I am a big planner when it comes to trips, especially when it comes to planning trips for myself, closed-friends, and family. In fact, in July, I will be taking some of my cousins from Minnesota to a 10-day California road trip. And if you are like me (or know me) and would want to hit every foodie recommendation, see every view, and wander every shop at every pretty street, then you are in for a treat! In today’s post, I’m sharing all of my road trip planning tips and a Packing List (downloadable link below, and it’s for personal use only!)

My PACKING LIST

download HERE

So if you’re in the mood for planning a trip of your own? Start here!

HOW TO PLAN FOR TRIPS

1. Book your flights:

As you all know, Tuesdays are when most flights are offered at the best deals. I usually start browsing on Monday night or early up to 2 am on Tuesdays a few months or weeks in advance just to get an idea of the price range for flights, two- ways vs. one-ways. For a California road trip like this, I actually will start from San Franciso, not LA, since flights are much cheaper there. So depends on how long you want your trip and where you live, a 5 to 10-day road trip will give you a decent time to enjoy the drive! But if you have a flexible schedule and want cheaper flights, avoid flying on the weekends!

  • Kayak
  • Skyscanner
  • Google flights

Once I have picked out the flights (arrival time, departure time, how long the flights are, non-stop vs. multiple stops, etc.), I purchase the flights directly on that airline’s website (not through any third-party sites. This is just my preference!). I highly suggest you download the airline apps prior to flying since you’ll get the option to save the boarding pass into your phone’s wallet: Fly Delta, Southwest, Alaska, United. This makes it more convenient since you’ll need to pull out your ID and your phone when going through TSA.

2. Car rental:

Remember to always check for the weather because it will play a big part in determining what car to rent for such a big road trip like this. The best time to start looking into booking a car is about a week or two weeks before departure. If you are traveling in the winter or completing a long journey, then it’s worth making sure you’re renting something that is not only comfortable but also safe, especially on windy mountainous roads or bumpy off-trail routes.

Parking: For each hotel or Airbnb you book, make sure you consider where you’re going to park. My tip is to avoid downtown or a busy area where there is no free street parking available. It depends on where your stay is going to be really, so you’ll either need to book early and buy parking as a bundle with your accommodation or be really flexible and ready to walk to your stay for the night.

  • Spot Hero (parking reservation app, check out their parking locations, here)
  • Car2Go (hourly car rental & car-sharing app)
  • Uber
  • Lyft

3. Book your stays:

I don’t sweat too much about where I will be spending the night at. HotelTonight typically has last-minute deals hours before the night, so I just look for wherever is convenient. For a bigger group type of travel (more than 2 people), you might want to secure the room/s in advance to make sure that everyone stays closer to each other just for the sake of convenience. For nights that you’ll be in the middle of nowhere, be ready to stay at some no-name motels/hotels since that’s the case! Also, consider cabin options when you’re in some national parks since those will most likely be the only options.

  • Hotel Tonight
  • Expedia
  • Airbnb
  • Google Hotel

4. Finding things to do:

When it comes to planning for what to do, I’m an expert at this! I love browsing blogs and websites for travel guides and the next best things to do wherever I am at, so I will share all of the trip details in my next post after the trip is completed! Besides Googling things, I’d like to ask friends and family (if they have recently been, of course) for cool places and their tips/thoughts about the trip in general. I also have lists of things like this in my journal and my phone’s note. It comes pretty handily most of the time because chances are I will be checking off that list in a few months. The best tip when planning for a trip for other people is that you’d want to consider their age, what they’re into, and ask for their opinions in what they want to do as well!

For example, I will be taking my cousins on their first California road trip this time, and they’re all teenagers and early 20s. This makes it super easy since we’re pretty close to each other, and 90% of what I like to do, they’d be happy to participate or tag along. Besides the fact that they did point out that they specifically wanted to thrift and go to the beach in LA, so I will make sure those things will happen! I’m super excited to take them out hiking in the National Parks though!

  • Do research online
  • Ask friends and family, local friends
  • Goop’s travel guides
  • Travel blogs,
  • Instagram (for IG-worthy locations if you’re into photography or just want to check out those IG-iconic locations!)

