Before You Go
California boasts plenty of major airports, train stations, and interstate highways. The easiest places to fly into are the Los Angeles and San Francisco metro areas, though the suburban airports offer a minimum of hassle compared to the major city hub airports.
If you’re planning to leave the confines of L.A. or S.F., get a car. Really. Public transit can get you to and from a number of cities, but you’ll miss anything outside of the urban reaches of the state—which would be a shame, because the wilderness, beaches, and parks are more than worth your time. Expect to pay to park in the cities.
Coming to California from abroad? You’ll need your passport and possibly a visa.
Unless you’re visiting the deserts in the heat of summer, bring layered clothing. Coastal fog socks in many of the beaches and seaside cities for much of the summer, especially in Northern California, making the air damp and chilly. But no matter what, bring (and use!) sunscreen; that cold fog doesn’t stop the rays from burning unwary beachcombers.
Make reservations and buy tickets in advance, especially if you’re visiting a region during its high season or on a holiday weekend. For Disneyland, you’ll save money buying online in advance. For The French Laundry, it’s the only way to get in the door. It’s also a good idea to make early reservations at popular hotels and inns—for example, Yosemite’s Ahwahnee books up fast in the summertime!
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition