A travel vlogger shares his secrets to planning a great road trip including Yelp and Instagram search tricks


Let’s face it: in these pandemic times, the safest place to be is right at home. But if you’re going to travel this summer, chances are it’s going to be in a car and not in a plane.

AAA is calling this the “summer of the road trip” and it’s easy to see why.

Recently, I caught up with travel vlogger Josh McNair, who runs the website CaliforniaThroughMyLens.com and associated YouTube channel. McNair quit his job five years ago doing ecommerce marketing to travel full time and make videos about it.

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After a two month hiatus, McNair recently got back behind the wheel and took a road trip to Yosemite. While he says things are definitely different, you can still enjoy a good road trip and be safe at the same time.

Here are some of his secrets to planning the perfect trip.

Roadside America App

Josh recommends plenty of stops along the way and this is the site that will help you find things like the “world’s largest ball of twine.” Roadside America is full unique attractions you might miss otherwise.

Atlas Obscura

Atlas Obscura is similar to Roadside America, but there’s a focus on bigger cities. You’ll find various hidden gems in categories including food and attractions.


Once you have your must-sees in mind, Roadtrippers can help you plot your stops on a map. The neat thing is that it can calculate the time and distance between stops. The website will even estimate gas costs for your trip.


Of course you know Yelp, but Josh has a special way of using it. Search for a category – say, restaurants – but then use the “Sort” filter at the top to sort results by “Most Reviewed.” This will reveal the most talked about places nearby. This way you don’t miss a particular food item or must see attraction.


The AllTrails app is fantastic for finding great hiking trails in the area you’re visiting. Similar to Yelp, Josh likes to sort by Most Popular so you can get an instant understanding of the must-do hikes. You can sort by views and even see recent pictures from other hikers to get an idea of what to expect.


Instagram is another great way to research before you arrive. Search for a place and then check out the “recent” pictures or tap to take a look at the nearby Stories. This way you can get an idea of how a restaurant or attraction is operating during pandemic times. It can also give you a near real-time look at attractions like waterfalls to know if they’re running.


While Josh is partial on this one, he offers some specific search terms to help you find the best things to do in any city. Josh recommends searching a city name plus “things to do,” “best restaurants,” and “best hikes” to help narrow things down for a complete guide to where you’re going.

Bottom line: no matter where you’re headed, be safe.

“Make sure you’re wearing your mask, social distancing,” explained Josh. “Those are incredibly important, especially [when] going to a smaller community.”

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