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  1. Default San fran, L.A. And Vegas drive

    Hi All,

    My boyfriend and I are looking to head to San Fran in mid may. We're thinking of staying in San Francisco for around three days then hire a car. The plan would be to drive to vegas (taking around 3/4 days) via yosemite and death valley. We'd then stay in vegas for a day or two doing the helicopter flight to the grand canyon. We would then fly to L.A. pick up another car, stay a day or two then drive back up the coast to San Fran (around 4 days), drop off the car and immediately fly back home (glasgow). Our total time frame is 14 days.

    All of these timings are changeable, even the direction! Only definites are that I'd like to spend the 3 days in San Francisco and fly between Vegas and L.A. (don't think the drive sounds worth it and think we'd be better devoting that time to other things). L.A. Is probably of the least interest to us, mainly want to visit Universal Studios! Would be happy to arrive in L.A. in the morning, spend the night and leave mid morning.

    So!! My questions are: are my rough estimates for travel times realistic? What sort of distances would we be covering (ive estimated around 650 for san fran-vegas and 450 from L.A.-san fran)? We want to enjoy the drive and have the chance to stop and do the touristy bit when we want without feeling we're "behind schedule". What car should we get? Would love a ford mustang (coupe rather than convertable) but not sure how comfortable this would be for the type of driving we are doing. Where should we stop along the way? Is it wise to wing it or should we book hotels for each stop? What is must see and what can we miss? Interests would be wine, food, walking (gentle!) scenery, theatre/shows/comedy.

    Thank you for any and all advice! It is much appreciated.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I think your trip is certainly possible, and your travel times will give you plenty of time to make the trip, but there are a few things that you probably need to reconsider.

    First, most helicopter tours from vegas only go to the West Rim, not to Grand Canyon National Park. The two really aren't the same thing, and there really is nothing quite like standing on the rim within the National Park. I'd really give consideration to driving there.

    Along those same lines, flying between Vegas and LA is likely going to be a big waste of both time and money. Your plan would mean you have 2 one way car rentals, and thus 2 one way drop fees, plus two plane tickets, and when you factor in time to drop off a car, get through security, make the flight, get your bags, and get another car, you really won't save any time at all flying. On top of that, if you drive to the Grand Canyon, you can save some time by driving directly from GC to LA (one long day) rather than backtracking north to Vegas.

    You might also consider reversing the order of your trip, allowing you to travel south down the coast, with the ocean on your side of the road.

    Finally, I'm not sure if you'll find a mustang couple as a rental easily. Its not a common choice for a rental car, however, even as a convertible, you won't be guarenteed a model. The only way be be promised a specific model of car is to go with a specialty line of cars, which involves a significant premium price.

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

    Default A complete loop ?

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    In all honesty, I would just drive the entire loop. It's roughly 5 hours between LA and Vegas and to me it just wouldn't be worth the hassel of dropping off and picking up car rentals and going in and out of an airport to perhaps have an end result of saving a couple of hours.

    I would also consider including a drive to the Grand canyon NP and having a night there. The NP = National park, which is where you see the Photos of those famous views the world over and not the West rim on Indian lands where most Helicopter tours go to. If LA is of little interest I would consider if it's worth entering this huge urban sprawl for a day ?

    With a loop in mind, if you were to head south down the coast you would have the Ocean on your side of the road, handy for the Ocean side viewpoints. With 3 days in SF and say 3 down the coast [around the scenic Big Sur section] to LA [or head inland before LA]and then inland towards GC [overnight stop perhaps.] If you were back in Vegas for day 9 and 10 it would leave you 3 to 4 days to get back to SF via Death valley and Yosemite. The route to Yosemite would have to be considered as you travel. The popular choice would be over the Tioga pass [CA120] into Yosemite but that might be snowbound. If this was the case you would have to head around the southern end of the mountains via Lake Isabella/Bakersfield.

    You should get the car that best suits your requirements and budget, but a Mid-size Sedan gives room comfort and equipment at a good price. Note that you will not be able to garuantee a particular make and model. Vehicles are rented in a class of vehicle and those listed will carry a note stating 'Or Similar'.

    Have a look around the forums, it is by far the most talked about road trip area and when you have put together more detail we can help 'Fine tune' your trip. The links in this thread will help get you started.
    Enjoy the planning !

  4. Default

    Thank you for your quick response!

    To be honest the mustang is not something I'm massivle bothered bout, more the other half :D

    I'm happy to reverse the order. I had been noticing a lot of threads suggesting that heading south is the better option.

    I've been seeing a lot of chat about the Grand Canyon and I am sorely tempted. What sort of driving time do you think it would be then from L.A. to GC and then GC to Vegas?

    Again, all advice much appreciated. I can see this website being invaluable in the planning of this trip! Never been to America before but very excited at the idea of doing this drive.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.


    It would be a full day on the road from LA to GC south rim [10 hours] and as I mentioned above, you could consider an overnight stop. If you were to do so you could also consider detouring through Joshua tree NP and stopping over in Lake Havasu, Laughlin or Kingman. A more direct approach on I15 to I40 and you could spend the night in Williams, [around 8 hours] an old route 66 town and take the short drive to the canyon next day.

