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  1. #1

    Default Road Trip 17th November untill 12th December - SF, LV, LA, SD,Yosemite, Grand CAnyon

    Hi everyone
    Hope I have posted this in the right forum.
    We are a family of 2 adults 5 kids (12-5) who are hiring a dodge caravan or similiar minivan for a road trip. We are from Australia and have never been on an international trip before so it is very exciting but very scarey at the same time. With 7 of us it is also very expensive and will definately be a once in a lifetime trip (at least as a family)..
    I have an itinerary and have booked the bulk of the accommodation - I would appreciate comments on roads to use, and best ways to go.
    We fly into SF 17/11 stay 4 nights and then drive Yosemite (2 nights) - unsure of what exactly to see there as weather will be cold and snowy. Then planned to drive to Vegas in one day but wanted to see Death Valley - after reading some forums on here not sure with road closures if that will be possible (help). Please bear in mind we are well travelled in Australia and do yearly BIG road trips so all children are accustomed to 12-15 hour car trips. In Vegas for 4 nights and then driving to Grand Canyon for a night, continue driving to San Diego (which way - Palm Springs?? things to see on way??), In San Diego for 6 nights and then drive to Anaheim (3 nights) continue drive to LA (5 nights) and fly out to hawaii on 12th December.
    Would greatly appreciate any info at all - thanks Wendy

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    There is a good chance that Tioga Pass will be closed at the time of your trip - although its not a certainty. The road typically closes in Late October or November so you'll be right on the edge. In any case, I would look at adding a night in Death Valley. If the pass is open, you could rush through DV on your way to Vegas, but doing Death Valley and the drive over Tioga in one day isn't going to leave you much time to enjoy either. If the pass is closed, you'll have to go around to the south via Bakersfield, and in that case spending the night in DV is basically essential if you want to see it at all.

    Also remember, that you are taking your trip during the shortest days of the year up in this hemisphere, and it will be dark by 5:30-6pm, so 12-15 hour drives would require you to do a good chunk of your driving at night.

    I would also really recommend you spend a 2nd night at the Grand Canyon. Its a half day drive from Vegas, and then a long day to San Diego. With one night, I think you'll again be pretty rushed. Considering you are planning to spend 2 full weeks in So Cal right now, I think you could easily shave a couple days off there to enjoy the roadtrip portion of your trip more.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Time (of Year)

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Yeah. Unfortunately, November is really getting on towards winter in the mountains of the northern hemisphere and the road over the Sierra Nevada, CA-120 through Tioga Pass, will almost certainly be closed at the time of your trip. So you'll have to go around the mountains to the south through Bakersfield from Yosemite to Las Vegas. That will be a full day's drive, 550 miles and about 10 hours, even without a detour to Death Valley, so I'd suggest that you do DV as a day trip from Las Vegas.

    Grand Canyon to San Diego is another 10± hour day, so unless you plan to spend the night somewhere en route, time for stops along the way would be minimal. My preferred scenic route would be down through Prescott to Blythe via US-89/AZ-71/US-60, and then take CA-78 through Anza-Borrego Desert State Park into the San Diego area. If you do decide to take a couple of days for the drive, you should also look at going to Flagstaff first from the Grand Canyon and then driving down through Oak Creek Canyon to Sedona, Jerome and Prescott.

    By the way, 'accustomed to' and 'enjoying' 12-15 hours a day in the car are two different things. If this is to be a once in a lifetime adventure, please give your kids the chance to experience as much of the American outdoors as possible. You can coop them up in a car anytime/anywhere.

    AZBuck

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default No comparison

    Quote Originally Posted by foxmum View Post
    Please bear in mind we are well travelled in Australia and do yearly BIG road trips so all children are accustomed to 12-15 hour car trips.
    Wendy, there is absolutely no comparison. We too, drove many long trips with our five young children, and it is relatively easy to drive those distances at home. But since I have been travelling around North America, I have been trying to put my finger on just what it is, that is so different. After almost 100000 miles, I am still not sure exactly what. But believe me, there is no comparison. The actual driving on the interstates (you don't see much that way) is relatively easy and very well signposted.

