Lessons from seven months on the road 

In February we set off on the biggest trip of our lives. With few solid plans we were heading off to explore every corner of this huge country. I knew we would learn a lot on this journey, but I didn’t realise just how transformative it would be. 


We hit bumps in the road immediately. The campsite we wanted to stay at was full. The camping store accidentally kept our gas bottle attachment when they filled it up and we couldn’t cook. Our clothes was impossible to get to and Alex spent our first night hacking away a hatch so we could access them. 


There was major flooding. We had to buy rain jackets in the middle of summer. I wondered if I would ever see blue skies again. 


The main highway was knocked out. Whole road networks were inaccessible. We backtracked hundreds of kilometres. We took major detours on unsealed roads.
There were times we wondered if we were crazy. If we were going to be able to continue. When the combination of weather and mosquito bites drive us to the brink of insanity.


But in between every bump were adventures, beautiful views, long lazy breakfasts, and days full of cuddles and kisses.


We began to meet amazing people. People with so many stories and knowledge to share. People passionate about what they did and people that embraced us so warmly we felt like family. People that taught us their crafts.

Photo courtesy of @kelllyross

We did amazing hikes and saw beautiful vistas. We watched sunrises from our bed and saw so much wildlife. We found a piece of home everywhere we went.


We learnt practical things like how to paint walls or weed a garden. We learnt how to take care of baby kangaroos and check pouches by the roadside. But we also learnt so much about each other and ourselves. We’ve grown as a couple. We’ve learnt how to give love to total strangers and to accept their generosity. We’ve made friends all over the country, and met people from all over the world.


But most of all we’ve learned to accept that those bumps in the road will always happen. We’ve learned to go with the flow more. To get up in the morning with no idea of where we’ll stay that night and not be the slightest bit worried about it. We’ve learnt to live a more stripped back lifestyle, closer to nature-less waste, less stress, less of the nonsense and more of the important stuff. 


Our journey is far from over. We are still thousands of kilometres from home. We’re currently at a yoga retreat in the outskirts of Sydney, meeting amazing people from all over the world and having experiences I never imagined I’d have. 

Europe on a budget


Europe is a traveler’s paradise. The continent is well connected by rail, the cities are historical and beautiful, and you can experience many different cultures in a short space of time. For most of us there’s only one set back: cost. Travelling in Europe is undeniably more expensive than travelling in Asia or South America. Particularly in cities like Vienna or Paris the costs can be pretty daunting. But I can tell you from experience that it’s very possible to see Europe on a budget. We managed to do it on minimum wage fast food jobs, and so can you! So let’s break down the costs….

Budapest is a great budget city

Getting There

Now, the cost of getting to Europe is obviously going to depend on where you’re coming from and where you’re flying into. We got return flights from Perth go Dublin for $1600 AUD each. This route is one of the more expensive routes to take. I have seen American travel bloggers claim to fly to Europe with WOWair via Iceland for less than $500 return. And if you already live in Europe you get a head start-the initial flight to Europe is the biggest cost for most people.

Sleeping in the airport is good for your budget-not so good for your back!


Getting Around

Getting around in Europe on a budget is easy! You’re spoilt for choice, with a great rail system, intercity buses, and cheap budget flights. If you’re willing to book your travel far in advance with no check in luggage then you might find flying with a budget airline like Ryanair to be the cheapest option. However, if you like flexibilty, comfort and great window views then you’re probably going to want to travel by train! Eurail passes (or interail if you’re an EU citizen) are a great way to save money while travelling in Europe. We got global one month eurail passes for €604 each. This gave us unlimited rail travel in most of Europe for 30 days. It also covered some buses and metro travel. This works out at just over €20 a day for almost all your travel while you’re in Europe. There’s lots of different passes available and there’s often special deals so be sure to have a look at the website and see what suits you.

The first train ticket from our trip!


Staying There

Here’s the big one-accomodation. Europe has some of the best hostel facilities out there. There are lots of options available ranging from budget to boutique. Hostels can seem scary to the inexperienced- the lack of privacy, the snoring, the wobbly top bunk. But honestly, I would almost always pick a hostel over a hotel! The atmosphere is social, the staff are helpful, and the money you save means you get to travel for longer! Below is a break down of all the places we stayed and how much we spent in each place. I’ve listed the price we paid for both of us for the sake of accuracy as occasionally we stayed in private double rooms.

