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  1. Default California - LA, SF, Yosemite & also LV

    Greetings from Australia!

    I stumbled upon this great site today whilst googling for the first family overseas trip.

    No, my tag doesn't mean I wrestle crocs. On the contrary, the closest I want to get to them is at Australia Zoo. However, I do live a very short distance from where the late Steve Irwin lived and his family still live, here on the beautiful Sunshine Coast.

    My wife and I are planning our first overseas trip with our children [aged 11 and 9] next year and have chosen your beautiful country. Planning is in th every preliminary stages - very! We travelled to California, NY, Washington DC and Pennsylvania before we started a family and have some experience in driving on the "wrong" side of the road so that doesn't particularly phase us. We like the idea of driving independence.

    The bare bones at this stage are:
    . about 3 weeks [best we can manage]
    . beginning early December 2008 - post December 5 [the only time that fits into our vacation schedules. I travelled to LA, SD, SF and Las Vegas around Christmas about 20 years back and was surprised by how relatively mild the weather was...I hope it still is. I recall driving south from Yosemite through snow and spectacularly giant redwoods. Mind you our children have never seen snow and we intend to see plenty]
    . we want to fly into LA and spend 3 or 4 days there only to see a few theme parks; also 5 or 6 days around the Bay Area, several days at Yosemite and my wife is dead keen to go to LV [though time may be an issue and driving there a bigger one]
    . as far as possible we want to avoid hotels. We like more space and prefer either self catering holiday apartments or cabins etc. If anyone can suggest any good websites for family friendly accommodation that would be great.
    . we want to drive as much as we can. Originally thought of a car but are warming to the idea of a campervan - or RV as you call them. I've checked out a few rental places in California and the choice is awesome! We like the idea of driving the LA>SF coast [Hearst castle] >inland to Yosemite and then to see giant redwoods, Mammoth Lakes, Death Valley and/or Kings Canyon and possibly to LV [or possibly not]

    Which gets me to a few questions please, hopefully to save me endless barren hours trawling around the net:
    . is early December OK forwhat we are planning, given weather constraints?
    . I'm not sure of school vacation terms onthe west coast. Are we likely to be inundated with crowds from the theme parks to Yosemite?
    . is the RV idea a good one for someone who drives on the other side of the road? I've not driven one but have been driving safely for 35 years so have a few ideas. I confess I'm seduced by the 40 footers with multi-bedrooms, home entertainment systems and granite benchtops but will settle for something a bit more modest!.
    . any suggestions for RV rental places?
    . any suggestions for the best website/s for RV parks and family friendly accommodation en route?
    . is it feasible to go through to LV given distance and weather constraints? If need be we could drop the RV off there and fly back to LA, but my guess is that road passes will be closed.
    . is it necessary or beneficial to stay in Yosemite? My wife likes the idea of staying at a nearby town but I'm attracted to the idea of staying in a cabin with the children.
    . given what I've outlined, what suggestions are there for scenic driving routes? We have children who haven't seen snow, a wife who would like to see LV if possible, and 4 people who want to see as much of your beautiful land as we can.

    Sorry for being so verbose, but having had a look through this forum I can see that you people know what you're talking about and can save us a lot of confusion.

    Many thanks.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 11-16-2007 at 12:22 AM. Reason: Preferred URL format herein

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,060

    Default Some of it is easy... and some is a bit challenging

    Quote Originally Posted by aussiesteve View Post
    No, my tag doesn't mean I wrestle crocs.
    A wise man, I am sure -- Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum!
    My wife and I are planning our first overseas trip with our children [aged 11 and 9] next year
    Now is the time to get them involved in the planning of this epic trip. Here are some tips and suggestions.
    . we want to fly into LA and spend 3 or 4 days
    Here are some tips for visiting LA.
    and my wife is dead keen to go to LV [though time may be an issue and driving there a bigger one]
    There is a lot to see and do here!
    We like more space and prefer either self catering holiday apartments or cabins etc. If anyone can suggest any good websites for family friendly accommodation that would be great.
    Given your time constraints and how much ground you want to cover -- I think you should consider motels and -- the problem with those other options is that your leg options will be much more defined. You won't have the chance for spur-of-the-moment or weather-issue change of plans.
    or RV as you call them. I've checked out a few rental places in California and the choice is awesome! We like the idea of driving the LA>SF coast [Hearst castle] >inland to Yosemite and then to see giant redwoods, Mammoth Lakes, Death Valley and/or Kings Canyon and possibly to LV [or possibly not]
    We can give you lots of tips -- but winter time driving and camping in a rental RV is problematic at best.
    is early December OK forwhat we are planning, given weather constraints?
    Generally, yes -- although the mountain passes from the east side of Yosemite will be closed.
    . I'm not sure of school vacation terms onthe west coast. Are we likely to be inundated with crowds from the theme parks to Yosemite?
    I think you will miss most of the Christmas holiday season.

    Here are some tips about renting RVs and some ideas about routes.

    mark
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 11-16-2007 at 02:40 PM. Reason: removed the interim commentary

  3. Default Some comments..

    Hello Aussiesteve, it sounds like a good plan for a trip. But of course, some comments and opinion if I may?