5. Places to eat:

I do have lists of food places in each city written down in my journal as well as in my phone’s note app. Typically, I’d prefer local places that I don’t get access to in my city. I also know that my cousins will not enjoy sushi or any delicacies, so the best choices are always something that involves chicken, sandwiches, and easy grab-and-go food! And they also like Starbucks and boba, so yes, Boba Guy is on my list to take them there!

  • Yelp (make sure you read the reviews because seeing the numbers of reviews with the stars given doesn’t really say much about the food quality and taste/flavor!)
  • Eater (check out the LA Eater page, here for pretty good lists of food. I really enjoy the Seattle Eater food guide when it comes to creating my own bucket food list!)
  • Google
  • Instagram (I like to search for keywords and hashtags when it comes to IG-worthy places in that specific place or city that I will be in, especially food. Instagram also shows you related hashtags, so it’s a sea of information out there! Be selective and focus when it comes to browsing Instagram is all I’ve got to say!

IMPORTANT THINGS TO NOTE:

When planning:

  • Who you plan the trip with or for – make sure you plan for yourself and for who you travel with because it’s definitely easier if you both want similar things out of the trip. Avoid moving or walking too much if there are older people with you. Kids also need to sleep early!
  • Make frequent stops! Know that a 4-hour drive will probably take you 5 or 6. Since you’re on vacation, there is no rush! So take as much time as you need, pick up a thing or two at a local shop that’s on the way! Stop to smell the fresh ocean air and just take it slow to enjoy the views!
  • Invest: lightweight durable suitcase (international travel size), packing cubes, toiletry & makeup bags, travel adapters. All of these storage bags can be stored in the suitcase when you’re not traveling (to save space)

Before the trip:

  • Download maps offline, especially for road trips where there will be no signal a lot of the time.
  • I check off my Packing List (details below or downloadable link, here) to make sure I don’t forget things.
  • Make sure to check in your flights within 24 hours before departure. Download all of the necessary apps and save your boarding passes in your phone’s wallet.
  • Roll your clothes instead of folding them to maximize corners and eliminate wrinkles

After the trip:

  • Repack and refill all your liquids to always have them prepared in advance for your next trip.

What To Wear On The Plane

  • T-shirt or a sweater
  • Leggings – my favorites: Outdoor Voices Techsweat leggings or sweatpants
  • Socks – my favorites are these DarnTough pair I wear on hikes and for warmth on the plane
  • Sneakers or slip-on shoes (any shoes that require no lacing!) – Superga sneakers, Rothy’s sneakers,
  • Comfortable bralette & undies
  • Jacket, sweater, or a scarf (for added warmth)
  • Optional: panty liner/pad (to reduce bathroom trips, especially on long flights), deodorant, no makeup but skincare & lip balm. ūüôā

Tips:

  1. wear your most heavy items to save space in your carry-on
  2. avoid wearing accessories (jewelry, belt, hat), laced up sneakers, push-up bra/tight underwears
  3. Moisturize & hydrate

Personal Bag:

Tips:

Get a backpack that has a built-in laptop compartment, otherwise consider a separate thin sleeve for your laptop that is easy to slide in and out. I’m currently using a Kanken Classic to travel with. It has a laptop compartment but no padded support, so be careful! Super spacious & it opens up in a rectangular!

Use a tote bag for easier reach if you want since it can also double up as a day bag during your trip

  • Phone
  • Passport/Travel insurance
  • ID, Credit cards, cash
  • Valuables: camera, expensive jewelry, keys,¬†important paperwork
  • Electronics: tablets, headphones, laptop
  • Personal items: medications, pads/tampons, panty liners extra pair of undies or top for long flights
  • Books/entertainment (music, podcasts, movies downloaded onto your devices)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Socks (if you haven’t already had on)
  • Lip balm – Glossier Balm Dotcom in Mint
  • Face mask/Face spray: Caudalie Beauty Elixir Mini
  • General all-purpose moisturizer, here
  • I use this pencil pouch to store items that I bring everywhere on the daily, including all lip products, lash glue, and knick-knacks. Watch my What’s In My Bag video to see more, here. If you see a MUJI store, pick it up since it’s much cheaper in-store than online.

