Here’s how to take a California road trip inspired by the state’s festivals.
Heading out on a road trip across the glorious state of California? Unfortunately, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, many of the state's summer and fall festivals have been canceled or delayed. Those that are still scheduled, for now, are probably best to skip as California is seeing an uptick in coronavirus cases making it important to avoid crowded areas.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the aspects of California culture the festival’s celebrate. You can go on a socially distanced California road trip inspired by the state’s festivals. But, before you head out on the road be sure to pack proper PPE, be conscious of how many ICU beds are available in the towns you’ll visit, have a game plan for meals, book accommodations with hygiene protocols, and triple check your car is ready for a road trip.
Here’s how to take a California road trip inspired by the state’s festivals. There are over six festivals in California dedicated to lavender. This California road trip itinerary goes from the South to North and hits up spots for everything from BBQ, kites, wine, and garlic.
Instead of the Vista Strawberry Festival get fresh strawberries at local markets
Vista Strawberry Festival in San Diego celebrates one of the most delicious berries. Vista was once the strawberry capital of the world in the 1960s and 1970s. There are fewer strawberry fields in the area today but you can still get freshly picked berries from local vendors at the Vista Farmer's Market every Saturday morning. You must wear a mask while browsing the stalls and maintain a distance of six feet.
You don’t have to go to the Festival of Whales to see whales
Festival of Whales, during the migration of the California gray whales, isn’t the only way to enjoy the majestic aquatic creatures in Dana Point, California. The area is known as the whale watching capital of the world as whales can be spotted off the coast of Dana Point year-round. The destination is home to one of the largest concentrations of blue whales on Earth. Many other species of whales also migrate past Dana Point.©Chase Dekker Wild-Life Images/Getty Images
Instead of the Vans US Open of Surfing check out the largest surfboard in the world
Vans US Open of Surfing competition in Huntington Beach, California is the largest surf festival on earth. The 2020 event was canceled due to COVID-19 but you can still enjoy the town’s surf culture. Watching surfers take on swells at the beach and then take in the glory of the world’s largest surfboard which broke two Guinness Book of World Records. The surfboard held the most people at once and is the largest surfboard ever made.
Skip the Knott’s Boysenberry Festival and enjoy a boysenberry pie at a local diner
Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park is the birthplace of the boysenberry. Knott’s Boysenberry Festival usually takes place every spring. Even without attending the festival, you can get your boysenberry fix. Enjoy a boysenberry pie, a boysenberry churro sundae, or a boysenberry funnel cake at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner. Make a reservation in advance to snag one of the outdoor tables on the patio. Be sure to pick up boysenberry salad dressing and preserves for a tasty souvenir.
Pass on the Santa Maria BBQ Festival and go for take-out
Santa Maria barbecue is a regional culinary tradition. While visiting the Santa Maria Valley in Santa Barbara County be sure to taste some of the award-winning BBQ in the area. You don’t have to go to the Santa Maria BBQ Festival to indulge in a flavorful meal. Instead, grab take-out from the many BBQ restaurants in Santa Maria including Woody’s Butcher Block or BBQ Land.
You don’t have to attend the Morro Bay Kite Festival to fly a kite
Morro Bay Kite Festival was canceled this year but you can still partake in a socially distant activity by flying a kite at Morro Rock Beach. The breathtaking surroundings and windy location make for the perfect kite flying environment. Bring a kite and fly it on the beautiful bay at a safe social distance from other folks on the beach.©CAN BALCIOGLU/Shutterstock
Take a selfie next to a 20-foot-tall artichoke instead of the Artichoke Festival
Artichoke Festival in Castroville may have been canceled this year but it’s still worth making a stop at the artichoke center of the world. Taste some of the local delicacies such as fried artichokes and snap a selfie next to the 20-foot-tall artichoke at the Giant Artichoke Restaurant. Marilyn Monroe was crowned the first Artichoke Festival Queen in 1948.
