Part of the fun of a California vacation is driving around and exploring new places. After all, there’s no road trip quite like a California road trip. But the cost of getting to Southern California is expensive enough without factoring in the price of gas once you’ve arrived.
Luckily, there are plenty of beautiful road trips you can take using just one tank of gas. All you’ll need to do is fill up once before you return your rental car and you’ll be good to go. Looking at Los Angeles car rental packages before your trip will help you determine the most cost effective option for you. At Super Cheap, we don’t discriminate based on your age, so you’ll find plenty of underage car rental Los Angeles options that won’t break the bank.
This road trip takes you from the Super Cheap building near LAX Airport down to coast to Carlsbad and back, stopping at many beautiful places along the way. The total duration of the trip is about 280 miles, which should be just about one tank of gas.
The Griffith Observatory
Start with a trip to the Griffith Observatory, which is about a 40 minute drive from the airport (with traffic). This iconic Southern California landmark is the perfect spot to begin a road trip. Access to the observatory is free, and nothing beats the incredible views of LA. If you have the time and want to stretch your legs, you can also take a hike through Griffith Park.
Find I-110 South and drive 28 miles south to Torrance, a charming city in the South Bay region of LA. Walk through Wilson Park, check out the Chen Art Gallery or get a growler to go at Smog City Brewing.
Head south on I-405 for about 20 minutes and you’ll reach Long Beach, hopefully just in time for sunset. Long Beach has plenty to see, do and eat, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to explore. The Pier 76 Fish Grill serves delicious seafood, while Tequila Jack’s is a great place to go for Mexican food with harbor views. If you can swing it, you’ll never forget spending the night at the Queen Mary, California’s notoriously haunted ship. There are also several budget-friendly hotels in the area if you need to save your cash.
The next day, head to Newport Beach where you’ll find Balboa Island. This is the perfect destination to make you feel as if you’re truly on vacation. Take a leisurely stroll on the boardwalk, and don’t forget to ride the Ferris Wheel if it’s open.
Afterwards, cruise down to the visually stunning Laguna Beach, one of California’s most popular destinations. Over a decade ago, the Laguna Beach reality show introduced us to the cast of The Hills, but it was a popular place to see long before that. Its year round mild climate and arts-focused community make it a very desirable place. You can look through the charming shops and boutiques, or if you’d prefer to be near nature, head to the beautiful Crystal Cove State Park, where you’ll find hiking trails, tide pools and long stretches of sandy beach.
39 miles south of Laguna Beach sits the lovely seaside city of Carlsbad. This area is best known for the Legoland amusement park, which can actually be a lot of fun. But if that isn’t your style, Carlsbad Village is a wonderful place to hang out and check out the shops, local art and dining options. And although it’s only open seasonally, the Carlsbad Flower Fields are absolutely stunning (and perfect for vacation selfies). Spend the night at the Beach Terrace Inn or the Ocean Palms Beach Resort.
The next day, get on Highway 76 E and take I-15 N to Temecula, a mid-sized city that happens to be part of Southern California’s wine country. If you love wine, this is your place to taste and stock up on bottles to-go. They even offer wine tours through several privately owned companies. But you certainly don’t have to enjoy wine to enjoy Temecula. There’s also the amazing Old Town Temecula, a once sleepy part of town that has seen a revival in recent years.
You won’t find many tourist towns on the final stretch of your road trip. But Lake Elsinore is worth visiting. The small city sits on the shores of the lake, which is a natural freshwater body of water and the largest natural freshwater lake in Southern California. The historic downtown area doesn’t have much going on, but it’s a great place to walk around before you have to climb back in the car.
Once you’re back in the Los Angeles area, you’ll want to fill up your car… if you started your trip with a full tank, it will be empty by the end. You’d be surprised by how many road trips you’re able to take on one tank of gas with proper planning.