Amsterdam-2 nights in the city-Hostel Meeting Point-€96 (large dorm)

-2 nights at the beach-Flying Pig beach hostel-€119 (large dorm)

Berlin-3 nights in the city-Sandino World improvement hostel-€84 (small dorm)

Freiburg-4 nights in the city-Black Forest Hostel-€84 (large dorm)

Venice-4 nights a short bus ride from the city-Camping Rialto-€84 (two person tent with beds)

Vienna– 2 nights a metro ride from the city-Hostel Hutteldorf-€70 (large dorm)

Budapest-5 nights in the city-Full Moon Hostel-€176 (private double room with ensuite)

Rome-3 nights outside the city-Seven Hills Villiage-€44 (small private wood cabin with shared bathrooms) note-we would not recommend staying here unless you have your own vehicle. It’s far from central Rome with bad public transport. They also appear to have raised their prices since we stayed.
-Total cost for two people-€875

Approximate cost for one person-€437.50-average €17 a night
As you can see we sometimes chose to stay in slightly higher end accommodation. For example, our accommodation in Budapest could have been much cheaper. You can stay in a dorm here for just €9 a night! We did things pretty cheaply, but it’s definitely possible to do it on a smaller budget.

Full Moon Hostel Budapest


Eating There

It’s easy to eat cheaply in Europe. A baguette and some nice cheese is only a couple of euros and one of these A+ chocolate puddings is 19 cents!!

 

These puddings were a staple of our Europe diet

But if you’re like us you’re going to want to treat yourself to a few nice restaurant meals. After all, the easiest way to experience a local culture is by eating their food! Eating out varies greatly in different European countries. We ate out in Budapest one night for €10-this was two starters,two mains and two drinks. In a more expensive city like Vienna it’s hard to get one main course for €10. On average we spent less than €40 a day on food-that’s €20 per person, and we ate out at least once every day. If you’re happy to cook your own food all the time then you easily eat on less than €40 a week in most places.
But let’s say you spend €40 a day. That’s €1200 a month, which is €600 a month per person.

Budget eats in Freiburg

So so far we’re at €57 per day including food, accommodation and transport. From here your costs really depend on you! There are tonnes of free activities around Europe. You can stroll through the unique cities and admire the clash of historical and modern architecture. You can visit beautiful churches and marvel at the intricate detailing. You can hike through the alps or the Black Forest. You can picnic in one of the great urban parks present in almost every city. But of course, you could also visit expensive art museums, got to Disneyland multiple times, or spend all day shopping in designer boutiques. Your activities in Europe can be as cheap as you make them! Here’s some extra tips for saving money when sight seeing!

Most churches in Europe are free to explore!


City passes

City passes are a great way to save money especially if you plan on seeing multiple museums. Lots of cities have some form of pass, but I’ll just talk about the two that we bought.

IAmsterdam pass

This pass covers all public transport within the city and offers free admission to many of Amsterdam’s top museum including the Van Gogh museum. You also get discounts for many other attractions, a free city map, and free admission to the zoo! They offer 24 hour, 48 hour and 72 hour passes. Visit their website https://www.iamsterdam.com/en/i-am/i-amsterdam-city-card to find out if it can save you money!

Berlin Museum Pass

There are multiple city passes in Berlin, but we chose to get the Berlin museum pass. This is a three day pass which costs €24- €12 for a student. It covers all of the museums on museum island and many more in Berlin. It’s worth looking into, especially if you want to explore Berlin’s unique history. Find out more here http://www.visitberlin.de/en/museum-pass-berlin

The IAmsterdam pass includes a canal cruise!

It’s also worth looking at looking at public transport passes as opposed to paying for each trip individually. Free museum days can be a great way to save money. All the museums in the Vatican are free on the last Sunday of every month!

A sneaky sistine chapel photo!

I hope these tips will help you to plan your trip to Europe! If you play your cards right it’s easy to travel on a small budget!

Pinnacles Road Trip

Recently we took a weekend road trip north of Perth as far as Jurien Bay via the Indian Ocean Drive. Neither of us had been this far north before (I know, it’s shameful. But that’s why we’re so determined to start doing more domestic travel!) First stop on the trip was Yanchep national park! This beautiful green park is home to koalas,kangaroos, and some great bush trails. Entrance is $12 per car and this covers you for any other parks you visit that day. Yanchep is full of caves and you can tour the Crystal Cave for an additional fee, though we didn’t have time this trip. 

