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  1. Default Indian Couple for the First Time to USA

    We are planning for this Ordeal to the great USA ! For the same we seek some expert advice and direction for chosing our stay and to minimize the cost.

    [A] Our Constraints:

    1. We have a 2 year old child with us.
    2. We are vegetarians
    3. We do not have a valid American Driving License
    4. This will be our First trip to USA
    5. My Budget is Limited to USD 5000 for the whole trip

    [C] Aim is to cover
    San Francisco City – Napa Valley (Day Tour) – Yosemite National Park (day tour)

    Las Vegas (city) – Grand Canyons – Death Valley

    LA (city) – Disneyland – Universal Studios


    [D] Planned Dates: 6th May 2009 to 16th May 2009

    [E] Proposed Itinerary

    6th May - Landing in San Francisco
    7th /8th May - Day Tour in San Francisco
    - Must See Places –??? (Kindly Suggest , we are with Kid)
    9th May – Napa Valley
    10th May- Yosemite National Park
    Overnight stay or Day Trip from SFO (kindly Advice)

    11th May – Road Trip to Las Vegas
    12th May - Las Vegas City
    13th May – Grand Canyons
    14th – LA
    15th – Disneyland / Universal Studios
    16th – City Tour – FLY to NY

    [F] We need your expert Advice in

    (i) Guiding us for places to Stay
    (ii) How do we make city Tours
    (iii) Helping us streamlining the itinerary so that it is not too strenuous for the Child.

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

    Default Dial it back

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I think the best thing I could tell you to do is to slow down your pace a bit. Everything you are looking to do could be done, but I think especially traveling with a 2 year old, you're really going to end up with your entire family being exhausted, which doesn't make for a very good trip.

    A couple things really stand out. First, You'll certainly want to stay overnight at Yosemite. Its about a 4 hour drive into the park from SFO, so its really far to try and do as a day trip, and more importantly, its directly on the way to Las Vegas.

    I think I might leave off the Grand Canyon, or try to arraign a helicopter tour from Vegas. You're looking at a 5-6 hour drive to get to the Canyon from Vegas, and more importantly, you're looking at 8-10 hours then to drive back to LA.

    In LA, you might think about skipping Disney and Universal. First of all, there is no way that you can visit both places in one day, as they are way too big and way too far apart. More importantly, a 2 year old really isn't going to be old enough to appreciate the attractions there, and I think that sort of sensory overload could just be a bit much on a trip that is already packed full. I think it would be entirely possible that you and your family could have more fun simply having a relaxing day on the beach.

    The best thing I could really recommend is either try to add more time to your trip, or try to cut back on what it is that you are doing. I know its hard because there are a lot of great things to see in these areas, but sometimes you can try so hard to see everything, that you end up enjoying nothing.

  3. Default Thanks for a valuable advice

    Dear Mark ,

    I am grateful to you for all the valuable guidence :

    1. Helicopter Trip from Vagas to Grand Canyon : Point Noted

    2. Should we cover : Napa wine valley or we can skip ?

    3. What are places which we should not miss in San Franscico & LA

    Regards ,

    Indian Couple

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default Grand canyon.

    Quote Originally Posted by Indian-Couple View Post

    1. Helicopter Trip from Vegas to Grand Canyon : Point Noted
    Indian Couple
    Hi,

    As Michael pointed out, your schedule is quite busy but I think it would be a shame not to drive to the Grand Canyon and see this natural wonder from the South rim. The helicopter tours only go to the West rim and although I am sure it would be a wonderful experience you won't get to witness the wonderful views you see in all the pictures, and more importantly missing out on witnessing a sunset over the Canyon.

    2. Should we cover : Napa wine valley or we can skip ?
    I personally would prefer to drop Napa valley from the tour and spend that night at the Canyon. Having said that and not being a city person, If it was still possible I would skip L/A [and enjoy it another day when your child is older] and fly out from Vegas. That would free up a lot of time and make your trip altogether more relaxed.

    3. What are places which we should not miss in San Franscico & LA
    I would highly recommend the Alcatraz tour. The boat trip is fun and offers good views of the Golden gate bridge and the city skyline from the Bay. When you get on the Island it is great to walk around all the old buildings and "share" the cells with Machine gun Kelly and Al Capone.
    I would book in advance if you were interested as the tours sell out. This is the Official site for booking the boat. That is the only cost, the Island is free to visit.
    While you are in the area of the Piers visit the famous Pier 39. It has small shops and restaurants with street performers and your child will love the Sea Lions resting on the floating docks as well as the old Carousel, Handcrafted in Italy, it is intricately hand-painted and Eighteen hundred twinkling LED lights illuminate this carousel, which features 32 animals to ride, including sea dragons, sea lions, dolphins, panda bears, and of course, horses.

    For yourselves Union square and the colourful China town are two main attractions and you can get around by hopping on the famous Cable cars.
    Coit tower offers great views of the Bay.

    Yosemite is a must see in my opinion and the Waterfalls will be flowing which will be a spectacular site, but it's worth mentioning for planning that in early May the Valley floor will be accessible but the Tioga Pass [HWY 120]on the high ground won't be due to snow. This means you will not be able to cross the Sierra's this way to Vegas and will have to head South towards Bakersfield.

    Your budget is more than enough if you mean $5000 for your 10 day stay ?

    If you have a valid driving license from home you should be O.K to drive in the US. Car rental is the way to get around so that you can choose your own pace and see what you want to see.
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 02-13-2009 at 03:33 AM. Reason: Added info

  5. #5

    Default

    I am originally from East Asia and have been living in North America for last 20 years. If this is your first trip to USA and you plan on renting a car and driving (remember, left hand driving) I would suggest to invest in couple of things:

    A cheap GPS:
    This could help reduce a lot of head aches.

