Adventures in California with Jucy Campers…

*Thanks to Jucy for helping Matt, Emily and I make this road trip possible.  Find out more at Jucy USA and follow them on social media @JUCYworld.

 

I LOVE a road trip; since Matt and I sold our campervan we’ve not had much of chance to go on van adventures. So when the opportunity popped up to plan a road trip with Jucy Campers in California we jumped at the chance.  This was our first road trip with Emily who is 21 months old, so we wanted to make sure we did it right.  The Jucy Trailblazer was the perfect size to accommodate the three of us without feeling too big.  At night, Emily slept in the main part of the van with me, while Matt slept in the penthouse. We hired a car seat from Jucy as ours did not make it out on our flight from London, it cost a very reasonable $40. We found it took a bit more organisation to camp with Emily than we had been previously used to when it was just us; but we soon got into the swing of things. Emily loved hiding up in the penthouse and really enjoyed the freedom of exploring the campgrounds we stayed at.  I love Jucy’s vans, you can’t miss the green and purple branding, it’s a real head turner. We got asked about our van by passers-by a lot, it seems it is quite an uncommon thing to see a small campervan in America. Big RVs with pop out sides towing cars are a very popular choices and made our Jucy van look like a baby in comparison! One huge positive of having a smaller vehicle is that it is perfect for navigating the small and winding national park roads as well as being able to fit into any campground or parking space you like. It might be compact but that doesn’t mean there is no space in these eye-catching beauties. Let me tell you more….
The Trailblazer sleeps four, the roof pops up to form ‘the penthouse’ and inside there is a very comfy double bed. A ladder attaches to the outside of the van for very easy access and it all zips up tight making it very cosy at night. I loved waking up in the morning, unzipping and admiring the view. If there is only two of you then sleeping up top means you can leave the rest of the van set up for ‘day use’. Downstairs the van has two bench seats with a fantastic amount of storage underneath and a table which can be stowed away too. The kitchen is in the boot and comes equipped with everything you need. Storage cupboards, two gas stoves, a chiller and a sink. Pots, pans, crockery cutlery and a bottle opener are all included. As is a duvet, pillows, blanket and towels, this is a great bonus as I’ve found in the past that this is something that not all hire companies provide free of charge.
For more tips and tricks on camping with little ones check out my blog post all about it: Road Tripping with a Baby in California.  Read on for planning, packing, the route and our favourite spots…

 

Planning a road trip in California
First things first choose a rough route, you can book campgrounds before you go or if you prefer just rock up and see if there are spaces available. During peak seasons I would definitely recommend pre-booking campgrounds as popular ones often get reserved months in advance.  Reserve California is brilliant for booking national park and state beach campgrounds.  Search in the area you want to stay in and it’ll show you all the nearby campgrounds, it has an interactive map too.  Visit California is a great website for planning and researching your road trip in California.
It’s always a good idea to check driving rules and regulations in the country you are visiting. In America they drive on the right hand side of the road and you can turn right on a red light. Also check tolls, these can be paid for online.  If you are planning on driving over the Golden Gate Bridge make sure you pay for the toll using this website: goldengate.org
I always choose campgrounds with pitches that have a fire pit, there’s nothing like cooking on a fire by the beach or keep warming on chillier nights while stargazing.
There are often ‘camp hosts’ at campgrounds, they live on site and are there to help. You can usually purchase firewood from them for your campfire too. A lot of pitches in national park and state beach campgrounds come with benches and fire pits.
I find buying all your essentials once you’ve picked up your camper is a really good idea.  Head to a supermarket for all your food supplies and firewood.  That way you know you have everything you need for your road trip without having to worry about stopping later on in your journey.
It’s a good idea to buy water and keep a supply with you as national park and state beach campgrounds don’t always have drinking water.
Be sure to fuel up well in advance of getting low. Sometimes fuel stations can be few and far between, especially in more remotes spots such as Point Reyes National Seashore.
Our Route:
Starting in Marin County we picked up our van in Oakland and dropped it off in LA.  Both collection and drop off was really straight forward.  From Oakland we drove north to Point Reyes and worked our way down the coast towards San Diego, covering over 1000 miles in 7 days. *The route we chose had to be adapted slightly due to the wildfires in California and because of part of the Big Sur being closed after a land slide last
*The Big Sur re-opened in July 2018, two months ahead of schedule, so you can now drive all the way along this epic stretch of road.
 
