2 weeks by car in California + 1 week in and around San Francisco
Hey travel mates,
The reason why I post our plans in this forum is that I want to get some feedback from people who have been there already or from local people.
My friend and I will spend 3 weeks in California from Saturday, September, 22nd on.
* the first 2 weeks make a tour around in California (Mo 24/09-Fr 05/10)
* the last week in and near San Francisco (Sa 06/10-Sa 13/10)
detailed day-to-day planning:
Date Where To x miles x time
Sa 22/09 Brussels New York
New York SF
Su 23/09 SF
Mo 24/09 SF Monterey/Carmel 114 2 hours
Monterey/Carmel Big Sur 29 38 min
Tu 25/09 Big Sur San Simeon 94 1 hour 50 min
San Simeon Santa Barbara 127 2 hours 27 min
We 26/09 Santa Barbara
Th 27/09 Santa Barbara Hollywood 89 1 hour 30 min
Hollywood San Diego 127 2 hours 8 min
Fr 28/09 San Diego
Sa 29/09 San Diego Las Vegas 332 5 hours
Su 30/09 Las Vegas
Mo 01/10 Las Vegas Death Valley NP 165 2 hours
Tue 02/10 Death Valley NP
We 03/10 Death Valley NP Yosemite Nat. park 300 6 hours 13 min
Th 04/10 Yosemite NP
Fr 05/10 Yosemite NP San Francisco
Sa 06/10 SF
Su 07/10 SF
Mo 08/10 SF
Tu 09/10 SF Napa / Sonoma 46 55 min
We 10/10 SF Lake Tahoe 186 3 hours 18 min
Th 10/10 SF
Fr 11/10 SF
Sa 12/10 SF Atlanta
This day-to-day schedule is not yet final. I would like to get your feedback about it.
Questions I have:
Do you think it's a realistic plan?
Are there places we should skip and maybe other places we must see?
Are the distances (in Miles) and time schedules realistic?
Which roads should we take?
What are special wonderful places to stay overnight and are not to expensive (hotels, bungalows, houses, apartments,...)?
All relevant advice is welcome!
Thanks in advance for your feedback.
Welcome to the RTA Forum!
I think you've got a nice basic plan, where you are giving yourself plenty of time to enjoy your trip. You are also starting out on the right foot by giving yourself a full day in SF to relax and adjust for jetlag.
I think your drive time estimates are probably a little on the low side, but that's typical when you are going off of internet mapping programs. You still should have plenty of time for most everything.
The only area where I think you'd have trouble is the day where you are going from Santa Barbara to Hollywood to San Diego. When you factor in LA traffic, that could be a very very long day. I would probably look at finding a place to stay in the Hollywood area to stay for a night.
You also might consider fitting Tahoe and Napa into the Roadtrip part of your trip. That would allow to you simply drop off your rental car when you arrive back in SF, and you wouldn't have to worry about parking in that city.
Sf & La
In general, the trip distances and times look pretty good..
A couple of minor comments
LA -- the Santa Barbara to Hollywood to San Diego day could be very long, as pointed out elsewhere. You'll be traveling into the core of the city of LA, which can have very dense and bad traffic, and going potentially at a time when all the commuters will ge doing so as well. I'm not sure what you want to see in Hollywood, but my guess is that you'll find that day the most frustrating with traffic and congestion.
If you're going to do this, there are a couple of options you might try -- as pointed out elsewhere, you could try to stay the night in the Hollywood area, and head out the next morning for a more leisurely drive down to San Diego, potentially through Huntington Beach ("Surf City"), Newport Beach, and Laguna Beach.
Another option would be to spend into the earlier evening in the Hollywood area, and have dinner somewhere spectacular -- ranging from Olivera Street (the original Mexican settler's street in LA), to the Yamashira Sky Room (on a hill top in the middle of Hollywood), to Little Tokyo, etc. -- and then hit the freeways after traffic has died down (say 7;30 pm) and do the 2-3 hours to San Diego in the lighter, after-rush-hour traffic.
At a minimum, give some thought as to the ability to use the "carpool lanes" (aka "diamond lanes" or HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes) on several of the freeways through LA. These are lanes designated only for cars with 2 or more passengers and which have limited access on and off the freeway (access is every mile or so). They're marked typically with a double-double striping, which is to be treated as a physical barrier to entry -- driving over this barrier can give you a traffic ticket in the $300-500 range, or more. There are designated lanes along sections (not all) of the 405, 605, 110, 210, 19, 10, and 60 freeways (among others). Typically you can average 40+mph in these lanes, when the rest of the freeway is jammed from heavy rush hour congestion. However, if there's an accident which is blocking multiple lanes on the freeway, you probably won't be going much faster than the rest.
SF -- my first impression was that you had put a bit too much time in SF. Its a beautiful town and fun to wander in, but unless you've laid out specific things to do for a week, you might want to trade some of the time there for other places in California which could be visited. For example, Yosemite, or Tahoe/ Reno are both about a half day or less from SF (Depending upon traffic through the city, of course), and might be interesting destinations for you.
