Absolute newbie looking to explore West Coast

Travel Forums North America Absolute newbie looking to explore West Coast

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1. Posted by davedave (Budding Member 6 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

Hello everyone,

I graduated college a few months ago and I don't know what to do with myself so I decided I want to TRAVEL! I'm planning on doing some solo travelling. I am a newbie in every sense of the word. I have been up and down the east coast USA, but I have never left the time zone, if you can believe that!

Anyways, my plan is to take a quick trip of about 10 days (maybe more if need be) to see the West Coast by myself. I am pretty sure I want to travel the coast from Seattle to San Diego. I'd like to see Vancouver too while I'm out there, but I don't have a passport and I don't know if it would cost a lot to get one. I'm planning on staying in hostels on the west coast, hoping to meet a lot of young people like myself. From what I've read here, it seems the best way to travel on this trip is by car on the coastal freeways so I will rent a car in Seattle I guess and take it down the coast to San Diego.

I have no idea what to see on my way. I plan to do A LOT more research before I go, but here is what I'm looking at:

Seattle (2 days)
Portland (1 day)
Bay Area (2 days)
Los Angeles (2-3 days)
San Diego (2 days)

Does anybody have any recommendations of places to see other than the obvious touristy places?

My big concern is the money thing. I would love to travel longer, but I really can't afford it. It seems my flight will be $250 round trip, plus about $20/day hostel, plus about $20/day food, plus miscellaneious expenses. I figure I'll be lucky to stay under $700, which is about half the money I have saved up right now. Am I figuring my costs correctly?

I appreciate any advice anyone can give me! I know this is only a mini-trip, but I'm really excited because I've never travelled before. Eventually, I'd like to see the whole world. I think Australia is next.

2. Posted by ericbatsea (Budding Member 6 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

That's cool that you've decided to travel. But i'm not so sure about trying to fit so much in in so little time on such short funds. Especially if you are going to rent a vehicle. If you do travel the coast i'd do it via highway 101. It's coastal and beautiful. And i'd try to avoid places like L.A. It all depends what your personal preferences are. Cities or the outdoors? I'd maybe think about choosing one area like Seattle and Puget Sound. You can always take day trips out that the hostels host. The last thing you want to do is use up your valuable time fighting traffic in southern cali. Or your valuable money on gas and rental vehicles. But that's just me. ;)

3. Posted by davedave (Budding Member 6 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

Yeah, you know I might condense this trip a bit. At first, I was just planning on checking out San Diego and LA since I am thinking of moving out there next year, then I got ambitious and added NorCal and the Northwest.

4. Posted by GregW (Travel Guru 2635 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

Sounds like a great trip, Dave, but you will definately need more than 10 days to do the iternary you mentioned, otherwise you will be spending all your time in the car and no time at all in the cities you mentioned. I would add a day of travel between each city that you want to see.

As for Vancouver, you can cross the border into Canada (and back into the U.S.) without a passport if you are a U.S. citizen. You will need to have photo ID (driver's license) and proof of citizenship (birth certificate or the like).

Make sure when you rent the car that you are allowed to take it to all the places you mention. Certain rental agencies in certain places have restrictions on what you can do with their cars (I know if Vegas I was told that I couldn't take the car outside of the states or Arizona, Nevada, California and Utah, and in Atlanta I am not allowed to take the car into New York state).

You will also pay a premium if you want to pick up the car in Seattle and drop it in L.A. And did you include car rental price in your budget? I didn't see it mentioned.


5. Posted by chrispriet (Budding Member 4 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

That is awesome!! Again like the others said...10 days will not be enough in any sense. If you come out to the West coast you have to see LA as it is the biggest city on the coast. Santa Barbara is also a place you should check out. It beautiful and next to the beach-just right off the 101. Napa Valley is also excellent! You can do wine tasting tours and get loaded for free!

