Planning for a Californian road trip…

Matt and I are jumping on a flight tomorrow to Los Angeles for a road trip and camping adventure in California. We are looking to get back to nature with two nights in Sequoia National Park, followed by some city adventures for two nights near San Francisco on my birthday and then onto the Pacific Coast Highway for some sun and surf.  We are following the coastal road all the way back down to Los Angeles stopping off along the Big Sur on the way.

California road trip

We are very excited to be collaborating with campervan hire company Wicked.  You can’t miss their vans covered in cool artwork.  I am looking forward to reporting back about the van and the adventures we have along the way!
While researching the trip I realised that we would be in California during high season and booking campsites well in advance was a good plan as I found that the popular sites especially beach front ones were fully booked a few months ago!  Of course many sites don’t have reservations and operate on a first come first serve basis, but as we are only there for a short time I decided I would book in advance rather than worry about where we were going to stay on the day.  We have done it this way before in Australia and New Zealand though and it was easy peasy to just turn up.
We are staying in a mixture of privately owned campsites, National Parks and State Beach campgrounds.  Privately owned campsites are great for shower and laundry facilities.  National park ones are perfect for going back to basics and being at one with nature, often with limited facilities and sometimes no showers.  The bonus though is that many of them allow campfires, which I really can’t wait for.  The type of van we are using has a ‘kitchen’ in the boot so cooking outside while the sunsets will feel like such a novelty, the weather looks set to be warm and sunny too.
For reserving National Park and State beach campsites I used Reserve America and  Both are good for trip planning and show current alerts in the parks.  One thing I was surprised to learn about was a black bear warning for the campground I booked in Sequoia National Park.  Each pitch comes with a bear proof box and all food, toiletries and anything that has a scent or odour must be placed inside so as not to attract the bears!  I am slightly apprehensive and excited at the same time!  I would love to see a bear but not too close to our van!  Back to the research, Nomadic Matt has some useful blogs on road tripping in America and a good old-fashioned map and Lonely Planet guide to California have also been vital in planning this trip.
Camping essentials:
From previous camping trips abroad I have discovered a few very useful items that are easy to pack and save a bit of hassle on arrival at your destination…
Anti-bac wipes – I’m a bit of a clean freak so these are perfect for campervan cleaning and also good for cheating on the washing up!
Head torch – A very useful camping tool, especially for finding your way to the toilet in the middle of the night…
Re-sealable bags – Good for storing opened food and anything else you might need to store.
Power pack or car charger – A necessity for charging camera batteries or phones on the road.
Tea bags – Being an English girl I need a good cuppa!
Washing tablets – I hate having to spend on things like this when I’m away!
We will be covering around 1000 miles in 8 days; Check back for my adventures, photos and van stories coming very soon…if anyone has any suggestions on places to stop and things to see I’d love to hear them…


  1. Drew
    August 10, 2015

    This looks like an awesome trip. I went to college in San Luis Obispo, so I’m glad to see you’ll be passing through on your way south. Lots of good surfing at Pismo Beach. Check out Montana de Oro State Park if you have an extra two or three hours while passing though. It’s a quick drive from SLO and a beautiful park with lots of Monterey Shale to see and hiking opportunities. Valencia Peak is a quick up and back hike you can do right from the parking lot. Make sure you grab a tri-tip sandwich from Firestone’s in downtown San Luis Obispo, they’re my favorite! There is also a great hike to Bishop’s Peak in San Luis Obispo that gives you incredible views of the city and can be done in a few short hours. It looks like you have a lot of great campsites planned. Have fun in CA!!

    1. nicoladunkinson
      August 10, 2015

      Hi Drew, thanks so much for all recommendations, we are definitely up for some good hikes so your suggestions are just perfect! Tri-tip sandwich sounds awesome too! Can’t wait to get there now! 🙂

      1. Drew
        August 10, 2015

        You guys are going to have a great time! The weather is looking really nice on the 10 day forecast 🙂

  2. nicoladunkinson
    August 10, 2015

    Excellent! Being British it’s all about the good weather for us!! 🙂

  3. […] my previous blog Planning for a Californian Road Trip I mentioned how much I was looking forward to cooking on a campfire, this lived up to my […]

  4. […] my previous blog Planning for a Californian Road Trip I mentioned how much I was looking forward to cooking on a campfire, this lived up to my […]


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