Point Reyes National Seashore
After picking up our camper in Oakland we headed up north to Point Reyes National Seashore and stayed in an area called Inverness. This part of California is unlike any other I’ve been to before and reminded me of the Scottish Highlands; I guess quite fitting with the name Inverness too. Inverness felt like something out of Dawson’s Creek, dreamy sunrises over water inlets with rickety old wooden piers and rolling hills in the distance. It was so very tranquil, the days were sunny, if a little chilly and in the evenings all you needed was a jacket, beanie hat and campfire to warm up. Don’t miss the Cypress Tree Tunnel, it’s a very popular spot for photos and produces a very Instagrammable image! Point Reyes Lighthouse is also a must visit, the 308 steps are well worth the climb down and back up again. The views of nothing but uninterrupted ocean are out of this world. During whale season it is the perfect place to sit and stare out to sea on the lookout for these majestic creatures.  At certain times of the day the lighthouse is open so you can have a look inside and learn a bit about its history.
The walk up to the lighthouse has incredible views of the rugged coastline, even on a foggy day you can’t not be impressed by the untouched beauty of this place. A short drive from the lighthouse near Chimney Rock elephant seals lazily snooze on the shoreline. This was on our itinerary but we completely forgot to stop there, so make sure you do!
I’d definitely wear layers on a trip here, the day started off warm but quickly changed to fog and drizzle.  We warmed up after climbing back up from the lighthouse but quickly chilled down again.
Monterey
On the way to Monterey we chose our route so we would get to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge, It was such an awesome experience to drive over this iconic structure.  We of course found somewhere to stop for photos too.  There are viewpoints either side of the bridge, we stopped at Fort Baker.  Check out Seven Places to Gaze at the Golden Gate Bridge for more locations.
Monterey is a gorgeous seaside town famous for sea lions, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Cannery Row. Take a stroll along Fisherman’s Wharf and say hello to the sea lions, spend half a day exploring the aquarium and grab some lunch on Cannery Row. The waterfront street was once home to sardine canning factories and has kept much of its old industrial charm. I loved the aquarium and taking photos on Cannery Row, although a little touristy it was nice to soak up the atmosphere.
The Big Sur
This part of Highway 1 is undeniably one of the most stunning drives I have ever done. Rugged coastline, turquoise ocean and miles of open road. This stretch of the drive is pretty remote, forest on one side and coast on the other. *It’s worth noting that part of it is currently closed due to a landslide in 2017. But don’t let this stop you from planning an adventure along the Pacific Coast Highway, it can still be done. Bixby Bridge and McWay Falls are both beautiful must sees, the whole route is just so scenic and a photographers paradise. Plaskett Creek Campground opposite Sand Dollar Beach is a wonderful camping spot. Pitches come with a bench and fire pit. The campground has basic facilities with no showers but it’s worth it to be able to wake up to amazing views and complete silence. There are a whole host of campgrounds and lodges to stop the night at as well as eateries, we loved Big Sur Roadhouse.
If you are driving from the north you can still explore a lot of it and visit the famous natural landmarks dotted along the route. It is currently closed at Ragged Point. Either turn back on yourself or take a detour along Nacimiento-Fergusson Road back onto Highway 101, although the latter may not be the safest route to choose. The road is narrow and winds up through the Santa Lucia Mountain Range. The views are stunning but it is often only wide enough for one car and with a sheer drop off the edge of the road it is definitely not a route for larger vehicles or the faint hearted! We chose to drive back on ourselves and pick up Highway 1 at Monterey.  Check this website for updates on the road closures along the Big Sur: bigsurcalifornia.org
*The Big Sur re-opened in July 2018, two months ahead of schedule, so you can now drive all the way along this epic stretch of road.
Carmel by the Sea
We briefly stopped in Carmel en route to Morro Bay. I adored this up-market seaside town, full of quirky side streets and oldy worldy homes. Clint Eastwood was once the mayor of Carmel, he also used to own the Hog’s Breath Inn, a quirky pub in the town. Don’t miss Carmel Bakery, they make delicious sandwiches and the array of cakes and sweet treats inside are to die for!
Morro Bay
We didn’t have a lot of time to explore Morro Bay as we arrived late afternoon and left early the following morning. We camped at Morro Strand State Beach Campground, overlooking the beach and Morro Rock; it’s a lovely spot. I loved getting cosy by the campfire while watching the waves roll in and waking up to the sounds of the ocean. Being able to step straight onto the beach was awesome and Emily loved hunting for sand dollars.
Carlsbad, Encinitas and Cardiff by the Sea
We spent a lot of time in the Carlsbad area as we stayed with family for Christmas while we were on our road trip. I adore the surfy town of Encinitas, every other person is a surfer and there is a brewpub on every corner. Our favourite was Bier Garden, Baja fish tacos with a beer here while watching the world go by was a real treat! Cardiff has beautiful beaches, the famous Los Olas Mexican restaurant and a campground on a bluff overlooking the ocean.  Carlsbad is a great spot for stand up paddle boarding. We picked up boards at Sun Diego surf shop, first time rental is just $2 for a board and wetsuit. It’s two blocks to the beach so you might need a couple of rest stops on the way but it’s well worth it. We spotted dolphins and seals while on our paddle boards which was amazing to see!
Lake Jennings
The campground at Lake Jennings is another of my favourites, overlooking the lake it’s a peaceful spot with gorgeous views. Around 30 minutes drive east of San Diego the lake is a great base for exploring the city. Reserve a pitch overlooking the water, get the campfire going and relax with a beer in hand.
Packing essentials for camping:
Tea bags: Always at the top of my list for camping, you can’t beat a proper British cuppa!
Torch, tea lights and fairy lights: It’s handy to have a torch to light up your camp at night or to get to the toilets when it’s pitch black. Tea lights and fairy lights are of course optional, but I love making the van and our bench look a bit shabby chic and cosy in the evenings.
Anti-bac hand wipes: Good for cleaning the ‘kitchen surfaces’ and for your hands when cooking. Also a good cheat instead of washing up!
Zip lock bags: Handy for storing open food and keeping your van tidy.
Portable charger: Good for charging your phone, although the Jucy vans have USB ports so you can easily charge on the road.
Although there is ample storage I’d definitely recommend packing as lightly as you can. A lot of privately owned campgrounds often have washing facilities so there is the option to do laundry on the road.

