Resources

California Travel & Tourism Commission (www.visitcalifornia.com) Multilingual trip-planning guides.

Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com/usa/california) Destination information, hotel bookings, traveler forum and more.

LA Times Travel (www.latimes.com/travel) Travel news, deals and blogs.

Sunset (www.sunset.com/travel/california) Local and insider travel tips.

California State Parks (www.parks.ca.gov) Outdoor activities and camping.

CalTrans (www.dot.ca.gov) Current highway conditions.

Top Tips

  • Give yourself time to enjoy the journey. Many first-time visitors don't realize how huge California is, and end up covering its vast distances by plane or inland freeways – missing out on spectacular coastal drives and scenic train rides. Plan extra days for road trips between major cities.
  • Don't count on California sunshine. California's coast can remain chilly from winter through early summer, and overcast skies can persist into July. Pack warm layers, or time your trip for the sunnier months of August through October.
  • Expect detours. During the rainy winter months, sections of coastal highways (most notoriously Hwy 1) may wash out, experience mudslides and close completely. Check current road conditions with CalTrans (www.dot.ca.gov).
  • To see California's stars in action, plan up to six months ahead: apply for tickets to live TV-show recordings, secure tickets to sports events, and reservations for restaurants helmed by TV chefs.

What to Take

  • Gear for changeable coastal weather: swimwear and sandals, but also rain gear and woolen socks
  • Sunscreen and skin moisturizer
  • Walking shoes and a day pack for hikes
  • USA electrical adapter
  • GSM multiband cell phone with a removable SIM card

What to Wear

California is a casual, anything-goes kind of place, especially when it comes to fashion – but beware the changeable weather. Travelers who've only ever seen California on TV are in for a shock along the coast, where marine fog briskly reprimands anyone in shorts all morning, rolls back in the afternoon to make you wish you'd worn sweatproof sunscreen, and returns by evening to mock cute, skimpy date-night outfits. Layer up with sweaters, wraps or light jackets over tops, and pants instead of shorts. Walking shoes are essential for getting around cities and parks. Passing as Californian is easy – almost everyone here is from somewhere else – but be aware that LA is more fashion-conscious and San Francisco more iconoclastic, and never, ever confuse the two.

Pre-Departure Checklist

  • If you're not a US citizen, ensure that you've secured appropriate visas and that your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your arrival date
  • Arrange for travel insurance and/or check your health plan to find in-network coverage at your destinations
  • Inform your debit-/credit-card company you’re heading away