Spot the Koala!

Our new friend Skippy

 

Bush Trail

As we continued North the surrounding area became dense with bush land. At times we could see the coast line, but not as much as you would expect from a road named the Indian Ocean drive. There are some great lookout spots along the way though. 

When we were almost halfway to Nambung national park-more widely known as the pinnacles-we saw a big sign for “The Leaning Tower of Gingin.” We decided this sounded like something worth detouring for, so we headed inland towards Gingin! The land here was interesting and it looked like there’d been recent bushfires. When we got the the tower it turned out it was so observatory with a large lopsided towers that you can drop water balloons from! It also has a great view of the surrounding bush land as far as the coast. It was $6 each to go to the top of the tower, which I think is pretty pricey but it was good fun and we enjoyed the view. 

The view from the tower

 

Finally we reached the Pinnacles! I’ve wanted to visit here for a very long time, and it didn’t let me down. The landscape here is incredibly cool. The oddly shaped limestone pinnacles rise from the plains of yellow sand in a way that seems almost alien. This desert terrain could easily feature in a sci fi movie or be the latest image from a Mars drone. It was a surreal experience to feel as if we were stepping into a foreign world, and it was certainly a fun adventure. We did both the pinnacles drive (suitable for two wheel drive cars) and the walk, which was a short 1.5 km loop. I definitely recommend doing the walk as the you get a much better feel for the place when you get out of your car and experience the desert up close. 

The Pinnacles Desert


That night we stayed in the Pinnacles holiday park. It was $30 for the night in an unpowered campsite. The location is good and right by the beach. Our plan was to head to Jurien bay in the morning and get breakfast on the jetty, but unfortunately we woke up to some torrential rain! So after taking down our tent in record breaking time we began making our way South to Lancelin. By the time we got here the rain had stopped for just long enough for us to climb up the Lancelin sand dunes. This towering inland dune system makes you feel as if you’re in Egypt, and it would be a great place to visit with a four wheel drive! We had a delicious budget breakfast at the Lancelin bakery and then drove back to Perth where we spent the rest of the afternoon. This trip made for a great weekend and would also be a good day trip from Perth if you’re able to squeeze things in!

The Sand Dunes

Exploring Death Valley 

Artist’s Pallette

Arriving in Death Valley as an uncharacteristic super bloom was just beginning was a strange shattering of our expectations. This place that in my mind was a barren land where nothing thrived was instead teeming with life. Rare flowers whose seeds had lain dormant for years were sprouting everywhere, their vibrant colours peppering the otherwise drab landscape. In all honesty my knowledge about Death Valley before we arrived was limited. I’d seen pictures of Artist’s pallet and the infamous race track, but mostly all that came to mind was a bull skull laying in sand (you know the photo I’m talking about). In reality Death Valley was the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. This crazy land of extremes- the hottest, driest place on earth, the lowest place in North America-was also a place of many contradictions. The landscape is difficult to live off-that is undeniable- but so many organisms call this place home. Life can blossom here. Far from the unattractive karst park I had expected, Death Valley is full of mountains, multi coloured rock formations, rolling sand dunes, salt flats, historical dwellings, and-of course- thousands of flowers. The night skies here are worthy of an entire blog post of their own. I could have spent weeks exploring- and I hope some day I will.  
 

Zabriskie Point

  
We entered Death Valley through the Death Valley junction entrance. Armed with the free map and newspaper that you should always get at each national park, we headed down the wide open road into this beautiful wilderness. At this point we foolishly thought we could drive though Death Valley and onto the next spot in a day, but as soon as we reached the Zabriskie point look out I instantly knew we’d be spending the night here. The rolling mountains laid out before us were so inviting. I felt we could happily explore them for days. But that was just the first spot we stopped at in this diverse valley. Every other hike was so different, and everything was strikingly beautiful and awe inspiring in its own way. I’ll be making another post about each hike we did soon, but this is just a quick reflection on the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. If you decide to go there, give yourself time. Trust me when I say you’ll need plenty of it. 