    From GC to Vegas would be about 5 hours, or you could stop at the Hoover dam. Off of I40 you also have the option of travelling part of route 66 through Seligman and visit some of the quirkey memorabilia stores.

  6. Default

    The boyfriend and I finally made some decisions and have now booked flights and a car!
    We fly from Glasgow to San Fran (via heathrow) on 11th May and leave 29th May. We arrive around 2.30pm and leave around 7pm. We've rented a mid size suv for the hell of it and figured if desperate, we could sleep in the back. We collect it right from the plane and return it the 26th, giving us 3dayd in San Fran at the end of our trip. Our rough itinerary is:

    Fri 11th, arrive San Fran, collect car and drive to half moon bay.
    Sat 12th: drive down pacific highway
    Sun 13th: pacific highway
    mon 14th: pacific highway
    Tues 15th: pacific highway, arriving L.A. around lunchtime, visit some sites (rodeo drive maybe beverley hills if we can)
    Wed 16th: universal studios (though this may change), leave L.A. When park closes and head somewhere for thr night.
    Thurs 17th: head for Grand Canyon
    Fri 18th: head for Grand Canyon, stay as ner as possible (Williams, Flagstaff, Tusayan)
    Sat 19th: Grand Canyon, overnight nearby
    Sun 20th: head to Vegas, visit Hoover Dam
    Mon 21st: Vegas
    Tues 22nd: Vegas
    Wed 23rd: Leave vegas and head through Death Valley, stay somewhere
    Thurs 24th: head for Yosemite, stay overnight nearby/in it
    Fri 25th: another day Yosemite or head towards San Francisco
    Sat 26th: back in San Francisco, dropping car by mid afternoon.

    Wouldn't mind slotting in a winery tour/tasting/overnight in there somewhere if anyone can suggest one. Everything is up for being juggled other than time in San Fran and Vegas. Not sure if driving to half moon bay straight off the plane is a good idea?
    Don't want to deive more than 5/6hours a day for the most part, though may cut down trip to Grand Canyon and do it in the 10hours suggested, giving us an extra day elsewhere.

    Can we get away with winging it on the accommodation side of things? Want to do a road trip for the freedom, not to get tied down by deadline destinations that we might actually want to pass/not have reached, as spent more time doing something than initially thought...
    I also spoke with a friend who has done a lot of this driving though not all in one go. She felt we were trying to cram in too juch to too short a time and wouldn't get the chance to really enjoy it and see all the unexpected places and things you gt by doing a roadtrip. Would you agree and if so, should we leave something out?

    So appreicate any wisom put our way and thank you so much for all given so far!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Looks fine.

    Not sure if driving to half moon bay straight off the plane is a good idea?
    I would consider staying at an airport Hotel, get rested and let your body clocks adjust and next day head to the Monterey area. If you are landing at 2:30pm it could easily be 4pm by the time you clear customs and get your car.

    She felt we were trying to cram in too juch to too short a time and wouldn't get the chance to really enjoy it and see all the unexpected places and things you gt by doing a roadtrip. Would you agree and if so, should we leave something out?
    People have different travel styles, some like to stay longer in fewer places and some like to keep on the go. If you are happy with the latter, I would say your trip is fine, giving you time for an overview of places you are visiting, but not too rushed by any stretch of the imagination.

    On the 25th I would 100% recommend staying around Yosemite. It is such an amazing place with many different areas to explore. It will leave you in awe !!

    You should always find somewhere to stay the night, but even in May the NP's are popular and you could see them booked up, or at least all the rooms under $200 !! From Vegas to Yosemite you should keep your options open for the night in between. As previously mentioned the preferred route over Tioga pass may still be closed and you would have to go around the Southern end of the mountains.

    Wouldn't mind slotting in a winery tour/tasting/overnight in there somewhere if anyone can suggest one.
    From Yosemite you could drive through the Napa Valley area and then to SF via the Golden Gate Bridge.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    I would recommend you book your first night in an airport hotel. By the time you collect your baggage, clear customs/immigration, and pick up the car you will be in the height of evening rush hour, and it's a Friday to boot! Not only that, the drive to Half Moon Bay is on a very congested, winding road over the coastal mountains and the setting sun will be in your face.

  9. Default

    Thank you!

    I figure if we book the things we absolutely have to (beginning, end and NPs) and leave the rest to where we are, we can do what we want, for the most, and just ensure we get to these points when we need to be there.

    I was thinking heading to Half Moon Bay might've been too much for our first night. Adjsuting our first night is the priority though, as want to be able to enjoy our trip not spend the first few days with our bodies confused about what is going on.

    Any suggestions of where to stay the first night? In fact, any suggestions of where to stay for our specific stop points? First night, cheap as chips but comfy is a must. Happy to splurge when we hit San Fran as it'll be our chill out time before heading home. As far as NP, anywhere is fine, maybe something that is as close as we can get? Without spending more than $100-150 for the night. Preferably less ;D

    Again, thank you for the suggestions and quick response!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    There are a few hotels near SFO with nightly rates under $100, and most of them should have a free airport shuttle. This would allow you to save a day on your car rental - change your pickup time to the next morning. I can't recommend any specific properties, but I do see several name brand "budget" hotels in this category (Howard Johnson, Super 8, Days Inn). If you do pick up the car right away, most of the airport area hotels should have free on-premises parking.

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