I covered how much cash$ you should save if you’re planning your move to Los Angeles.
I wrote about minimizing your lifestyle to make the move as simple as possible.
Now let’s cover how you’re physically going to get there:
Train, plane, or taxicab?
You can buy a one-way plane ticket and arrive in LAX, ready to rock ‘n roll. That’s what Te-Erica Patterson did, with less than $200 in her pocket. I don’t believe this is exactly setting yourself up for success, though I know people who’ve met success doing precisely that. One friend moved from Chicago for an unpaid internship. He squatted at a hotel for a while and showed up everyday via the bus, until he left them no choice but to hire him. He’s been with the company three years now — buying a car and renting an apartment along the way.
Personally, I think the best way to get to Los Angeles is driving. Throw your life’s possessions into a 4-door sedan with +100K miles and do your version of the Great American Road trip on your way to Hollywood. Below I cover maps versus GPS, how to plan your itinerary, what to pack (from food to clothes to camping gear) and provide a host of other resources that you may want to consult.
Preparing For Your Drive to LA
The planning can feel overwhelming. I’ve broken down the process into digestible chunks. Take on one piece at a time, and don’t rush or stress. The process is supposed to be fun – if anxiety doesn’t overcome your enthusiasm.
First: buy a large, updated road atlas. Combined with online mapping services like Google Maps and Waze, you can spend a week tinkering the itinerary. Please, do not rely solely on the online maps! They help foresee day-to-day travel options, but an atlas makes big picture planning easier (like calculating miles and time between destinations.)
On that note, while a GPS can be a lifesaver, an atlas never runs out of batteries, requires a signal, or tell you it’s “calculating” every time it gets confused. The GPS is a luxury, the atlas is a necessity.
The Itinerary and Route
Creating a solid itinerary starts with the right questions:
- Where will you start and end your trip?
- What specific cities/towns do you want to see? Why? What’s your passion? Designing the itinerary around your passion immediately brings the trip into focus: national parks, music, breweries, sushi joints, etc.
- Who do you know along the way? Road tripping is a great opportunity to touch base with friends you haven’t seen in a long time.
- How many miles or hours can you spend on the road per day? As a rough guide, calculate 50 mph on roads east of the Mississippi, and 55 mph on roads west of the Mississippi. It’s conservative, and accounts for rest stops and light traffic.
- Lodging logistics – are you crashing with friends, at hotels, or camping? If it’s the latter, how close are your destinations to campground sites?
Spend the time on research. Wrangle in concrete answers to these questions, and the itinerary takes its own shape. Be honest about your comfort levels: when I moved out to Los Angeles, it was three people in a sedan with everything we owned in the world. We ate peanut butter sandwiches and apples for 10 days. To save money, we camped out in National Forests and in a field in Utah. If you need things like a hot shower and food that requires utensils, plan accordingly.
You’re about to take your car on a 3,000-plus mile journey: spend the time and money to ensure she’s up for it. Make sure the inspection is up-to-date, your insurance papers are intact, the tires have good treads, and the oil has been recently changed. A few other points to keep in mind:
- Do you know where your jack and spare tire are? Do you know how to change a tire? If not, learn, and learn how to do it quickly.
- Check your fluids: motor, transmission, coolant, brake, steering and windshield.
- Does your auto insurance provide roadside assistance? Do you have AAA membership?
- Other notes to remember: check your Entertainment Book for coupons on national motels and auto body shops, notify your insurance company and credit card company you’ll be traveling, and buy a National Parks Pass for $80 if you plan on touring the parks.
- Do you have the emergency contact numbers for everyone in your car in your wallet and on your phone? Do these contacts know the car’s make/model and license plate?
- It’s also a good idea to keep a copy of your medical insurance card and recent photos of you and your travel mates in the car as well.
You should have already dumped your excess baggage in Part 2 of The Best Guide for Moving to Los Angeles. Here are more specific ideas on what you should bring:
- Keep three sets of clothing and a jacket accessible for the drive. If you plan on going out, include a dress shirt and shoes. Anything else pack away deep into the trunk.
- If you don’t feel like making three dozen CD’s, buy an mp3 player and make sure you have a tape hook-up or auxiliary hook-up to your car’s stereo. If you don’t have one of these, consider making one yourself.
- Double-check you packed your camera.
- Also, cigarette lighter-to-outlet converter comes in handy.
- Generally, a laptop is pretty useless on the road unless you’re actively trying to write. A smart phone and data plan does come in handy, however.
