A round trip through the West Coast Southwest of the USA is certainly on the to-do list for many of you. For many it remains an unfulfilled dream because prejudices about the high costs and complicated planning persist. This is about an attitude to life, freedom, landscapes that are unique in the world, friendly people who think about many things the same way we do, but never get a say. You can find more great round trips in our round trip overview.
On this page you will find all the tips, route suggestions and pirate-like offers for the perfect round trip on the west coast of the USA.
Plan your round trip on the west coast
How long does a tour of the west coast take?
Of course, the travel guide depends on how much time you have available. If you want the best possible experience, you’ll need to plan a little more time.
For the classic round here you need at least three weeks. If you only have 14 days, you should either limit yourself to the national parks east of Las Vegas or a road trip through California.
Flights to the west coast of the USA
Unfortunately, without the right outward and return flights, the whole trip remains just a dream. That’s why you should start by getting a price sense for your preferred travel period. If we leave out lucky hits like the various error fares of the last few years and the extremely cheap departures from Scandinavia, for which you have to be very flexible, you should budget 500 to 1000 euros per person for the return flight, depending on the season calculate the west coast of the USA. Flight days during the week are usually cheaper than at the weekend and normally the price increases as the flight connection improves.
Two very useful meta flight search portals are Skyscanner and Momondo.
Skyscanner is perfect for finding cheap departure airports and dates, as you can also enter “Germany” as the departure location and search for the whole year or individual months. Momondo, on the other hand, is perfect for a detailed search, as you can use the bars above to find cheap flight dates in the desired period quickly and reliably, which can quickly save 100 euros or more per person, especially on flights to the USA. Of course, it always makes sense to subscribe to and keep an eye on the newsletters of the most important airlines. Lufthansa, Air France and British Airways in particular regularly publish their sales in advance by e-mail and availability is still very good, especially at the start of the campaign.
For most round trips, it doesn’t make much of a difference whether you end up in Las Vegas, Los Angeles or San Francisco. You should just make sure that you don’t arrive in Las Vegas on a weekend, as then the hotel prices are at least twice, sometimes even three times as high as during the week. Pay attention to the details of all flight connections. You can often get better transfer times or more pleasant airports for just a small surcharge. Since entry into the USA takes place at the first American airport, you should stay there for at least two hours.
Which means of transport do you want to use for your round trip?
On a round trip in the USA, of course, you immediately think of a road trip by car. Preferably in a convertible. And sure, that’s one of the possibilities. But there are certainly exciting alternatives to a road trip through the USA by car.
The car is clearly the classic for a round trip in the USA. And not without reason, of course. The well-developed highways open up almost every corner of this large country. Among the most beautiful and well-known of these are Route 66, which runs from Chicago to Santa Monica in California, and Highway No. 1, which follows the California coastline.
Don’t feel like driving yourself, or just want to do something different? Well, you can your round trip on the west coast easily do of the USA by bus! The world-famous Greyhound buses will take you to all the interesting and important spots on the west coast. With the large selection of routes, there is certainly the right trip for you!
How expensive is a 14 day round trip in the USA?
Discover the land of unlimited possibilities! Experience the relaxed atmosphere of the Hollywood Hills, enjoy the sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and admire the mighty dimensions of the Grand Canyon!
Outward flight to San Francisco in economy class with KLM / Delta Airlines / Air France or similar
There are various options for accommodation such as hotels, motels, camping
When it comes to food, there are no limits to your wishes. From fast food to restaurants to the classic diners in the smallest towns
You can let off steam when choosing a rental car. Do you want a camper ? Or would you rather rush through the Nevada desert in a convertible?
Along the route there are countless national parks, museums and activities for every taste
Always consider the costs of petrol, toll highways and the small snack in between
Cost factors for a 14-day round trip
Food & Drink: 200€
Rental car: 200€
Activities (national parks, museums etc.): 130€
Other (petrol, SIM card etc.): 200€
Total cost: 1,730€
The classic route and top sights in the western United States
1st stop road trip west coast USA: Las Vegas
The gambling city of Las Vegas is far more than the gambling center of the USA. With casinos springing up all over America, city leaders have long been looking for alternatives to keep tourism alive.
The city’s nightlife is certainly second to none. Several of the city’s establishments are among the best clubs in the world. The classic sights of old Las Vegas now only play a subordinate role.
2. Station: Das Valley of Fire
Just over an hour’s drive from Las Vegas, you’ll feel transported to another world. in the northeast of the city, which is bright red at the right time of day The Valley of Fire, gives you a good first impression of the following national parks.
Be sure to hike to the Wave, an amazing rock formation that only nature can create. Until a few years ago, the popular photo spot was still completely unknown. Even today you are often all alone here and can enjoy the sunset.