Extras:

CARRY-ON

  • I’d recommend a lightweight & durable suitcase for international – I currently have this Delsey one.

  • Weekender bag works, too! I have this one from Bric’s, bought from Saks Off.

  • Compartmentalize. Use¬†packing cubes for easier packing & separate clean vs. dirty items, here.

Toiletry bag

Tips:

Remember TSA 3-1-1 liquid rule – below items marked with * meaning they must be travel sizes or minis

Make sure to dispense liquids into travel bottles & store them in an anti-leakage bag (zip-loc bag works too!)

  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Hairbrush & hair bands
  • *Shampoo & conditioner
  • *Shower gel
  • Deodorant
  • Perfume (rolled-on or travel-sized)
  • Hairstyling products (avoid air cans)
  • Bug repellent (can buy after security if needed)
  • Mini Razor, here
  • Mini Nail kit, here

Skincare bag:

Shop What’s In My Makeup Bag

  • Eyeshadow palette: Anastasia Beverly Hills modern Renaissance Eye Shadow Palette,¬†Viseart Palette in Matte finish¬†
  • Tinted moisturizer – Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 20 in Tawny, NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 in Cuzco, IT Cosmetics CC+ Cream with SPF50+ in Medium Tan¬†
  • Foundation – Gorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation¬†in 6.25 and¬†Est√©e Lauder¬†Double Wear Stay-in-Place Foundation¬†
  • Concealer – Glossier Stretch Concealer¬†in G8, NARS Soft Matte Complete Concealer in Custard¬†
  • Brows – Benefit Precisely My brow Pencil, Anastasia Beverly Hills Dipbrow Pomade & brush #12, Brow Freeze Wax¬†
  • Bronzer – Cream Milk Makeup Matte Bronzer¬†in Blaze, powder NARS Bronzing Powder¬†in Laguna,¬†FENTY BEAUTY¬†Sun Stalk’r Instant Warmth Bronze¬†
  • Highlighter – cream¬†RMS Beauty Living Luminizer, powder Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed Highlighter Mini¬†in Champagne Pop¬†
  • Blushes – Glossier Cloud Paints, Em Cosmetics serum Blush
  • Mascara – Lancome Monsieur Big¬†
  • Eyelash Curler – Surratt Beauty Relevee Lash Curler¬†
  • Sponge & my favorite makeup brushes – Beautyblender, cheaper Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge¬†
  • Setting powder – loose setting powder Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder Mini,¬†compact powder Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder¬†
  • Makeup setting spray: Urban Decay All Nighter Long-lasting Spray, MAC Prep and prime spray¬†
  • Makeup remover wipes or *liquid makeup remover: Bioderma – mini size, all-purpose makeup remover, buy here¬†& reusable cotton pads¬†

Clothes

  • A short-sleeved Tshirt
  • A long-sleeved T-shirt
  • Leggings
  • Sweaters/hoodies
  • Bras – I love these nippies, the perfect way to ditch uncomfortable bras!)
  • Underwears (x nights you are away for +1 or 2)
  • A pair of shorts
  • A cute top
  • Swimsuits
  • Dresses
  • A light-weight jacket
  • A warm jacket (if traveling to colder climates)
  • PJs/comfy clothes for chill time
  • A day bag &/or an evening bag – preferably cross-shoulder for hand-free option!
  • Sneakers
  • Sunglasses
  • Sandals – I highly recommend Luna sandals for road trips, super comfortable and practical. Read my blog post, here¬†to see how I’ve styled them.
  • Short/thin socks and extra warm/thick socks
  • A hat (dad hat, bucket hat, straw hat, wide-brimmed hat), a scarf, accessories (jewelry, belt, etc.)
  • For outdoors activities, day hikes – Shop My Day Hiking Essentials

Coastal areas can be cold, so take with you a cozy comfy sweater or light puffy jacket to layer!

Electronics:

  • Phone/laptop charger
  • External battery charger
  • Adapter for international travel (or if you’re not from the US.)

Planning is probably the most stressful part of the whole thing, so I hope this post is helpful to some of you! Feel free to leave me a comment if you think I’ve missed anything! Happy packing!

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Shop My Day Hiking Essentials