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  1. Default West Coast Trip summer of 2007

    I am plannig to take trip to West coast this summer for 15 days . We are family of four, kids age 11 and 13. I need help as how to plan this trip. We want to visit LA, Las Vegas,Garnd Canyon,San Francisco,Santa Barbara, Yosemite, Route-1. I do not know where to start? Please give me some ideas. Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default Look Around!

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    The best place to start planning is right here! Take a look at the Roadtrip Planning section and read some of the articles there, also browse and search the forum. There are lots of threads about traveling as a family, and litterally hundreds of posts about things to see in California and the Southwest.

    Those will help get you pointed in the right direction. Then if you have some more specific questions, post them, and you'll likely find lots of answers.

  3. Default If I may??

    Hello stylegarden,

    If I may offer a suggestion or two? Probably the easiest way to start planning this trip is to get a paper California-Arizona- Nevada map and start tracing out routes. Get the kids involved about what they might want to see and include them in the planning. Once you get the basics of the route laid out, the planning can be more detailed and if you wish folks here can make some additional suggestions or tips.

    The basic route you laid out is commonly done as a loop. That is LA-to Grand Canyon to Las Vegas to Yosemite to SF and back to LA via Coast Highway. (or in the opposite direction LA to SF to Yosemite to...) This is probably the single most popular road trip discussed on this board. The specifics along the route depend upon what your family is most interested in, or changes due to the season of the year, or interesting side trips. There are are lots of threads on this board on these.

    It's a very doable loop in 14 days -- every major stop is no more than a long day's drive apart (LA to the Grand Canyon being the longest segment). This allows you to pick some intermediate stops to take it a bit easier on the drive or do some additional sightseeing and places. Again, once you've picked out a specifc route you can look at the times and distances between places and balance things, or add some additional time in a place or three.

    One thing you might consider is where you want to start or stop this route, or any major variations. If you're flying in, you might consider flying into San Francisco or LA and shopping around to get a somewhat better ticket price.

  4. Default

    The problem with that route though is that your always driving, what time do you have left to do stuff if your driving all the time.

    Im doing the same trip virtually in July and came up with this:

    Flying to vegas for 3 nights. We decided to do a trip to GC rather than drive as it would take the whole day otherwise. You could hire a car and drive if you prefer.

    We then decided to fly to San fransisco from vegas (£45 each) for 3 nights. It takes 1.5 hours to fly or 12 hours to drive drive. The drive to Yosemite from Vegas we decided was too long and that we really wanted to drive the coast and so dropped the idea of this section. Also we couldn't decide on anywhere to stay in between vegas and yosemite.

    Hire car and drive to yosemite for 2 nights (4.5 hours drive from SF or 8 hours from vegas)

    Drive back to Carmel for 2 nights. (4.5 hours)

    Drive down to Cambria (or santa barbara if you prefer) for 1 night. (hearst castle etc)

    Drive to LA (Santa Monica for 1 night) or you could skip 2 nights in Cambria and skip san diego if you would prefer more nights in LA.

    Drive to San Diego for 3 nights (Zoo/Seaworld etc.)

    Drop off car and fly back to vegas for 2 nights to catch return flight home.

    Total 17 nights.

    Your really pushing things if you want to drive up to yosemite from vegas and then also drive from LA to vegas. The flights are cheap from Vegas to SF etc and only take an hour or two. Also do consider San Diego if not for the Zoo and seaworld but purely the fact that a lot of people say LA is a bit of a dump. So I was put off doing LA other than a one night stop.

    BTW this forum rocks and you guys that take the time to reply in such detail are awsome.
    Last edited by Broadsword; 02-15-2007 at 04:45 AM.

  5. Default

    Thanks! for you reply. All are good suggestions. This is very helpful.
    I want to break the journey and fly in between but my husband wants to take a road trip and enjoy the scenic view.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default Thanks for that

    Quote Originally Posted by Broadsword View Post
    BTW this forum rocks and you guys that take the time to reply in such detail are awsome.
    Thanks for that! and Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum!

    Mark

  7. Default it's doable in 14 days.. but there are tradeoffs

    Here's a real rough itenerary for 14 days.. This is for 13 nights, 14 days.

    Night 1) Land in LA, one night for jet lag recovery

    Nights 2-3) LA - Grand Canyon (long day). 2 Nights at Grand Canyon

    4-5) GC to las Vegas, 2 nights in Las Vegas

    6-7) Las vegas to Yosemite (via Bakerfield -- long route) 2 nights in Yosemite

    8-9) Yosmite to San Francisco, 2 nights in SF

    10) SF to San Simeon/ San Luis Obispo area (through Big Sur, potential stop at Hearst Castle, etc.)