You have allowed ample time for everything & not cramped too much. But I echo Larrision's thoughts. SF might not require so many days unless you have people to meet or other day activities. A day or two at Yosemite would be a great option!
Your Big Sur part is the best! While at San Simeon, try Hearst castle. You are a history or a mystery buff, you might enjoy this.
I don't know if you've been there already, but Monterey bay aquarium is an awesome place.
my 1st reaction
First of all, already thanks for the comments I've already received up to now.
I'll certainly take your suggestions into account :-)
1) I put Hollywood on the list just to pass it... not to stay there a whole day. But... maybe it's located at a different place then I thought. Isn't it near Santa Montica? My intention was to drive through the chique expensive area with large villas... just to have a look there. Maybe I'd better skip it from the list?
2) Lake Tahoe and Napa were already on my list. We will visit both places from SF together with a local friend. He has a car, so we don't have to visit it during our tour around. I'm not yet sure if we'll stay there a night or not.
3) The carpool lanes in LA are useful information. We might indeed use them. Aren't there highways just going through LA that go faster? No need to get off them to visit places in LA.
4) Hearst Castle was already on the list :-)
The next step will be to find good places to stay overnight. That will take also a lot of time. But... I want to have a good planning before we leave, that's just the way I am :-)
Hollywood is a bit hard to see on a drive through. "Hollywood" is a specific section of LA, typically listed as being up around Sunset and Vine streets. That's where Grauman's Chinese Theater, the Hollywood Walk of Stars, and etc are located. However, most of the production facilites are either near Burbank (Warner, Disney, MGM), Universal City (Universal Studios, Sony, etc), or on the west side of the city (Paramount, etc) -- plus scattered all over the region.
Santa Monica doesn't have much "Hollywood" stuff, other than homes of some of the stars and execs down along PCH in Malibu, plus some semi-iconic locations like the Santa Monica Pier, and near Venice Beach.
The big houses are located up in the Beverly Glen/ Homby Hills area, along Mullholland Drive and Laurel Canyon and the like. (Listen to Bob Seger's "Hollywood Nights"). That's where the big canyon houses, and mansions are. But they're intentionally hidden on side roads and out of sight from a quick drive through.
If you're looking for something as a drive through, you consider a couple of options..
a) Coming into the LA area from Ventura on 101, take Kanan Road over the Santa Monica Mountains into Malibu, and then drive along PCH to catch the I-10 freeway in Santa Monica, near the Santa Monica Pier. From there you can head south on the 405 Freeway. That will take you past the beach homes and through Santa Monica.
b) Coming into the LA area from Ventura on 101, continue east on the 134 past Universal City (home of Universal Studios) and past Burbank (a lot more production facilities), to head south either on the I-5 or the 605. Universal Studios is worth several hours of stop -- its a working production studio, although it also now a theme park as well. The I-5 will take you past Griffith Park (used in a LOT of movies), and continue south past Disneyland if you continue on it -- but can be congested and doesn't have carpool lanes through this area. The Hollywood Sign is in the western half of Griffith Park, on Mt Lee -- you may not be able to see it since it faces south.
c) As a third option, and something that can be done with the above 2 options -- get off the freeway in Seal Beach/ Huntington Beach and drive down Pacific Coast Highway from Huntington Beach to Laguna Beach. This is the core of the "OC", which was popularized in a recent TV show. Lots of surfing, big homes, etc. Laguna Beach is an artists community with lots of painting, scuplture and performing arts -- as well as some very nice beaches.
planning changed intensively - new planning
I've decided that we should see also Grand Canyon. This made my whole planning changing. The 3rd week is already ok, so I only mention the first 2 weeks now:
Brussels - New York
New York - San Francisco
San Francisco - Monterey - 112 - 2 hours
Monterey - Carmel - 8 - 15 min
Carmel - Big Sur - 28 - 37 min
Big Sur - San Simeon - 65- 1 hour 13 min
San Simeon - Santa Barbara - 127 - 2 hours 27 min
Santa Barbara - Ventura - 27 - 29 min
Ventura - San Diego - 192 - 3 hours 6 min
San Diego - Peach Springs (AZ) - 431 - 6 hours 43 min
Peach Springs (AZ) - GC south rim (AZ) - 140 - 2 hours 36 min
GC south rim (AZ) - GC west (AZ) - 242 - 4 hours 35 min
GC west (AZ) - Hooverdam
Hooverdam - Las Vegas (NV)
Las Vegas (NV) - Death Valley - 142 - 2 hours 24 min
Death Valley - Alabama hills - 109
Alabama hills - Mono Lake - 138 - 2 hours 37 min
Mono Lake - Lone Pine - 133 - 2 hours 24 min
Lone Pine - Yosemite Nat. park
Yosemite Nat. park - San Francisco - 186 - 3 hours 40 min
You can (should) forget the timing estimates
For the most part, the distances you have listed above sound pretty reasonable -- but you need to forget the time estimates -- nothing about roadtripping can be specified to such a detail. Plus, those estimates look like they were taken from an online mapping program -- and as good as the bots are (at predicting distances) none of them have ever driven a real car in a 3-D world. I would say they are off by a factor of +/- 30%.
Originally Posted by yvesmaco