Plan Your California Vacation

Welcome to California sign
Thomas Winz / Getty Images​Owner

Some people wreck their California vacations by planning too many things to do. If you don't live in California, you may not realize how big the state is, how far apart the major sights are or how to get around. Use these resources to decide what's most important to you and find out how to plan California vacations that maximize what you can see without wearing you out.

Where are the places you might want to go? They're all on the California vacation planning map.

What is California all about? From the mundane to the ridiculous, get some facts about California.

01 of 05

When to Go to California

Aspen Trees and the Sierras, California

Betsy Malloy Photography

Californians love to brag about their weather and say it's a great place to visit any time of the year.

They're not far from wrong, but it can be foggy at the beach in mid-summer, Yosemite waterfalls slow to a trickle after the spring thaw and in late summer, San Diego is packed with Arizonans escaping the heat.

Get a look at the typical weather, temperatures, and rainfall for Death ValleyDisneylandLake Tahoe, Palm Springs, Los AngelesYosemiteSan Francisco, and San Diego.

The best time to visit for you may not be the most obvious. These guides will fill you in with seasonal differences, weather, packing tips, and what's special in each season.

Here's what you need to know about Winter in California, Spring in California, Summer in California, and Autumn in California.

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02 of 05

Be a Savvy California Visitor

Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco

Betsy Malloy Photography

We've been visiting California attractions and watching others at them for well over a decade, and we've seen it all, from the smart to the silly. Let those other poor dorks stand in line at Disneyland, miss the boat to Alcatraz, pay too much for their hotel rooms or get stuck in traffic. You'll know better with these travel tips.

Avoid all those Disneyland rookie mistakes and embarrassing bloopers. Check the guide to 8 ways to visit Disneyland the smart way.

You can hit Lake Tahoe like a pro, avoid fun-busting gridlock, smoky forest fires and more if you use these six tips for planning a trip to Lake Tahoe.

You can avoid Los Angeles freeway tie-ups, know what to wear and when to wear it, pick the best hotel and go to the best beach. Just use the guide to 8 ways to avoid common slip-ups in Los Angeles.

Napa Valley can be tricky to do right, and it's all too easy for a first-timer to have a lackluster experience. You'll avoid all those pitfalls if you know these 10 Insider Tips for Visiting Napa Valley.

You'll be singing the praises of San Diego and telling all your friends what a smart travel planner you are after you read these 8 Ways to be a Smart San Diego Visitor.

In San Francisco, you don't have to walk away disappointed from the Alcatraz ticket office, stand in an endless line to catch a cable car or shiver in the city's summer fog. All you need to know are these 10 Ways to be Smart San Francisco Visitor.

It's also hard to do Yosemite right, but you can do it. Just use these tips to plan your Yosemite trip like a pro.

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03 of 05

Getting Around in California

Bixby Bridge, Big Sur, California, USA
Pgiam / Getty Images

Most California visitors get around by automobile, but we've got all the details for going by planes, trains, and buses, too. Just look for the cities and places you want to travel to (or from), and you'll find a complete guide to how to do it - by airplane, train, bus or shuttle.

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04 of 05

California on a Budget

Saving Money on a San Francisco Vacation
Courtesy of Getty Images

We all think we know how to save money on vacation: stay in a cheap motel, eat at a fast food joint, and try to find discounted tickets.

It doesn't have to be like that. You might be surprised to find out that you can stay in a nice hotel for the price of the Cockroach Inn, get a nice meal at a decent price - and save a ton of money on tickets.

Just use our proven travel tips to find out things you don't know that can save you money on your California vacation.

You can start saving money just like I do by using this set of tested tips for how to save money on California lodging.

Disneyland is not a cheap trip, no matter what you do, but you can manage to keep your costs down with these ways to save money at Disneyland.

If you're visiting one of the big cities, you could leave way too much of your hard-earned cashed behind. That is unless you read these guides to how to save money in San Diego,   save money in San Francisco, and save money in Los Angeles.

If you're really smart and plan well, you can also visit Yosemite on a Budget.

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05 of 05

The Best California Destination for Your Interests

Old Car and Buildings in Bodie Ghost Town

Betsy Malloy Photography

These collections of things to do in California can help you indulge your personal interest. Take a browse through the links below to find something that appeals to your sense of play.

California and the Old West: Western film locations and Old West sites that you will love. Think stagecoaches and gunfights.

Factory Tours: Get into the inner workings of how things are built, cooked, brewed and created.

Frank Lloyd Wright in California: Three of the famous architect's most important works are in California, but you'll find plenty more of them to see. I should know. I visited and photographed every single one of them.

Gardens and FlowersPlaces stop and smell the roses, as they say.

Ghost Tours and Haunted Places: California is full of ghost tours and other paranormal-focused activities that may be just for you.

Herons and EgretsIt's a common sight around California's wetlands: tall, long-legged, long-necked birds wading in the shallows, looking for fish.  Here's where to see them.

History Lovers' Top Sights: These places will help you discover the history that has made California what it is today.

Marilyn Monroe in California: Find Marilyn Monroe's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Route 66 in California: The iconic cross-country highway called Route 66 stretched toward the sea when it reached California. It passed through the Mojave Desert, over the mountains and ended at the Pacific Ocean when it reached Santa Monica.

Scenic SpotsOne of the joys of visiting California is all the natural beauty.  Here's where to find it.

Starstruck California - Film and Movie Sights: If you are starstruck, try the guide to San Francisco's top film sites or browse the most familiar film and movie sites in LA.

The San Andreas FaultThe San Andreas Fault begins near the Salton Sea, runs north along the San Bernardino Mountains, crosses Cajon Pass and then along the San Gabriel Mountains east of Los Angeles. Here's how to follow every single mile of it from end to end.

Wildflowers: When and Where: California's wildflower blooms can be spectacular - and fleeting, but you'll know where to find them when you use this guide.