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Best California Road Trips with Kids

Here is a list of the best California road trips you can take with or without kids and what you should take with you to make sure your vacation is fabulous. Here’s where we’ve been and what National Parks we love visiting in California!

best california road trips

We love going on the best California road trips every year. Time in the car really is a great to disconnect, experience new locations outside of your home and explore. More resources are listed on our road trip blog post as well to help you plan. (originally published 7/15, affiliate links present)

Places to Drive in California

Each year we take at least one long road trip (long meaning 8 hrs. each way). Frequently we’ll go on shorter ones on the weekends too. Let me share with you some of the Best California road trips we’ve taken thus far. Maybe it will give you an idea of where you’d like to take your family next??!

Whether you live in California (I’ve lived here for 35 years) or are planning to visit this great state, there are many places you may not have thought to visit Like I said, each year we plan a long road trip with our 3 girls.

travel packing hacks

We’ve done this ever since my middle daughter was in diapers, and it is such a great tradition (brings us closer as a family). Of course there are many things you need to do before you head out on your journey(s)

California road trip with kids

Packing, making sure everyone has busy bags, and car maintenance for the long journey. This one is of course on top of the list, there’s no road tripping without the car). 😉

Since we do this so often, and since I am a mega planner so here are some things I created to make your trip more fun

  • Here’s a printable packing list here that is appropriate for camping or whether you’re staying in hotels (we do half and half).
  • Next it is great to make sure your kids have a few things to keep them busy and happy (you’ll thank me later for this) along the way, so prepare some road trip activities to take along. NOW, it is time to make sure your car is in tip top shape!
  • Road trip games for kids that are free and fun to play are here.

This year we traded in our smaller vehicle and got a larger one so we could be more comfortable. Kids get bigger, vehicle gets bigger kinda’ thing.

Tips on road tripping with your family and activities to keep them busy!!

Cheap road trips in California

Some of the best road trips in California aren’t too far away from where we already live. We’re North of San Diego, but we still frequent them quite a bit. They have lots of room for the kids to run, have an “old fashioned” feel to them, and there is camping nearby.

We travel so often because we’ve found a way to travel for free most of the time and like a big selection of new places to visit each year. I grouped them together according to where they’re located.

travel for free

If you wanted to head in a certain direction you could visit multiple spots. Here are some great road trip destinations in Southern California:

Best California Road Trips

* Julian

* Idyllwild

* Oak Glen

* Joshua Tree

Last Summer we packed our car to the brim and headed out to some beautiful spots in the Northern California area. We like to keep it to about 8 hours max each way (keeps the kids sane).

road trip blogger

On our way to see Yosemite we made some stops along the way. This was our journey, and we would do it all again because it was such an awesome experience. We had so much to do in each location.

* Mammoth

* Yosemite

* Sequoia


* San Francisco

* San Simeon (Hearst Castle)

Here’s an idea for taking the ultimate California coast road trip and where to stop along the way too.

best california road trips

California Family Road Trips

We are so excited to go on our next trip! With the car ready for the long ride, the kids prepared, and the packing done, we are set for the memories we will make on our journey.

  • If you haven’t taken any road trips with your kids I really encourage you to do so. My little ones talk about the trips we’ve taken.

Even when I thought they may have been too young to really remember them. It’s not just about the destination it’s about the journey, the time you spend with your kids, and the conversations you will have along the way that become ingrained in their mind forever! Which California road trips were your favorite?

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Cassie @ Almost Getting It Together

Tuesday 30th of June 2015

I have never been to any of the places you have! But I live in SF so I'm here a lot... and I've been to Carmel and I'm going to San Simeon/SLO this weekend!

Jamie @ Coffee With Us 3

Sunday 28th of June 2015

I can't wait to try out some of your road trip ideas! My husband and I stayed in the Redwood forest for our honeymoon, and it was so incredibly beautiful!

Rachael Yerkes @ Eazy Peazy Mealz

Saturday 27th of June 2015

Looks like you had a blast. I love road tripping! And yosemite!


Friday 26th of June 2015

I wish we lived closer to California so we could roadtrip to these places! But we're heading to Vermont soon, and I know an oil change will be in order before we hit the open road. Thanks for sharing! #client

Healing Tomato

Thursday 25th of June 2015

I am definitely going to follow your trip ideas when I find myself in California. So much beauty at the Yosemite National Park

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