Rear View Mirror Views

Surviving in Vegas 

We spent two nights in Las Vegas in the Hard Rock Hotel! This four star hotel cost us $50 a night plus the resort fee (more about that pesky cost later). We’ve never stayed anywhere with such a high star rating, so we were pretty excited about a little taste of luxury! I have to say that our room, was beautiful, the shower was big enough for five, the king bed was comfy and decor was classy. But would we stay there again? Honestly-no. If we ever return to Vegas I think I’d rather seek out a hostel. We found that hotels just aren’t our style. We don’t spend enough time in our hotel room to need somewhere fancy, and we just love the warm welcoming atmosphere at a hostel! When we checked in to the hard rock hotel we were given our keys and told where our room was. When you check in to a hostel you get a map of the area, the staff’s recommendations about where to go, and information about the group outings that the hostel has organised. For us it’s an obvious choice, but it was still nice to see what staying in a decent hotel was like and to have a proper hot shower. And it’s still a budget friendly option too. 
 

The one and only photo we snapped on the strip

 Now, I came now with a really bad flu when we were on Vegas so I can’t say we were the party animals we were hoping to be. But we still really enjoyed Vegas. It’s the weirdest thing to drive for miles and miles through the middle of nowhere and then arrive at this ridiculous party spot. The lights of the strip shine bright, the alcohol is flowing, and the laws of normal society don’t seem to apply here. So here are a few of our tips for surviving this oasis of immorality in the middle of the desert. 
1. Skip the strip during the day 

Depending on how long you’re staying in Vegas you’re going to get pretty sick of the strip if you spend all day and night there. There’s plenty more to do around Vegas than just gamble and drink! You can take a trip to lake Mead or Hoover Dam, go hiking in the Red Rock canyon, or visit the National Atomic Testing Museum to learn about Nevada’s nuclear history. After a day exploring you can head back to the strip just as things start to get exciting. 

 

Lake Mead is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the strip

 
2. Be weary of resort fees

It’s common for Vegas hotels to add in “resort fees” regardless of whether you have any intention of using these services. As I said above our room was $50 a night, but the resort fee was $25 each-effectively doubling the total cost for the first night. Now overall we still thought the price was reasonable but it’s important to be weary of these hidden charges so you don’t end up getting caught out 
3. Embrace the ridiculousness 
Look, Vegas is crazy. The fake Eiffel Tower, Caeser’s shopping mall designed to transport you to the streets of Italy, the street vendors selling margaritas in sippy cups. It’s unlike any place we’ve ever been and it’s certainly not somewhere we’d stay for an extended period of time. But you just have to laugh at this city of debauchery. You can smoke inside, you can drink on the streets, you can pretend you’re in Venice. You might not win the jackpot, but you’ll certainly have fun. 

Joshua Tree to Las Vegas 

  

Upon leaving Joshua Tree for Las Vegas we found ourselves almost immediately in the middle of nowhere. This drive is one of our favourite memories from California. The open desert roads, mountains looming above us, and the remote crossroad towns felt like something from a Wild West movie. We went miles and miles without seeing another car, mail boxes lined the road with no sign of who they belonged to, and the California playlist we’d waited months to listen to was the perfect background to the perfect drive. 
This drive goes right through the middle of the Mojave national preserve, a wonderfully diverse area of desert spanning 1.6 million acres. When I say diverse I mean it- we saw rolling Sand dunes, extinct volcanic cones, and towering mountains. The whole journey is relatively short- just over three hours- but for those who like to move at a more leisurely pace there are campsites in the preserve. There is also a historic trail which was once used for trading by native Americans! It’s recommended you use a four wheel drive for this trail but if you’re unsure there is a visitors centre where you can ask any questions. 
Another great thing about this drive is that you get to go through a small section of Route 66! It is a very small section but you still get to grab a photo with the sign and tell all your friends you drove on the famous mother road! The town of Amboy here once boomed due to traffic on Route 66 but since the town was bypassed by the interstate it is now basically a ghost town. It’s definitely an interesting stop!

  

  

  
As we got closer to Vegas Alex insisted we stop at Good Springs- a tiny town between Primm and Las Vegas that also happens to be the starting point for Fallout: New Vegas. If you’re a video game fan I’d say this place is a must visit. It’s just a short side trip from the highway and Alex was thrilled to be able to get a picture with the sign, buy a t-shirt, and see the old fashioned saloon. It’s also a nice place to stop and pee! 

