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  1. #1

    Default California, Arizona and Nevada Roadtrip with kids on July

    Hi fellows,
    I'm a newbie to RVing and i'm planning our first roadtrip with the family (my wife, a 3 year old and a 10 month old baby). We're from outside the US so i'm not familiar with the roads in California and the other states (though i've lived for a while on the east coast, so i'm familiar with driving in the US).

    We're leaving from San Francisco where we're staying with friends for a few days prior to our roadtrip, so by then we will probably had seen all the city attractions and surroundings. I draw my basic intinerary from the driving guide on usatourist.com, so i'm not sure if these are the best places to visit.

    As for the time frame, we're leaving SF around the 14 of July and we need to arrive in Las Vegas the 29 for our flight back home.

    This is our intinerary so far:

    Yosemite: this will be our first stop on our trip. I'm planning to stay 2 days. Since we're travelling with a baby we're not hiking or anything, so i guess that should be enough time to see the sequoias and main attractions in the park. I don't know what's the road like between SF and Yosemite.

    Monterrey - San Luis Obispo - Santa Barbara: I wanted to take the coastal road to LA. Although i would like to make the journey from Yosemite to LA in a day so i'm looking up routes to be able to appreciate the scenery of the coast roads but without having to drive for 2 days to LA. Any advice on that?

    Los Angeles: We'll be staying for about 3 days since we're visiting friends and want to see some things with the kids.

    San Diego: 1 or 2 days. Visit the zoo, a boat tour around the harbor maybe go up to la jolla.

    San Diego to Grand Canyon: I'm not sure i can drive all the way to the grand canyon on a single stretch. If it's not possible or advisable, where would be a good place to stop for us (kids friendly).

    Grand Canyon: I'm thinking 3 or 4 days, though i haven't researched yet on what is there to see and what we want to do.

    Las Vegas: 1 day. We don't see LV as a very kids friendly destination, but we wanted to take the opportunity to at least walk around town and see some things.

    Besides the intinerary, i have some worries about moving around town with the RV (we're renting something between a 22' and a 25'), parking, going groceries shopping, etc.
    Lodging is also another question mark on our list. Since this is our first trip, i don't know where to look and what to look for. Especially in the cities, is it preferable near town, outside of town?
    Last i have some doubts about what rig to rent. We want to be confortable but without having to drive around on an 18 wheeler. And options like generator and unlimited miles package confuse me even further.
    As you can see, we have a long way to go still in making our plans so any advice and opinions are more than welcome.


    Thanks,

    Martin

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    10,863

    Default Why an RV?

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    Honestly, my biggest question with this trip would be why are you bothering with an RV. Nothing against them, but they aren't the most ideal method of transportation when much of your focus is going to be in cities. It almost sounds like you are going to get one because you feel you have to.

    Its certainly going to be a lot easier to manuver with a regular car, other than your couple days in Yosemite and a couple days at the Grand Canyon, your trip is almost all urban areas. Even if you buy groceries - which you still could do in a motel - its not going to be a cost saver, so it doesn't seem like an ideal option for this trip.

    Although i would like to make the journey from Yosemite to LA in a day so i'm looking up routes to be able to appreciate the scenery of the coast roads but without having to drive for 2 days to LA. Any advice on that?
    Perhaps a time machine would make this work? I really don't see this as a particularly feasable idea, especially not in an RV. I think you've be much better off shooting for a town along the central coast, like San Luis Obispo, to spend the night and then finish your drive into LA.

    There's a lot more advice around this site both in the forum and in the planning section. I'd check out some of the articles like How to Rent an RV as well as some of the threads about Traveling with Kids.

  3. #3

    Default Good Question?

    Probably the answer is to save in hotels, meals, etc. (though i'm beginning to think that in the end i won't save that much).
    Also to be more comfortable on the road since we are travelling with a toddler and a baby. That way my wife can change diapers and my kid can be eating something or watching a dvd.
    Maybe the more experienced travellers on the board will tell me if i'm still better off with a van or suv instead of an RV. Now that you poised the question i'm beginning to doubt that the RV is the way to go.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,319

    Default RV travel

    My personal opinion is that getting an RV for the type of trip you're planning and where you're spending most of your time, is a bad idea. First, the cost of RV rental and the high cost of fuel is going to be far more expensive than renting a more normal vehicle and staying in hotels. It is not a cost-saving way to travel. And the cost of campsites for an RV, since you will want water/sewer/power hookups, can cost almost as much as an inexpensive motel room. So if you're doing it for budget reasons, don't.

    Just to be clear, RVs are a great way to travel if you own your own and use it extensively throughout the year. Maybe even living in it full-time or part-time. And many who do this stay put for several days, if not several weeks, at a time.

    Also, if you were planning on spending your time in more rural areas, enjoying the outdoors, and avoiding cities for most of your trip, then the RV idea might have more merit.

