Here’s some of my travel prep tips including planning itineraries, booking flights and hotels, and a list of trip essentials, that I used to plan for my trip to San Francisco, Pacific Coast Highway Drive, and Los Angeles.
Sources for Places To Go
I always do basic searches for the most popular spots to hit up aka tourist spots.
- TripAdvisor – This is usually one of the first websites I go to. I really like checking out the different day itineraries that users put together plus they have descriptions, locations, prices, and how long the activity would take.
- Literally googling “Best things to do in (INSERT CITY HERE)” or “Top things to do in (INSERT CITY HERE)” or some kind of iteration of those.
- Yelp – I’m a huge yelper, but usually it is when I get to my destination that I’ll start resulting to Yelp. But if you know the area you’re going to be in, doesn’t hurt to look.
- Friends, Family, Coworkers, Friendly Strangers – Luckily, I had a few friends who were familiar with SF/LA to give me a few recommendations. Also, I even met a guy named Osama at a magazine launch event who was from SF and he gave me some sweet recommendations. Most people love to travel and that’s definitely an ice breaker/good conversation starter for people you don’t really know.
I went on my trip in the beginning of August but bought my plane tickets end of April (so about 4 months before my trip). I did different searches (one ways, multi-city) and found that it ended up being cheaper doing two different airlines with one ways. I bought Virgin’s Friday 7:30am – 10:30am from JFK -> SFO for $259 and Delta’s Saturday 11:05pm – 7:28am LAX -> JFK for $271, to bring me to a total of $530 per person. There are better deals out there I’m sure, but this was decent enough, especially since I didn’t have much flexibility with the timing. But I knew I wanted to get in early and leave late (red eye from west coast to east coast) so I felt like I wouldn’t lose as much time. I used Expedia.com but used the actual airline’s website to book it. I think I heard somewhere that it’s easier to do changes/cancellations (if needed) if you just book with the airline.
I’m not much of a help in this space unless you’re a SPG or Marriott member with points to spend. This is when the perks of my consultant job comes in handy… I was able to use my points for all of my hotel stays.
San Francisco: Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf – 12,000 pts/night
Santa Maria: Fairfield Inn Santa Maria – 25,000 pts/night
East LA: Four Points by Sheraton West Side – 7,000 pts/night
West LA: Sheraton Pasadena – 10,000 pts/night
I found having these items to be so handy for my trip in SF, the drive, and LA.
1. External Battery – I have an Anker 16,000 mAh external battery and it came super useful, especially in SF when I didn’t have a car and would be gone from the hotel for hours (and using a lot of phone battery to take pics). I never used more than one charge but if you’re traveling with multiple people, they’ll love you more for it! I got mine on Amazon for $36.99. Anker has a pretty good reputation and I’ve been satisfied with both of my Anker batteries and iPhone lightening charger.
2. Small Backpack – I got my LongChamp Le Pliage backpack for Christmas; haven’t found a use for it extensively until this trip! This backpack looks small but you can pack so much in it. I’ve always been a fan of LongChamp as my work bag so I knew I would like this backpack too. I liked being hands free the entire time while carrying all my essentials with me, especially when I didn’t have a car. $125 at LongChamp
3. Light Jacket (with hood)– SF is windy! and LA gets cooler at night. I got a utility jacket from Forever 21 that worked perfectly. It was $21! (on sale); if I lost it, I wouldn’t worry about it. I couldn’t find a link of it online.
4. Selfie Stick – Okay, people might judge but THIS IS AN AWESOME INVENTION. Since I was traveling with only my BF and sometimes, especially on the PCH drive, if there was no one else there, selfie stick to the rescue! But even if people were there, I would still use it over asking strangers to take my photo. They were all jealous…. Heh. I got my selfie stick for free from one of the SlickDeals deals but you can find one that has bluetooth capability for like $10 on Amazon. Here’s the one I got:Dreamcatcher Bluetooth Selfie Stick ($15.99 on Amazon).
5. Compression Travel Bags – Because I didn’t want to pay checking in a bag and also dealing with checked-bags (consultant life has taught me well), I managed to stuff 10 days worth of stuff into one carry on… thanks to these bags! I got a pack of 2 (large and medium sized) at TJ Maxx for $5. I’m sure you can find them at Walmart, Target, CVS, or other TJ Maxx-ish discount stores as well. Be careful reading the package before you buy… you DON’T want the vacuum ones, but the rolling air out ones.