Self-drive is a perfect way to see America as it gives you the freedom to explore and bring you to the places you wanted to see at your own pace. If you are traveling with several pax, you can save quite a lot by using a car rental to self-drive American road trips. The most important thing is you can stop anywhere you like and do in impromptu sight-seeing. There are few routes in America road trip that I really enjoyed, few of them are the Big Sur with a rugged and mountainous coastline scenery and the other is desert view with Joshua trees on the way from Palm Springs to Las Vegas. If you are first timer driving in America, you can do some practice at the car park before you start hitting to the road.
My American Self drive road trip covering major cities in California and some part of Arizona (Grand Canyon) and Nevada State (Las Vegas). The duration is about 2 weeks time and the season I choose was in winter. You will be amazed at how good the weather is during winter in California. It is so warm, plenty of sunshine which is great for photo shooting and comfortable to walk around. I would say it is better than summer because summer would be too hot (above 40’c is common) in West Coast (California, Arizona & Nevada).
Why do self-drive?
- Flexibility – depart any time, go anywhere, stop anywhere etc
- Cheaper cost
- Great for bonding time – Bring along grandparents and children including babies & toddlers to enjoy or a group of friends
- Convenient – No need to rush for train or bus and climbing stairs up & down at the station
The summary Itinerary for my self drive USA road trip, covering major cities in California and several cities from Arizona and Nevada States in 2 weeks. My itinerary include variety of things to explore; mountain, beaches, silicon valley tech tour, University tour, US war ship, Universal theme park, Sea world, Casino, Las Vegas Live perfomance and shopping at the premium outlets. I have also included a link on how to rent a car and the airport review here.
- Natural Wonders : Grand Canyon & Yosemite
- Skywalk : Grand Canyon Glass Bridge Skywalk
- Tree – Joshua Tree & Tall Palm Tree & Lone Cypress
- Parks – Balboa Park & Beverly Hill Park & Griffith Park
- Observatory : Griffith Observatory
- Beaches – Big Sur, 17 Miles Drive, La Jolla
- Desert – Palm Springs Road Trip to Las Vegas
- Manmade Oasis : Hoover Dam
- Lake : Lake Mead
- Tribe : American Indian Hualapai
- Gun Counter Minimart: Arizona First Stop
- Silicon Valley Tech Tour – Google, Facebook, Apple HQ, HP Birthplace
- Museums : Computer History Museum
- Warship : USS Warship
- Theme park : Universal Studios Hollywood & Sea World San Diego
- History : San Diego Old Town & Calico Ghost Town & Old Mission Town
- World Largest Rotating Tramway : Palm Springs Aerial Tramride
- Shopping : Desert Hill Premium Outlet shopping & American Night Market
- Supermarket : Target & Food 4 Less
- Windmills Farm– Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm & Palm Springs
- Valley : Coachella Valley
- Casino : Mandalay Bay & South Point & Strips Las Vegas
- University Tour : UCLA & Stamford University
- Live Show : Michael Jackson One by Cirque du Soleil
- Bridges : Golden Gate Bridge & Bixby Creek Bridge
- Chinatown : San Francisco & Las Vegas
- Wharfs : Fisherman Wharf SF & Stearns Wharf Santa Barbara
- Food : Japanese & Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Mexican, Western cuisine (Max) & Fast Food In-N-Out Burger. (Japanese sushi & Pho noodles are everywhere, just like any pop out 7-Eleven shop 🙂 )
- Thrifty Car Rental Review
- LAX Airport Review
Day 1 & 2 : Los Angeles, California
Beverly Hills is a posh neighborhood which we always see it on the American tv drama. There are top 8 things you should spot when you are in this neighborhood.
Hollywood Walk of Fame is one of Los Angeles’ most visited tourist attraction. Go find your favorite stars at the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The number 1 must see is Dolby Theatre, join the Dolby Theatre tour and have the opportunity to go beyond the red carpet and see inside this spectacular theatre!
One of the best part of this place is you will be able to spot the “Hollywood” sign clearly is at Griffith Observatory.
