Distributor of Ideas
Power Trip Visit California The Inertia

The Inertia assembled an intrepid cast of explorers to maximize a California Road Trip.

The Inertia

Editor’s Note: This feature is presented by our partners at Visit California.

Okay, we’ve traversed California by car a few times now with the support of our partners at Visit California, and we’ve learned a few lessons along the way. From forgetting chains on a snowboarding trip to running out of water in the desert, we learned a few lessons the hard way, so that you don’t have to.

Here are some tips that we’ve assembled after putting in a few thousand miles on the road in California: 

Mike Lynch of Imperfects prepares to surf at San Onofre State Beach

Mike Lynch breaks out a freshy (that he shaped) before hopping in the water at San Onofre. Photo: The Inertia

  • A spacious ride goes a long way. On one of our recent road trips, we were fortunate to have a friend with a sprinter van who offered to drive. It wasn’t until we started loading up all our gear that we fully realized how fortunate we were to have all that storage. Gear piles up fast, and it was a true luxury to have more than enough space to accommodate all our gear and store it safely. If you’re planning a road trip and have the option of choosing between vehicles, space and storage are king.

A beautiful birds-eye view of traffic building in Los Angeles heading eastbound on I-10.

  • Know your drive times, and plan around traffic in densely populated areas. If you don’t plan accordingly, traffic can turn an enjoyable drive into a multi-hour saga. Use tools like Google Maps for the “depart at” or “arrive by” feature while route planning.  Know when you need to get on the road to avoid high traffic areas at high traffic times.
  • Pay attention to the calendar. Know which days will be best to visit your desired locations. Campgrounds tend to book up fast on the weekends. City traffic tends to be worse on weekdays. Good restaurants are more likely to fill up on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday as opposed to earlier in the week. You get where we’re going with this… think through your plan in advance and see where you can optimize. You might save a few dollars on a weekday vs. weekend rate, or get that coveted prime-time dinner reservation.  

Snowfall in the mountains leads to fun on the slopes, but potential treachery on the mountain roads.

  • If you’re going to the mountains, bring chains. Especially if your vehicle is two-wheel drive. Yeah, this should theoretically be a ‘duh’. But, hey, we forgot ‘em, and we paid the price. Half the crew never made it to the slopes. But what’s the old saying? No friends on a powder day… 
the pelican dayventure backpack cooler full of tall cans

Cold beverages on hand make the open road more enjoyable.

  • Bring a cooler. Pack snacks and water. It’s obvious, but while on a road trip you spend a decent amount of time on the road. You’ll get hungry. Your friends and family will get thirsty… pack a cooler. Keep everyone from getting hangry, and save yourselves from frequent pit-stops and a few bucks from convenient store prices. 
  • Pack layers and good footwear. California has a diverse climate.  You can go from swim trunks and flip-flops to a down parka and snow boots with a two-hour drive. Pack a few layers and some footwear so you’re ready for whatever nature throws at you. 
  • Have a contingency plan. The Golden State is fortunate to experience over 280 days of sunshine annually. Statistically, your odds of great weather are favorable. With that said, weather has its own agenda.  Build contingency plans throughout your trip. Sometimes your contingency plan can be no plan… be whimsical, you’re on a road trip!


Only the best. We promise.


Join our community of contributors.