In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. ~ Proverbs 3:6

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Planning Process of Our California Road Trip

I mentioned in this post, that we were going on a California road trip for our summer vacation this year.  We've been back from our trip for a couple weeks now, and we had a blast!  I didn’t take any time to blog while we were on our trip, but I will how fill you in on all of our fun as I take the next several days to share with you the details of our travels.   Today, I will share with you the planning process of the trip.  I spent hours planning for this trip (I’m talkin’ 50+ hours total) researching, mapping, and reviewing all sorts of stuff just to make sure that this trip was one of our best!  Without further ado, this series of blog posts about our California road trip shall begin……


Step 1:  The first thing we had to figure out was when we wanted to go on vacation.  Due to cooler temps in California, we figured the best time to take our road trip was going to be in the summer.  We decided to schedule our vacation around the 4th of July, lengthening our trip by adding one paid holiday to five vacation days.

Step 2:  Once we had the time of our vacation figured out, we needed to make sure we could get the necessary days off of work before any further preparation could continue.

Step 3:  Arranging a house and pet sitter was a must for us!  We ussually pay a friend or relative to stay at our house why we are gone, because putting our pets in the kennel can be really expensive and traumatic for our pets.  We had to make sure that we had someone committed to watching our house and pets before we officially booked any part of our trip.

Step 4.  Purchasing our airfare took much thought.  Naturally, I compared prices at all of the major travel websites, but there was more for me to think about than just prices.  I knew that we were going to fly into San Diego and fly out of San Francisco, and the timing of those flights was very important to me.  To be most efficient with my time, I needed an early flight into San Diego in order to take advantage of the three hour time difference.  This would allow us to arrive in San Diego between 9 and 10 in the morning (CA time), giving us a full day of sightseeing.  I also knew that I didn’t want to fly out of San Francisco too late in the day, because we were losing three hours on the way back.  I had to keep in mind that a friend was picking us up at the Indy airport, and I needed to be somewhat courteous of that fact.  In the end, we booked with Expedia. 

Step 5:  Although booking our flight came before booking our rental car, researching rental cars actually came before we booked our flight.   Before purchasing airfare, I needed an idea of how much this was going to cost and if it was even possible to pick a car up in one city and drop a car off in another city.  In the end, there was only one car rental company that met all of our needs.  Dollar Rent-A-Car was by far the cheapest company I found.  Unlike other companies, they allowed pick up and drop off of rental cars in different cities.  Even better, the company had locations at both the San Diego and San Francisco airports, and they offered shuttle service to and from the airport.

Step 6: Where to go on our trip and what to do while we were there needed to be figured out before we booked hotels. I had to come up with a basic itinerary, so I knew where we were going each day and what we were going to do throughout the day in order to know where to book hotels and where to search for the best restraunts.To do this, I compiled a list of things I knew we wanted to do, and then I worked around that.

Step 7: Experiencing California cuisine was a must for this trip. I did A LOT of research and read a ton of reviews before choosing the restaurants we went to on our trip. Some of the places we went too required reservations, so it was important that I started researching this part of the trip fairly early into the planning process. I started the research process with good ol’ Google, but Yelp also came in very handy once I had a few restraunts to choose from. I actually did this before I looked up hotels. Because dinner was at the end of the day, I needed to know where we were eating dinner in order to find a hotel in appropriate proximity to our restaurant.

Step 8:  Choosing the hotels.  Priceline Negotiator has always come in handy for our travels.  There were a few nights we used that particular website for our trip, but it was not the most efficient choice every night.  When I write a blog post for each day, I’ll further explain why we chose the sleeping arrangements that did.

Step 9: Organization is key when planning a trip like this.  Once everything important was booked and a basic itinerary was put together, I bought a large folder with several pockets.  Each day of our trip had its own pocket, and in each pocket I had the following: an itenerary for each day, printed version of any reservations (flights, cars, hotels, restaurants, etc.),  Mapquest directions for each day (in case our phones failed us) and menus and basic info from the websites of the restaurants and places we were going on our trip.

Step 10: Packing….ok, I know you’re thinking I’m crazy, but Matt and I both pre-packed for this trip a few weeks in advance.  One reason we did this was so we would know the weight of our luggage.  We wanted to avoid paying any extra baggage fees. It’s a good thing we did that too, because my suitcase was borderline the weight limit.  Another reason for pre-packing was so we would know what else we needed to buy for our trip, We knew the weather would be cooler in CA, and we wanted to make sure we had plenty of layers for each day.  Pre-packing gave us plenty of time to buy those extra things without the stress of too many last minute errands the day before our trip.

And that’s pretty much  it.  That’s how I planned and prepared for this road trip:)  Tomorrow the fun begins, as I share with you stories and photos from each day of our journey:) 


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  2. Hi! I thoroughly enjoyed reading your posts about your California road trip. You've been meticulous about documenting your trip and it was a blast reading through all your commentary. I also enjoyed reading about your planning and the rationale for where and why to spend your money. First a few observations:

    * You're right about Hollywood Blvd (Hollywood and Highland, etc). It's not interesting at all and I live in the LA area. But I do understand why people want to check it off their list. I recommend people who go there take the Red Line, the subway, so they can get in and away in the easiest way possible.

    * People are often surprised by how cold the ocean water is here. It's very simple, we get currents from Alaska so the water is cold. It's not like Florida which gets currents from the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. CA beaches are great for surfing, and maybe great for staying on the sand, but not great for getting into the water.

    * In & Out fries are... natural, that's why they are the way they are.

    * Those yurts seemed really cool! If we had known about them, or if they were available, we might have stayed there. We ended up staying at a place called the Yosemite Bug Hostel. The name might not be appealing but it is actually a very nice place to stay.

    * Ah Yosemite. The view you didn't know the name of is called Tunnel View. It makes sense, right? (For those who don't know, it's the viewpoint right after exiting a tunnel). The Mist trail to the Vernal Fall foot bridge is not that steep... and I thought my wife and I were wimps! :) In full disclosure, we tried to walk that segment at a brisk pace and were nearly exhausted at the bridge. But that was because of our pace. We ended up hiking to the top of Vernal Falls and even to the top of Nevada Falls.

    * Absolutely crazy hearing about your cliff-side driving adventures and hot air balloon tree landings. Makes for great memories though! (and great blog posts).

    A large part of the reason I enjoyed reading about your trip so much is that my wife and I did a California road trip of our own that summer. We also kept a travelogue about it (ours is at and we also have breakdowns on what we spent for lodging, gas, etc. I gotta say though, I'm amazed you even jotted down your daily itinerary as well. Even we didn't get that detailed.

    Anyways, thanks for taking the time to blog about your travels and best of luck on your other travel goals in the coming years!

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