I am so excited to share my next big trip with you all. In my February review I mentioned that I had a big and exciting trip coming up and here it is….!

On April 9th I’m flying out to Miami and then I’ll be flying out to LA to begin a tour with Trek America.

Miami

Miami Beach, Florida_135092801

I’m still feeling a little shocked because my trip to Miami was actually won in a competition. This part is for anyone who never enters competitions because they’re sure they won’t win! That was me just a few months ago but you’ve got to be in it to win it.

Last August I was invited to a media event by Virgin Holidays and Hip Hotels to launch their new COMO hotel, Metropolitan on Miami Beach. They were giving away a prize for two people to go and stay in the new hotel but, like most people, it hadn’t even entered my head that I could win.

It was a simple ‘names out of a hat’ type competition and thanks to the London Underground I was running a little late. I was so angry at myself because I hate being late and arriving at events feeling flustered but it turned out to be the best thing possible. My name was the last one in the hat therefore it was the first one out!

When my name was pulled out of the hat I almost didn’t believe it was me. I shuffled to the front of the room and accepted my prize like it was no more than a box of chocolates. I smiled but probably looked a little ungrateful because it wasn’t until I was on my way home and it really sunk in that I’d won!

I phoned my boyfriend like a hysterical woman, ‘We’re going to Miami!!” and even my fellow train passengers shared in my excitement.

I later found out that I was free to extend my trip and fly home with Virgin Atlantic from any US airport. This was when things started to get really exciting!

I’ll be travelling with my boyfriend who has limited holidays so we were restricted to three weeks in total. The USA is so amazingly huge so we decided to take a tour to make sure we see as much as we can in a short amount of time.

This is the tour we chose and just some of the things we’ll be doing:

The Westerner 2 with Trek America

1. Los Angeles

LA Hollywood sign

2. San Diego

California Palm Trees and City of San Diego, California USA_95925931

3. Lake Havasu

4. Grand Canyon (already excited about a helicopter trip)

Helicopter over the Grand Canyon

5. Las Vegas

Las Vegas

6. Sierra Nevada

View to SIerra Nevada

7. Yosemite National Park

Upper Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park, California

8. San Francisco

Golden Gate, San Francisco, California, USA

9. Monterey, Big Sur and Pacific Coast

The Big Sur and its rocky coastline on a bright beautiful day

10. Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara, California

11. Back to LA

I have just over a month to research and plan my trip. If you have any suggestions for things to do, especially in Miami and LA, please let me know!

We’ll be camping for a lot of the trip so if you can recommend any great camping products please let me know that too. I’m thinking about some kind of inflating mattress that isn’t too heavy and can quickly inflate.

 

50 Responses

  1. Maria

    You are seeing some beautiful parts of the West Coast! Congrats on winning!!! Having spent 3 summers in LA and done trips to several of these other cities, here are some recommendations:

    LA – The city itself is boring and hot, go to the beaches! Do Venice Beach, sure, but also check out Manhattan, Hermosa, and Redondo beaches. Go to the Getty and Griffith Park (especially in the morning) for some beautiful views. Hollywood is ugly but if you have a chance, take in a show at the Pantages. Walk around UCLA for a beautiful campus. Drive or bike Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and take in the gorgeous view of the ocean. Take a trip to Acadia and eat at Din Tai Fung if you like soup dumplings. Go to Palos Verdes (PV) and hike to the lighthouse – you will be rewarded with a STUNNING view of the “beach cities” of LA. If you have any other time, try to go to Catalina Island!!

    San Diego – Cabrillo National Monument on a sunny day. Best view of SD. Check out Sunset Cliffs and the Ocean Beach tidepools.

    San Francisco – Ride the trolley. Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge (will take time, bring a jacket!!!). Check out the California Academy of Science (and if you can, go to Nightlife at it). Go to Fisherman’s Wharf and enjoy the seals. Go to Chinatown and find the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory.

    Grand Canyon – Just take it all in and don’t rush it.

    Vegas – Take the public transit monorail and see the end of the line. Vegas is super fun even without gambling. The casinos are super cool architecturally and have tons of art. Also try to get out and go hiking if you have time.

    Miami – Enjoy, it’s a totally other country down there.

    Besides maybe Miami, do not expect to go swimming. The Pacific is FREEZING and even with a wetsuit it’s cold! If you can get out to go surfing, paddleboarding, or snorkeling, do it, even if it’s freezing.

