How About a Road Trip in California: Itinerary

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Yey!  It’s December once again, our family’s favourite time of the year.  And one December we went on what my kids refer to as an epic family Christmas road trip and what my husband says is his favourite among our family travels so far.

They said that it had all the elements of a fun, relaxing and exciting travel for the family.  There were theme parks, wildlife, museums and galleries,  movie, circus and basketball, skiing and sledding, and even shopping.

I’d like to share our itinerary with you and perhaps inspire you somehow.  So if you haven’t decided on what to do this Holidays, how about a road trip from San Diego all the way up to Tahoe, driving along the legendary Pacific Coast Highway.

Day 1 – From LA International Airport, drive south to San Diego, the starting point of the road trip.  Drop by Target to get supplies for your drive – music CDs, water, gummies, GPS, etc.  If you have time, do check out Carlsbad Premium Outlets before reaching San Diego.  We couldn’t resist the buy-one take-one Oakleys and 60%-off sports apparel.  Read more here.


Days 2 and 3 – If you only have a few days in San Diego, don’t miss SeaWorld.  They have a Christmas theme and the shows are extra special. Check out our blog and video of SeaWorld here.


With kids, you may also want to visit the San Diego Zoo to see their vast collection of animals.  Our family loves zoos and so we enjoyed spending one morning there.  Click here for the blog and video.


Do your kids like military stuff like our boys?  Then visit the USS Midway Museum, we enjoyed our time there. Click here for the blog and video of our visit there.


Days 4, 5 and 6 –   Drive up to Anaheim next and have three magical days in the happiest place on Earth. DON’T miss the Radiator Springs Racers ride in Disney California Adventure Park.  This was our favourite ride. Check out our blog and video of the ride here.

Spend two days at the Disneyland Park.  Or, split the 3rd day between Disney California Adventure Park and Disneyland Park.  It can get crowded in the park during the Christmas season, but it’s also the best time to go there.  It’s when the park is at it’s brightest, happiest and most beautiful.  So don’t hesitate, #letthemagicin. Join the crowd of happy faces. Check out our blog (1 and 2).  See how we got to maximise our time at Disney.

Days 7, 8, 9 and 10 –  Four days in Los Angeles next.  If you love cars, then a visit to the Petersen Automotive Museum is a must.  Our kids are car geeks and so Petersen was an unforgettable day for them.  Click here for details and the blog written by Benjamin, which I thoroughly enjoy reading over and over. Remember to have lunch at Farmer’s Market which is just a couple of blocks away from the museum.  And while in LA, try to catch an NBA game.  We watched a match between the LA Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks.

When you visit Universal Studios Hollywood, do the Studio Tours first and early in the morning. Don’t miss the Minions and Shrek too, they are definitely popular with families! With The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you would need two days in USH. Click here to see what we did at Universal Studios02

Allot a day to roam around Hollywood.  For us, we walked around Hollywood Boulevard, watched the premiere of the new star wars movie at the TCL Chinese Theatre, visited the space shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Centre and checked out Griffith Observatory at sunset before watching a circus show by Cirque du Soleil.  Click here for our blog about that day.

You can also do day trips out of LA, like on our fourth day where we went for a short drive with our friends to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum at Simi Valley.  We also dropped by the Getty Center to see some Monet and Van Gogh paintings before heading back to Hollywood where our accommodation was.  We were very pleased with this day, we enjoyed the small tour at Ronald Reagan and I managed to see another of Van Gogh’s masterpieces.  To end the day, we clinked our glasses at Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood BoulevardClick here to read more.



Days 11 and 12 – It’s time to embark on that legendary Pacific Coast Highway road trip.  I think 3 or even 4 days would be nice to thoroughly explore the interesting towns along the highway, but we could only afford 2 on our itinerary.  From Hollywood, make Santa Monica Pier your first stop.  We loved the lively ambiance at that pier so don’t miss this out.  Have lunch at Santa Barbara before making another stop to see the Morro Rock at Morro Bay.  If we had more time, we would have also made a stop at Solvang in Santa Ynez to see the town’s European architecture and taste its wine.  Choose Pismo Beach or Cambria for your overnight accommodation.  Ours was in Moonstone Beach in Cambria, our room overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  Click here to read more of our day 1 at the Pacific Coast Highway.04

Continue driving north, stopping at Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery to see seals in the wild.  Be cautious as you drive further north, there are roads in PCH that are narrow, there are falling rocks, Internet connection and phone signal disappear, and the roads can be extremely foggy like on the drive we had.  Anyway, remember to stop at Bixby Creek Bridge, one of the most photographed bridges in the US.  We also made a stop at Monterey Bay before reaching San Francisco.  If you have more time, consider visiting McWay Falls at Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park and Nepenthe Cafe.  They were on our itinerary but we ran out of time.   Click here to get the details of our road trip3842

Day 13 – In San Francisco, set aside some time to do shopping at the Livermore outlets.  They have premium shops there like Gucci, Prada, Hugo Boss and many others.  We did our shopping there before driving to Sacramento, where we spent the night before driving up north to Tahoe. Details here.

Days 14, 15, 16, 17 – Four glorious days in Squaw Valley, Tahoe.  Had we known it was going to be that awesome, we would have made it 5 or even 6 days.  Accommodation and skiing are pricey during the peak season but it will be worth it, especially if you stay at the gorgeous Resort at Squaw Creek. Check out our skiing, sledding, and white Christmas blog – Day1, Day2, Day3, and Day4.  You can get some tips on driving to Squaw Valley and why we choose Squaw among all the other ski destinations in Tahoe.



Day 18 – Driving back to San Francisco, make a stop at Sausalito for a nice, relaxing lunch.  You will not miss the Golden Gate Bridge on your drive south but make sure you stop before the bridge for some Instagram-worthy pictures.  Click here for tips on where to get those great shot of the bridge.08

Day 19 – Heading back to Singapore with hearts filled with gratitude for another wonderful adventure with the family.  We love California! We love road trips!30


    1. Thank you Lorelle. We are in the middle of preparing for our upcoming travel but my kids and husband kept reminding me of our California road trip and how they would love do it again. Yes Petersen was great. Pls show Benjamin’s blog to your son, I’m sure he would be able to relate to it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Wonderful family road trip! It reminds me of the road trips I used to take with my parents and sister! You saw a lot and experienced a lot! Great that you explored nature, historical places, amusement parks, and of course shopping! Great blogpost. Enjoyed reading it very much! – Neek

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Neek. I’m happy that this post reminded you of your family road trips. There’s something about the road and road trips that compel us to remember them even after so many years, and that it is our hope for our two kids. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Looks like a great time was had by everyone, I think the big smiles say it all! Love the mix of places and activities you managed to fit in. I’m curious though, do you do a lot of pre-planning or do you tend to keep it quite flexible?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Helen. I do some pre-planning esp for my food-allergic boy, also had to prebook the hotels and some activities because it was Christmas season when we went around California. I’m an itinerary kind of traveler when with our kids. Most of the time we couldn’t follow everything, if at all, but it’s alright with me. When traveling, we are quick to embrace spontaneity. It allows us to see the good in what’s available to us and we try to enjoy even when we are already literally lost. 🙂


  3. Hello Amor.

    What a gorgeous road trip. You saw many wonderful places. We made in 1994 road trip to California and Nevada. We flew to San Francisco. There made many shorter trips, like visiting Muir National Monument, Yosemite National Park, driving to Las Vegas, Los Angeles and finally back to San Francisco.

    Happy and safe travels!

    Liked by 1 person

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