Universal Studios Hollywood is one of the favorite attraction in California. It great to spend a whole day with family and friends. Do check out the Wizarding of Harry Potter World once you enter the park, that is one of the highlights in this park. Purchase online with klook to enjoy the discount and save time on queuing.
Day 3 & 4: San Diego, California
- Where to stay: Doubletree San Diego Mission Valley Hotel – Booking
- DoubleTree San Diego Mission Valley – Hotel Review
Visit American finest city – San Diego. Check out the American Warship USS Midway! USS Midway Ticket – Purchase online to enjoy the discount.
About 15 museums, few theatres, gardens & a Zoo all located in the Balboa Park. There are no entrance fees for the park which is a good thing! You can spend the whole day walking in this huge park.
La Jolla Cove should be in your travel bucket list if you happen to drive down to San Diego.
San Diego Old Town is a nice park to walk around to discover the Californian history! The historical park is very big to walk around, there are several museums all with no entrance fees and few restaurants available. You see a lot of staff wearing period clothing.
You would love the Orca / Killer Whales show and see how smart these creatures are! You need half a day at least to spend in this water park.
Day 5: Palm Springs, California
Palm Springs is surrounded by mountains & Coachella Valley which make the backdrop of the city so beautiful. Just 2 hours drive from San Diego.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramride is one of the world largest tram rides that rotate 360′ degree. Bring along a thick jacket if you are going up as the weather is very cold up the mountain.
The backdrop of the shopping outlets is stunning, it is surrounded by layers of desert hills mountains and enjoy up 70% of discount for the branded stuff.
Palm Springs Village Fest is a night shopping day happen every Thursday night from 6 pm to 10 pm. You will see the small town is full of people! Interesting “pasar malam” in the WEST.
Day 6 & 7: Las Vegas, Nevada & Grand Canyon West, Arizona
You get to see the stunning desert view on the road trip for this route. Joshua tree is one of the iconic plants here.
Do not miss the best Pho noodle in Chinatown Las Vegas.
Check out all the interesting hotels with a different theme in The Strip Las Vegas.
One of the best show I would strongly recommend to anyone!
Lake Mead is situated just 30 mins drive from Las Vegas. It is a man-made lake, the largest reservoir in the world. You will see Lake Mead and Hoover Dam when you are going to Grand Canyon West Rim.
The road trip from Las Vegas took about 3 hours, three interesting stop you may want to pull over and go down have a look before you reach Grand Canyon West Rim.
You can do a day tour for Grand Canyon West if you stay in Las Vegas – it is achievable within a day.
Day 8: Fresno, California
- Where to stay: Holiday Inn Express Fresno South – Booking
- Holiday Inn Express & Suites Fresno South – Hotel Review
Calico used to be an old western mining town that has been around since 1881 during the largest silver strike in California. A little fee to enter the Ghost Town but is worth the stop!
The view from Yosemite Valley to Grand Canyon is totally different. At the Grand Canyon road trip, you see desert and cacti plant. In Yosemite road trip, you see big pine trees & oak trees. Two totally different thing and different view.
In-N-Out Burger is a wonderful experience for me overall, love the restaurant white and red setting, happy and young vibes of the friendly staffs. Do try their secret recipe.
Day 9 & 10: San Francisco, California
- Where to stay: Holiday Inn San Francisco Airport South – Booking
- Holiday Inn San Francisco Airport South – Hotel Review
The Golden Gate Bridge is one of San Francisco’s most iconic landmark that one can never miss. Plenty of photo opportunities everywhere.
3. Lombard Street @ San Francisco – the most crooked street in the world! If you are doing a San Francisco city tour, don’t miss Lombard Street, about 20 mins walk from San Francisco Fisherman Wharf.
What I like best about Fisherman’s Wharf is the old antique cable cars running up and down which make it such an icon in San Francisco.
Day 11: Tech Tour at Silicon Valley, California
- Where to stay: Crowne Plaze Cabana Hotel, San Jose
- Silicon Valley Hotel Review: – Crowne Plaza Palo Alto, San Jose, California
1. Stamford University – climb up Hoover Tower and check out the view from the top!
HP Garage is the birthplace of Silicon Valley. Located in a residential area but worth to visit. The neighborhood is pretty quiet and nice ambient.