3rd Station: Zion National Park
The next highlight is Zion National Park. Depending on your planning, you either limit yourself to the most important vantage points or follow Parkstraße to the end, which for some time has only been possible by bus for environmental reasons. In summer you can wade down the river bed into the adjoining canyon.
By the way, there is a collective pass for all national parks in the USA, which is very cheap at 80 dollars for everyone in the car and is valid for a whole year. Compared to single entries, the price is recouped relatively quickly.
4. Station Roadtrip Südwesten USA: Bryce Canyon
It is only a short (American) hop to Bryce Canyon. Once you have checked out the vantage points, you should definitely take the hike into the valley with you. Even for inexperienced walkers, the route is easily manageable, even if one or the other bead of sweat runs down your face.
Incidentally, the colors unfold best at sunrise and sunset, even without Photoshop, although the second option is certainly the more interesting alternative, except for notorious early risers.
Even if it’s a detour, don’t miss the national parks a little on the edge, Arches and Canyonlands.
5. Station: Monument Valley
After reaching the northernmost point of the route, we slowly head south again. There are more spots and photo opportunities here than there are hours in the day. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t lost track of time around Monument Valley. Monument Valley is particularly well known as commercials the location of the old Marlboro Cowboy. But no worry. Even non-smokers can certainly get used to this sight.
6. Station: Antelope Canyon & Lower Canyon
Unfortunately, time is of the essence, because for the Antelope Canyon experience you should make an appointment in good time if you want a guided tour through the spectacular Lower Canyon in the bright midday sun. Even non-photographers will be amazed at what nature has created there.
The main part of the park is on a Native American reservation, where the Navajo rule. I’m sure they’ll leave your stagecoach alone. But if you want to share their treasures, it will cost you a few dollars. The national park pass is useless here. But it’s worth it.
7. Station: Colorado River Schleife
Don’t miss the small, inconspicuous parking lot, from which, after a short hike, you get the following view of one of the most beautiful loops of the Colorado River. And watch out for your smartphone when taking a selfie!
8. Highlight of the trip: Grand Canyon
We are slowly approaching the Grand Canyon, which, after the previous route, doesn’t seem so gigantic to most people. If you experience a similar disappointment, we recommend the hike into the valley in the morning mist.
Incidentally, you should only tackle the way back on the same day if you are an experienced hiker and have the appropriate equipment with you. Unfortunately, there are always fatalities because tourists overestimate their abilities and underestimate the forces of nature.
The difference in altitude between the edge and the valley is around 1300 meters. While up there in the morning temperatures are often still below freezing, down in the valley it is 30 degrees. Spontaneously you usually don’t get any accommodation downstairs, so you have to go back up.
9th station road trip west coast USA: Route 66
As with a classic road trip, you will spend the next two days mainly in the car. Intermediate stops are particularly worthwhile on the historic Route 66 in Kingman and in the fascinating Joshua Tree cactus park, so you probably won’t be able to avoid dragging the contents of the camera’s SD card to the hard drive again this evening.
10. Station: San Diego
Appropriately enough, California Dreaming should now be playing on the car radio – you can help! Because with San Diego we reach the first of the three metropolises on the Pacific coast of California. In the young and livable city, you often feel like you are in Mexico. Spanish is the city’s predominant, although unofficial, language.
No wonder, after all you can take the tram from here to the Mexican border. But it’s not really worth it! Much more interesting is the famous San Diego Zoo. As one of the first in the world, he was consistently converted from a cage and bars to a plexiglass enclosure with plenty of space and opportunities to retreat. It also plays an important role in the species protection program, for example for the giant pandas.
11. Station: Citylife in Los Angeles
Opinions are divided about our next stop. You hate it or you love it. But that’s the way it should be, at least you should have experienced it. We are of course talking about the city of angels – Los Angeles. Nowhere else in the world are there probably so many film locations known from cinema and TV.
Nobody dares to go home without a selfie of the famous Hollywood sign. Things are extravagant in the coastal towns of Santa Monica and Venice. And you should probably cruise down Sunset Boulevard as well. Even if it is actually often more of a stop-and-go.
Don’t miss your personal moment with the secret star of your youth on the Walk of Fame !
12. Station: PCH – der Highway Number 1
What do the A1 and Highway Number 1 have in common? Not much likely. From Los Angeles to San Francisco, in addition to the fast interstate, you also have the chance to drive one of the most beautiful and spectacular roads in the world. Just enjoy the views on the famous Pacific Coast Highway !
13. Station: Maritimes Flair in San Francisco
I’m sure each of you has an image in your head of San Francisco too. The Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz or the famous Cable Cars ? You should spend at least two days in what many consider to be the most beautiful city in North America. Be sure to also take a trip to Muir Redwood National Park, where you can marvel at the world-famous sequoias. The Sausalito bus shuttle takes you to the park in 30 minutes.