    11) SLO to LA

    12-13) Somewhere on the beach near LA. This could be Ventura, Santa Barbara/ Carmarillo, or Huntington Beach (Surf City), Laguna Beach, Newport beach, etc.

    The tradeoffs on this are what you'd like to do and visit. For example, this route doesn't go through Death Valley -- hot, but doable in the summer if you don't get crazy. You probably can come into Yosemite via Tioga Pass instead of the longer southern loop I listed here, if the road is open from the winter snows. You could spend a night in Carmel/ Monterey which I didn't include. You could go to Napa Valley north of SF for a day of wine tasting, which is not included. You could take a night or two and visit San Diego, which is about 2-3 hours south of LA.

    And LA.. well, this is a huge city that's about 2 hours across at freeway speeds (and assuming no rush hour traffic jams). There are dozens of things to do there ranging from 10,000' mountains to world class museums, to cultural icons, and everything in between. But I figured it was the summer, it was the end of your vacation and you wanted to kick back and unwind a few days on the beach. You could do Hollywood, Getty Musuem, Disneyland (or Knotts or Magic Mountain), or the music scene or etc etc -- but its your vacation, and having some down time would be nice. There are wonderful beaches in the Santa Barbara/ Ventura/ Oxnard area, and there is a string of higher end resort type hotels which have gone in along the beaches in Orange County, about 30-60 minutes south of LA International Airport. (Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna beach, areas).

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default Joys of Driving

    Quote Originally Posted by Broadsword View Post
    Flying to vegas for 3 nights. We decided to do a trip to GC rather than drive as it would take the whole day otherwise. You could hire a car and drive if you prefer.
    Welcome to the RTA Forum, Broadsword! What kind of trip did you decide on for your visit to the GC that doesn't take the whole day? Personally, I think GC needs to be done as an overnight trip from Vegas. By the time you factor in the 5 hour drive each way, there's just not enough time in one day to do the Canyon any justice.

    The flights are cheap from Vegas to SF etc and only take an hour or two.
    There's certainly nothing wrong with catching a flight to save some time, but remember that two hours can quickly become 4 or 5 by the time you drop off the rental car, get through security, reclaim your bags, and rent another car.

    More importantly, flying from LV to SF forces you to skip the spectacular drives through Death Valley and Tioga Pass into Yosemite. Its a matter of personal preferance, but I think that's well worth the few extra hours, especially if you are going to backtrack to Yosemite from SF anyway.

  9. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    Welcome to the RTA Forum, Broadsword! What kind of trip did you decide on for your visit to the GC that doesn't take the whole day? Personally, I think GC needs to be done as an overnight trip from Vegas. By the time you factor in the 5 hour drive each way, there's just not enough time in one day to do the Canyon any justice.
    I meant a plane or helicopter trip. We still haven't decided yet.


    There's certainly nothing wrong with catching a flight to save some time, but remember that two hours can quickly become 4 or 5 by the time you drop off the rental car, get through security, reclaim your bags, and rent another car.

    More importantly, flying from LV to SF forces you to skip the spectacular drives through Death Valley and Tioga Pass into Yosemite. Its a matter of personal preferance, but I think that's well worth the few extra hours, especially if you are going to backtrack to Yosemite from SF anyway.
    I realise that but in my opinion we wanted to actually take some time to smell the air rather than zooming around in the hire car for 6 - 8 hours per day. That just seems to be too much for us, it is our honeymoon aswell so.....

    Its a compromise of trying to do these places justice (SF, LAS, SD) by spending enough time at each and also wanting to see as many places as possible while we are here. So we decided to prioritise what we really wanted to see and then plan the trip around that so we dont stretch everything too thin, and the pacific coast and the cities took priority over the drives from LV to yosemite and from LA back to vegas. We also wanted to visit Yosemite and the 4 hour drive from SF will leave us more time to actually enjoy Yosemite when we arrive than the longer drive from Vegas.

    Unfortunately the car journey North to Yosemite was just too long for us and would really require an overnight stay. I sat down to look at doing just that but couldn't come up with a timescale that suited and it seemed to take up too much time. So we decided we would rather spend that 5 hours in the plane than the full day driving, bearing in mind we would want to stop and rest a few times as well.

    I'm sure that drive is fabulous but we can always come back and do that journey justice on an anniversary in the future aswell as other national parks around Vegas.