Go to Garlic World instead of the Gilroy Garlic Festival
Gilroy is the “Garlic Capital of the World” and celebrates with an annual festival. The Gilroy Garlic Festival was canceled this year. Don’t fret as you can still enjoy garlicky food at the family-owned Garlic World roadside grocery store.©Mariusz S. Jurgielewicz/Shutterstock
Nosh on Himalayan cuisine in Berkeley rather than attending the Himalayan Fair
Himalayan Fair is the largest Himalayan festival in North America but has been postponed until the fall. You can still support the Himalayan culture and people in the Bay Area by enjoying delicious Himalayan cuisine at Berkeley restaurants such as Mount Everest.
Taste of Sonoma is canceled but Sonoma County wine is not
Taste of Sonoma showcase was meant to be held at Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens this year. Even though the festival was canceled, travelers can still enjoy the best wine country has and visit Kendall-Jackson in Santa Rosa, California. Make a reservation to enjoy the top-selling Chardonnay in the States at the winery’s outdoor patio.
Return of the Great American Road Trip
Imagine you and your loved ones have a cooler packed of food, and clothes for a week in your car. Air conditioning on, singing to music, enjoying the open road. Take a minute and close your eyes. Do you feel freedom? There is sun shining on your face, COVID-19 worries in the rearview mirror, and the open road ahead of you. The great American road trip is a pastime that took off in the 1950’s, when there was rapid growth in families owning cars after World War II.These families commonly traveled U.S. Route 66 which ran from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California. Any families taking road trips in the 50’s were doing something right. Not only did a road trip enable these families to choose who they wanted to go with, plan a trip specifically for themselves, and put money back into the economy after World War II, they also started a tradition that would revive itself time and time again. It’s been 70 years since road trips became an American tradition and in 2020 the tradition will be back again and coming in strong. COVID-19 took away how we used to travel. The Department of Labor reported that in just 10 weeks over 40 million people applied for unemployment. The financial hardship many families find themselves in, along with COVID-19 restrictions, has severely limited travel plans in 2020. The way they may be accustomed to traveling will no longer be an option and they will look for different ways to spend their time and explore somewhere new. If you’re looking for a cheap vacation the answer is: road trip. AAA reported national gas prices in the month of May as an average of $1.97, almost a dollar less than this time in 2019 ($2.82). Traveling by car is cheap and convenient; whether you choose to go somewhere in state or out of state, the current gas prices will be worth the drive. When the American economy is in shambles, we are encouraged to spend money to help rebuild our economy. Road tripping enables Americans not only to spend their money on necessities but on fun activities. Stopping by local restaurants or businesses to have a new experience raises tourism and will help money flow to small towns and businesses. Places like the Grand Canyon will open up bringing in people to see its beauty, buy souvenirs, eat at their restaurant and still have the ability to create a social distancing environment to make everyone feel safe. Where should we be going on our road trips? Anywhere out of the ordinary. “The key is to find a place everyone isn’t going to,” said Cindy Richards, editor-in-chief of TravelingMom.com. Now is the time to convince your loved ones to join you on that obscure trip you’ve always wanted to go to. A trip to Buena Vista, Colorado gives many outdoor recreational activities, no matter what season. Social distance as you kayak down the Arkansas River, go rock climbing, scramble up Turtle Rock, or find your own adventure. Camping at national or state parks gives you plenty of time to bond with your loved ones, explore a new area, see and experience new things. The best part about a road trip is how the experience brings everyone closer together. Each activity you do together, every conversation you have, even the arguments you have about where to go next or what to do, allows you to learn a little bit more about the other person, how to compromise and work together as a team. Even though you may be bummed that your flight to Brazil was canceled or that cruise you were planning on taking, COVID-19 may be a blessing in disguise. Americans now get to explore their own country, something many of us don’t do. America has some of the most beautiful and unique geologies in the world The road trip will bond us for life, create memories to last a lifetime, and an experience that will keep us planning the next one. Are you planning a road trip? Click here to see Budget Travel’s road trip itineraries. Sam War is a Budget Travel intern for summer 2020. She is a senior in journalism at Middle Tennessee State University.