By the way, we’re still looking for a video of you curving down Lombard Street at a snail’s pace. Don’t be late getting your tickets if you want to visit The Rock. Especially the recommended evening tour is sold out quickly.
14. Station: Yosemite Nationalpark
Two fascinating national parks are still waiting for you on the way back to Las Vegas. First up is Yosemite. The park is best known for its waterfalls, which can only be admired in their full splendor in spring.
If you are in good physical condition, take a look at the circular hike up to Glacier Point, past the waterfalls (you can cool off there in summer) back down into the valley. 20 kilometers that are definitely worth it. One is rewarded above all with the abstinence of other tourists.
15. Station Roadtrip Südwesten: Death Valley
Until autumn and from late spring you can use the spectacular Tioga Pass to cross the Sierra Nevada. In winter you have to drive around the outside if you want to go to Death Valley.
Here you will find the hottest and deepest place in the USA at the same time. Especially in summer you should stock up on provisions and petrol in advance. The prices for this in the park are only reasonable for emergencies.
In about 2 to 3 hours you will be back at the starting point, the craziest desert city in the world.
Safety instructions for a round trip on the west coast of the USA
For many vacationers, the issue of safety when traveling to the USA is of great importance: After all, one reads and hears again and again about robberies and burglaries, not to mention the fear of terrorism.
But what does that look like in reality? How careful do you actually have to be and how do you travel supposedly “safe” through the United States?
Here you can read how dangerous the USA really is, which risks you have to reckon with on a round trip and how you can best avoid them!
Earthquake on the west coast
On the other hand, a topic that is not necessarily overrated are stronger earthquakes, which occur again and again, especially in the region from San Francisco to Los Angeles – especially since the Americans have been waiting for “The Big One” for a long time, because the last really big earthquake is already one a while ago
It is unlikely that you will get exactly that on your trip to the USA, but you should at least be prepared for smaller tremors. In California, even a class 5 quake is easy to deal with, but it can be exciting for inexperienced Europeans.
Therefore, find out in advance about the correct behavior in the event of an earthquake and also speak to children traveling with you, so that you do not panic even if there is a small earthquake!
Safety in the car on the road trip
Car burglaries are a little more common, especially in the San Francisco and Los Angeles area. Especially when tourists foolishly leave their luggage open and visible to everyone in the trunk or on the back seat.
If you absolutely have to keep important documents in the car, it is best to slide them under a seat – but they are better off on your own body. A GPS in the car can also attract burglars, which is why it is better not to use it when in doubt.
In motels and hotels you usually don’t have to worry about your luggage; Of course, important documents belong in the safe, if available. In the case of cheap motels in not-so-good locations, one should not place absolute trust in the parking lot.
Accommodation for your round trip: What should you book before you arrive?
You may want to stay spontaneous with the accommodation, but you should already have a contact point at the first stop. You should also book the rental car in advance to avoid stress.
Hotels on the West Coast USA
Accommodation is usually the least of your problems when touring the United States. If you’re traveling off-season, you can always get some roadside motel room. However, experience shows that you spend more money with the flexible on-site search and end up in poorly rated accommodations than if you thought about it in advance and compared the prices. Many hotels have super cheap prepaid rates, you can use vouchers, especially for longer stays, access the contingents of German tour operators or even bid for overnight stays in luxury hotels.
West Coast USA Hotels via Booking & Trivago
Of course, Trivago and the market leader booking.com are recommended for a short-term search on site or to get a feeling for the prices. Of course, with Trivago you have the advantage that you can browse through several portals with one search and thus get a good overview. You can also easily filter by rating and sort by price. The disadvantage of Trivago is that data errors quickly creep in through the meta search. So you should definitely double check your search result on the forwarded portal. In addition, not all providers release their special prices, but you can only book special offers on the hotel’s own website, for example. Booking.com will be familiar to most of you. The selection is gigantic, the price is almost always as cheap as the hotel itself and many non-chain hotels are also listed there, i.e. B&Bs or motels that are still family-owned. According to the size, the in-house rating portal is also quite reliable. It is also particularly pleasant that you can see the different room categories in almost all hotels. Even if you are looking for accommodation near a specific event or attraction, booking.com is the best choice with its ingenious map view.
Find hotels on the west coast of the USA with German tour operators
A third alternative, which is often overlooked, are the classic German tour operators. For package and round trips or travel modules, these contingents also buy in American hotels. You can also access these individually, even just for one night. This is especially worthwhile in big cities and near the national parks, since the prices do not fluctuate nearly as much as in the hotels themselves. Another currently interesting side effect is that the prices are basically in euros and only once or twice a week year to be changed. So if the euro weakens, as it is at the moment, you will get one or the other bargain. Especially for Las Vegas it is important to mention that the resort fee is already included in the prices, while this has to be paid extra on site with most other portals. $15 to $20 per room per night is standard. The disadvantage of this variant is that you cannot cancel the hotels free of charge if your plans change. So you should think carefully about when you are where before you strike.
