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
1. Things to do in Beverly Hills 90210
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!
3. Griffith Observatory – LA Top Attraction!
One of the best part of this place is you will be able to spot the “Hollywood” sign clearly is at Griffith Observatory.
4. Tips to explore Universal Studios Hollywood!
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
1. Exploring Warship CV41 – USS Midway San Diego
Visit American finest city – San Diego. Check out the American Warship USS Midway! USS Midway Ticket – Purchase online to enjoy the discount.
2. Top 12 Attractions to visit in Balboa Park San Diego
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.
3. Nine Things To Expect In La Jolla Cove Beach San Diego
La Jolla Cove should be in your travel bucket list if you happen to drive down to San Diego.
4. San Diego Old Town – the Birthplace of California
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.
5. Top Tips To Explore Sea World San Diego!
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
1. Getaway To Little Desert – 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.
2. Palm Springs Aerial Tramride – World Largest Rotating Tramway!
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.
3. Desert Hills Premium Outlet – Cabazon, Palm Spring
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.
4. Village Fest Night Market at Palm Springs
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
1. US Road Trip from Palm Springs to Las Vegas
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.
4.Michael Jackson ONE by Cirque du Soleil at Mandalay Bay 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.
6. Three Interesting Sites From Road Trip Las Vegas to Grand Canyon West Rim That You Should Look Out!
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.
3. My IN-N-Out Burger Experience in California
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
1. Golden Gate Bridge @ San Francisco
The Golden Gate Bridge is one of San Francisco’s most iconic landmark that one can never miss. Plenty of photo opportunities everywhere.
Do you know the Kung Fu master Bruce Lee was born here at San Francisco Chinatown?
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.
4. Top 10 things to do in Fisherman’s Wharf San Francisco
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!
2. HP Garage – Birth Place of Silicon Valley
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!
Max’s Original Restaurant Review – San Francisco Bay Area
Day 12: Monterey, California
1. Famous Scenic: 17 Miles Drive Monterey
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.
3. Most Photographed Bridge – Bixby Creek Bridge, Monterey
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.
4. Big Sur Drive, The World Most Scenic Drive!
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
1. Top 10 things to do at Stearns Wharf 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.
2. Old Mission Town Santa Barbara
Old Mission is a must stop if you happen to be in Santa Barbara. It is a good place to check out the stunning old architecture and most importantly learns about California history.
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
I have affiliate program with the following booking website, so please click at your preference booking website here to check the hotels or airbnb you like to stay for your US trip.
Booking Resources :
I absolutely love visiting all of these a,aging places! Monterey is one of my favorites and I really enjoy Cannery Row there.
The old town looks like so much fun, I know my kiddos would love to visit this place. Learning about the city’s history is a great way to spend a an afternoon!
Wow what a great itinerary you provided here. It sounds like you had the best time exploring and self driving too!
Who knew there were so many beautiful sites in America! Being from the States, I am in awe of foreign destinations with their beautiful waters and breathtaking sites. However, the thought of exploring the beauties of America has not crossed my mind. It looks like you had an amazing time! I lowkey will be working undercover to get my family to go on a roadtrip with me.
Thanks for sharing your suggestions. The Grand Canyon is the next one on my list.
Wow you visited a lot of cool spots while in California. Will have to check back to a few when I go back this summer. I also loved your creative fashion style, statement makers for sure!
Sounds like the best trip ever. You got to do some really cool stuff. I would love to do this one day.
My partner and I are planning a road trip in the US so I’m so grateful to have stumbled on your post! Your resources, photos and itinerary are so thorough and detailed!
The 17 Miles Drive looks exceptional! Thank you, looking forward to more of your posts!
I wish you to have a pleasant trip in US. 🙂
You’ve literally covered everywhere in CA! Which is my absolute favorite city by the way. My brother works for Facebook and he always tells me that I need to come with him to Palo Alto. One day I will get there!
Xox Dana Ivy // http://www.iadorewhatilove.com
Wow, your brother works in Facebook, then you should visit him in Facebook Palo Alto. What a great opportunities to go beyond the tight security gate and see the real campus in Facebook. I wish I know someone there!
SO lucky!! I would love to do something adventurous like this. Hope you had a phenomenal time
California’s one of the best places on Earth. I thought I’ve went to all the awesome destinations here but seeing some more here makes me feel giddy to spend another two-week vacation up there.
I can’t agree more California is such a beautiful place, full of sunshine even in winter time. It was an eye opening visit for me.
This is an awesome itinerary! So many fun things to see and do in California, and yes, that includes having an In N Out Burger. 🙂
Wow! Those are great places to visit! I am dreaming to go there! And thank you for the tips.
I have never been to Nevada,but I always wanted to try. Hope to.visit there soon
This is an awesome road trip itinerary! You got to see so many wonderful places and your photos are great! Brought back some great memories of our road trip travels through this region of the US 🙂
Roadtripping is so very much fun! It also helps you to see things from different angle. Oh I wish I had time for a huge road trip in the USA
Wow, such a detailed post that would be so helpful to plan a great trip to California. Loving the pictures so much.
Your post about what to do in Los Angeles, California, would be very helpful to people who are new to the city.
K- What a great life you have! I’ve read some of these posts and they are all excellent, providing not simply your point of view, but great recommendations on where to stay. I think we’re going to need a “Carmen Santiago” Kumamon edition in honor of your world travel adventures 😀 <3 Xo Evelyn, Path of Presence
How amazing! I am totally jealous of your road trip. I wish I would have done something like this pre-kids. Looks like a great time!
You have made me book my next flight to US. I would really like to see the USS warship closely.
This is such an amazing journey! I am so impressed. California looks amazing –– I go for work but I never get to explore 🙂
What an exciting idea for a trip. I have Las Vegas on my bucket list . I love your pics and the great summary of all the fun things you can do
looks like a fun trip! glad you included UCLA, my alma mater. You should add on 7 magic mountains near Las Vegas, an outdoor art exhibit up through next year. it’s really something!
Impressive list of things to do! I love this and I wish I was able to visit more before leaving the states. Definitely visiting other places when I go back though, there’s just so much to see.
Love the idea of a self-guided driving tour – it looks like so much fun! You did a great job of capturing all the sites to see. I’ve visited Palm Springs, San Diego, and San Francisco, and they are well worth a visit!
I want to go on this roadtrip now! Wanted to do a USA roadtrip for years!
Wow this is the trip of a life time! I’ve always wanted to travel America and this sounds like the perfect way to do it
Whoa that’s a lot of driving and travelling – but you’re right, I find an ad hoc schedule the best when it comes to visiting places, can just stop whenever something catches your eye!
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