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  1. Default Holiday of a Lifetime

    What a great site to help plan our holiday of a lifetime. The tartans are a family of 7 (M,D,21,19,17,13,13) who are forced by school holidays to travel 7-21 August (wed-wed)to the Westcoast. My immediate problem is to book flights (do the math for 7 flying from UK - expensive!) and before I etch in the detail of the road trip I would appreciate any advice on where to fly into. The cheapest flights at the moment are to LA (and depart same). So would LA-SF-LV-SD-LA be doable? Are there costs that might balance the more expensive flights into SF or LV (cheaper hotels for example). I am continuing to browse this brilliant site but would appreciate any advice. Very many thanks.

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

    Default the beauty of a loop

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    The great thing about doing a trip as a loop is that it doesn't really matter where you are starting/ending, since you'll end up going to the same places. That means you can really use price as the reason for picking your starting/ending spot.

    Airfare is the biggest expense, and if LA is cheapest, that's probably the best place to start. The other factors I would also consider though would be Rental Car costs, as those might be different depending upon your starting point. That's especially true with 7 people as you'll either need 2 cars or a rather large, specialty vehicle.

    Transportation might give San Francisco a small edge for a starting/ending point, because it is a spot where you could avoid renting a car for the first or last days of your trip, as the city has a good public transit system. The other locations, you'd likely want a car from the very beginning. However, compared to your other costs, I would expect this to be a pretty minor factor.

    Hotels shouldn't make much of a difference, since you'll be visiting the same places no matter you start your trip from.

  3. Default

    Thank you Michael. Good advice - will look at rental cost difference. Is it easy to travel from SF airport to affordable and convenient hotels?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Another Trade-Off

    Many hotels near the airport will offer free shuttle transportation to/form the airport. Simply check their websites. However, you also need to keep in mind the hotel's location even if they do offer free shuttle service. Are they close to a bus or subway station? Do they offer free parking? Will you have a car at that point? Regarding the car, You are probably better off getting the car upon arrival, even if you don't plan on driving in your gateway city. The reason is that weekly rental rates will be significantly lower than seven times the daily rate. It may very well end up being more expensive to rent a car for 12 days (one week plus five days) than for two full weeks. And yes if you rent it for two weeks and return it early, you will be penalized!

    Another way to save significantly on the car rental is to rent it at a location other than the airport. Local governments have been adding large taxes on goods and services that 'only' apply to outsiders or transients such as travelers like yourselves since you can't vote them out of office. Car rentals at major airports are taxed heavily while the same rental at an off-airport location that caters to 'locals' will not be taxed. You can save upwards of $100 on such fees and taxes by renting from a franchise near your hotel. Simply go to the major rental agency's websites and look for locations in the city but relatively near the airport or your hotel. Then take the shuttle to your hotel, get everybody settled, and then the two adults (drivers) can take a cab, a bus, or walk to the rental agency to get the car.

    Last edited by AZBuck; 05-04-2013 at 10:56 AM.

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

    Default Checking Pros and cons.

    The airport is quite a way from the City but you could use an airport hotel with free shuttle bus service. You could then use the BART rail system from the airport to travel downtown. Your other option would be to use an airport shuttle service company which have passenger vans back and forth to the airport. They can vary quite a bit in price so it's worth shopping around and weighing up the Pros and cons for each option against car/van hire and parking costs for the amount of time you are in the City. Even vehicle rental costs can vary considerably between different offices so you should price up rentals not only between City's but between airport and other locations within the same City.

    I see you have a City to City loop in mind, but don't forget there are many scenic wonders to enjoy in these parts like Yosemite, Sequoia and Death valley National parks and you could include a detour to the Grand canyon NP.

    The links in this thread are among our favourites that cover the area and should be useful in your planning.

  6. Default

    Check the car/van rental rates. We have found places to rent which apply the lower weekly rate for days beyond a week rather than paying full weekly rates. One consideration with rental locations away from airports is that they may have more limited hours (such as evenings and weekends). Hotels with free airport shuttles can be a bit more expensive but you may be able to offset it with less time for car rental. For long international flights, we like at least one night to sleep before renting a vehicle and heading out on the road.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    I would also recommend a counter-clockwise loop so you will be traveling the coast highway from north to south. That way, the scenic pullouts will be on your side of the road - we travel on the RIGHT side of the road over here.

    Looks like you would have enough time for a LA-SD-Grand Canyon-LV-Death Valley-Yosemite-SF-LA loop (starting and ending at any one of those cities).

    If you are in the UK, you can probably get the best deal on a car at, they are a consolidator. To hold 7 people plus luggage, you are going to need something pretty big.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Oakville, ON, Canada


    Don't forget the cost of parking. In SF that could be $25-$40 per night in the Fisherman Wharf area. Also parking in Las Vegas can be costly at hotels on the strip. Many hotels in your other destinations have free parking or at reasonable rates. You should try to see the Grand Canyon on your trip (visit the South Rim). Hotels can be hard to come by there, so if you are interested, you should try to find one now. You should check the cost and availability of a larger van rental (12 passenger) as minivans and SUV's at the various locations. They say they will seat 7, but luggage for 7 as well will be a challenge. If you are doing that much driving you don't want to be squished with bags in your lap. Two vehicles may ultimately be cheaper as good deals can be had on standard vehicles but upgraded vehicles like SUV's or minivans come at a premium.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Since it appears you are doing a loop trip, look into the possibility of renting a 7-passenger Ford van. Our school district owns several of them. They DO seat 7 plus the driver. (I have had the "pleasure" of toting 7 high-school students in them on a 1100-mile round trip.) Believe me, luggage (1 piece each plus the smaller things) WILL fit in the Ford passenger full-size vans. You just may have to search around to get one.


  10. Default

    Thank you to everyone for their advice. Flight to/from LAX booked now just need to fill the space in between!
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 05-11-2013 at 02:47 PM.

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