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Postcards of California

10 days Self Drive Tours

Virgin Holidays' view

See the parts of California that always make the postcards: Golden Gate Bridge, Santa Monica Pier, Carmel’s Lone Cypress, California Wine Country and Yosemite’s waterfalls. Then start your own photo collage. 

Start with LA and time for Venice Beach, or maybe a dose of Disney. Then meander up the Pacific Coast Highway. Take in top spots like Malibu Beach, Monterey and Carmel’s 17-Mile Drive, all a photographer’s dream. Then you’re in San Francisco and time to swap your wheels for cable cars — or join the many bikes that tackle the famous streets. An unforgettable drive over the Golden Gate Bridge sees you in chic Sausalito. Head on to Muir Woods to walk the boardwalks beneath the towering redwoods, before you continue towards Napa and Sonoma. After an evening among the vineyards, it’s time to take the historic Gold Country route to Yosemite. A two-night stay lets you take in all the park’s canvas-worthy sights, like Half Dome and El Capitan.

Itinerary

Day 1: Los Angeles

Fly to Los Angeles and on arrival pick up your hire car. Upon check-in, please ask the hotel reception for your ATI Tour documentation pack which will include your tour essentials. The rest of the day is then free to explore a little of more of this most dynamic of cities. Take in the beautiful beaches of Santa Monica, wander the city’s famous Walk of Fame, or enjoy something of Los Angeles’ numerous world class museums and restaurants. Accommodation stay – 2 nights in Los Angeles.

Day 2: Los Angeles

A full day to explore the city or visit one of the many attraction parks. Mickey Mouse and Disneyland are classic favourites, but there is also the film studio complex at Universal Studios.

Day 3: Los Angeles – Pacific Coast Highway – Central Coast

Start the day with a drive through Santa Monica and the famous beaches of Malibu. Continue up the coast to Santa Barbara, a beautiful seaside community with its famous mission and palm-lined walkways. The harbour and wharf areas are great to explore on foot or rent a bike and see even more. Further north, the classic beach towns of California’s Central Coast beg to be explored. Accommodation stay – 1 night in Central Coast. Driving distance 295 km.

Day 4: Highway 1 – Monterey/Carmel – San Francisco

Continue north, and near San Luis Obispo join Highway 1 which is renowned as one of the most scenic roadways in the US. Enjoy more stunning views of the rugged coastline and the Pacific with a drive on the 17-Mile Scenic Drive, which passes through the famous Pebble Beach Golf Course. Experience the quaint village of Carmel and the charming seaside town of Monterey. In the late afternoon, arrive in San Francisco. Accommodation stay – 2 nights in San Francisco. Driving distance 430 km.

Day 5: San Francisco

Use the excellent public transportation or take a guided tour in order to get a taste of some of the hotspots, such as Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf and Union Square. If the weather is good, take a cruise under the bridges and around Alcatraz or just enjoy sitting at a café and watching the people go by in the Italian district of North Beach.

Day 6: San Francisco – California Wine Country

Cross the Golden Gate Bridge as you head east. Pass by charming Sausalito with its unique bohemian flavour. Just a short drive further will take you to Muir Woods National Monument. The park is a sanctuary to beautiful redwoods, some reaching as high as 250 ft. Continue east to Napa and Sonoma. These fertile valleys have been attracting tourists and producing the highest quality of wine since the 19th century. Accommodation stay – 1 night in California Wine Country. Driving distance 80 km.

Day 7: California Wine Country – Yosemite

Start your day early and continue east across California’s agricultural Central Valley. Before ascending into the mountains of the Sierra Nevada, join Highway 49 and travel south through California Gold Country following in the footsteps of the thousands of gold seekers during the Gold Rush of 1849. Today this area’s streams and creeks are still considered some of the best for gold panning enthusiasts. Continue to Yosemite National Park. Accommodation stay – 2 nights in Yosemite. Driving distance 350 km.

Day 8: Yosemite National Park

A full day to explore. Yosemite National Park embraces some of the world’s most spectacular scenery and affords a wonderful collection of waterfalls, meadows and forests, including groves of giant sequoias. Marvel at the sheer granite domes and cliffs that soar thousands of feet up from the valley floor. The massive glacial-shaped rock formations of El Capitan and Half Dome are the most famous landmarks of the park and keep a majestic watch over the valley.

Day 9: Yosemite – San Francisco

Driving back to San Francisco today, you’ll return your hire car and head to the airport. Driving distance 335 km. Your flight home will arrive back in the UK on Day 10. 

