Everything You Need to Know About the LA to the Bay Tour (Review)

LA to the Bay Tour: Los Angeles to San Francisco Bay. 54 people. Eleven days. Six destinations. One bus.

I was invited by Contiki Travel to to try the LA to the Bay tour. Me, as a 32-year-old, joining what I thought could be people at least 10 years younger than me, if not more, but assured by the team at Contiki that the LA to the Bay tour wasn’t just for students.

Spoiler: turns out they were right. Here’s everything you need to know about the LA to the Bay Tour, and what to expect if you’re planning on joining it.

LA to the Bay Tour

LA to the Bay Tour

I was nervous, I’ll admit. Visions of drunk Australians on their gap years popped into my mind as I descended into LAX Airport. They wondering what I was doing on the trip at 32, and me looking all kinds of out of place.

D’ya know what though?

Said gap year aged Australians appeared, for reals, but so did at least 25% of our group as a few years either side of 30. It wasn’t just the Ozzies either – my group came from as far afield as China, Qatar and Brazil. New Zealand was well represented, and finally one French one German and one other English.

We were a good mix, ready for almost two weeks of fun.

Check out my LA to the Bay Tour video on YouTube

LA to the Bay in Los Angeles

LA to the Bay Tour

We started in LA, a few people who’d known about the group on Facebook beforehand had arrived a few days previously and met up to go to Universal Studios. I arrived late the night before we were due to leave and with the LA traffic, only just made it in time for the meeting.

I was fully on edge and touchy about the fact that I thought myself to be older. So much so that I cast my eye down the list of people we had to sign and tried to spot any born in the 80s birthdays. A few, jolly good. I noticed someone who looked about my age did it after me, although much more obviously.

It was going to be fun. But first… I showered, and slept.

LA to the Bay

In the morning I realised I’d ‘missed out’. We were staying in Little Tokyo and one of the guys in my group had got a bowl of rice tattooed in left bum cheek the night before. He was now lying face down on a sofa, with what I presumed to be his three friends, all lying in various positions around him.

They were obviously the drinkers of the group.

If you’re worried about the partiers, don’t be. Sure, there was a group of about 10 guys who just alternated between being drunk and hungover but they just got on with it themselves.

Within the group of 54 of us there were plenty more people to hang out with to barely notice them.

The big welcome to LA to the Bay Tour

LA to the bay tour

Time for our welcome meeting from Kiran, our Contiki leader.

Contiki started when a guy, a chancer / entrepreneur, decided he wanted to buy a vehicle, travel to Europe and sell people the seats. Day one and he realised what a challenge he’d taken on and came out as a newb. They knew. They could tell. But they all had an amazing time anyway. Since then Contiki has specialised in bus tours all over the world.

I kind of thought of them of a one night in one country, the next in another, kind of company, but I think that’s just the one tour in Europe. Turns out they do actually delve deeper into destinations than I thought. By the end of the tour I realised I had the company wrong, and despite them having a bit of a boozey image, in my eyes anyway, that’s not all they’re about.

My 11-day LA to the Bay tour, which you can book through STA Travel, which went a bit like this…

LA > San Diego > Scotsdale > Las Vegas >
Yosemite > San Francisco

The best part of the LA to the Bay Tour

LA to the Bay

I think the best part of travelling with Contiki was having Kiran, our tour leader with us. She knew so much about where we were visiting and apart from being a great leader, she was also super chill. When I’m travelling solo I always have so many questions but there’s never anyone there to answer them.

I really enjoyed having her there to tell us what to do and where to go everyday, which started on day one when we went down to Hollywood. Quick trips to Muscle Beach, Venice Beach and followed, before we came back to the hotel to chill in time for dinner over the road. This was the big chance to make friends.

Onto San Diego

After exploring as much as we could of LA in what ended up being about 36 hours, we left early to go to San Diego. A Californian city I’ve wanted to see for a long time and only ever heard good things about.

LA to the Bay Tour

Most mornings, the LA to the Bay tour started at around 7ish, if you wanted breakfast. So if you’re planning on drinking, keep it in mind.

In San Diego we had time to explore on our own, although Kiran did take us out both nights to different areas. I really liked San Diego and would definitely like to go back some day. I joined the speed boating trip and thrashed it around the harbour for an hour on Coronada Island, which was great fun.

There are some people in our group who I’m sure wouldn’t set foot in Nevada again, never mind Vegas, after the night they had, but I’d go back in a heartbeat. Check out my top tips for Vegas if you want to be more like me. If only to see the shows, and the Bellagio, (and to drink free pour rum and cokes of course).

Want another Vegas road trip option? How about driving from Vegas to Yosemite?

Time to cool off in Yosemite

Yosemite with the LA to the BAy TOur

And back to normality again. Sweet, beautiful, natural normality – Yosemite National Park.

While too many of the group sat indoors because it was cold, I rented a bike and rode round the park for two hours. Honesty, incredible.

The huge mountains looming over you just made you feel so small, and it was overwhelming to think of how many years it’d taken to create the beauty here.

LA to the Bay Tour

It was good being in the group for this because despite the fact I went off by myself, that’s just me. There was a group doing an epic hike, another just going for a stroll and more who did something in between. In big groups like this there’s always someone to hang around with, and if not, you’ve got yourself.

Pizza party in Bass Lake

We stayed at Bass Lake, about an hour from Yosemite. We all had lodges to stay in around Bass Lake. On the first night it was Thanksgiving and the restaurant put on a huge buffet, on the second, we turned one of the lodges into a pizza party and ordered takeaway.

36 hours in San Francisco

San Francisco LA to the Bay Tour

Our final stop. I had places to be and things to see and so only had one night in San Francisco, but any normal person would book a few nights at the end of the trip to explore the city.

I joined the bus tour round the city and then took the sunset sail out to the Golden Gate Bridge, which was awesome.

And… finally?

LA to the Bay Tour

Every new stopover we landed in someone would comment how the stops weren’t long enough, how we needed longer, but the trouble is with the US there’s so much to do and see. Apart from another day in Phoenix, to actually see Phoenix, instead of just Scotsdale I think Contiki had the timings right.

You can add days to the time in LA and San Francisco, and if you like the other stops that much, well, you’re just going to have to go back and explore more.

LA to the Bay Tour

I loved our leader Kiran, and our driver Adrian, and I really enjoyed looking out the window at the front. I thought the accommodation was great, the group was cool, the activities were fun and there seemed to be lots of food options included.

I ate super unhealthily on this trip, thanks to the fast food stops while travelling, but I’m sure if you were that desperate you could find something to be healthy (I couldn’t).

If you want to see some of the most interesting and iconic places in the USA in a short time scale, without having to do all the driving so you can relax and enjoy. I would 100% recommend the LA to the Bay Tour.

– I received a place on the trip in return for a review, here it is. All views my own.

How to book

Want to book on the LA to the Bay tour?
You’ll find the best prices on Tour Radar here.


  1. The LA to the Bay Tour with Contiki Travel was an amazing experience, and despite being 32 years old, I felt comfortable among the diverse group. The tour covered six destinations in eleven days, offering a mix of fun and exploration. From the stunning Grand Canyon to the crazy streets of Las Vegas, the trip was packed with adventure. I highly recommend it for anyone wanting to explore iconic places in the USA hassle-free.

  2. This all sounds great – I’m booked to go on the tour in September and am really looking forward to everything. My one question though: How much money did you spend while you were there? I mean on everything including food, souvenirs, alcohol, club entry, bike rentals etc… Trying to work our a budget here!

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