#VanLife: how a pandemic affects life on the road
#VanLife. It’s been all the rage for a while now. Living in your van or car can provide freedom. Freedom from rent, freedom from the mundane, and often most importantly, freedom to travel the country. But what happens when a pandemic hits, bringing travel to a grinding halt? What happens when you’re ordered to stay home but your home is a van? I spoke with two people for whom van life is the norm and learned some of the ways COVID-19 has impacted their community. Jen Nielsen, @jolly_jen, in the 2009 Toyota Matrix she calls home six months out of the year. Where to Go? When COVID-19 hit the fan in March 2020, going “home” to parents or friends was an option for some vanlifers, but not all. For many, traveling across the country to stay with friends or family would do more harm than good because they would be putting not only themselves at risk but every person they came in contact with along the way. Additionally, those who normally have someone to go to might not have that option anymore if those individuals are at a high risk of being seriously harmed by the virus. Then there’s the fact that some people don’t have friends or family they can stay with at all. So what were vanlifers to do? Well, many of them chose to self-quarantine by camping on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or National Forest land. It was something they knew how to do safely, it stopped them from traveling, and it meant they would only be close to other people when they went into town for food or gas. There were a few problems, however. One of these was time limit restrictions, usually 14- or 16-day limits in these areas. To make matters worse, some locations even closed down for people who were from outside the county. Halle Homel, a full-time vanlifer, summed up the situation in a blog post on her site: “We rely on public lands to be able to live in our homes when we have no other options [...] But lately, BLM and Forest land has been threatening closures too, and for those of us who live on the road, I have to ask the question: where are we supposed to go?” A part-time vanlifer named Jen Nielsen experienced this problem first-hand. She quarantined in Utah on BLM land for a while before receiving an order to leave. Then she packed up her car and headed next-door to Colorado where she quarantined on more BLM land until she had to leave after 14 days. The constant need to move clashed with her desire to be responsible, shelter in place, and come into contact with as few people as possible. Harrassment Being a vanlifer during this time had other negative effects, one of those being in-person harassment. For example, Jen was yelled at by a local for having out-of-state plates while in Colorado. Cyber harrassment was also a problem for many vanlifers who document their adventures. Halle was active in sharing her experiences online during this time and faced backlash. On Instagram, she would post photos of her secluded campsites and in exchange received negative messages from people telling her to go home. Halle Homel, @halleswanderingsoul, sitting on top of her van in California.Tips for Van Life Travel Moving Forward As restrictions now let up and tensions regarding the pandemic subside, vanlifers are starting to move again. With assistance from Jen and Halle, I gathered a few tips for helping vanlifers do so safely. 1.Plan ahead: Do your research to make sure campgrounds, roads, and recreation areas are open before you head there. Also, utilize apps like iOverlander, a community-based tool, to find a place to sleep before moving. 2. Seek out unpopular areas: Many national parks are being slammed with visitors as they reopen, which makes it difficult to social distance while exploring these locations. Focus your travels on less well-known areas of the country. 3. Avoid bad roads: As there are less people traveling than normal, there are also less people going down remote, unpaved roads. Therefore, if you get stuck on one of them, there’s a smaller chance that someone will pass by and help you out of the mud. Furthermore, these roads are often in no-service zones, so being unable to call for help may leave you stranded. 4. Consider your route, not just your destination: Routes leading you through large cities should be avoided. Not only does this allow you to evade the crowdedness that’s synonymous with these cities, but it also gives you the opportunity to support the economies of smaller communities. Finally, I want to encourage you to share your own tips for traveling safely during this time in the comments below! This new environment is a tricky one to handle, but if we all help each other out, it doesn’t have to be dangerous. Martha Anderson is a Budget Travel intern for summer 2020. She is a graduate of Kennesaw State University.