Board Basis - This tour is based on a Room Only basis.

*Denotes local charge – optional trips and excursions suggested on the itinerary are bookable and payable locally.

Hotels & locations are subject to change based on availability, final hotel list will be confirmed 25 days before departure.

Dates & prices

Sorry for some reason we are not displaying our prices, please call our call centre for the latest prices and quote Postcards of California

Tour information

Please click here to download a pdf of the itinerary and additional tour notes

Pre/Post Tour information

If you would like to extend your trip or make the tour part of a longer holiday, we can easily add on a pre or post night stays for you. Our Sales Team will work with you to arrange the best connecting flights and book any additional hotel stays. Simply tell us what you’d like and we can arrange it.

Time difference

Pacific Time Zone: GMT -8 hour

Tour inclusions

  • Accommodation listed above
  • Welcome phone call from American Tours International
  • Virgin Holidays branded rucksack with tour documentation and Atlas, please ask when you check in at your first hotel for your ‘ATI Pack’
  • Beach Blanket
  • Starbucks gift card

Tour exclusions

  • All flights and airport transfers in the UK
  • Travel Insurance
  • Car hire and insurance unless this has been booked by the sales consultant
  • Items of a personal nature such as drinks, laundry, tips & gratuities, video camera fees at monuments
  • The required ESTA application
  • Anything not detailed on the itinerary

Dining inclusions

Room Only

Accommodation

Accommodation in the itinerary will be a mix of “V” rated properties based on availability. Please note some tours are up to 3 weeks in duration and there may be some nights when staying in remote locations e.g. the National Parks, when the ‘V’ rating may vary. Hotels are subject to change up until 30 days prior to departure, but you will be advised of any changes.

Visa requirements

It's mandatory for everyone travelling to or transferring through the US, under the Visa Waiver Program, to obtain approval to travel no later than 72 hours prior to travel by completing an online process ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) scheme.

Failure to obtain an ESTA could result in the passenger being denied boarding by the airline. The cost of an ESTA is currently approx $14 per person and can be obtained by visiting https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov. Once completed & approved, the ESTA application is valid for two years and allows multiple visits without the need to reapply – simply update your details on the same website. Travelers can apply for an ESTA even if they have no firm plans to travel to the US. If you need any further information on the ESTA or you have any other visa queries, then try the Visit USA Website atwww.visitusa.org.uk where further information on the scheme and up to date fee can also be found.

The ESTA is very similar to the automated visa that you purchase to enter Australia and is completely paperless.

Extensions

Warner Bros Hollywood Studio Tour and Movies Stars Homes Tour

With so many exciting things to see and do in and around Los Angeles, it can be hard to fit everything in. This inspired combo is ideal if you’d like a memorable flavour of Tinseltown in a single day. It combines a unique tour of the working Warner Bros Studio lot – home to everything from the DC movies to The Big Bang Theory and Ellen – with a brilliantly entertaining tour of Hollywood stars’ homes that’s practically a show in its own right. So grab a coffee at the Central Perk from Friends, take a selfie in Harley Quinn’s cell from Suicide Squad and experience the process of taking a script to screen, before seeing how (and where) the A-list lives. 

Hollywood Hills Hiking Tour

Walking in the Hollywood Hills is an LA rite of passage, and this guided two-and-half-hour hike takes you into this arresting natural environment en route to spectacular 360-degree views over the City of Angels and the San Fernando Valley. You can take the tour in the morning or as the sun begins to set and, as you walk, your entertaining and fact-filled guide will give you an insider’s history of the area, sharing clips from movies and series filmed in the locations you visit. There’s a selfie-op with the Hollywood sign, and you’ll crest the Hills at the world famous Griffith Park Observatory.

Early Access to Alcatraz and Exclusive Cable Car Sightseeing Tour

Set foot on the notorious ‘Rock’, following in the footsteps of Al Capone, George "Machine Gun" Kelly, or Nicholas Cage. You can get ahead of the curve (and the inmates… sorry, crowds) with this early-access experience. Set sail on one of the first ferries out to Alcatraz and explore this infamous prison, without the hustle and bustle. Immerse yourself in the audio tour, featuring commentary from former inmates and guards, and discover the island at large with its beautiful bay views. Escape to enjoy a spot of sightseeing around the city in a converted classic cable car. Capture those beautiful city sights around Chinatown, North Beach and the Golden Gate Bridge, leaving yourself time to enjoy an evening of freedom.

