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  1. Default West Coast inc Vegas

    Hi all, found this website through google and it seems like it holds a lot of useful information! We have only just started looking into it so apologies for being a bit naive.

    Looking at spending 3-4weeks in the USA (coming in from Bristol, UK) at the end of August into September 2013. There will be 3-5 of us, mix of guys and girls, we want to see the normal tourist bits, experience the nightlife in the big cities, have some beach time, bit of hiking/sightseeing and where possible get off the main routes and see some of the more local 'cultures' (whenever i travel i like to chat to the locals and try and get into their way of life a bit...). Also wouldn't mind seeing some sports, Basketball/American Football/Ice Hockey, the big teams!

    Flights to Vegas are pretty cheap and direct so that seems like a good place to start, plus some extra mates may come for that bit.

    Places we want to go for definite...

    Vegas (a good amount of time there 5-7days) & Grand Canyon (best to do an organised day trip (helicopter?) or drive it and spend a night?)

    Death Valley

    LA - How long to see all the 'touristy' bits? Including some good beach time. May also hit a theme park such as Six Flags...

    SF - As above really....

    National Park(s) - Yosemite best option? Rent an RV for this bit?

    Main questions are;

    What order would you guys recommend? Whats along the way, between the longer drives that is worth seeing?

    Route 1, 101 or 5? Or a mixture?

    Is it worth adding in SD and Tijuana? Or is that going to be a bit too far? We don't mind the driving and will probably hire a convertible since the weather should be nice! But also dont want to have to cut other stops short by trying to squeeze in too much...

    We dont want to do it cheap and miss things so throw some ideas at me! "Once in a lifetime" and all that!

    Thanks in advance...and sorry if i waffled a bit...

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Some Places to Start

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Probably the best place to start to get an over views (and several diverse opinions) on what to see in the area would be here. I'll also answer a few of your specific questions...

    If you plan to spend considerable time in Las Vegas, be aware that unless you and your friends) are over 21 years old, you will not be allowed on any casino floor for any amount of time whatsoever. The Grand Canyon is not a place that can be truly appreciated by a quick visit. Also note that helicopter tours from Las Vegas do not visit the National Park where the Canyon is at its most spectacular, but instead only get to the closer "West Rim" of the Canyon on the Hualapai and/or Havasupai Indian Reservations. I would strongly urge you to make the 5+ hour drive to the National Park's South Rim, drive the entire Rim Road, hike portions of the Rim Trail, watch the sunset (Spectacular!), spend the night, get up early and enjoy the sunrise (Spectacular again!), enjoy the cool morning, and only then make the drive back to Las Vegas. A quick helicopter ride at mid-day simply cannot compare.

    Death Valley in August is not for the faint of heart. Temperatures can be expected to reach the 50ēC neighborhood in the mid-day sun, and not even mad dogs want to be out in that, so plan a very early start out of Las Vegas for your visit to the Valley, take lots of water, sunscreen, hats, and loose light-colored clothing. And don't plan on any long hikes. Fortunately, there are a few short nature trail type hikes that will give you a good feel for the Valley without endangering you. Plan on being headed out of the Valley by around lunch time.

    From Death Valley, plan on continuing up the east side of the Sierra Nevada and crossing into Yosemite Valley over Tioga Pass, then continuing on to San Francisco before taking the Pacific Coast Highway (CA-1) south along the coast through Monterey/Carmel and Big Sur to Los Angeles. This will put the ocean on your side of the road making pulling off to get a bit of beach that much easier. San Diego is worth a visit, particularly Balboa Park and the Scripps Institute. Tijuana is b]not[/b]. The continued 'wars' between the various drug cartels along the border and the Mexican government's inability to get it under control make a casual visit to the Mexican side a decided risk to life and limb.

    More generally, while you don't want to be too cheap and miss an opportunity of a lifetime, there's no sense throwing away money either. Renting an SUV would be one such needless expense. Not only will you not have any real opportunities to go 'off road' but your rental agreement will specifically forbid such exercises anyway. Also, ages are going to be important. If some of your crew are over 25 or older, while others are 24 or younger, plan on having only the older members of your group do any driving. 'Under age' drivers will cost you an additional $25/day/driver for the entire length of the rental contract. More generally you should plan on having as few people drive as you are comfortable with since each additional driver will cost you more money. I assume you're planning on returning to Las Vegas for the flight home, and will be returning the rental car to the same place you picked it up, or else add a few hundred dollars more to the rental price.

    Last edited by AZBuck; 01-01-2013 at 03:56 PM.

  3. Default

    Wow thanks for some tips there! Sounds like an interesting route and looks to make a lot of sense looking at it on a map. Lots of reading in that link too :). Appreciate your thoughts on the Grand Canyon as well, although i didnt realise it was that far from Vegas!!

