Not only will a bit of advance trip planning allow you to get the most out of your visit to California, it can also help you save you money and avoid travel missteps. Below are some resources that will help you get your planning process started.
The State of California’s tourism website provides both a digital brochure and a way to request that a magazine-like travel guide be mailed to you.
When you click here, you’ll see an option to choose either a Single or Bulk Order, and underneath that you’ll see links to access Digital versions of the Visitor’s Guide and Road Trips Guide. The digital Visitor’s Guide is available in several languages, but the Road Trips guide is only available in English.
If you live in the U.S. or Canada and need a printed tourist guide sent to you by mail — updated in 2023 — click on the Single Order option. The next screen presents choices for Language (only English is available at the time of this writing) and Country Version (U.S. or Canada are the present choices). Once you’ve made your selections, clicking the Next button takes you to a screen at which you’ll provide your name and email address and be given an option to subscribe to the state’s email list. When you’ve completed that screen, click Next and a screen for your address details will appear. Once you’ve completed that, you’ll also need to acknowledge consent for them to mail the guide to you and then click the Submit button.
In our experience, processing and delivery within the U.S. can take anywhere from two to eight weeks. If your departure date doesn’t allow for the mail option, you may want to stop at one of the state’s Tourist Information Centers when you arrive.
California Tourist Information Centers
There are California Tourist Information Centers at various locations throughout the state — click here for the list complete with physical location, email addresses and phone numbers — where you can obtain free brochures, maps, attraction offers and lodging information once you arrive in the area.
California Tourism Maps
For each of the California Tourist Guide’s areas (see the navigation buttons at the top of the page) you’ll find a map within an article that provides a general overview of what there is to see and do there, and you’ll also find links to maps that have been created by other websites in many of our articles. Most of those maps — some are for self-guided walking tours, others are for wine appellations, etc. — are made available as downloadable and printable pdf files.
When it comes to mapping out a specific route to locations that you plan to visit in California, we always use Google Maps and the associated free smartphone app. One thing worth noting here is that there are areas where you may lose cell phone reception, so if you’re traveling to an off-the-beaten path location it’s a good idea to search for the map(s) you may need before your trip and either take a screenshot or otherwise save them for offline use.
The State also provides online map resources: this one is useful if you’re wondering about current road conditions (weather, accidents, etc.), and here’s a good map for an overview of California cities and highways (again, though, we think Google Maps is the best travel planning resource for all your mapping needs, including accessing information about public transportation options).
Tourism Resources in California Cities
All the major California vacation destination cities – and even many of our smaller cities – have visitor information centers that are funded and staffed by the local tourism authority. These local convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs) also provide travel information (brochures, maps and sometimes even discount coupons), and they are typically staffed with knowledgeable local residents that are happy to help you. You can check out our CVB list here, and if you don’t see your destination listed there you can try an online search for the name of the city + CVB to see what may be available.
Visitor Information for California National Parks
All of the California National Parks also have facilities to help travelers make the most of their visits. Additionally, in February 2021 the National Park Services released a new smartphone/ipad app wherein you can access maps and information about all the Parks; app details and download access can be found at the preceding link.