RV Sales Skyrocket Due to the Coronavirus
Since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, Americans have been looking for a way to get out of their homes and start truly living their lives again. As summer arrives, travel enthusiasts are finding that one of the hardest parts of the pandemic is that the list of places to travel is shorter than ever. It is even more disappointing for those who had trips already planned and were forced to cancel plans they had been looking forward to for so long. Airlines, cruises, and hotels have limited access or closed indefinitely, and that has inspired everyone who is eager for an adventure to think outside of the box. With group gathering guidelines limiting the number of places that are open for guests, getting outside and participating in outdoor recreation activities is one of few safe options left. Streets, parks, lakes, beaches, and trails have become most people’s new favorite places. Memorial Day is normally the weekend that kicks off the summer season, and this year it was especially important because it coincided with many places relaxing their stay-at-home orders. As a result, mass amounts of people are suddenly interested in purchasing some new toys to enjoy after weeks of being in lockdown. All over the country, RV sales have skyrocketed. RVs are the perfect way to get out, take a trip and enjoy the outdoors while still safely social distancing. Renters or buyers have the guarantee of their RV being a clean and safe place. Charrier and RV Masters’ owner, Tim Switzer, explained that RVs have become so popular in the past few weeks because the buyers or renters will still have control of their environment. “You’re sleeping in your own bed, you’re using your own bathroom,” Switzer said. “You don’t know who was in a hotel before you so it’s your own germs and your own choice of cleaning.” You can’t have that guarantee with airplanes, buses, cruise ships or any other public transportation. RVs have everything anybody could ever need in a quarantine. With an RV, the biggest risk of exposure to COVID-19 is the gas station. This has become such a big deal that some RV lots are struggling to keep enough RVs on hand for people to rent or buy. Scott Jones, owner of Access RV in Utah, even went as far to say that this was the busiest they have ever been in the 25 years his business has been open. American Family RV in Salem and Chesapeake, Virginia have doubled their sales in the past two months. Reno, Nevada has seen a 130% increase in RV sales compared to this time last year. In Kenner, Louisiana, there has been a 170% jump. Some people have even begun calling RVs “COVID campers.” It seems everyone has the same idea, no matter what state they live in. RVs are also helping frontline healthcare workers There are other uses for the RVs amid the Coronavirus though too. RV companies or owners have started offering up their RVs to first responders, nurses and other essential workers who cannot go home in fear of spreading the virus to their families. There is a Facebook page called “RVs 4 MDs” started by Emily Phillips and Holy Haggard in Texas. Since its founding on March 24, it has grown to more than 20,000 members all over the nation that have come together to help match available RVs with those in need of a way to self-isolate. RVshare and RVs 4 MDs created rental agreements and insurance to protect both the renter and owner of the RV while the frontline worker uses it. RVshare has even waived all booking fees for parties who rent through the platform. Even in such a difficult time, people have found a way to extend a helping hand. And from across the country at that. Now, essential workers can go to their “home” parked right outside their real home. Though it is not the same, it is better to see your family in the window only feet away than not at all. A temporary home could save hundreds of people from the virus. Another reason sales have increased is because hurricane season is approaching. According to Tim Switzer, some people use RVs as their form of evacuation when there is a storm warning. Having an RV is an easier and more homey way to pack up the necessities to leave in a scary situation while still having a safe and comfortable place to live. Living in a global pandemic has been a confusing time but it is beautiful to see that people are still able to find the good. Where some found a loophole to travel restrictions, others found kindness in an unexpected place. The virus, though scary and lonely, was not strong enough to keep people from spreading love or exploring the stunning places the nation has to offer.Haley Beyer is a Budget Travel intern for summer 2020. She is a senior in journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Road trip the Rockies on a budget