 

There’s nothing like a road trip in a campervan. Having the freedom to go where you like and when you want is the best. Plus being able to stop at anytime along the way with all the essentials in the back is an awesome way to have an adventure. California was made for road trips and Jucy vans are made for exploring!

 

 

Road Tripping with a Baby in California….

*Thanks to JUCY campers for helping Matt, Emily and I make this road trip possible.  Find out more at www.jucyusa.com and follow them on social media @JUCYworld.

 

Roadtripping with a baby in California…in a campervan. It might not be everyone’s idea of fun, but if you plan it right it’s the best way to explore and a fantastic way for kids to enjoy the outdoors.  We’ve done a lot of road trips over the years; our last one with JUCY was back in 2013 in Australia and New Zealand. This trip was a bit different as we now have Emily who is 20 months old. Planning involved choosing shorter drives with more stops and campgrounds with good facilities.  We chose to hire a campervan with JUCY as we had used them before and loved the compact size of their vans.
One thing that I love about JUCY is that they provide everything you could possibly need to camp very comfortably. Pillows, duvets, bed linen and towels are all included as is kitchen utensils, crockery, cutlery and the kitchen sink. Not all camper companies provide all of this. For an extra charge you can hire camping chairs, sat nav, car seats and add-on mileage packages.
The trip didn’t get off to a great start, after landing in San Francisco I received a text from our airline to say our car seat hadn’t made it on our flight. Not good for a road trip! After the initial stress we hatched a plan, rather than wait for it to arrive which would ruin the beginning of our adventure we chose to hire one with JUCY. We found a taxi company who provided car seats to get us to the Jucy branch in Oakland and on arrival explained our problem. The lovely JUCY crew were so accommodating and had so many seats to choose from. At $40 for our whole 19-day trip it was a bargain.
The JUCY Trailblazer Van:
So let me tell you more about our van. We hired the JUCY Trailblazer, its compact size is perfect for winding national park roads and means you can park up anywhere and fit into pretty much any campground you fancy. This seems to be quite a unique concept for America as it’s all about the huge RVs that are the size of buses! We loved the size of this van, it was comfortable to drive and didn’t feel too big. The Trailblazer sleeps four, two in the roof and two in the main part of the camper. Inside the two bench seats convert into a bed and in the floor there is tons of storage space plus a table for use inside the van. The roof pops up with the turn of a handle or with the push of a button and reveals the comfiest double bed with canvas sides. The kitchen is at the back in the boot and comes complete with cupboard space, a chiller, sink and two gas stoves. There is everything you need from cutlery, to pots and pans, crockery and most importantly a kettle for a cuppa and a bottle opener for beer! I should mention the campers also come with DVD players.  Emily and I slept in the main part of the van while Matt had the roof ‘penthouse’ all to himself. This set up worked well and it meant that there was plenty of space for Emily to move around in her sleep!
Useful tips and tricks:
Pick up your van and head straight to a supermarket to stock up on essentials, food, water, baby food, alcohol, (definitely an essential when camping with a toddler!) etc. We found this really useful to do before we set off, that way we knew we had all our supplies with us.
Hire a car seat or take your own, if we hadn’t needed ours for the car journey to and from the airport in the UK I would definitely have just hired it through Jucy.