    As for the various age issues, we will all be 21+ by the time we go, so are well ready for Vegas :D. I will probably be the only driver and will be 24 when we go. Unfortunately its just an expense we have to put up with...

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default An RV could work.

    I think one 'sensible' car for the whole trip would be the best value. Using an RV for a portion of your trip and a convertible for another would possibly mean one way drop fees and shorter rentals usually cost more. An RV can be an expensive way to travel with the associated extra costs, but could work well with 4 or 5 of you sharing those costs, if it were to be a 'Lifestyle' choice that is. A convertible would be next to useless to cary 4 or 5 people and all their luggage and in the desert you would need the top up to save getting roasted alive ! A good size family car would be better value for money and more practical.

    With 3 to 4 weeks you won't be short of options ! If you drove to the GC south rim from Vegas [Hoover dam and route 66 towns along the way] you could actually head to Monument Valley and up through Page AZ [Lake Powell/Antelope canyon] and into Southern Utah where you will find the wonderful National parks of Bryce canyon and Zion and then back towards Vegas and across Death Valley.

    Once you have read through the links above etc and more questions crop up, just ask away !

  5. Default

    Right... I have provisionally planned out our route althrough a couple of tweaks may be made, it will be good to get your opinions!! Found some cheaper flights to LAX so starting and ending there now.

    Day Stay
    Arrive LAX Santa Barbara or Pismo Beach
    Drive to Monterey – beaches on the way Monterey
    Monterey / Santa Cruz San Francisco
    San Francisco San Francisco
    San Francisco San Francisco
    San Francisco San Francisco
    San Francisco San Francisco
    Drive to Yosemite Yosemite
    Yosemite Yosemite
    Death Valley Furnace Creek
    Zion National Park Page
    Monument Valley – Grand Canyon sunset Grand Canyon Village
    Grand Canyon sunrise – hike/rafting Flagstaff
    Route 66 – Hoover Dam Las Vegas
    Las Vegas Las Vegas
    Las Vegas Las Vegas
    Las Vegas Las Vegas
    Las Vegas Las Vegas
    Las Vegas – San Diego San Diego
    San Diego San Diego
    San Diego Los Angeles
    Los Angeles Los Angeles
    Los Angeles Los Angeles
    Los Angeles Fly Home

    Some of the durations at the cities may change once we have planned out what we what to see in each one. But thats mainly been set out for the route purposes. Still debating dropping San Diego off the list so we can spend longer in Vegas.

    The ideas of staying in Page and Flagstaff are simply because they seem to be 'along the way', weirdly i actually know someone who lives in Flagstaff too! Unless anyone has any better suggestions?

    Car looks like a standard 4 door saloon (or sedan as i think its called in US??), we will probably have it for the entire duration as the price is surprisingly low. We will try and do most of the driving early and late to make the most of the sun and places we visit in the daytime.

    Main questions are ;

    Is there much to see and do in Death Valley? or is it more of a drive through it so you have 'been there'? in which case we may miss out the overnight stop in Furnace Creek and head straight to Zion area and stay there (cutting out the stops in Furnace Creek and Page).

    Do hotels in USA charge much for parking? especially in the cities? or do you have tips on what to do with the car? I can imagine in SF and LV in particular we will be walking/using public transport to get around.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.


    There is plenty to see and do in Death valley, but in August it will be extremely hot and is not a great time of year to spend long from the car. You might be better off to stay in Bishop or Lone Pine and then drive across Death Valley. That would give you plenty of time to stop along Tioga Pass exiting Yosemite and perhaps Mono Lake, and/or drive June Lake loop road. I think you are a bit biased towards the City and would think about balancing it a little better to give yourself time to enjoy Zion and the Grand canyon, addng at least an extra night here, perhaps in Springdale UT which is a lovely little town right on the doorstep of Zion NP. You could explore the possibility of staying in Vegas on route to Zion, as you will be going right through there, and take a more direct from GC to San Diego, or via Sedona and Joshua Tree NP, Palm Springs perhaps.

    Some city hotels do charge for parking, I know it's common in SF for example, but there are some to be found that don't which are more likely to be a little way from the centre and therefor better value as well. In SF there are some in the Lombard/Gough St area that include parking and it's an easy walk to the piers and cable cars into the city. One we stayed at was called Buena Vista Motor Inn which wasn't the best in the world, but we though offered good value for money and was clean and comfortable.

    As mentioned earlier in the thread, if you reversed the direction of your trip you would have the advantage of the coast being on your side of the road. If you want to enjoy the beaches and State parks and Monterey, you might want to include another night on the coast, around Cambria would be a popular choice.

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