24Hours in California


It’s officially 4 weeks (yesterday) til our Vegas Vacation and the stress dreams have started. I am not a lay by the pool kind of holiday maker, I like to get out and see things and have at least a vague itinerary if we’re going somewhere for the first time of with new people. This visit we’ve decided to make the most of our jet lag and 5am wakeup on the first day and drive out to California. It’s a trek and I did it once before but it was so long ago and Lee wasn’t with me so I’ve always wanted to try it again. Ideally we would love to dedicate a couple of weeks one Summer to a Californian road trip with the kids so this will be a bit of a test run to see 1. if we are up for it and 2. how comfortable Lee is driving long distances in a foreign country, on the other side of the road.

It all started when I heard Natasha Beddingfield’s ‘Unwritten’ and explained to my colleague that Lee and I had bonded over a mutual love for The Hills, Lauren, Heidi, the whole gang. I wonder how far Laguna Beach is? I wonder how far LA is from there? That was about 2 weeks ago and we’ve since booked a car. Is that what they call the law of attraction?

We’re not sure whether we will stay over, I suggested yes but Lee thinks he can power through so here’s my plan of attack so far..

Monday Morning (Easter Monday – I’m told this is a regular work day in the US?)

5am – Drive down to the Welcome To Las Vegas Sign that I have still never seen – 4th time’s a charm?

5.30am – Drive from Vegas to Laguna Beach – around 4 hours according to Google Maps

9.30am – Spend an hour here, maybe get breakfast (if we didn’t stop on the way)

10.30am – Drive to LA, first stop TCL Chinese Theatre (around 1hr 30)

I’m going to factor in a few of couple of hours here for lunch, wandering around, parking etc but we don’t want to stay long

2pm – Drive to a view of the Hollywood Sign (approx 30mins)

3pm – Drive to Venice Beach (1hr 30m)

I’ve seen Venice Beach before but never the canals so I want to wander around there and to the beach

6pm – Drive to Santa Monica (20m)

Hoping to get to the pier around sunset, have dinner and hang out til we’re ready for home

8.30pm – Drive back to Las Vegas

Seems like the later we leave the shorter the drive time so depending on how Lee is holding up we plan to set off after 8.30pm or stop over and set off super early again. I’ve rounded up all of the estimatated travel times a fair bit but obviously I can’t predict traffic. If need be we may cut out the Chinese Theatre to fit in what else we have on the list. It really is a whirlwind visit but we want to see as much as we can. We may even edit out Laguna Beach since it’s off the beaten track compared to the rest of what we want to see but this is a first draft.

I’m posting my ideas well in advance in the hope that those of you who have spent more time on the West Coast or have done something similar may be able to nudge me in a better direction or make suggestions as to where we can stop on the way/eat at the stops we have planned. Any input welcome!



    • missbudgetbeauty
      19 March, 2017 / 4:55 pm

      I’d love to go for a week.. actually way more expensive than other places we visit!

  1. Debbie
    19 March, 2017 / 2:14 pm

    So jealous

    • missbudgetbeauty
      19 March, 2017 / 4:55 pm

      we will probably end up going to Orange County and just staying there after the long drive, haha!!

  2. Nicola
    19 March, 2017 / 2:26 pm

    Cali veteran here – stayed nearly everywhere from San Fran to San Diego and have done the road trip out to Las Vegas and beyond. Don’t rely on Google maps for drive time especially around rush hour in the LA area. Honestly I think you have tried to pack too much in here. Travel and finding somewhere to park (which will be spendy) will take waaay longer than you think. Of all the places you mention I’d miss out on Chinese Theatre (it’s really a scruffy hell hole round there, not much to see except tat shops and people dressed up who hassle you to take photos) and Venice Beach (it’s a beach, with weirdos). Spend the time at Santa Monica , the kids will love the rides etc on the pier. But honestly it will take you twice as long as you think to drive out there from Hollywood sign (best views from a residential area of windy streets) any time after 3pm. And factor in the jet lag which will mean that at night you are all going to be really knackered by 8pm- do you really want to face a 4 hr plus drive at that point? Best get a hotel!