Be sure to have a good supply of water with you as a lot of campgrounds, especially national park ones don’t have water on site. There are no on site stores either so it’s a good idea to take everything you’ll need with you. If you camp at a private campground that’s not owned by the National Park Service they will often have a camp shop with a few basic supplies.
We booked our campsites in advance but you can often turn up and enquire about availability. Some campgrounds only offer walk up sites while others have to be booked months in advance as they are so popular.
Be flexible, if you don’t have fixed dates, book campgrounds as you go along.  Although now we have Emily we prefer to pre-book, but it’s sometimes fun to change plans and head somewhere different. Our plans altered slightly due to the wildfires in California
I would definitely recommend getting to campgrounds early in the afternoon to get set up and organised.  On a few nights we were racing against the light and nearing Emily’s dinner time so it was sometimes a bit stressful. I struggled to get used to living with Emily in such a small space for the first few days but once we got organised and into a little routine it all worked out perfectly. She had so much fun checking out her new little home and loved exploring the penthouse.
Cooking was really easy, Emily enjoys a lot of finger food so we could whip up a little buffet style meal for her straight from the chiller or use the camping stove to heat up something warm. The kettle came in handy to boil water to heat through her bottles and she loved eating at the bench by the campfire.
We factored in our drives along our route to fit around Emily’s daily nap, which worked out really well.
Packing:
We tried to pack as minimally as we could due to space restrictions in the van, it was made a little bit harder by having to pack for colder conditions in northern California as well as for the sunnier part of our trip further down the coast.  Plenty of private campgrounds do have washing machines so if you pack lightly you should be able to find laundry facilities at some point on your trip.
Some things I couldn’t live without when camping are:
Anti-bac wipes, tea bags, washing up liquid, sponge; snacks for Emily and nappies are all on my essential packing list. I love to have a few things with me before I arrive. Knowing I’ve got tea bags for a decent cuppa is always high on my packing list!
A torch or led lights are perfect for campfire cooking and going to and from the toilet block in the middle of the night.
Zip lock bags are great for storing perishables on the road.
A portable charger for your phone is always a good thing to have. There were USB ports in our Jucy van so we were able to charge phones on the road.
Our favourite campgrounds:
Morro Strand State Beach Bay:  Right on the beach, the facilities are basic and there are no showers but it’s worth it for the views and beach access.  Pitches have a fire pit and bench. We had a pitch overlooking the beach, I loved lying in bed listening to the ocean.
Carpinteria State Beach:  A really nice, clean campsite by the beach, walking distance to a few local shops and a lovely spot for building sand castles.
Lake Jennings Campground:  Around 30 minutes east of San Diego this is a gorgeous campground overlooking the lake. Popular with fishermen it’s a quiet spot. Sites have a bench and fire pit, we chose a really lovely one with fantastic views of the water.  Don’t expect much from the toilet and shower block as it was pretty basic but they were clean and tidy.  The campground also has a play park.
A campervan is perfect for a road trip, choose your route, stop for a cuppa along the way and park up for the night at beach campground.  It’s really easy to do with a baby too, it just involves a little bit more planning and organisation.  We soon got the hang of it and enjoyed exploring at a slower pace than before we had Emily.  There’s nothing quite like having the freedom to explore in a very cool van with everything you could possibly need to have an awesome adventure!
Do you camp or go on road trips with your kids?  Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear all about your adventures…