West Coast USA hotels via Hotwire
Another interesting alternative is the Hotwire portal. There you can book surprise hotels. This means that before you make a binding booking, you only see the district, the hotel category (stars), the rating, included services and the price. You will only find out which hotel it is after booking. A cancellation is of course excluded. Logically, this risk also gives you decent discounts of sometimes more than 50%. Since you are traveling by car anyway and often only need the accommodation to sleep, it probably does not matter too much whether you sleep in a Holliday Inn or Best Western.
In any case, pay attention to the reviews so as not to experience any nasty surprises. If you want to be on the safe side, choose at least 2.5 stars. Then you almost always end up in one of the countless standard American hotel chains that can be found all over the country. As a small reference point, you will always find some hotel examples for the selected category below after the selection.
Hotels on the West Coast USA via Priceline
Of course, for the gamblers among you, we have another very exciting idea to get cheap hotels. Priceline, the parent company of booking.com, which is relatively unknown in Germany, has been offering the option to bid on hotels under the “Name Your Own Price” program for years. After selecting a district and a hotel category, you simply enter your desired price. If Priceline finds a hotel in the chosen area, you’ll be awarded the contract. Your credit card will be charged immediately, you will find out the name of the hotel and of course you can no longer cancel.
If you cannot find a hotel, you can either add more districts or select a different hotel category to continue. Otherwise you have a 24-hour break until you can bid on the same constellation again. If you test beforehand which categories are available in which district, you can of course get additional bids without any risk. Of course, the whole thing is primarily aimed at gamers. If you don’t shy away from risk and don’t gamble too high, you can get discounts of more than 70%. In the range between 3 and 5 stars, the savings compared to the official hotel price are highest.
Private accommodation on the west coast of the USA
A last alternative in case the hotels just don’t work out is private accommodation. You will find a huge selection, especially at airbnb. There, private individuals make their apartment, a room or just their living room sofa available for money, with the price of course fluctuating extremely depending on the location and type. Of course, with this offer you should remember that you are immersing yourself deeply in the privacy of a stranger and are not in an anonymous hotel. Appropriate behavior is assumed! In return, you often get one or the other insider tip for sightseeing, a good restaurant or the best bar in town for free.
Please note that most offers must be requested first and the response often takes a few hours. Airbnb is therefore less suitable for short-term searches. If you want to try it, the best place to start is in San Francisco.
Rental cars for the USA
When it comes to a set of wheels, you can hardly avoid a price comparison at billiger-mietwagen.de. On the one hand, all the important providers are listed there, and on the other hand you have numerous filter options that make it easier for you to find the perfect car for your trip to the USA. Rental cars in the USA are comparatively cheap. Depending on the size of the vehicle and the rental location, you rarely pay more than 200 to 300 euros per week unless you need something extravagant. However, as is so often the case, there are a few things to consider. You should always choose fully comprehensive and theft insurance without a deductible so that you don’t have to pay several 100 euros more because of a scratch. The extended liability insurance with at least 1 million dollars is also very important. The stories about cats in the microwave and hot coffee on your pants may be exaggerated, but claims for damages in America are many times higher than ours.
Another important topic:
With many faux pas is one-way rentals, i.e. if you bring the vehicle back to a different place than you picked it up. Depending on the provider and the distance, this will cost you more than 500 dollars in fees. In the southwest of the USA, the regulations are very relaxed thanks to the many tourists. For example, you can usually drive a car from California to Nevada or Arizona for free. In any case, pay attention to the small print in the rental car conditions. Such regulations must be fixed there in writing.
Another issue is the age limit, the regulations also differ from landlord to landlord. Normally, the prices apply from the age of 25. If you are younger, you pay an often very high surcharge on site. That’s why there’s the young driver package, which you can find in the filter settings on the left at billiger-mietwagen.de. With this package you avoid the surcharge on site. Unfortunately, this is only possible for 21-24 year olds. If you are 19 or 20, you have to reckon with high additional fees on site, for better or for worse. There are also packages for additional drivers, which you can book here to get by on site without a surcharge. Pay attention to the fine print here too. When renting in California, there are special regulations for additional drivers.
In general, you should be very careful when handing over the rental car, even after a long flight. USA American rental companies are not very keen on scratches and dents, and you probably won’t experience a tour of the car. In return, the employees will try to sell you additional insurance or upgrades at completely inflated prices.
Jess Shores is an art lover, developer, writer, who loves to travel, meet new people and he is into photography as a hobby.