  

 
Finally, we decided to head to the Hoover dam as we couldn’t check in to our hotel till three and we’d made good time. From the highway we could see Lake Mead, the huge man made lake created by the Hoover dam. We decided we’d take a quick look at the visitors centre before heading on to the dam. However, it turns out there’s some great hikes around lake mead and I think our quick look turned into a two hour exploration. That’s what road trips are all about though, right?! 

  There are many interesting hikes around the lake with beautiful views. We did part of the historic railroad trail. This trail goes along the path of the old railroad which carried materials to the site of the Hoover dam! You go through the old tunnels which are now home to bats. Along the way you can see the original concrete plugs used in building the dam- when they were removed they were simply tossed off the train. There are also information plaques telling you about the surrounding area and the building of the dam. This trail is 7.5 miles (12 km) return and is an easy well laid out walk. We didn’t have time to go the whole thing but it’s worth just walking as far as the first tunnel- it’s a beautiful walk and a very interesting one too. 

  
Next we went to the legendary Hoover dam. Built in 1936 this monstrous dam changed life in the area surrounding the Colorado river forever. It’s effects are controversial- it tamed the river, flooded towns, powered cities, and killed wildlife. But regardless of your opinion, it’s an amazing site to visit and ponder the achievements of man. 

  
Parking here is a $10 fee. There’s a visitor centre, shop and cafe. You can walk across the dam or the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge- and when you get to the other side you’ll be in Arizona! It’s a great way to fit another state into your itinerary 😉 
So that was how we spent our third day with the camper van! After we left the dam we headed straight to the city lights of Vegas…but that’s a story for another blog post. 

  

Our top 3 Joshua Tree Hikes

There are many beautiful hikes in Joshua tree and I wish we’d had the time to do more! It can be difficult to choose the best hikes to do when you have limited time, so here’s a quick look at our favourites. All of them are relatively short and doable for those of all fitness levels. 

3. Key’s View- This is a short but steep loop to a beautiful look out point. From here you can see the San Andreas fault line, the Salton Sea, the snow capped Peninsular ranges and, on on very clear days, Signal Mountain all the way in Mexico. It’s seriously an amazing view and well worth visiting. 

 

Beautiful Key’s View

 
2. Hidden Valley trail- This beautiful short hike is the perfect introduction to the Joshua tree terrain. The 1 mile (1.6 km) walk took us about an hour and a half because it’s so easy to get side tracked climbing the rocks and admiring the plant life. Be careful where you put your hand as rattle snakes can hide between the cracks in the rocks! Luckily all we saw was some small lizards. The cool thing about this trail is that it was once used by cattle rustlers-it’s enclosed nature within the rocks made it perfect for hiding cattle and preventing them from wandering off. This little hike is a great way to get a quick overview of the history of Joshua tree and to experience the unique features of the Mojave desert. 

The “hidden” entrance to the valley

 

There’s plenty of rocks to climb on!

 
1. The Barker Dam Trail- This trail is a short 1.3 mile (2.1 km) loop. It was by far my favourite hike in Joshua tree. The scenery here is typical- big boulders and Joshua trees-but you will also go by barker dam which was built in 1950. This is one of the few places in the park where there is water so it’s a good spot for wildlife watching. You might even see a big horn sheep! There are also petroglyphs near the end of the trail! These are Native American rock carvings and its very cool to see these two different parts of history being preserved in the park. This hike differs from the hidden valley trail in that for part of it you exit the sea of boulders and are in the vast flat desert. Here there is lots of plant life and there are handy information plaques which tell you what everything is. This hike was just really beautiful and less busy than the hidden valley trail. You really feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere in a really good way. 

  

Joshua tree is full of history

 
 

Water in the desert

 

Los Angeles to Joshua Tree via Palm Springs

  

Road Trip Day One

First on the agenda for day one of our road trip was picking up our camper van! We chose Escape campers (who I will be reviewing in another post). They’re located close to the airport but we weren’t organised enough to realise this was two bus rides from Hollywood…with all our luggage. Oh well! Typically you pick your camper up at 11 am but that’s a pretty late start to the day. We organised to pick it up at 10 but if you can manage to get it earlier than that I’d recommend it. Once you get there you’ll have some things to go through and you don’t want to waste half of your first day. 