    3 weeks is a reasonable time period to do the loop between SF, LA, SD and Las Vegas.. The winter period here will be cool, and perhaps damp -- but comparatively, it should be mild. You can get into a storm period and have rain off and on for a week, but the odds are that most of the time it will be pretty good weather, albeit cloudy along the coast.

    A reasonable time allocation might be 4-5 days in LA (assuming a day to overcome jetlag), 1-3 days in San Diego, 2-3 days in Las Vegas, 2-3 days in Death Valley and perhaps Mammoth area (for snow), 2-3 days in Yosemite/ Sequoia, 4-5 days in SF and region, and then 3-4 days back down along the coast to LA and return. All of these basic locations are a day's drive apart or less (if you hurry), so you'll not be spending all your time on the road going to and from -- you should be able to spend time time in places and explore and meet people.

    For accomodations you will have a wide variety of places, ranging from dude ranches to 5 star resorts. I believe you are looking to avoid standard big-block hotels? If you want to do that, there are some places that rent cabins, and others that offer "residence suites", which offer typically a small living room, microwave/ stove/ refridgerator and the usual bath/ bedroom. There are several chains of these, and a number of motels have mixed residence-type suites and standard rooms. However, the residence suites may charge slightly more per night, or have a minimum number of nights they want you stay (like 3 nights). Another alternative might be smaller hotels rather the big box hotels.

    A RV would be a good choice outside the larger cities (SF, LA), as the big cities typically don't have too many RV-friendly "camping" sites or parking areas (there are usually parking areas at large attractions, like Disneyland, but not necessarily on regular streets). You might want to consider a rental car as an alternative with the potential for camping along the way as an alternative, or the smaller hotels.

    The school vacation schedule is typically up to the Thursday or Friday before Christmas, and then the schools are out until after New Years. There is also the Thanksgiving holiday here as well, at least a Thursday/ Friday in late November.

    Crowds -- like everywhere else, if you are looking for a high demand area in the vacation period (or the weekend before), you might see some crowds. For example, if you want to stay in a campground RIGHT ON the beach, or RIGHT IN Yosemite National Park where there are limited places to stay, you might want to get reservations. Most of these can be checked on and reserved via the internet and a credit card. Otherwise, during the week you probalby won't see many crowds at all -- and I would check to see even if some of the places are open (some campgrounds for example, may close during the winter).

    For a scenic driving route, and depending upon your comfort zone in driving, an interesting route would be from San Diego through Julian (in the mountains behind San Diego, then down into the desert at Borrego Springs (Anza Borrego Desert State Park), then up through Indio, Joshua Tree, and up to Las Vegas via the Mojave National Preserve. From Las Vegas I would go through Death Valley (December is one of the best times to visit), then up to Mammoth for snow fun, then down around the southern end of the Sierras (Tioga Pass will be closed for the winter), to either Sequoia or Yosemite (Sequoia can have limited access due to snow). From there, to SF and area, then south through Monterey/ Carmel, down Coast 1 past Hearst Castle and back to LA. Specific details and stops will be up to you and your personal interests. LA to San Diego is typically 2-3 hours (depending upon traffic, and where you start in LA),

  4. Default

    Many thanks for all the helpful replies. This thread, in fact the whole forum, is an amazing wealth of info.

    A question:- Bearing in mind the comments here about how problematic a winter excursion in an RV might be, at a stretch we may be able to re-arrange our schedule to 3 weeks commencing mid September 2008 instead. If we did that, is there anywhere our children could see and experience snow for the first time, or is it too early? They really have their hearts set on touching snow.

    Also, Larrison said:
    "I believe you are looking to avoid standard big-block hotels? If you want to do that, there are some places that rent cabins, and others that offer "residence suites", which offer typically a small living room, microwave/ stove/ refridgerator and the usual bath/ bedroom. There are several chains of these,....."
    Could someone please give me afew names of chains that offer family accommodation like this, as opposed to just motel/hotel rooms - so I can do some Googling!

    Thanks
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 12-21-2007 at 09:02 PM. Reason: quote format

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,060

    Default Snow is always possible (but extremely unlikely)

    Quote Originally Posted by aussiesteve View Post
    If we did that, is there anywhere our children could see and experience snow for the first time, or is it too early? They really have their hearts set on touching snow.
    Snow in the high sierras is possible year-round, the liklihood of fresh snow in September is extremely unlikely.
    Could someone please give me afew names of chains that offer family accommodation like this, as opposed to just motel/hotel rooms - so I can do some Googling!
    Any of the Marriot Hotels or Budget Suites. Every town in resort areas offers homes for rent as well -- often by the weekend.

    Mark

  6. Default

    Thanks for that Mark! Food for thought.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    The Netherlands
    Posts
    219

    Default Snow

    The only places we had (little) fresh snow in september were Crater Lake, (Oregon), Yellowstone, (Wyoming) and Glacier NP (Montana) so all far out of your way. But also had warm weather at those places. So as mentioned by the previous poster, very little chance. Nevertheless, september is a great time for a visit. Try to fit in some deserts. Yes it will still be hot but they are amazing (and quite different from the Outback) And Yosemite is another must see of course. Have you thought about visiting Grand Canyon NP. Best of them all imo but maybe slightly out of your way as well. Options are countless in this part of the world.
    Yeehaw.

  8. Default

    Thanks Yeehaw [luv that name..]

    You guys and girls here do a fantastic job.

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