    Car Seat (for your child)
    A rental car company will rent you a car seat, but it will cost you a lot. You can usually bring one with you on the plane as part of your kids luggage or purchase one at Wal-Mart (and the like) for much cheaper.

    Lastly, like everyone else said, your trip is packed with stuff to do as well as quite a lot of driving. Will your child be okay sitting in car for long periods of time? I know my 2 year old would not be able to cope with that much driving in couple of weeks. If we to drive more then 2 hours, we usually plan activities for both of them (2 & 5) to do.

    Hope this helps.

    Have a great trip

  6. Default Thank For you Advice

    Dear John , Dave & Michael,

    At the outset let me take this opportunity to Thank You.

    Your advices have been really really helpful in fine-tuning the trip itinerary.

    Except for a few glitches I am sure we will have a Great time in one of the Most beautiful Nations !

    1. I am afraid I may not be able to drive on my own since I have never driven in a Left Hand drive vehicle before.

    2. How are Days Inn Motels , I plan to book them at all the places during our stay.

    3.I feel this trip is going to be our one of the last trips for atleast a decade so I would not like to miss City Tours especiall for LA & San Fransisco

    4. I think I will drop Napa Valley and would Like to spend one more night in Las Vegas , but 10 hours on bus journey with 2 year old child - is it worthwhile ?

    5. Which is the best place to fly to New Ark - LA or SFo ?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default questions

    4. I think I will drop Napa Valley and would Like to spend one more night in Las Vegas , but 10 hours on bus journey with 2 year old child - is it worthwhile
    I'm a little confused, are you no longer planning to drive at all? Are you planning to take the bus all the way from SF to Vegas? If that's the case, and since 10 hours would just be a direct route skipping Yosemite and Death Valley, you might want to look at flying this leg.
    2. How are Days Inn Motels , I plan to book them at all the places during our stay.
    They are one of the lower end chains in the US, and personally, I tend to avoid them simply because I've had several bad experiences. That said, the places you are staying at could be perfectly fine. I'd look at a review site, like tripadvisor, and try to get information about each of the specific motels you are looking at.

    5. Which is the best place to fly to New Ark - LA or SFo ?
    I don't think either place is necessarily better or worse, it just depends upon what flights different airlines are offering. You could also find that its cheaper to fly out of Las Vegas. Also was that a typo or do you need to fly specifically to Newark (New Jersey)? Or can you fly to any of the 3 airports in the New York Area (LaGuardia, JFK, or Newark)?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default Choice's

    1. I am afraid I may not be able to drive on my own since I have never driven in a Left Hand drive vehicle before.
    If you are a competent/confident driver at home this shouldn't really be an issue. It can be a worry your first time doing so, but it really doesn't take time to adjust and start to relax behind the wheel.

    3.I feel this trip is going to be our one of the last trips for atleast a decade so I would not like to miss City Tours especiall for LA & San Fransisco
    If you are happier to take city tours then that is fine, plenty of people do. By searching on the net you will find plenty of options. However I prefer to do my own research and go to places that interest me and take the time I want to in each place and generally do my "own thing" rather than being kept to someone elses schedule. The city's are generally easy enough to get around under your own steam using the transport systems.

    If you are happy to do it this way then that is fine but if it's driving that is holding you back, it really isn't that bad.

  9. Default

    Indian-Couple,

    You need not worry about driving in the US if you already drive somewhere else. California's roads and highways are some of the best in the country, if a little crowded, and driving there will become second nature very quickly. I recommend it over flying or taking a bus because the trip from San Francisco to Las Vegas (via Yosemite) is one of the most beautiful stretches of highway in the US and will definitely be a highpoint of your trip. You might even want to drive through Death Valley. DEFINITELY GET A GPS! The best $10 a day you can spend.

    With a two-year-old, traveling is trickier. You are correct to leave Napa for a later trip; it's not the most kid-friendly place and best experienced leisurely.

    With regards to lodging, you should only stay at a Days Inn if you already get a deal (for example if you are an employee). I second the advice of looking for a room on travel websites. Might I recommend kayak.com? If you can, stay at the lodge in Yosemite National Park. In Las Vegas, there is such a surplus of rooms because of the down-turned economy that you should be able to get something very nice, right on the strip and with valet parking and other amenities, like the Venetian, for a reasonable price. You can look on the web for great advice on renting a room in Las Vegas.

    The north rim of the Grand Canyon is just as amazing (and much closer to Vegas) as the south rim. I've been to both many times. If you go to the North Rim, make sure you visit Zion National Park. But know that any trip to the Grand Canyon will involve considerable driving time. Maybe spend the night at the Grand Canyon.

    California is the most vegetarian-friendly place in the U.S. I recommend getting Mexican burritos with beans and rice in the Mission. Once you head inland, vegetarian options will dwindle, but you still should be able to find things. Las Vegas is also vegetarian friendly.

    I think the best company for city tours is Grey Line. They offer tours in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Anaheim. Their tours are hop-on/hop-off, so you can get off the bus if something catches your eye and catch another bus later in the day to continue your tour.

    If you are returning to India from Newark, have not visited NYC before, and want to see something of that city, I recommend flying Jet Blue or Virgin America to JFK, then taking an airport bus to Newark. I think tickets are about $30 and the bus goes through downtown Manhattan. Perfect for if you only have a few hours to spend between flights.

    I'm willing to give more advice if you write me a message. Enjoy your visit!

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