 

Australia and New Zealand adventure…

Today is the day that Matt and I are off on a big adventure and I have just come out the other side of what I can only describe as ‘packing hell’!!  My bag is finally zipped shut, with me sitting on top of it and I am now ready to fly to Sydney tonight!  I have had to master the art of packing for all seasons, which means a bikini, Ugg boots and everything in between!  As well as attempting to pack as lightly as possible for three weeks of living in a van.  I feel quite proud that I’ve achieved what seemed like almost the impossible when I started this morning!
I can now relax and move onto our very exciting trip, I’m thrilled to announce that Matt and I are collaborating with the lovely people at Jucy, an awesome campervan company for our ‘international roadie’ where we will be spending five days in Australia and then ten on New Zealand’s South Island.  We hired a Jucy Van last year in Australia, you can check out our previous adventures here: Planning a road trip on the East Coast of Australia.
We don’t have any firm plans yet but we do have a rough outline of where we want to stop and what we want to see.  We are planning everything from surfing, to snowboarding and glacier trekking.  I’ve also heard a lot about Fergburger in New Zealand so I’m going to have to try one of those!  Skydiving may also be on the agenda too, as long as I can build up enough courage that is!
Our travel plan goes something like this:
23rd August: London – via Singapore – Sydney = 22 hours(!)
25th August: Sydney – Brisbane = Pick up our Jucy van and head to the Sunshine Coast and Glass House Mountains. (5 nights.)
31st August: Drop off our van back in Brisbane and fly to Christchurch.
1st September: Pick up Jucy van in Christchurch. (10 days.)
10th September: Say goodbye to our beloved van and fly back to Sydney.
11th September: Sydney – via Kula Lumper – Bangkok. (2 nights.)
13th Bangkok – London.
As you can see its going to be an action packed few weeks and I can’t wait to get out there, explore, get lost and find cool places!
Follow our adventures here on my blog, Instagram and Twitter.  I will also be tweeting and instagramming using #jucyworld.
If anyone has any recommendations for things to see and do on the Sunshine Coast in Australia and South Island NZ, I’d love to hear them. 🙂
See you down under!