14 Stops Not to Miss in Your California West Coast Trip

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14 Stops Not to Miss in Your California West Coast Trip

1st of October is almost here you probably can’t wait to hit the road in your final Work & Travel trip. Would it be best to pay an agency to take you to these places or should you plan it together with some friends? Can you spend less than $1,000? How many days do you need to stay in order to see everything? Do you really need to take all your luggage with you?

If you are planning to see California Coast in your final Work & Travel trip, you can take some inspiration from my planning from 2 years ago. I organized this trip together with 6 other friends and perhaps you can do the same.

Where to rent a car?
This trip can be very cheap if you get a van. We rented a Toyota Sienna for 7 people. I would not recommend renting the car from San Francisco Airport as they are more expensive. There are smaller rentals around the airport where you could go. We paid $1,200 for 12 days, unlimited mileage and we were allowed to take the car outside CA. Pay attention, you need to be able to take it to Nevada if you also want to see Las Vegas and The Grand Canyon. You’ll have to pay insurance/day, a deposit and an “under 25 tax”. Enterprise Rent a car accepts debit cards.

Curious to see what your trip can look like?

OK, but how can you make this happen without an agency? Apply these tricks!

Where to leave your luggage?
Now…It is very unlikely that the 7 of you to fit 14 large suitcases in the car. But luckily you are in the USA and the Customer Service is at its highest class. What we did is to ask the hotel where we stayed on the first night to store our luggage for 10 days. If you plan your trip to start and end in SFO, you can book your first and last night in the same hotel. This way you give a guarantee to them that you are coming back and you don’t have nuclear bombs in your luggage. They will accept it if you know how to ask. Tell them you are making the trip of your life with your friends. It worked for me! We paid nothing for the service and traveled light.


How much money does it cost?
You can make this itinerary in 12 days: Accommodation = $20/night * 11 = $220 Car = $1,200/7 = $180/person Gas = $35 for each full tank ~ $100/person Disneyland = $100 Sea World San Diego = $60 Food = $20 for each dinner/lunch

The accommodation trick which will save your $ – !only possible in the USA!

Everybody is asking me about this one, but it is very hard to follow my strategy. This is because I was working at The Ritz-Carlton and as a former employee I had discounts at all Marriot hotels across the country. We could get a double room with 2 full-size beds for  $100-$120. But there is a trick we did and you can also try to do if you have the guts. 

The USA has big hotels. And when I say big, I mean many, many doors and backdoors. So the way to do it is: at check-in, always go 2 of you. Ask for your room, give 4 passports. Sometimes they don’t require all passports. Once you check-in, get all the luggage inside and look for the pool doors/backyard doors. You’ll have a key that works for everything!  Get your friends inside on the back doors  :) Or if you are with your sister/brother you can get them inside on the front door. Americans can’t tell the difference between sisters/brothers and twins. A little adrenaline never hurt anybody and a $120 room can be $20/ person. Those beds are huge and you can sleep horizontally.

Ok. Now that you have my trick for cheap accommodation in the USA, let’s start the itinerary.

1. San Franciso

Start your trip in this beautiful city, where you need at least 2 days. Don’t miss a trip with the tram, Lombard Street, Pier 66, Alcatraz, The Painted Ladies and the one and only Golden Gate.

Go up the California Street with the tram


The Painted Ladies has the best view over the city
Lombard Street


2. Santa Cruz Broadwalk

spend 30 minutes on the Pier
spend 30 minutes on the Pier

3. Monterey 

Don’t miss the 17-mile drive- entry fee 10$ and visit this scenic drive including Cypress Point, Bird Rock, Point JoePescadero Point, Fanshell Beach & Seal Point, Pebble Beach.

There are many stops to make to admire the Ocean


4. Pfeiffer Beach Recreational Area with Keyhole Arch

not my photo, cause we missed this place :(
not my photo, cause we missed this place :(

5. McWay Falls, Big Sur 


Bixby Creek Bridge
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Big Sur

6. Piedras Blancas


7. Santa Maria and Santa Barbara

We caught bad weather.

9. El Matador Beach, Malibu






9. Santa Monica, Venice Beach, Marina Del Rey




10. Los Angeles

Visit the Kodak Theatre, walk along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, check out the Santa Monica Pier, drive down Sunset Boulevard and stroll down Rodeo Drive. You could check out the awesome views of the Hollywood sign from Griffith Observatory, visit Universal Studios or go on a stars homes tour. For the Holywood sign, you need to ask the locals how to get there as the Google pin doesn’t have the correct pin and it will take you in the wrong direction.


Rodeo Driv
Rodeo Drive



11.  Disneyland near Los Angeles

We spent a day here and it was the highlight of the trip. $ 100 entrance so you have to choose if you want to visit the Universal Studios or Disneyland. It can get really expensive to do both.






12. San Diego

This will be your southern endpoint on the West Coast. You can go to Balboa Park, Downtown and Old Town. Make your way up to the Cabrillo National Monument at the tip of Point Loma and you’ll get an incredible view of San Diego and the Bay. The perfect way to end your trip. You can also visit San Diego Sea World, which is a combination of a zoo, dolphins and whales show with other extreme rides on water rollercoasters.

Beluga whales
Beluga whales





13. Las Vegas

Reserve 2-3 days for this one :)





14. Grand Canyon

Make sure you drive Route 66, see the Hoover Dom and spend a day in Grand Canyon. This is actually the best part of the trip for the ones passionate about nature and landscapes.





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Not heading to the West Coast? You can learn more about some other trips you can make after your Work & Travel program:

Travel passionately,