Destination: Unknown

Surprise road trip adventures with One California Day

By Marlowe Hast

So many of us have every aspect of our daily lives and routines planned out. Team meetings, doctor’s appointments, soccer practice, dinner dates, it’s all on the calendar.

Time for a break! But … to where? Before you know it, you’ve spent three hours browsing photos and reviews, but you’re still not sure where you want to head. So nothing gets set. Another week stuck in town, with the same old routine. California has so many unique and interesting places to visit, it can be hard to choose one. The information online is endless and all you want to do is unplug and drive, but you don’t know where to go.

Now, you can easily leave the planning to One California Day, a new Southern California-based travel service that has created a no-excuses approach to hitting the open road. The service takes the vintage concept of a travel itinerary and adds modern surprise twists. One California Day offers pre-planned road trip itineraries departing from San Diego, Los Angeles, or San Francisco, and soon, from Santa Barbara.

“Day trips are an easy, budget-friendly way to get to explore your own backyard and escape for a day,” said founder Trina Hendry. “It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of life, with all the stresses of living in a city. This is a way to escape, drive to a small town. It’s like a mini-vacation, and it only takes a day. Just that day really breaks up your routine.”

Here’s how it works: You pick your departure city, your day, and your vibe. Are you feeling beachy? Or maybe you’d prefer a desert destination, or an afternoon in the vineyard-dotted foothills. Hendry has several options available from each destination city, with just enough information to whet your adventure appetite — but not enough to ruin the surprise of it all.

Once you book, you get your road trip itinerary, via mail or email. Each itinerary takes you within a two- to three-hour drive from your departure city, and includes places of interest, dining, and sightseeing recommendations along the way. The full day typically ranges from 8 to 10 hours, though Hendry also offers hotel recommendations for those wanting to extend their adventure.

The best way to approach these trips? Don’t look at the full schedule all at once. Take it one stop at a time, and let the itinerary give you unexpected surprises along the way. “The idea is, you don’t know where you’re going next, until you arrive at the first stop,” Henry explained. “It’s like a scavenger hunt, revealing the next stop as you go.”

If you choose to have your itinerary mailed to you, you’ll receive a package with five envelopes. Four will be your destinations for the day, and one will be “trip essentials,” with suggestions on things to pack and how to prepare. There is also a digital option, where you can “unpack” the stops as you go. Of course, with either choice, you can opt to view all the stops at once.

Hendry’s itineraries aim to support locally owned businesses. “There are no chain restaurants and no big, overly popular tourist attractions,” she said. Of course, the must-see spots are noted, and recommended at each destination. But the goal of the itineraries is to provide off-the-beaten-path suggestions. “There are hundreds of destinations within a few hours drive of, say, Los Angeles,” Henry noted. And each offers a whole different vibe, and totally different local culture, she added. “Ojai is very different from Carlsbad.”

Not only does Hendry aim to support local economies, she also is cognizant of her impact on the environment. “Road-tripping releases emissions,” she acknowledged. “Any kind of travel is not truly sustainable.” Thus, Hendry partnered with 1% for the Planet. “I’m committed to donating one percent of annual revenues to environmental charities, (and) California-based organizations.” All of her printed materials use forestry certified recycled paper, and there’s an option during checkout to donate $1 to plant a tree in California. “Reducing the carbon footprint is a big part of it,” she said

For Hendry, the creation of One California Day was a natural, if perhaps unexpected, step. After a brutal Canadian ice storm in 2014, she decided to leave her culinary walking tour business in Toronto and move to L.A. Once there, she began working with hotels, restaurants, and public relations firms. That gave her great exposure to California. When the pandemic hit, she found that getting out and about in her car was a safe and enjoyable way to unwind from the daily grind. It gave her the chance to see some of the beautiful and under-explored parts of California. All those day trips — and her background working in hospitality and P.R. — inspired her to create One California Day.

If you’re feeling stuck in your routine and yearn for the open road, try One California Day. With just a few clicks, your whole trip is planned. All you’ve got to do is organize your playlist.

For more information, visit