Palm Springs and Las Vegas road trip diary 🏜

If you and your girl gang are heading Southwest, I can’t recommend this itinerary enough!  My college friends and I celebrated our graduation with a six-day trip to Palm Springs and Las Vegas and it was the absolute perfect location.  Here’s what we did, ate, and loved:

DAY 1: get settled

We started in Palm Springs and flew in around 1:00 PST, then met up at the airport.  Our accommodation was in La Quinta, which is about a forty-minute drive from Palm Springs proper.  Rather than Uber everywhere, we chose to rent a car for the majority of the trip.  I can’t recommend this enough!  The desert is so beautiful to drive through and we got so much more freedom and peace of mind knowing that we’d be able to get everywhere we wanted to go.

After settling into our accommodation, we immediately jumped in the pool and ordered some snacks on Shipt, my favorite grocery delivery service.  Our house was absolutely gorgeous and though it isn’t for rent, here’s a great list of Palm Springs Airbnbs to check out.  Definitely get a house with a pool if you can because the way we were able to relax and enjoy the heat was incredible.

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For dinner, we ordered pizza from Sabatino’s and finished up with a sweet treat from Lappert’s.  I got the ube ice cream and definitely encourage you to take a risk on this unusual flavor; it’s so good.

DAY 2: take a drive

I was so surprised by the desert’s natural beauty.  It looks pretty bare from a distance, but once I turned off the North Carolina-native part of my brain that said nature has to be green and lush, I was able to truly appreciate how incredible the desert is.

We drove one hour up to Joshua Tree National Park and spent most of the day enjoying the scenery and taking short hikes out to unique rock formations and cactus gardens.

PRO TIP: stock up on water before you go.  There aren’t places to get water in the park except for ranger stations, which are mostly on the outside of the park.  I had a full Hydroflask at the beginning of the day and ran out about 3/4ths of the way through the park.  Bring several full bottles (with ice) and take one with you every time you leave the car.

ANOTHER TIP: take the park map with you and download any directions you need before you enter the park.  There’s basically no service, so be prepared to be off the grid for the entire time you’re in the park.

After Joshua Tree, we headed south to see Salvation Mountain, a painting-slash-sculpture with a beautiful and interesting history.  The mountain is free and I recommend leaving some cash or sending a Venmo to support the mountain’s maintenance and restoration efforts.

We wrapped up our day of driving with some of the best tacos I’ve ever had at Mexican Street Tacos.  It’s up by Joshua Tree, so if you wanted to do this for lunch instead of dinner, it would also be a great option then.  The restaurant is a tiny little place with so much character and incredible food.  I got a chicken, chorizo, and carnitas taco and left absolutely stuffed.  The chorizo was my favorite!

DAY 3: relax

After a long day of driving, we spent day three lying by the pool and relaxing at the house!  I recommend a fun, extravagant summer read and a good playlist in the background.  That night, we went into Palm Springs and explored some of the downtown shops.  My friends and I get tarot card readings and it was scary how accurate they were.

DAY 4: head to vegas

There’s only one road in and one road out when you’re heading to Vegas.  The desert scenery is absolutely breathtaking and we got to see one of the most spectacular sunsets on our drive.

My tips for the drive to Vegas: leave extra time for traffic especially if you’re traveling on a weekend.  Also, make sure you’re filled up on gas, water, and snacks because you’ll be in the middle of nowhere most of the afternoon.

DAY 5: relax at the hotel

I don’t have many pictures from this day because it was all about relaxing and decompressing after the long drive.  My friends and I did do a fun, fancy dinner at the Bellagio and it was such a fun experience!  Definitely a splurge but worth it if you can fit it in your budget.

DAY 6: head home

You could totally add more days to your stay in Vegas, but I hit the road again and headed toward the east coast!  I stopped for a long layover in Denver to visit a friend from my study abroad program and flew back to Charlotte that night 🙂

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