Yosemite and Giant Sequoias Day Trip

You don’t have to plan an entire holiday on the edge of the awe-inspiring Yosemite National Park to experience its XXXL vistas and to go all Ansel Adams with your camera. This full-day trip departs from San Francisco, taking you east through historic Gold Rush towns en route to Yosemite. Once there, you’ll embark on an easygoing and photogenic one-hour hike to Tuolomne Grove and its soaring Sequoia trees, visit Inspiration Point for a staggering photo op of peaks El Capitan and Half Dome (while learning about the park from an experienced guide) and enjoy some free time to, well, simply be in nature. Perfection. 

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Latest Foreign & Commonwealth Office repatriation travel advice


Over the past few weeks, we have repatriated our customers from overseas who wanted to come home.  

Please visit this page to keep up to date with the Government’s travel advice on returning to the UK, and to register for email alerts.
 

Your holiday may be affected by travel restrictions or cancellations

We are continually reviewing our flying schedules, taking into account the  Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advice against all non-essential travel. Depending on when you are due to travel, your holiday may be affected and we’ll email you to let you know as least 21 days before travel.

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Looking for inspiration? Explore our destinations and holiday types and save your faves to your very own Wishlist. Or dive right in to our 2021 holiday offers.

For extra piece of mind, new bookings made before 30 September 2020 for travel up 30 April 2021 also have the flexibility to amend free of charge. If you need to change don’t worry, you can move your holiday as far out as 31 December 2021 subject to availability.

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With many customers needing our help, we are prioritising those customers due to travel before 31 December 2020. Log in to Manage my booking where you can message us about your options or you can give us a call. Bear in mind you may have to wait longer than expected. We continue to review this and working to open up these options to more customers. In the meantime check out our FAQs to see if this can help answer any immediate questions.

Stay tuned for the latest updates


Rest assured; we will notify you as soon as we know if your holiday has been affected.  

We are continually reviewing our flying schedules, taking into account the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advice against all non-essential travel. Depending on when you are due to travel, your holiday may be affected and we’ll email you to let you know as least 21 days before travel.

Please look out for emails from us or visit our dedicated Covid-19 (Coronavirus) page for the latest updates.

Let’s talk


If you need to speak to us to change or cancel your booking you can call our team on 0344 472 9646.

For the latest information on Covid-19 you can check our FAQs here.

Payment flexibility


Don’t worry if you’ve missed a payment or just need a little more time to pay; we have options available to help you. If your holiday is going ahead as planned, you can continue to pay for your holiday in Manage my booking, even if travelling in less than 12 weeks. If you’re unsure, you can delay any additional payments by choosing a new time to travel by requesting a call back in Manage My booking for one of our team to look at options. If your holiday is more than 6 months away, you may wish to set up a Direct Debit to spread the cost. This can be arranged whilst rebooking or afterwards in Manage my booking.

We're flexible with your holiday plans


We understand that you may wish to change your holiday plans and we appreciate the need for flexibility. 

We'll be in touch by email letting you know how to register to change your holiday plans. You can also log into Manage my booking to find the details there. 

Please look out for emails from us or visit our dedicated Covid-19 (Coronavirus) page for the latest updates.

You're holiday is going ahead as planned


If we haven’t notified you of any changes, your holiday will be going ahead as planned but if you prefer to move your holiday to a later time we can help. You can call our team on 0344 472 9499 who can look at options for you.

Thank you for your patience and understanding


Payments are being prioritised based on when the request was made, working in order from March 2020 onwards. We will always try to process refunds at the earliest opportunity, for requests before August our maximum timeframe is 120 days. As we are steadily reducing the maximum processing time for each new request, for refund requests made in August, we expect the maximum processing time to be 80 days, from the date the refund is requested. For those requesting a refund in September, we expect it to be processed within a maximum of 60 days, and then reduce to 30 days for refunds requested in October, before returning to normal levels.

We'll be in touch soon


To finalise the amendment, one of our customer advisors will phone you. We need to work through amend requests in departure date order so we can prioritise those with the most imminent travel plans, so you may have a longer wait than usual until we’re able to ring you back. We will help everyone that wants to move their holiday.

I returned early from holiday and have further questions?


You can contact our team by emailing feedback.backhome@virginholidays.com to discuss options on unused portions of your holiday. If you need to contact our team about amending an existing holiday or requesting a refund please log in to manage my booking.

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