Packing for Camping
Camping will save you money – whether it’s at National Parks, State Parks and Forests, or just pulled over on some side road in Utah. But you’ll need some things:
- A cooler – which can be a hard cooler, or a cooler bag, with a refreezeable ice pack.
- Extra plastic, zip-lock bags for leftover food and miscellaneous items.
- Buy a tent – the ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 2 Tent 2-Person 3-Season Tent serves well and costs around $90.
- A sleeping bag.
- A sleeping mat is a nice addition to elevate yourself off cold, rock surfaces. Check out – the ALPS mountaineering lightweight pad.
- Other miscellaneous items: knife, matches, toiletries and toilet paper
Spending 8 to 10 hours in a sedentary position, staring off into the void called Illinois or Kansas doesn’t burn many calories, so you’ll eat less.
If you don’t require much variety in your diet during the trip, you can really save money on food. We got away with two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches per day per person, a few bags full of nuts, some fruit, and plenty of water and coffee.
Or, you can splurge and eat out every time you stop – with food you can really spend as much or as little as you want.
My Complete Packing List
- (7) T-shirts
- (2) Hoodies
- (2) Long-sleeves
- (6) Button-up shirts
- (6) pairs of boxers
- (4) pairs of socks
- (2) pair of jeans
- (1) pair of leggings
- (5) Ties
- (3) pairs of athletic shorts
- (2) suits
- Northface Trail Shoes
- Black Dress Shoes
- Puma Walking Shoes
- Laptop (w/ charger)
- Camera (w/ charger and spare battery)
- Spare Cell phone
- Extra, zip-lock bags
- Tent – (ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 2 Tent 2-Person 3-Season Tent)
- (3) Sleeping bags
- Sleeping mat
- Peanut butter-Jelly sandwiches
- Fruit: apples, bananas, cherry tomatoes
- Mixed nuts
- Road Trip Snacks
- Toilet Paper
- (2) Skateboards
- Jumper cables
- Spare Fluids
- Spare tire and jack
- Map – Rand McNally 2010 US Map
- LA street map
Road Tripping Resources
I said at the beginning of this series that I curated all the best sources on moving to Los Angeles. My intention was that for moving to LA, I could show you the first post and say: “here you go, this is everything you need to know about this subject.” I think I’m close to meeting that objective. In case you disagree, here are nearly all the sources I curated in moving to Los Angeles and creating this guide:
- Road Trip USA by Jamie Jensen – an excellent resource that offers a dozen pre-planned routes to choose, and memorable destinations along the way. Use these routes as a guideline while planning your trip – the more you invest in personalizing your journey, the more you’ll take away from the long stretches of pavement, besides asphalt and dust.
- Live Your Road Trip Dream by Phil and Carol White – this book is divided into two sections: the planning, and the trip. While “the trip” portion gets dry (think: daily journal, covering a year worth of traveling,) the former covers many areas of long-term road tripping: from telling your family, finances, packing, and what to do with your stuff. It requires scouring and skimming to find notes that you can apply to your trip, but proves well worth the time.
- John August’s series on Moving to Los Angeles is hands down the best you’ll find on the web.
- Squidoo’s Road Trip Lens by kimisoutback – a fantastic lens on every aspect of road trip planning
- Road Trip America – features a dedicated forum, articles on road tripping, and a Fuel Cost Calculator
- Road Trip USA by Jamie Jensen – Jensen’s blog to accompany his book (noted above.) He answers reader questions and discusses in-depth various aspects of the road.
- Free Campgrounds – the website includes a search feature for free (or inexpensive) campgrounds in any state.
- About: Student Travel provides more information about camping and camping grounds.
- Off Road Adventure by Paul Thompson – Thompson wrote a treasure chest’s worth of booty for other road trippers. Two posts of significant note: 10 Things Not To Leave Home Without and The 4X4 Gourmet
- Phillip Ryan Johnson – Johnson’s blog posts on his trip from New York to Los Angeles
- Road Brew by Teri Fahrendorf – Fahrendorf’s road trip across the country and back, visiting and brewing with professional brewers along the way.
- Travel Channel – use the Travel Channel website to create a “theme” to your itinerary.
- Taylor Davidson’s 79 Things is a great road trip packing resource.
- I’m Moving to LA — if you’re, uh, moving to Los Angeles
Next week in the Best Guide for Moving to Los Angeles, we’ll cover Part 4 – Road Trip.
Photo Credit: x-ray delta one