 

Our wonderful van in Joshua Tree

 
After picking our camper we got on the road! In true road trip fashion we got lost almost immediately (thanks google maps!) and so the familiar stress of travelling had already begun! But once we’d gotten on the right freeway there was no stopping us! Here we had our first taste of the beautiful California scenery. The mountainous terrain and the desert sands clashed wonderfully and already I knew California was going to be one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever seen. First stop on the trip was Palm Springs, the desert retreat of celebrities and millionaires. At just a two hour drive from Los Angeles this place was the perfect stop for lunch. The streets of Palm Springs are lined with palm trees and full of boutique stores and cute eateries. We walked around for a while enjoying the beautiful warm weather and the chance to stretch our legs. It’s obvious why so many people holiday here! We ate at Gyoro Gyoro. Truthfully from a distance we thought it was a Greek restaurant but it is actually Japanese. The lunch specials here were really decently priced and they have a bottomless sake for cheap too! I had a lychee sakitini which was delicious and we both had very good noodle dishes. There were definitely more interesting places around but Gyoro Gyoro was a great budget friendly option. Afterwards we went to Great Shakes. I had seen on trip advisor that this was the number one place to eat in Palm Springs. They make seriously beautiful milk shakes with little doughnuts on top. Ours even had fresh banana slices on top of whipped cream! If they had somewhere like this near me I would probably be there much too often! Prices range from $5.50 to $7.50. As you exit the town keep an eye out for the expensive car dealerships and huge mansions!

  

After Palm Springs we were off to Joshua Tree National Park! We had booked in to Black Rock campground as it is one of only two reservation camps at the park and we wanted to make sure we had at least our first night of the road trip booked. Honestly though, if I were to stay again I would pick somewhere more centrally located in the park such as Jumbo Rocks Campground. Joshua Tree is only an hour from Palm Springs but we took our time and stopped for groceries so by the time we arrived it was already dark. We made some campfire beans, had some drinks and settled in to our first night of camping!

 

A Joshua tree and some big rocks

 

Day Two



On day two we got up early, made breakfast and headed into the park. We stopped at the visitors centre to buy a national park pass as if you’re visiting any more than 4 national parks it’s cheaper to buy an annual interagency pass! This covers everyone in your car and is just $80. We also got a park map and a newspaper. Each national park has their own seasonal newspaper. Be sure to get one in each park you go to as its full of handy information about hiking trails, road closures, and the parks flora and fauna. Then it was time to explore the park! Joshua Tree is a truly beautiful national park where the Mojave and Colorado deserts meet. Full of interesting rick formations and desert plant life, it’s a great introduction to California’s diverse landscape. It is hot here-we visited mid February and it was 30 degrees Celsius-so bring plenty of water especially if you will be hiking or climbing. There are so many wonderful things to explore here and the park has a surprising amount of history from mining to cattle rustling. From Key’s view you can see as far as the Salton sea and below you can see the San Andreas Fault line. You can rock climb both professionally and as an amateur. The night skies here are light pollution free and beautiful. Explore the park, enjoy the views, have a picnic lunch and then get an early night-tomorrow you drive to Las Vegas. 

  

The Ultimate California Road Trip

  

When planning our California road trip we looked at several different routes. With multiple national parks, a sprawling coastline and beautiful cities, we found that we were spoilt for choice. But after lots of research and consideration here is what we consider to be the ultimate California road trip. 
LA->Palm Springs->Joshua Tree National Park ->Las Vegas->Death Valley National Park->Sequoia National Park->Yosemite National Park->San Francisco-> Pacific Coast Highway/Highway One back to Los Angeles

    
Over the next few weeks I’ll be breaking down each section of the road trip and giving you the details on where to stay and what to do. In total the trip took 18 days so if you’ve got three weeks in California this is the perfect trip for you! It’s got the four components that make California so wonderful:
Cities-This trip goes to both LA and San Francisco, California’s two major cities. It also visits Las Vegas which isn’t in California, but consider it a bonus destination!

  

San Francisco Sky Line

  
Sea- The drive along highway one is famous for being one of the most scenic drives in the US. You’ll see California’s beautiful coastline including Big Sur-a must visit for both surfers and animal lovers 

  
Sand- California’s deserts are beautiful, dynamic and awe inspiring. On this trip you’ll visit Joshua Tree National Park where the Mojave Dessert meets the Colorado dessert, you’ll drive through the Mojave national preserve (one of our favourite drives of the whole holiday), and you’ll see Death Valley National Park-probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. 