Its very peaceful and relaxing beautiful. Hearst Castle is also a great spot. If you come done to LA you will love it. There is sooo much to do here from Griffiths Park to Melrose to Malibu to Historic downtown to manhatten Beach to Larchmont village to santa Monica to Culver city. There is plenty of wilderness and city. Its sad because I know so many people who have grown up here who have stayed inside a 20 mile radius of where they live. This city is so big...you gotta explore! Not jsut the trendy parts but all parts. Go through Beverly Hills and Century City and Studio City then go through Monrovia, at water village and compton...youll be suprised at which people are more welcoming! Its not hard to get around by bus or even rent a bike! Let me know when your coming out!


6. Posted by WatchMan (Budding Member 9 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

Yeah, you EastCoasters always underestimate Western distances--probably comes from those New Yorker covers where the whole country looks as big as the boroughs.:)
If you plan on keying on LA and SF as your two hubs there are a lot of sides to order. (Keep in mind SF is VERY expensive lodging) Best hostel situation in LA is in Venice, which is everybody's idea of what Calif is, anyway. Near airport, very competitive--will come pick you up) great beach up to Santa Monica pier. Fairly near Getty Museum. Cruise north to Malibu and Santa Barbara.
Between LA-SF I recommend a look at Santa Cruz, where the 60's never got over with. The Big Sur coast is wonderful, hopefully still workable for hitch-hiking. If you have the extra bux and go for such things, there is the Hearst Castle. SF is a lot like Paris, you don't really need a tour, just walk around and it's a trip. Take BART transit to Berkeley, ferry or bus over to Sausalito and Marin County. I richly recommend the Golden Gate Park, Ocean Beach at it's western end, and the pocket beaches north of the Cliff House. You have to see North Beach, I guess, but it's not that uplifting. If you have time and money to spare, take a shot at heading north along highway 1/101 Redwoods, incredible coastline, and access to Oregon Coast.

7. Posted by remarcable (Respected Member 335 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

I agree with the rest. You need more time to "smell the roses"! It's a vacation, not a race. Vancouver has the Gaslamp district. Seattle is a blast. There is more to N.cal than the "CITY" ...Santa cruz and napa are cool places to checkout. Don't get me started on LA and San Diego! Vegas and Mexico maybe? No passport needed just a birth certificate and Drivers license. Plus your sense of adventure.Take your time bro...We do things a little different on the westside!


8. Posted by zachary (Respected Member 471 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

i agree, try to go for more days, and also if you're going all the way down to San Diego you might as well hit up Tiajuana, Ensenada & Rosarito which are all awesome cities also!!! and very close to the border

9. Posted by friscokid (Full Member 122 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

I didn't thourougly read everyone else's posts, but i suggest you skip the NW and BC (nothing against them) because the drive is 12 hours from portland to the SF bay area so you loose 1 whole day. the drive from SF to LA is 5 hours if you take I-5 (so don't take 101 unless you have to have a scenic drive because 101 is an 8 hour drive).

There are tons of non tourist stuff to do in SF and LA so you can use those 10 days easily doing an SF to LA to San Diego road trip!

SF: Walk down Market to Union SQ and spend time looking into the fashion shops. Take the F train to Castro and walk around for a couple of hours then take the Muni Divisadero line to Haight and walk Haight to GG park and buy some ganga. Have dinner or lunch in the Sunset, Noe Valley, Hayes Valley. Have drinks in N.Beach. You have to check out Chinatown even though its touristy -- but the best damn touristy area in the USA.

LA: the best night life -- W. Hollywood is the place to stay.

SD: great beaches and the zoo isnt half bad

Feel free to ask me more.


10. Posted by scarlettho (Budding Member 5 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

I did the trip you did in 14 days, and managed to get in Redwood, Sequoia, San Fran, Monterey, Oregon dunes, and, Yosemite. It was a lot of driving, but lots of hiking too. We only spent a day in San Fran though, checking out Alcatraz and the Haight, which I know is not quite enough. Definitely drive 101, and if possible stop at the Monterey Aquariam - even just the kelp there will blow you away! We didn't actually get as far as BC - we stopped at Seattle, and that was far enough. It will be a blast, and is more fun if you get up early and stay up late - who needs sleep when you can hike and see cool stuff!