    • missbudgetbeauty
      19 March, 2017 / 4:54 pm

      I guess I’m assuming outside of the city the traffic won’t be too horrific but maybe not? The Chinese Theatre made the list for the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, no more but I’d like to drive out the view of the Hollywood sign if nothing else. I’ve been before and I guess I’m trying to check off those things for Lee too while we’re there. I actually remember preferring Venice to Santa Monica, I quite liked the hippy vibe but I did like the Santa Monica pier at sunset. The kids won’t be with us this time which is why I’ve been a little more ambitious as we will have the patience for a day in the car with quick pit stops to see everything, wouldn’t dream of packaging in so much with the kids in tow.. but I think that’s partially why I’m trying to fit it all in while we’re on our own. Totally agree about the hotel.. we’ll see how he feels but I know if I was driving I’d be stopping over!!

      • Nicola
        20 March, 2017 / 8:07 am

        The problem with traffic is that “the city” area is so huge. There’s no real sense of leaving anywhere to get somewhere else if that makes sense! Didn’t realise you were doing grown ups only (jealous!!) in which case the sunset’s the same at Venice as it is in Santa Monica 😉 . If you want to splash out though dinner at Shutters on the Beach is spectacular. (But book ahead). As to walk of fame honestly the pavements are so crowded you don’t see half the stars. It was the biggest disappointment for me, only mitigated by the fact that you can catch an open top bus tour just along from the Chinese theatre (not stars homes type thing btw) which takes about an hour if you don’t get off.

        • missbudgetbeauty
          20 March, 2017 / 10:47 am

          haha I was thinking more of the lights on the pier than the sunset on the beach 😉 ..for me I’d pick Venice cause I want to visit the canals and I’ve done Santa Monica but I think it’s pretty iconic and would like for Lee to see it. Maybe the walk of fame is one for when we go back with the kids. Rubbish as it may be it’s still a ‘to do’ for me. Going to google that restaurant now, thanks for the tips x

  3. Teresa
    19 March, 2017 / 2:59 pm

    Hi! I live in California (Santa Barbara). You are correct, Easter Monday is not s holiday here. Your itinerary is very ambitious! Hollywood around the Chinese Theatre is not glamorous at all. It’s full of sketchy people, pot smokers & vagrants. You’d be better off driving the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood from Beverly Hills to La Cienaga & having lunch at my fav people watching place on Sunset called Chin Chin. My two cents!

    • missbudgetbeauty
      19 March, 2017 / 4:50 pm

      I think I’m being ambitious too lol but it’s a rough ‘here’s what we could fit in MAX’ rather than a to the letter plan. I’m not interested in the area in LA, more the walk of fame.. I’ve been before but Lee hasn’t. I also really enjoyed Venice Beach, weirdo’s et al but I know what you’re saying. We may end up driving along the coast and totally skipping LA depending on how Lee feels about driving in the city but I’m hoping to go back for a longer stay at some point either way so no pressure.

      • Teresa
        19 March, 2017 / 4:55 pm

        Sounds like you have realistic expectations. You should drive out to PCH and have lunch in Malibu or somewhere in Santa Monica near the pier, that’s a real California experience. I would say drive up the coast to Santa Barbara and I’ll meet you for lunch, but that’s REALLY too ambitious.

        • missbudgetbeauty
          19 March, 2017 / 4:59 pm

          haaa!!! I would love to road trip across California but I think I want to take the kids along for that one.. maybe next time! PCH is on the list, for sure!!

  4. Jenny Powell
    19 March, 2017 / 6:28 pm

    If you are wanting recommendations for eateries at Laguna Beach I can recommend Las Brisas. Your itinerary as others have said sounds ambitious. For shopping I loved Karlsbad near San Diego. You will have a wonderful time I am sure.

    • missbudgetbeauty
      20 March, 2017 / 10:48 am

      thank you!! we may end up spending the day just at Laguna Beach in which case I will definitely look up that restaurant!

  5. Rachael
    19 March, 2017 / 9:11 pm

    Such an amazing idea. Hubby and I are planning a summer trip next year with a road trip through america. There are just so many places to go!

    Rachael xox

    • missbudgetbeauty
      20 March, 2017 / 10:48 am

      And never enough time!!

  6. 20 March, 2017 / 8:53 pm

    I’d echo everyone else’s comments that if you can miss anything from your Cali trip don’t worry about the Chinese Theatre. It’s a bit like the frantic-ness (is that a word!) of Leicester Square in London. If you’re going back with the kids consider a night in Hollywood to tick off a couple of tourist things (Loews at The Hollywood & Highland next to the theatre is great and only a train stop from Universal Studios)

    Very envious of your trip I love Vegas too.


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