 

Death Valley National Park

 
Trees- What would a trip to California be without seeing Yosemite National Park’s giant trees, tumbling waterfalls and granite peaks? Or a visit to Sequoia National Park to see the largest tree in the world? 

Towering Sequoia Trees

 

California has everything you could ever want in a state, the difficult part is seeing it all! Hopefully our experience helps you create your own road trip. 
 

A Day in LA 

Seeing LA in a day
We spent a very short time in LA-less than 2 days before our road trip and two days after. We did some things that we loved and some things that weren’t worth doing. So having learnt from these experiences we thought we’d give you what we consider to be the perfect itinerary for a day in LA. 

 

One- Breakfast! We were lucky enough to be in Hollywood on a Sunday, the day when the local markets occur on Ivar avenue. These markets offer a sprawling selection of local, unique and home made food and drinks. The choices seem endless- from fresh organic produce to vegan cheeses to authentic Thai food, we knew we were going to get a breakfast worth writing about. These markets are a cool way to jump in to LA’s laid back life style. The stall owners aren’t aiming their wares at tourists, it’s all catered towards the Los Angeles residents who come out every Sunday morning to get their weeks worth of fruit and veg, artisan bread, and fresh fruit juice. I really love markets so I was in my element walking up and down these bustling Hollywood streets. (TIP: If you’re not visiting on a Sunday Santa Monica have markets on Wednesdays and Saturdays) 

 

Hollywood marathon

 
Two- Follow your market breakfast with a quick walk around the Hollywood walk of fame. Most people (including us) will find this over rated, but it’s still a must see even if it’s just to say you saw it. Take a look at the Chinese theatre and keep an eye out for your favourite stars’s names. 
  
Three- Make the trek to Venice beach and walk down the famous board walk. Have a look at the fitness fanatics at the famous muscle beach gym, fight off the would be musicians offering you their mix tape, and take the time to people watch-you’ll find all sorts here. After your time on the beach head to Abbot Kinney boulevard, a famous street filled with hipster-esque clothing stores and organic restaurants. We had lunch at Kreation Kafe and Juicery. The prices here are more reasonable than we expected and the food is good, but the real attraction here is the atmosphere. AstroTurf flooring, water with chlorophyll and metal straws, and juice shots that come in fake syringes- this place is the ultimate yuppy LA experience and it’s definitely worth trying. 

 

Cloudy skies on Venice boardwalk

 
Four- Take a quick trip to the Le Brea tar pits. This is a group of tar pits sitting in the middle of LA full of ancient fossils. They’re still excavating some of the pits and you can actually see them working on them. The pits bubble like something out of prehistoric movie and there are patches of grass and foot path where the tar is pushing up from the ground. Admission to the museum is $12 but you can wander around the grounds for free. They also do free admission on Tuesdays. Parking is available on site for $10. 

 

La Brea tar pits

 
Five- Head to Griffith park and see their famous observatory. Admission here is free and there are many interesting exhibits. From here you get a great view over LA (even if the smog obscures it) and a view of the Hollywood sign! The observatory has a planetarium where they do several shows. Tickets are only $7 an adult and are so worth it! 

  

 

Griffith Observatory-and some smog

 
Six- Head back to Hollywood for dinner and drinks. There are plenty of options to choose from but we ate at Loteria Grill on Hollywood boulevard. This place is a Los Angeles institution and while I usually hate eating at chain restaurants this place feels very much like a stand alone. The Mexican cuisine is divine (no seriously-divine), the Margaritas were perfection, and the happy hour prices weren’t too shabby either! We sat in the alfresco area and the view out onto the walk of fame was great! Lots of interesting passersby- if you’re into people watching you’ll be thrilled. Afterwards head to one of LA’s best bars. Good Times at Davey Wayne’s is a popular option- a speak easy style bar with a 70s vibe where you enter through a fridge door! No Vacancy is another Hollywood bar with a grand entrance- here you enter through a trap door that opens by pulling a lever! Wherever you choose, end your perfect LA day with some drinks before stumbling back to wherever you’re staying- we chose USA Hostels Hollywood.