PCH Road Trip – The Planning Stage

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A trip up the famous Pacific Coast Highway/Highway 101 has been on my mind for a long time. In my opinion it is the most scenic road trip of all time. When our friend announced they would be getting married in Bend, Oregon this year, we knew it was the perfect opportunity to make this road trip a reality. I am currently dreaming about taking pictures like the ones shown in this post… but it is time for a little work.

So, where to start? I started planning for this trip about four months in advance. After much research on other PCH travel blogs, forums, websites and reviews on Trip Advisor, I knew that the best parts of the PCH are located from Los Angeles to San Francisco and San Francisco to the southern coast of Oregon. Most suggest that you should start North and travel South but this didn’t work for our schedule with the wedding. We decided to fly to LA and start the trip up North. It will take us eight days to make it to Bend, OR factoring in stops along the way. First, I Googled how long it would take to get from LA to San Francisco: 5 hours and 40 minutes straight route or almost 9 hours via the PCH which is the reason for the trip. Obviously a 9 hour drive is doable but when you factor in sightseeing and breaks to eat, we realized the best idea would be to make a stop between the two cities. To decide where to stop, I began trying to find reasonable hotels along the coast.

Where to Stay?

Before booking our first stop, I needed to find out the best place in Los Angeles to stay. LA is huge and there are tons of different neighborhoods to choose from. My first initial thought was to stay downtown but after some research I realized West Hollywood sounded like the best option for our trip. Each neighborhood offers something different for tourists. Here is a useful breakdown of each neighborhood: LA Neighborhoods. West Hollywood is described as the “it” neighborhood for the entertainment industry’s up-and-comers, known for great boutique shopping and the restaurant scene. It is also where you will find the Sunset Strip with many clubs and music venues. We decided on the Le Parc Suites Hotel since it is close to many shops and restaurants as well as the Sunset Strip. It is also centrally located since we plan to visit the Santa Monica Pier and Rodeo Drive during our stay.

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Bixby Creek Bridge, Big Sur, California

Now to book a hotel for our first stop. When looking for cheaper hotels in an unfamiliar area it is best to find a large city where the hotels are competitive. Obviously Big Sur would have been amazing but the better rates were located in Monterey, CA. You’ll find out why I was extremely happy with this decision later. Before booking a hotel, I will use Google Maps to see what attractions it is close to as well as it’s relativity to the PCH. Normally prices will appear for nearby hotels so you can easily compare. I also check out review sites to see what guests are saying about the hotel. It’s really a personal preference but we prefer to have a clean hotel with good reviews. We decided that the best option was the Portola Hotel & Spa near Fisher Man’s Wharf in Monterey. It is walking distance to restaurants and shops in the area and had a great price for the location. We found that hotels and bed & breakfasts right on the coast were more expensive for obvious reasons. We are only at this hotel one night so we did not feel like we needed a room with a view.

Lucky for us we have a wonderful friend in San Francisco that is letting us stay at his place for a few nights. Otherwise we probably would have looked into airbnb. Hotels in San Francisco are very expensive.

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Map of the PCH

The next stop on our journey we decided would be close to the Redwood National Forest as we planned to spend some time here hiking. We would have loved to camp since there is an abundance of options but would have to bring an additional suitcase full of our camping gear. We decided to find a hotel or B&B. We didn’t think we could make it all the way to Crescent City with our many stops so I found a great option in Klamath, CA. There is a Holiday Inn right off the highway. It received good reviews and apparently has a casino located in the hotel. We are excited to check that out, should be interesting.

After Klamath, we are headed up to Portland, OR where we will stay for a few days with some friends before heading back south to Bend. If we could stay a few more days after the wedding we would suggest stopping in Bend first before Portland. Both are great cities with a lot to offer. The best place to stay in Portland according to our local friends is the Pearl District.

In Bend, we will be staying at the Hampton Inn & Suites near the Old Mill District.

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Crater Lake, Oregon

Rental Car Tips

We decided to go with the original choice of a convertible for our trip from LA to San Francisco. We always hear it never rains so hopefully this works out. Instead of going straight to a rental company, I decided to check out some deals that Southwest offers. If you own a Southwest Credit Card or have Rapids Rewards, Southwest offers discounts on multiple car rental companies as well as Rapid Rewards points for renting a car through their site. This ended up being the best option for us. We received 35% off the rental and 600 Rapid Rewards points.

We will be leaving for our road trip in the next few weeks and can’t wait to share all of our great adventures out west! Stay tuned.

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