    Enjoy your trip! I can’t wait to see what you do.
    Maria recently posted..Subscription Review: GrazeMy Profile

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    • TheTravelHack

      Thank you so much Maria, that’s all so useful!I’m going to try and do everything you’ve suggested (including staying out of the sea in Miami!)

      Reply
  2. Anna L

    I’ve done a U.S. tour myself, albeit more south and east coast. California is a very “interesting” place – in all ways possible. Winning competitons always seems surreal, I actually won a trip to Budapest and I continued playing back the the XFM show to make sure my radio airtime wasn’t hallucinated. Enjoy! Thumbs up!
    Anna L recently posted..San Sebastian Carnival in PicturesMy Profile

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  3. Breezy

    A Californian through and through, I was born and raised in the Sierra Nevada foothills, but I’ve lived in or near all of these locations, except Miami. I have so many recommendations! Here are the first that come to mind: Hike to Havasupai Falls at the Grand Canyon. Camp at Joshua Tree. Big Sur is magical. Carmel is so charming. Don’t be afraid to be a total tourist in San Francisco. Take a ferry to Catalina Island (you can stay in touristy Avalon, or camp at the more rustic Two Harbors). See how the locals spend a Saturday in LA by taking a picnic lunch to Malibu Wines. It’s outdoors, they’ll have live music and, of course, lots of wine to taste. Surf in San Diego. All of these California stops have AMAZING places to shop and eat, so map out some restaurants ahead of time (Cafe Gratitude LA, Grace’s Table in Napa, Mikuni in Tahoe…) And if you like beer, there are so many awesome breweries (Sierra Nevada, Stone, Lagunitas) These places are all near and dear to my heart – you’re going to have a wonderful trip! As a local, I’m forward to reading about it!
    Breezy recently posted..Runaway Dinghy: A Lesson in Knot TyingMy Profile

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  4. Julie

    Sounds like this trip is going to be amazing! I wish you the best! If you visit LA, you should go to Manhattan Beach too! It’s a really pretty place and only 20 minutes from the city!

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  5. Bridget @ A Traveling B

    What a fantastic itinerary! It is one of the best trips you can do in the US, in my opinion. Miami is known for its Cuban food (and for good reason) so make sure you scope out some good places to try it. Also, they have some really great food tours.

    You will fall in love with San Diego! Make sure you go to the zoo (it is one of the best in the US) and if you are into the microbrew scene, it has an incredible number of up-and-coming breweries!
    Bridget @ A Traveling B recently posted..Austin EatsMy Profile

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    • TheTravelHack

      I’m actually booked onto a food tour in Miami already. It’s good to know that it’s a great city to do a food tour. Hopefully we’ll get the chance to try some Cuban food.

      Reply
  6. Alexis Kensey

    Visit Carmel which is around big sur and montery! And eat at Casanovas and have something from Carmel Candy Co. It is seriously a can’t miss spot! SO perfect!!!

    Reply
  7. Elle-Rose Williams

    This sounds incredible! I’m heading to the states in the summer too – but not covering anywhere near as much ground as you! You’ll have the most incredible time! Where are you most excited for? x

    Reply
    • TheTravelHack

      How exciting, where are you going?
      I really can’t pick one thing I’m most excited about. I can’t wait to see Miami and then camping in Yosemite should like it will be amazing. I really want to take a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon. I wasn’t too fussed about Vegas but I’ve been reading about it a lot recently and it looks like it will actually be amazing. Arrggh, so excited about everything!

      Reply
  8. Daidri | Thee Getaway Gal

    So incredibly fun and you are heading to some incredible places and some where I live! You’ve just recently left so I hope you are having a great time in Miami and that the rest of your trip is successful! I wish I were going on that helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon as well. Beautiful!
    Daidri | Thee Getaway Gal recently posted..Italy Reflections: The Roman ColosseumMy Profile

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  9. Victoria

    Congratulations Monica! I haven’t yet been to Miami but I’m sure you’re going to love it. I have however, been to all the National Parks and the surrounding area in California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah. We managed to do that all in just under a month and in January. Amazing. We even fitted in Disneyland, California. So I’m over 10 years old. Whatever!!
    Have a great trip. :)
    Victoria recently posted..The food of Poland and how much I have to eat!My Profile

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    • TheTravelHack

      I’m having such an amazing time thanks Julie. I came home yesterday but I’m wishing I was still out there!

      Reply

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