We had an option of either travelling to San Francisco by bus or renting a car – we chose a car because we had just been on a 3 day bus tour, and were about to embark on another 3 day bus tour!
Renting a car in the USA is an easy process, however if you do not have a credit card your options are severely limited. We went with Budget Rental because they highlight that they accept debit cards where others do not. I was a bit sceptical at first because their reviews for their LAX branch are atrocious – I mean really, really bad. However when we got there at 7am there were no queues and the rental process took around 15 minutes (we reserved online the day before). I can’t guarantee this for everybody – I mean just look at the reviews, but our experience was as smooth as can be.
We only wanted to rent for 11 hours from LAX to drop-off at SF Airport, we had a bus to catch at 8:30pm that night. We wanted to do it in style so we splashed out on a Mustang Convertible (my foot had come down hard on this). Because of the deadline we unfortunately could not do the whole PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) but we made sure that we visited Monterey for an hour or so on the way – we’ll leave the PCH tour for another trip back to the West Coast another time.
Driving in America is so easy it defies explanation (especially in an automatic)! The only troubles are obviously trying to check the rear-view mirror but instead looking out the window and merging from the right, but you get used to it and that’s what you get when you drive on the “wrong side” of the road.
I drove to start with as Sarah was a little bit intimidated especially in a big city like LA. We made our way towards SF via the interstate (I5) but missed a junction. This forced the GPS to give us a winding country back-road. Perfect for our “Chillin’ on a Dirt Road” playlist that we had blaring and also a good opportunity to put Sarah in the driving seat.
Monterey is a great place – it reminds me of a quaint seaside town in the UK. There’s lots of amusement arcades and restaurants to be had and an Aquarium. We didn’t go into the aquarium due to 2 things. 1 – we didn’t have the time, 2 – it was $49.99 per adult…we did see some seals for free though, which was great.
We approached San Francisco airport at around 6:45pm, we were supposed to drop-off at 6:30pm but we were running a little late. This turned into Very late when the GPS took us the wrong way around the Airport. Top-tip if you’re dropping off a rental car at San Francisco airport – follow the signs that read “All Rental Car Drop-offs” – it makes sense now in hindsight…
After taking the BART from the Airport to San Francisco proper, we ran in full backpacker gear up the road to make it to the bus stop for 8:40pm. All-in-all a busy and stressful day with about 6 hours total driving, interspersed with Amazing views of the California countryside. If you want to find out more about what we got up to on either side of our road trip here’s our 3 days in Los Angeles itinerary and our 3 days in Yosemite National Park tour write up.