Road Trip USA – Drive Through America's West In 2 Weeks

A view of Las Vegas, NV by day

3.2min read

Published 26 May 2019


There’s no better way to see a country than from the open road, and the US is one of the best countries to experience this. Kerouac summed it up perfectly in On the Road: "There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars".

Driving from San Francisco to Big Sur.
On the road – from San Francisco to Big Sur.

With a land mass of 9.834 million sqkm, the prospect of a US road trip can seem overwhelming, especially when travelling on a time limit. Too many options make it impossible to pick – I get it. However there’s no need to stress, you can fit in the best of the West in an effortless two-week road trip itinerary. This method has been tried, tested and given a golden seal of approval.

Fly into San Francisco: 3-4 nights

The sea lions basking at Pier 39 in San Francisco
The sea lions basking at Pier 39 in San Francisco.

The Golden Gate Bridge is only the tip of the iceberg when visiting San Francisco. This hilly city is home to more than 3,500 restaurants at any one point so for all you foodies out there, this is your place. With lots of quirky districts making up this vibrant city you could easily spend a year here and never get bored but three to four nights is a good start.

Top activity: Alcatraz

Top free activity: Sea lions at Fisherman's Wharf

Getting around: Hop on Hop off bus, Lyft (Uber-style service)

Best hidden gems: Sausalito and Muir Woods

Rent a Mustang convertible, drive Big Sur: 1-2 nights

View of Big Sur, California
That epic Big Sur vista!

Pick yourself up a convertible and take to the open road. This scenic drive is considered one of the most iconic for a reason: it’s breathtaking. Sorry for the cliche but you’ll be thinking the same as you motor along the seemingly endless cliffs of this famous coastline.

Another drawcard of this stretch of road is Big Sur National Park, an enchanted forest full of redwoods located about 230km along the 711km drive. Accommodation is available within the vicinity of the national park. Or if you want to take your time, you can spend a night in the picturesque seaside town of Carmel before hitting the park, and then have a casual evening in Santa Barbara afterwards.

Arrive in Los Angeles: 3 nights

A beachside pit stop along Big Sur
A beachside pit stop along Big Sur.

There’s something for everyone in LA, whether it be wandering down the Hollywood Walk of Fame or checking out the Sunset Strip. For families with kids, or even big kids at heart, you can’t pass up a day at either Disneyland Resort or Universal Studios Hollywood.

Top activity: Theme parks

Top free activity: Venice Beach for people watching

Getting around: Hop on Hop off, Lyft, or underground

Best hidden gem: Downtown LA Art District  – Broad Museum and LA Central Library

RELATED: Find out more about driving in the US and watch the 48 Hour Destination: California Road Trip episode

Rent another convertible, drive to Las Vegas: 2 nights

Bellagio fountain show at night
The fountain show outside the Bellagio is a top free activity in Las Vegas.

You can’t get more varied than the US landscape, and this 424km drive from LA to Las Vegas is as far from Big Sur as you can get. So much desert you’ll feel like you’re on the set of a Western, and before you know it the Strip will appear like a beautiful mirage.

Accommodation is abundant in Vegas, ranging from hotels such as the 3-star medieval-themed Excalibur to the 5-star decadence of the Bellagio. Regardless of where you stay you probably won’t spend much time in your room as there’s so much to see and do in Vegas. People watching alone can take up several hours.

Top activity: Cirque Du Soleil

Top free activity: Fountain show in front of Bellagio

Getting around: Lyft, walk, monorail between Luxor/Excalibur/Mandalay Bay

Best hidden gem: Buffet breakfast at the Wynn Hotel for USD$25 per person

Rent a somewhat sensible car, drive to Grand Canyon: 1 night

The view from the top of the Grand Canyon
The view from the top of the Grand Canyon.

This is a big day (about 430km of driving) so you might want to keep the cocktails to a minimum the night before and get an early start. On your way, make a pit stop at the Hoover Dam for a view of this impressive structure and a few holiday snaps.

Once you arrive at the Grand Canyon prepare to be awestruck by the surreal epicness of it. Depending on your time of arrival you can take one of the walks to the bottom, or perhaps leave it to the following morning. Accommodation is available within the national park, and on the outskirts.

Continue driving somewhat sensible car to Sedona: 1-2 nights

Hiking in Sedona, AZ
Hiking in Sedona means stunning scenery at every turn.

Sedona is the Grand Canyon’s equally stunning sibling that sometimes gets forgotten. Within two hours’ drive of each other, this national park offers an extensive selection of treks for all levels.

The new-age main town is a perfect spot to rest your weary bodies after the sensory overload of Vegas and the big drive to the Grand Canyon. Park yourself for two nights to make the most out of the trails and experience the red-rock beauty.

Majestic redwood trees in Big Sur, California
Majestic redwood trees in Big Sur, California.

Drop car off at Phoenix Airport

Phoenix International Airport, Phoenix is approximately two hours’ drive from Sedona. Most flights back to Australia leave late noon or evening so you can leisurely make your way there, stress-free.

Getting from Australia to US: Virgin Australia and Qantas offer the most direct services from major Australian cities.

Where to start: Get in touch. This whole itinerary, including the activities, car hire and hotels mentioned, can be organised by your Flight Centre travel consultant today.

All images: Odette Des Forges

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