Of course a tour of the Rocky Mountains is on your to-do list. Whether it’s your first or umpteenth visit to America’s definitive mountain range, there’s always more to see. With that in mind, we’ve curated essential must-sees in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming that offer red rocks, black rocks, and views for days, along with a manageable itinerary that maximizes the wow factor. Grand Junction Your Rocky Mountains road trip begins in Grand Junction, Colorado. The town’s name is a tribute to its location, west of the Grand Mesa, in the Western Slope region with its exceptional wines, and smack in the path of the Colorado River. Before you hit the road, spend some time exploring Grand Junction’s galleries and boutiques, plus one of America’s biggest outdoor sculpture displays. And save time for the Museum of Western Colorado’s history exhibits and dinosaur collection. For something a bit wilder, try rafting the river, with options ranging from gentle to class IV rapids. Grab a bite at Bin 707 Foodbar, which focuses on locally sourced meats and produce. Reliable hotel chains offer rooms starting under $150/night. One of the USA's lesser-known national parks, the Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park features a steep-sided canyon formed by the Gunnison River © AlexeyKamenskiy / Getty Images Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park From Grand Junction, head east on US-50 for the 80-minute drive to one of the National Park Service’s most sublime “secrets,” Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Here, you’ll discover a world of unique black rock formations rising 2000ft over the beautiful Gunnison River. Stay a day, a week, or more exploring the canyon’s South Rim trails, opportunities for fishing and climbing, and ranger-led programs. The most affordable lodging is found at the park’s campsites; if you choose to camp, first pick up food and water in nearby Montrose. If roughing it isn’t your style, book a room at the Double G Guestranch, in Montrose, with rates starting under $150/night. Moab is an excellent jumping-off point for exploring nearby Arches National Park © JFunk / Shutterstock Moab From Montrose, head west on I-70 for the three-hour drive to Moab, Utah. In addition to its own considerable charms, Moab happens to be the gateway to two of Utah’s “Mighty Five,” Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park. You’ll want to spend plenty of time hiking their distinctive red rocks, and you’ll also reconnect with the Colorado River in Moab. Save some time to discover nearby Dead Horse Point State Park (we promise it’s way more beautiful than its name). Grab breakfast at the Jailhouse Cafe, and unwind at the end of the day at Moab Brewery. Book a room at Expedition Lodge, starting under $150/night. Discover Salt Lake City's unique blend of cultures at Temple Square © Allison J. Hahn / Shutterstock Salt Lake City For a dose of big-city style in the midst of your mountain sojourn, head west out of Moab on US-6 for the four-hour drive to Salt Lake City. A visit here offers such a variety of experiences, you’ll want to customize your itinerary to your personal tastes. Nature lovers will want to continue with their hiking and exploring at Antelope Island State Park, Sugar House Park with its trails and lakes right within city limits, and a day trip to nearby Park City. History buffs will love strolling downtown around Temple Square and learning about the city’s unique cultural mix and stories. Foodies – and, honestly, everybody else – should get a taste of SLC’s culinary scene at Ruth’s Diner with its legendary biscuits (since 1930), and the city’s favorite Mexican eatery, Red Iguana. Great lodging is available at The Kimball at Temple Square starting under $150/night; motel options under $100/night abound near the airport. Iconic sites like the historic John Moulton Barn await you in Grand Teton National Park © Paul Brady Photography / Shutterstock Grand Teton National Park Before you leave Salt Lake City, pick up a dozen of the justly famous bagels and cream cheese at Bagels and Greens, then head north out of I-15 for the nearly five-hour drive to Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. The distinctive Tetons will look familiar to anyone who’s seen the classic black-and-white images by photographer Ansel Adams, and capturing the stunning landscapes and wildlife for posterity (or for the ‘gram) is a must. If you want to pay tribute to Adams by attempting to imitate his work, ask rangers for directions to the marker of the exact spot where Adams shot “Tetons and the Snake River,” in 1942. Hungry? The Chuckwagon Breakfast at Dornan’s is legendary, and you can also grab deli sandwiches there. Bunk down at Targhee Lodge in nearby Alta, with rooms starting under $150/night, or book a campsite in the park well in advance of your visit. (And don’t forget you can enter adjoining Yellowstone National Park for no additional fee!) Dubois, Wyoming, is surrounded by spectacular scenery, such as the Wind River © Edwin Remsberg / The Image Bank / Getty Dubois From Grand Teton, it’s about an hour’s drive on US-26 East/US-287 South to Dubois. Here, on the Wind River, you’ll find a cool town where Friday nights in summer mean rodeo and any day is a good day to take a wildlife tour of the nearby National Bighorn Sheep Center. Grab a burger at the Cowboy Cafe, and book a room at Stagecoach Inn & Suites for under $125/night. The statue entitled "Breakin' Through" that stands in front of War Memorial Stadium at the University of Wyoming in Laramie © C5 Media / Shutterstock Laramie From Dubois, it’s about four-and-a-half hours on US-287 South and I-80 East to Laramie. The Snowy Ridge Range is one of the star attractions in this region of Wyoming, with 12,000ft Medicine Bow Peak just begging to be photographed. Spend some time at the University of Wyoming’s renowned art museum and pay a visit it its geology museum’s allosaurus (“Big Al”), which was discovered outside of Laramie. Fuel up at Coal Creek Coffee & Tap, and get a good night’s sleep (with visions of the Rockies and Tetons dancing in your head) at the Holiday Inn, starting under $125/night.