focus on just what was around us. It’s updated versions of those maps that I’ll be sharing here together with the experience blog posts about the different parts of our trip, showing exactly what we bookmarked and what we actually ended up doing.

I also had another surprise for Camilla up my sleeve, which I’ll share with you in one of the later posts about this amazing vacation…

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *