There’s never been a crazier, more expensive time to travel. Go by car instead.

It’s the Most Expensive Time in History to Book Flights. Take These Epic Road Trips Instead.
Thomas J. Story

While it’s true that nearly every element of travel from hotels to gas and meals are at an all-time high, there’s perhaps no sector of the industry that’s gotten quite as exorbitant as air travel. According to a recent report by Hopper, airfares are higher for this summer than they have ever been. Flights to Europe are averaging $1,141 round-trip, 34% more than they cost last year, and Asia and Oceania flights are even more expensive, at $1,784 and $1,717 respectively. Factor in the ecological impact, plus all the unnecessary stress of air travel, and a summer road trip through the West is sounding more appealing by the minute. In that spirit, we’ve gathered some of our favorite trips that will give you a sense of adventure and international culture, all from the comfort of your car.

Santa Ynez Valley

Craft & Cluster/Visit the Santa Ynez Valley

Los Angeles to the Santa Ynez Valley

The California coast is a real stunner this time of year, and as you make your way up to Santa Barbara County’s wine country, you’ll find all sorts of little gems, from the campy, quirky Danish town of Solvang to some world class wines and dining in Los Olivos. Be sure to book in for a reservation at an old faithful like Bell’s, or check out the new Inn at Mattie’s Tavern. For more on what to do in the SYV, you can read our guide here.

Encuentro Guadalupe

Rendering courtesy of Banyan Tree Group

San Diego to the Valle de Guadalupe

Okay, Baja California isn’t technically part of California, but this road trip from San Diego is one we just can’t skip. Cross the border to Tijuana, then stop into the fantastic fishing village of Popotla in Rosarito before heading into the Valle de Guadalupe, the up-and-already-there wine region just south of the border. Dine at spots like Finca Altozano or Bruma, then afterwards luxuriate with a stay at El Encuentro.

White Water Cambria lodge interior

Jonny Valiant

San Louis Obispo to Carmel

More Videos From Sunset

There’s a reason why driving this stretch of Highway 1 is one of the world’s most famous road trips. And thankfully, there are countless new accommodations that have opened up along the way including the darling surf shack at the Pacific Motel in Cayucos, the Cambria White Water, the new Le Petit Pali in Carmel by the Sea. To give your journey a culinary focus, take a seafood-centric approach by following our guide to uni, oysters, and more along the Central Coast here. Who says you have to go to Hokkaido to get the world’s finest?

Dishes with a View

Courtesy of The Harbor House Inn

San Francisco to Fort Bragg

This stretch of the highway heading up the North Coast from San Francisco offers as much beauty as its aforementioned Central Coast counterpart. It starts when you cross the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito and Marin County, where you’ll encounter the coastal hills and redwoods of Muir Woods National Monument, followed by the dramatic sea cliffs and remote beaches of Point Reyes National Seashore. Then, dip into Napa and Sonoma’s wine country before making your way further north into Mendocino and its magnificent state parks and charming country inns, like The Harbor House, which has the cozy appeal of a European bed and breakfast. Finish the trip at Fort Bragg’s Glass Beach, which looks like it’s covered with jewels.

Scenic view of a cove in Laguna Beach, California

Thomas J. Story

Los Angeles to Orange County

This endless-summer drive through Orange County starts at the southern origin of Highway 1: Dana Point, known for its excellent whale-watching during winter. Then, head to Laguna where you’ll not only find the darling boutique Hotel Joaquin, but also one of the state’s prettiest beaches at Crystal Cove State Park. Next, head to Newport Beach, known for both its yacht-filled harbor, then head on up back to Los Angeles through Surf City USA, aka Huntington Beach, where you’ll find great breaks as well as some of the country’s most renowned beach volleyballer playing in the sand. It may not be the Amalfi Coast, but it sure comes close.

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