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  1. #1
    RoadTripper San Fran Guest

    Default Newbie looking advice about road trip from san Francisco to Vegas.

    Hi All,

    I'm a little over whelmed by this site but I'm sure once I figure it out I won't bother you as much.

    We are taking our first step to independent travel with a holiday and road trip to USA.We have booked flights to san Francisco for early September and we are flying back from Vegas two weeks later. So we want to plan a road trip between the two.

    We are thinking of booking our first three nights in san Fran and then setting off without pre booking any rooms. We know we'd liked to stay in yosemite and maybe stop at lake tahoe or seqouia, though people don't seem impressed by lake tahoe saying it's very commercial.we want to have a few days in vegas and we want to see the grand canyon. I've been told of few other places but I really don't have much of an idea yet.I'm spending today looking at maps and I will try and figure out this forum for help.

    We want to see as much as possible without driving every single day. We are unsure of whether to drive to grand canyon from vegas or pay out for helicopter ride. We've been told south rim is best. We love the outdoors and walking although I'm little nervous about bears, we don't worry about things like that in Wales (u.k ) Also,I know usa is so HUUUUGE so walks will be longer and harder so don't want to be to adventurous and get lost.

    If anyone has time to help us that would be amazing.

    We've never done this type of holiday before and the only time we've been to USA was to Orlando and did the whole theme park Disney thing. We've always pre booked rooms and we've always gone through travel agents, but we would like to have more of an adventur and cut the cost of middle man. We are not on a huuuge budget we don't mind roughing it a little (though I'd like private bathroom in any place we stay. We woud like to be central on the strip in vegas so I'm looking for deals there.

    Thanks so much for reading and I look forward to any replies : )

    Mrs daisy

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default I know how you feel.

    Hi, and Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum.

    It took a while for me to get around this site as well, so don't be too worried about that. In some ways, I'm still learning, but it gets more familiar as one goes along. :)

    The trip you are planning is probably the most discussed route on the forums. The the best way to familiarise yourself with the layout of the southwest is exactly what you are doing, with good maps. Use the search function just under the green bar above, to search the forums for similar threads. Keywords from your original post would be a good start.

    In early September you should be ok without booking rooms ahead of time, though in the more popular places, e.g. GC and Yosemite, you may want to book a couple of days before hand. Unless of course you want to stay in the NPs, then you need to book that. I have to say, I very rarely book anything, and have never been left stranded. But I have never stayed in a NP.

    There can be some very good deals to be had on the strip in LV, and I suggest that as your planning gets along a bit further, and you know the dates you will be in LV, you check out the reservations tab on the green bar above.

    Be aware that if you take a plane or helicopter ride from LV over the canyon, that you will not actually see the Grand Canyon NP. The flights out of LV go only to the west rim... and whereas this can still be a spectacular experience - I loved it! - it is not a substitute for visiting the NP. There are also helicopter flights out of Tusayan, which do take you over the NP. If you can afford them, they are more than worth it.

    Although you will often hear that the South Rim is the best, I have to disagree. For me the North Rim is equally as spectacular, and far less touristy with much smaller crowds. There the view of the Colorado River through Angels Window has to be seen. If you go to the South Rim, I would highly recommend that you take the time to go see the IMAX movie of the GC. It is a wonderful way of getting to appreciate what you are about to see.

    You would be very very lucky to see a bear while on this trip. Make sure you have your camera ready, cause they are more scared of you, than you of them. If you want to take a photo you have to be quick. But I have never seen a bear in that area, and not heard of any either. They are there, but as I said, you would have to be extraordinarily lucky to see one.

    Can understand you wanting to do your own thing. For me, I have never used a travel agent. In fact, very little of my trips are planned at all. There is nothing like winging it.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default No bother at all.

    Hi there from the UK and welcome to RTA.

    Feel free to "bother" us as much as you need to, until you are totally comfortable and satisfied with your trip plans, it really is no bother. We like to help like minded people and actually enjoy to join in with the planning. As Lifey mentioned above, it takes time to familiarise yourself, but you will find no end of resources here. With a good map to hand and us to help you along the early stages of your 'journey' you will do just fine. I say that as for me the planning is a fun part of the trip as a whole experience.

    By scrolling down the page you will find 'Similar threads' which in turn will lead to others. To help get you started, here are some of our favourite links to other trips in the area.

    I would most certainly recommend you visit the Grand canyon NP, north, south or both rims. You can't beat the experience of wandering on your own and witnessing a sunset and/or sunrise over the canyon. Sept/Oct are my favourite months to visit these parts, when the temps in the desert areas are bearable, the big crowds have gone and Fall colours take hold.

    From SF you could consider a trip down part of the coastal route around Big Sur before heading inland to Yosemite, perhaps Sequoia NP as well. You would have time to head for Southern Utah and the National parks of Zion and Bryce canyon [close to GC the North rim] and down through Page AZ [Antelope canyon /Lake Powell] to Monument valley and then the South rim and back to Vegas via the Hoover dam.

    A lot will depend on how and where you want to spend your time and at what pace you are comfortable travelling at. As you work through your planning, keep asking questions and it will all fall into place.

  4. #4
    RoadTripper San Fran Guest


    Thank you, that is great help. Already started to try work way around the forum. Guess it's hard to plan trip like this when you have no idea what the places are like. I don't know where to stay near yosemite. That route idea sounds fab. Is sequoia worth a visit ?

