Neither Paul nor I are massively well-travelled. Paul in particular is a real home-boy and doesn’t have much of an interest in venturing further afield. I have family in Canada so have enjoyed wonderful summers (and winters) over there, but other than that I’ve only really nipped around Europe for short trips and weekends away. For both of us, I think the most off-putting aspect of ‘going away’ is the expense. Neither of us are very good at saving and when we have had pockets of money, we have both rather spent it on other things.
Of course, our honeymoon is reason itself to change this uninspiring and uninspired attitude.
The beautiful California coast. Image via Epica Travel
We’ve chosen California, and in particular, a road trip down the coast from San Francisco to San Diego. For me, a holiday like this has everything: culture and endless activity in San Francisco; the romance and epicness of the Big Sur; lively, Spanish-influenced stops in San Luis Ospana and Santa Barbara, and then people-watching and beach time in Los Angeles. Not forgetting, of course, the hours of driving which for my car-loving fiancé is the piece de résistance.
I’d bought the Lonely Planet book, I’d swallowed the whole thing in a day and decided I wanted to do the whole of California, but with not much of experience of booking holidays I didn’t know what to do next. So last week Paul and I took a little trip to Trailfinders to talk Honeymoon. An hour and a half later we came out with a 12 night itinerary totalling £5300. Clutching our bits of paper and smiling gratefully, we walked in silence until we were far enough away from the shop to exclaim “five and a half grand???!!” and throw our arms around incredulously.
Now I’m not stoopid. I knew that a once-in-a-lifetime trip like this was gonna cost big. But as this holiday will be bought entirely on credit, we don’t particularly want to start married life with such a HUGE debt hanging over us.
So I’m on a mission to create the holiday of our dreams for less than the Trailfinders quote; difficult when a) we have to travel slap bang in the middle of peak season (the perils of marrying a teacher), and b) I’d like a little bit of luxury on my honeymoon- dingy highway motels are out.
First thing to do is shave a couple of nights off, so we’re now looking at 10 nights, with the 11th being spent on the plane home. Paul would happily go one less but I’m fighting for a minimum of 10 sleeping nights with my head on California soil. Or rather, a feather-down pillow.
I’ve deduced that the five most important places to stop and lay our heads are:
1. San Francisco- home of way too many movies and TV series’ to mention, the Golden Gate bridge, Alcatraz, Pier 39, bustling activity, cable cars and food will keep us more entertained than we can imagine. A definite 3 night stay.
2. The Big Sur- a vast expanse of National Park and jagged coastal cliffs, I’ve set my sights on the world-famous Post Ranch Inn to luxuriate in for one night only.
The Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur (image via Kiwi Collection)
3. Santa Barbara- The guide books refer to it as the American Riviera, and this is where we’d get our first chance to sun bathe. Timed correctly, it looks like we’ll be going for the last two days of the Old Spanish Days fiesta as well, so can expect lots of Spanish-inspired music, dance and, again, awesome food. 2 nights.
4. Los Angeles- I’ll confess, it’s the part of the trip which excites us the least, but a must-do nonetheless. We plan to spend the time hitting the beaches of Santa Monica, Venice Beach and Malibu to people watch and be made to feel inferior. A minimum of two nights, as it’s just so vast.
Santa Monica pier. (Image by Wild Nature Images)
5. San Diego- Some people say go, some people say leave it for another time, but everyone says what a great city it is. I’d like to squeeze it in if possible, for the Mexican food, awesome beaches, zoo, Balboa park, and the opportunity to say “You stay classy, San Diego” to each other far too many times. 2 nights.
And there you have it; a 10-night/11 day California Coast Honeymoon of Dreams.
The night at the Post Ranch Inn would be a huge extravagance as prices start from £400 per night, but ideally the whole trip would be a mixture of carefully-chosen splash outs, mixed with pretty standard, Best Western-type hotels. San Francisco, for example, can be somewhere pretty standard as I’m sure we’ll be out and about so much.
I still want good reviews on Trip Advisor though.
And is my itinerary right? Everyone says to visit Carmel and the Monterey area which we’ll have to drive through to get to the Big Sur. I was hoping lunch and a wander around Carmel would be enough… but will it, or should we lose a night somewhere to stay overnight there?
Will 2 days in LA be enough, or should we stay three, before heading to San Diego for one final night?? (We’d pretty much still get 2 days there as flights home aren’t until the evening.)
How do we find out what restaurants Man Vs Food were filmed at, and will we see Adam Redmore??
So many questions… and this is where you lovely lot come in!
I know that so many of you have done a California road trip like this, and though your itinerary may have differed, we need your knowledge! Hotel recommendations, travelling tips, advice, must-dos and don’t-bothers- we want it all. Did you book it yourself or go through a company like Trailfinders or Virgin? Did you only book one night somewhere, but in hindsight wish you could have stayed more??
I can’t say all your advice will be heeded, but it will definitely be a massive help in formulating a more concrete plan!
So come on Uttersons, share your California dreamin’ on this cold, November morning…
Golden Gate bridge, San Francisco (Image source)