The U.S. is a very popular destination for people who want to take a road trip, especially for international visitors, mainly due to the fact the country is so large with so many different types of places to see. And taking a U.S. road trip using an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) is easy.
There are so many different types of road trips you can choose to take in the United States of America, so it really depends on how much time you have and which places you really want to see.
You could take a coast to coast road trip if you have the time, or you can travel along the coast for a very scenic road trip.
A few years ago, I decided to take a road trip with some friends. I really wanted to visit California, so I built an itinerary for a road trip along the west coast of the United States of America, incorporating as much of California as possible.
I decided to start my journey in San Francisco heading down the coast and finishing at San Diego. This would allow me to make stops at LA and several other places I had heard were good to visit along the west coast.
There are a few different routes you can take when you drive from San Francisco to San Diego but the one that is most scenic takes the route all along the coast. It’s called the Pacific Highway.
You could drive there much quicker if you took Route 101 but it would be a totally different experience.
U.S. Road Trip Using An ESTA – How To Have A Successful Trip
Preparing for the Road Trip
As with any trip, planning and preparing are key to success, and if you’re traveling to the U.S. from across the seas, that includes a few extra things such as ensuring you have the necessary travel documents. Taking a U.S. road trip using an ESTA is an easy way to go.
Before booking any flights, accommodation, or car rental, make sure that you have all of the relevant documentation requirements needed to visit the U.S.
You need to make sure that you have a valid passport (they have to be renewed every few years). You also need a current ESTA (which is only valid for a two-year period). And make sure they will still be valid at the time of your travel.
If you don’t have an ESTA or it has expired, you need to apply for a new one. The application only takes around 20 minutes to do if you have your passport information with you. The questions were straightforward and easy to answer.
You can submit your ESTA USA visa application online and then wait for a response from the USA Department of Homeland Security. It can take less than 24 hours to get a response that the ESTA was approved.
The way the ESTA works is that it electronically links to your passport and when you go through Custom and Border Protection, the agents check it and can see you have a valid passport.
Flights and Accommodation
When planning your itinerary, consider how much time you want to spend in an area and book accommodations accordingly. Between San Fransico and San Diego, there are several points of interest you may want to explore.
San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Big Sur, Morro Bay, Pismo Beach, Santa Barbara, LA, and San Diego are all places you can spend several days checking out.
You also need to consider how to book your flights. For example, if you are traveling from London to take a Pacific Coast Highway road trip, it would make sense to book a direct flight from London to San Francisco but a return flight from San Diego.
Similarly, if you are renting a car for the road trip, use a company that has a location in both San Francisco and San Diego. That way, you can return it to the destination location. By the way, renting a car to take a road trip is a great idea even if you live in the area and have your own car.
The U.S. Road Trip
With all the planning and preparation in place, there’s nothing left to do but take the trip. When arriving from overseas, you will of course go through the Custom and Border Protection, which is a simple process.
Mainly, the Custom and Border Protection will just ask you a few questions about your purpose for visiting the U.S. as part of the Department of Homeland Security’s processes for protecting the U.S.
Once you’re on your way, you can enjoy the beautiful coastal scenery as well as visit your points of interest. Some might include going to Santa Monica Beach, walking around Hollywood, and exploring the Big Sur State Park.
There are so many different types of vacations rolled into one, with lots of sightseeing, outdoor adventures, shopping, sunbathing, and eating lots of great food!
And if you love Mexican food, you’ll love dining out in San Diego. There are plenty of choices for authentic Mexican food there since it is so close to the border.
But before you leave San Francisco to start your road trip, you may want to spend some time exploring the vibrant Castro district, as well as Fisherman’s Wharf.
From there, the drive to Santa Cruz is pretty short, taking less than 2 hours. Then, you can spend the rest of the day around the beach and along the Boardwalk.
And driving into Big Sur is amazing, with breathtaking views, although if you’re scared of heights you might not enjoy going over Bixby Creek Bridge!
Morro Bay is also a really beautiful place to stay at. It’s a bit quieter than some of the other areas. On the other hand, hitting all the tourist attractions in LA is vibrant and boisterous. You could easily spend a week there, so it’s probably a good idea to plan for at least three days.
Just walking around the Walk of Fame, visiting the Chinese Theatre, and exploring Hollywood will easily take an entire day. There are also nearby beaches of fame, such as Muscle Beach, Santa Monica Beach, and Venice Beach.
And then there’s the fun of spending a day just to window shop at all the expensive stores along Rodeo Drive. The best part is making your own itinerary to ensure you get to visit your top list destinations, and adding some extra time for those places along the way you didn’t even know existed!
For anyone thinking about taking a road trip in the U.S., I would 100% recommend the west coast, as there are so many different ways to spend your time, with a real mix of beaches, cities, famous landmarks and so much more awaiting you.
Taking a U.S. road trip using an ESTA is a really easy way to visit the U.S. You can use the ESTA instead of applying for a visa, so don’t let the travel document requirements put you off visiting the USA in the near future.