    On the other hand, you do not experience, not even in the most remote regions, the huge distances through empty space, which we do at home. There is soooooo much more to see and feeling cooped up in a car with the need to stop and get out, seems to be much greater. And as has already been said, take into account that you will be travelling through shortened daylight hours.

    Quote Originally Posted by foxmum View Post
    In Vegas for 4 nights and then driving to Grand Canyon for a night..........
    Las Vegas is not exactly the most family-friendly place with young children. I would highly recommend that you follow the suggestion to add another night to the Grand Canyon. The children are likely to remember the incredible beauty of nature there, long after the artificial glitz of LV has been forgotten.

    Lifey in Melbourne

  5. #5

    Default

    Thanks everyone for the quick replies. Sounds like we are definately going to have to go via Bakersfield on this trip - excuse my ignorance of the american highway system but would that mean travelling on the CA-41, taking the 126A exit and continuing on CA-99. It does sound like we may need to do death valley as a day trip from vegas, but at least we have the time in Vegas to do this. I am also very keen to do a day trip to Valley of Fire as I have heard some remarkable things about this place. Unfortunately, as much as I would love extra night/s at the Grand Canyon our budget is just not going to stretch that far - I have booked one night at Kachina Lodge right on the rim but it did cost AUD$420 for the one night. This was a huge splurge for us as we are trying to stick to a pretty tight budget in order to make the trip possible, but we figured this would definately be a once in a lifetime experience.
    And yes, Lifemagician perhaps that is where I am going wrong. Over here we have huge distances with absolutely nothing to see and it is 'easy' to travel a long way in one day. I am obviously underestimating the things to see/do on the drive from yosemite to vegas. Have had a look at the trip from the canyon to san diego and it looks like the suggested route is through the desert and this looks very appealing. I think, unfortunately, that I have been quite ignorant in the planning and just assumed that we would drive a to b without considering what there was inbetween. Hopefully my husband and I will get the opportunity to come back at a later date to explore these areas....And after already booking the tickets had a brain wave last night that in retrospect probably would have been better to fly direct to LA and drive up the coast to SF and then continue on the planned route :((

  6. #6

    Default

    hi again,
    just wondering is it possible to drive some of the coast before heading across to Yosemite, and would you recommend that?
    thanks again

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default seeing the forest

    It sounds to a little to me like you have your mind pretty well set on sticking to your current schedule regardless of anything else. You really have a lot of time to work with, but you're time is very unbalanced. You've got 14 nights just between San Diego and LA, but you're doing just 7 nights to go all the way from San Francisco to the Grand Canyon, and then back to San Diego - and 4 of those nights are in Las Vegas. To me, that just seems like you are racing through things, so you can have an extremely long amount of leftover time at the end - and then complaining that you don't have enough time to see things and you hope you'll have time to make another trip to see things in the future.

    I'll also say saying you can't afford to spend a 2nd night at the Grand Canyon because you've decided to find about the most expensive place there doesn't make much sense either. I'm certainly not saying you shouldn't stay at that lodge, but are you going to the Grand Canyon to stay at a nice hotel or are you going to explore one of the most amazing features on the planet? Right now, you've got a great hotel, but no time to explore and enjoy your surroundings. A second night at the Canyon - even if you had to stay at one of the many budget motels in Williams - seems to be really essential to make the drive itself worthwhile.

    Yes, I would also look at adding some time traveling down the coast. I also wouldn't assume that you can't drive Tioga Pass, because that's certainly not a definite. However, if you do have to go around, it would be a prefect excuse to also add in Sequoia National Park into your trip. With nearly 4 weeks for your trip, you've got a whole lot of time and can easily fit in any and all of it, it just depends upon how you are going to prioritize the use of that time.