    You do have a point that traveling with a toddler and infant can be easier with more space to spread out. To be honest, most of us don't advise getting your children used to watching DVDs while traveling. Roadtripping can be good for bonding as a family and teaching your kids ways to entertain themselves. But when they are very young, as a parent I also realize this can be easier said than done. Back when my kids were little, we played lots of tapes with children's songs and stories. I guess, in a way, that's not all that much different than playing a DVD. I suggest you try to limit that though. Enough preaching....LOL

    I might suggest renting a mini-van. I believe all the major car rental companies have them in their fleet. Some of these are 7-passenger vehicles so this should give you plenty of room for all your gear, including the baby stuff and toys for the toddler. And would give you space to change diapers, etc. I believe some of the rental companies will also have mini-vans that offer a DVD player but you'll have to do some research for that. I think this would be a nice compromise offering some room to spread out, more maneuverable for city driving, and a more budget-friendly rental cost. Some people like SUVs but I think for your purposes, a mini-van makes more sense.

    PS - I hope you didn't mean that your wife would change the baby's diaper while traveling down the road. While an RV would allow that, legally you should always be buckled up in a seat-belt while driving. And children should be in car safety seats. You could actually get a ticket in most states for not being buckled up. And I think the fines are far more if the unbuckled person is a child. I don't think changing a diaper is going to be an excuse that law enforcement will allow. So, whether in an RV or a mini-van or some other smaller vehicle, you still need to stop to do those types of things.

    Budget priced hotels are easy to locate and are plentiful in most of the areas you are traveling, with the exception of within Yosemite and Grand Canyon parks. Do a google for chains like Motel 6, Super 8, Econolodge, Days Inn. There are other economy chains as well but this should give you a start. You might check out their locations to see if any of them are located where you want to stop for the night. Their fees will vary based on location.

    A great way to save money on meals is to eat out of your cooler. You can purchase an inexpensive cooler at any big box store for anywhere from $5 or so for a cheap styrofoam one on up. This is also more healthy. And, with kids, is really a great option. Instead of going into a restaurant where the kids will need to sit some more...and they are probably already sick of sitting in the car....you can stop at a park, playground, rest stop, etc. and let the kids run and play while you put together a healthy meal. So this will not only save you money but allow time for the kids to get the wiggles out, for you and your wife to walk and play with the kids, too, to get your own much-needed exercise after sitting in the car yourselves, and you can eat healthier and cheapier. The link has some good suggestions on what to buy, etc.

    At the top of that post is a link to another post with good tips on budgeting your trip.

    Hope this all helps! Happy planning. And let us know how we can help you further.
    Last edited by PNW Judy; 01-22-2008 at 10:42 AM. Reason: added info

  5. #5

    Default Ok, Got it! No RV for me then :) But still...

    Thanks very much for your opinions. I thinks it's pretty clear now that i should go with a car or minivan.

    Other than the vehicle selection, can you help me out on which routes to take and which things we SHOULD see. We're putting toghether an intinerary, but i want to make sure that:

    1) we don't miss out on some must do attraction or place to visit.

    2) we don't drive more than we have to. For example in the trip from yosemite to los angeles i want to take the 101 because i understand it's a very nice drive (in terms of the scenery). But maybe i can get a good look at it by driving from santa barbara to LA and the rest do it by highways. any suggestions?

    One last question to the family roadtrippers out there. We're finishing our trip in Vegas where we take our flight home. So we're just spending one day or maybe less there. My wife is a little concerned with taking the kids to Vegas since it's not really a kids destination. We're thinking of walking around the strip, go to a couple of restaurants, maybe a park or something. Can anyone help me on this?

    Thanks again for all the help.

    Martincho

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2000
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    9,477

    Default They can be excellent choices

    RVs don't make a lot of sense if the goal is to save money. But for all of the reasons you first listed -- they still might be a good choice. Here is an article that evaluates the pros and cons of using a RV over motels.

    Mark

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    10,863

    Default US-101 vs PCH

    For most of the area you are talking about, US-101 is a freeway while the scenic Pacific Coast Highway is actually CA-1. Except for a couple of short stretches, US-101 doesn't really go along the coast here.

    I think you need to make a choice in this case. Give yourself 2 days to make the trip (or at least 1.5) and go over to drive the coast, starting at Monterey, at least going down as far as San Luis Obispo, before getting on the US-101. If you don't want to spend that time making the scenic trip, then skip it and head straight to LA through the Central Valley via CA-99 and I-5.

    There is no "wrong" answer in this case, but driving all the extra miles to go over to the coast, and then just sticking to the freeway because you don't want to spend the time there just seems counter productive.

  8. #8

    Default Another suggestion...

    Reading through this thread....

    You can make it from Yosemite back to the California Coast at Monterey in about a half day of driving, via Los Banos. The roads are good (2 to 4 lane state highways) However, as noted, the scenic part of the trip is primarily south along Coast Highway from Monterey/ Carmel through the Big Sur area, and down to Morro Bay. There are some very good places to see, stop, and vist along here -- ranging from Cannery Row (as written about by Steinbeck) in Monterey, the Monterey bay aquarium, the 17 mile drive in Carmel, the scenery in Big Sur, the Elephant Seal in Pedros Blancas, Hearst Castle, etc. At a minimum, just driving straight through, its probably another 3 hours from Monterey. Adding in some stops, you're porbably a full day from Yosemite to near Morro Bay.

    From there, its about 4 hours or so to Los Angeles down 101. 101 and Coast Highway follow the same path through most of the distance from Santa Barbara to Ventura, which does drive along the coast. But it's no where near as scenic as the northern section.

    The alternative is to head south from Yosemite to LA. That's from 5-6 hours drive time, with minimal stops for gas and to use the bathroom.

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