    It take it that the drive from SF to Yosemite isn't very spectacular then? Also I had hoped to fit a drive through the Tioga pass in the drive to Yosemite but having today received my road maps I realise its not as straight forward as that. Can you suggest a route from SF to Yosemite which would allow us to do that road? IS it worth the time to do it or would there be better things to see using that time? We are going in July and cant check in to our B&B until 5pm anyway so we should have enough time until then to see a few things. An early start from SF of about 7:30am is expected.
    Last edited by Broadsword; 02-16-2007 at 02:48 AM.

  10. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Broadsword View Post
    [ ... ] I realise that but in my opinion we wanted to actually take some time to smell the air rather than zooming around in the hire car for 6 - 8 hours per day. That just seems to be too much for us, it is our honeymoon aswell so.....
    Congratulations! And our best wished on your marriage!

    Quote Originally Posted by Broadsword View Post
    Its a compromise of trying to do these places justice (SF, LAS, SD) by spending enough time at each and also wanting to see as many places as possible while we are here. So we decided to prioritise what we really wanted to see and then plan the trip around that so we dont stretch everything too thin, and the pacific coast and the cities took priority over the drives from LV to yosemite and from LA back to vegas. We also wanted to visit Yosemite and the 4 hour drive from SF will leave us more time to actually enjoy Yosemite when we arrive than the longer drive from Vegas.
    You've hit the nail on the head with this -- the geographic area you're visiting is pretty big, and there are lots and lots of things to do or places to stay.

    But I might offer one small suggestion which could help?

    You're crossing a big chunk of California 3 things by my count, following *roughly* the same route -- that is.. LV to SF, SF to Yosemite, Yosemite to Carmel. You can cut out probably 6-8 hours of driving/flying time to doing this a bit more sequentially as a loop trip. That is.. Las Vegas to Yosemite, then Yosemite to SF, then SF to Carmel.

    The trip between Las Vegas and Yosemite is a longish day in the car -- 8-10 hours -- but it takes you over the scenic Tioga pass across the spine of the Sierra Nevadas. You also have the option of driving through Death Valley National Park on the way, so you'll be going from the lowest point in North America to across high mountains. The route goes up just east of the very steep eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada including the highest peak in North America (Mt Whitney).

    Quote Originally Posted by Broadsword View Post
    [ ... ] It take it that the drive from SF to Yosemite isn't very spectacular then? Also I had hoped to fit a drive through the Tioga pass in the drive to Yosemite but having today received my road maps I realise its not as straight forward as that. Can you suggest a route from SF to Yosemite which would allow us to do that road? IS it worth the time to do it or would there be better things to see using that time? We are going in July and cant check in to our B&B until 5pm anyway so we should have enough time until then to see a few things. An early start from SF of about 7:30am is expected.
    The drive from SF to Yosemite isn't spectacular -- coming out of the SF area you'll go through the low foothills on the west side of the central valley of California, and then go through the flat lands of the Central Valley to Yosemite, where you'd wind up into the foothills of the Sierras. It's not a bad drive -- but you'll primarily be going through middling sized towns and cities and agricultural land. To make it interesting you might stop and check out some of the agricultural products -- the central valley is known for its orchards (nuts, fruits, olives, etc), the raisins and grapes grown in the area, rices (the most productive rice growing area in the world I believe, with 20+ varieties of rice), and wine. There are lots of wineries in the central valley, including one of the world's largest producers headquartered in Fresno (Gallo Bros.).

    The Tioga pass is the most direct and shortest time route from Las Vegas to Yosemite, and there's no easy way to go over it to Yosemite from the west.

    It's your choice on the trip of course, but I think if you run the detailed times, you won't be spending any more time in the car (or on a plane) to go via Yosemite to SF, and avoiding the backtracking. It'll give you more time in Carmel/ Monterey, without having to do the drive back across the state.

    Another alternative would be to drop a night in San Francisco or San Diego. My take on SF is that you can easily do 2 nights there.

    And as a last unsolicited comment -- why Santa Monica for the LA area? Just curious -- it seems to be a popular destination with people coming from out of the country to california, but other than being near Venice beach, I can't put my finger on why its popular.

    If you're on a honeymoon, you might consider skipping Santa Monica and taking an room in either the Santa Barbara to Ventura area, or farther south in the Orange County (the "OC") Gold Coast of Huntington Beach to Laguna Beach. Of those, I'd suggest Laguna Beach -- an artists community along the beach. Some very good hotels, good restaurants, art galleries, and even good snorkling in the coves along the beach coast there.

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