  8. #8

    Default

    Hi there,
    I think maybe, you might be judging me by my ignorance. The itinerary that I have based my plans on were those that were suggested to me by my travel agent. I had no concept of where to go in the States (except to Disneyland for the kids) and the Grand Canyon. The travel agent planned the trip (I have no however decided to complete bookings myself and as such am doing a lot more research which is obviously something I should have done much sooner before any bookings were made).
    One of the reasons I am saying that my husband and I will need to return is that my two youngest children are not able to hike or even do long walks which very much limits what we can do in certain areas such as Grand Canyon and presumably Yosemite.
    I am only set on the current schedule to the extent that has been booked so far, which is basically the part of the trip from the Grand Canyon onwards (and this part I have actually filled with activities/tours/etc and am not worried that we will have free time leftover).
    Bearing all this in mind, and given the time of year and the physical constraints of my family we have from 21/11/2010 until 27/11/2010 that is free time. Yes I would like to see YOsemite but how much can we see given the snow factors (we are not a skiing family) and I would like to see Vegas (if only briefly). There are still many options open - do we not go Yosemite and inland to Vegas, do we take the coast trip and cut across to Vegas, do we cut back our time in Vegas and stay elsewhere. I am open to any suggestions, and am do not have my mind set on any schedule in this timeframe.
    Once again, excuse my ignorance is respect of this trip and understand that I have been given advice from people in the industry who may not have given me the most appropriate information.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default That is unfortunate.....

    Quote Originally Posted by foxmum View Post
    Hi there,
    I think maybe, you might be judging me by my ignorance. The itinerary that I have based my plans on were those that were suggested to me by my travel agent. I had no concept of where to go in the States (except to Disneyland for the kids) and the Grand Canyon. The travel agent planned the trip (I have now however decided to complete bookings myself and as such am doing a lot more research which is obviously something I should have done much sooner before any bookings were made).
    Wendy, it is most unfortunate that you chose to go that way. But then, it was not till my fourth trip that I found this site. All you can do is make the most now, of what you have. Suffice to say that travel agents will book into places which pay them commission, and preferably the ones which pay the highest commission. Since your trip is still some 9 months off it could be possible to move (not cancel) some of the bookings already made, and free up some time to spend at the magnificent National Parks for which this corner of the planet is so famous.

    May I also suggest that you get yourself a large wall map of the US or of the south west of the US, and have it on the wall so you can put sticky notes on it and start to visually see how it is all coming together. I use the National Geographics map. Seeing it there constantly will implant in your mind - and those of the rest of the family - the directions, distances, roads and cities, national parks and other attractions.

    Quote Originally Posted by foxmum View Post
    One of the reasons I am saying that my husband and I will need to return is that my two youngest children are not able to hike or even do long walks which very much limits what we can do in certain areas such as Grand Canyon and presumably Yosemite.
    At the attractions you mention, and many other famous ones, there are many, many short walks, as well as the Junior Ranger programs which will benefit the children greatly, and guided walks and talks by the rangers. At Tusayan, just outside the park, there is an IMAX cinema which shows the Grand Canyon movie continuously. This is really worth taking in before you go to the park. It gives such a great appreciation of what you are about to see, probably the greatest natural wonder in the world. (When I was at the IMAX it had a sign up which said that AAA members get a discount. I mentioned that I was a member of my own automobile club which had a reciprocal arrangement with AAA. The lovely gentleman said, in that case, I was entitled to the discount. Anything is worth a try!)
    .
    Quote Originally Posted by foxmum View Post
    Once again, excuse my ignorance is respect of this trip and understand that I have been given advice from people in the industry who may not have given me the most appropriate information.
    You may like to do your travel agent - and others you meet in the industry - a favour by introducing them to this site.

    Lifey who tells everyone about it

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,271

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    You can see a lot of sights at the Grand Canyon without walking much at all. The park has a free shuttle bus system that stops at every viewpoint. You are free to get off and look around, and pick up the next bus. They generally run every 15 minutes.

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