This is one of the mind-blowing campus and a dream place to work. If you intend to explore Silicon Valley, then Googleplex at Mountain View is one of the must-visit attractions when you do your tech touring. Go check out the google electric car & google self-driving car somewhere at the campus too!
4. Facebook HQ @ 1 Hacker Way– go for the “thumb up” picture!
5. Apple Campus @ One Infinite Loop – If you are obsessed with all things related to Apple, then you might like this place and check out all the coolest gadgets offer at Apple Store at Apple HQ.
This place is pretty interesting to visit even for people like me, not a tech geek. I spent about 2 hours exploring the big museum, gone to the past and back to the future. You will see how technologies change our life through, healthcare, workforce, and other daily activities. The most fun part is you get to sit in the auto self-driving car -Waymo!
Day 12: Monterey, California
You need about half a day to explore all the 21 points of interest once you entered 17 Miles Drive. My favorite points of interest would be the Lone Cypress and Ghost Tree.
Residents who live in Carmel-by-the sea has no street addresses anywhere in town. Post mails have to be picked up at the local nearby post office. You may also want to take a look at the local post office located at Dolores St. and 5th Post Office. You will find old fashion mailbox lining up like an antique.
Not sure you have seen Bixby Bridge in the Hollywood movie, it is one of the most admired bridges in America and has been featured in many movies scenes.
I do Big Sur mainly because my next destination is Santa Barbara at the south. Choose to use the Big Sur coastline stretch mainly because of the spectacular ocean view and the rugged cliff.
Day 13: Santa Barbara, California
- Where to stay: Quality Inn Santa Barbara
Stearns Wharf is an icon for the beach city Santa Barbara, southern California and Central Coast California. There are plenty of things to do, check out the list before you go.
Day 14: Los Angeles, California
Paying a visit to UCLA is like coming into the many Hollywood movie scenes or American TV series! Located at Westwood, this campus is only minutes away from the Pacific Ocean, founded in 1919 and one of the most applied University in America.
My budget for 3 adults :
- Ticket United Airline: SGD $ 1,000 per pax – purchased in the promotion. We have 3 pax SGD $ 3,000
- Hotel (3-4 stars) : average SGD $200 per night for triple sharing (3 pax), total of 13 nights = $2600
- Car Rental: Nissan Sentral SGD 1000 for two weeks plus insurance protection.
- Entrance tickets for sites: In total, we spent SGD $1200 for all the entrance tickets. We purchase most of our tickets from Klook online (SGD $700) to enjoy the discount.
- Eat & shopping at premium outlet (bought 2 designer bags, Coach & Kate Spade) & petrol & snacks & souvenirs = $2000
In total : 3 pax rough budget is a little over SGD $10k. Per pax is about SGD$3k to 3.5k. Your budget can go lower by staying in a cheaper hotel or staying in Airbnb where you can do your own cooking. Things are very cheap at the local supermarket, you can cook your dinner and breakfast if you have a big group. We could not cook as we stayed in the hotel, only instant noodles. We brought in some instant noodles (last us about 6 meals) for our breakfast and sometimes dinner. When we are sick of the food outside, we ate noodles in the hotel.
Other information :
- Visa is not needed for Singaporean but ESTA is needed. Apply online before departure, a small fee (USD $14.00 per pax) is needed. Please go to the official website of ESTA and not third-party agent website as the fees can be different and a lot higher.
- International driving permit – not needed in the West Coast but some part of America need it. Click on the link to check.
- Travel Insurance – Best to purchase before departure.
You may also like other self-drive destination :
- Self Drive in Kyushu Island Japan (Fukuoka, Beppu, Kumamoto, Kagoshima, Nagasaki, Miyazaki)
- Self Drive in Central Region Japan (Gifu, Takayama, Shirakawa-go, Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Matsumoto, Mt Fuji, Nagoya)
- Self Drive in Taiwan Round The Island
- Self Drive in Thailand (From Bangkok to Chiang Mai)
- Self Drive in the UK – Covering England, Wales & Scotland, entire Great Britain
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