    So I would do yosemite first and then you think stay at the canyon ? Will have to work out how long the drive is . Like idea of driving but concerned at how baron it could be, as we have no where like this in our country . When you say NP is that national parks ? So people don't stay in the parks ,they stay just outside them ? Do you drive to parking area and then walk from there ? I have ordered some books can't wait til they come. AT the moment I'm trying to start from the beginning and find the cheapest accommodation I can in san Fr.

    Thanks so much for your time , even though this question is one you must get sick of hearing. How far are all the cayons away from each other ? and is monument valley to far for us to see?

    Thanks again

  5. #5
    RoadTripper San Fran Guest


    sorry would you say to not go as far as up as Lake Tahoe ? Is it worth a visit or are there better parks to spend time driving too ? thanks

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default NP = National Park

    All these abbreviations can be confusing to those who are not familiar with them. You will find the same abbreviations on all good maps and in atlasses. The other common ones are SP = State Park and SF = State Forest.

    Lake Tahoe? it all depends on what you are looking for. Yes, it is a great tourist and holiday area, but I would not put it anywhere on a scale with the great NPs of the southwest.

    The National Parks Service website shows the maps and the roads through the parks, as well as the walking tracks and shuttle bus services. It will give you a much better idea as to what to expect when visiting.

    For accommodation in SF (San Francisco), have you checked the reservations tab on the green bar above. There are some great deals to be had there.

    Last edited by Lifemagician; 07-24-2011 at 05:19 PM. Reason: add info

  7. #7
    RoadTripper San Fran Guest


    no I hadn't thanks for that tip, will check tomorrow . I should get to bed now been a little addicted to looking and just had a thought about where do I get road maps from? Altough we may try ind out how to use GPS out there. We have a sat nav here but will have to check on how to use it in different country.

    Well we are looking for the fun and sites in san fran and vegas and then just to see the beauty of national parks . We love being outdoors and we don't like places that are too commercial, though we know vegas is and that is what we want there. We want to it the right places in and I just heard about lake Tahoe but if there are better lakes or better places . I did like idea that you can swim there if it's warm. I love water and quit fancied some water sports too . We love the countryside and the coast , as we live near to it but we love walking, nature and wild life just as much. We also can't wait to do the main tourist things like Alcatraz, trams and bus tours in san fran and the lights, shows and casinos in vegas . Main thing is that we plan the right route and we don't have to rush things and feel re stricted to a certain itinrary . Also, been told about napa valley, though not sure what is there. Think lots more work to do in planning yet . I can't wait for my books .

    Thanks and as we say in wales nos dda ( good night )

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default You can get maps here.

    where do I get road maps from?
    I would be surprised if a good map shop locally does not have some. Failing that you can aways order them here. There are two road atlasses on the second page. Both are quite inexpensive. Or you may prefer to purchase the maps of the individual states through which you will be touring. If you order now, you will have it to help plan your trip and study it before your departure.

    Altough we may try ind out how to use GPS out there. We have a sat nav here but will have to check on how to use it in different country.
    Using a gps on your trip is the same as at home, provided you have local maps. But be aware, do not be tempted to rely on your gps alone. It is not a wise idea, and can lead you astray with dire consequences. People have been known to lose their lives by relying solely on a gps. It is a great tool to find things like accommodation, etc., but make sure you have good paper maps with you.

    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 08-14-2011 at 09:02 PM. Reason: OP request

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Mapping.

    So I would do yosemite first and then you think stay at the canyon ? Will have to work out how long the drive is .
    If you are referring to Bryce canyon from my previous post, then no I wouldn't think about staying "in the canyon next". Zion would be the next logical step if you decided to head to Utah, but you would need to stay a night on the East side of the mountains out of Yosemite to travel there. The parks of Southern Utah are just suggestions of places that you could include in your trip as a whole, but you really need a good map at this stage. As Lifey mentioned, you will get maps at a good book store near to you in the travel section. [WH Smith etc have them on the shelf usually] You sometimes have to order more detailed 'State' maps which normally only take a few days. In the meantime you can find on line mapping programs and a good place to start would be the RTA map centre that you can find in the green tool bar above. Put you cursor over 'Mermbers' and select 'Map centre' from the drop down menu. You can create routes and follow instructions to highlight attractions on the map while familiarising yourself with the area.

    So people don't stay in the parks ,they stay just outside them ?
    There are lodging options inside the parks. They are generally more expensive and more sought after than in the surrounding areas and can and do get booked out in advance. If your budget can manage park lodging I would recommend it, but it's not essential. The parks are large and you can spend valuable time driving in and out if you have a couple of nights at one. [Yosemite covers an are about 50% larger than Snowdonia NP] It sometimes happens that you arrive near a park late in the day and stopping at lodgings prior to going into the park next day makes more sense and if you just have a day there and are driving through, you might stay out the 'other' side. It's these little bit's that will come together quicker after you have set out your first itinerary. [There is almost always more than one LOL].

    Once you have decided on what you really want to see [Tahoe or not ? Zion/Bryce ?] roll out a list and I will be happy to make suggestions on 'if' and 'how' it could work for you with route suggestions.

  10. Default

    Not sure what date you arrive in September, but Sept. 3 - 5th is our three day Labor Day Holiday Weekend and I would advise against going to get to Yosemite during this weekend. I'd bet that everywhere will be booked for lodging inside and outside the park over that weekend.

    September is still a busy month for the National Parks of the west if you want to stay in the parks, then I would recommend making reservations if you can get them. You don't want to have to back track 50 miles or more looking for lodging.

    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 08-14-2011 at 09:01 PM. Reason: as per OP request

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