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  1. Default Oregon (Portland or Salem) to Disneyland--best route for Nervous Nellie drivers?

    My family and I will be driving to Disneyland this summer. We plan to rent a vacation home within walking distance of Disney and stay for three nights. There will be three adults, two 12-year-olds and a 1-year-old. The reason why I say we'll start in either Portland or Salem is because my family lives in Portland and I'm near Salem, so we aren't sure yet if we'll start out in PDX at their place or if they'll come to my place and we'll leave from here. Anyway, none of those details really matter...

    My question is, what would be the best route to take for people who are nervous driving in big city, congested traffic? I do fine on I-5 south of Portland, where it's wide open and away from the city, but throw interchanges and merging and junctions into the mix and I start to freak out a little. The thought of getting in and around LA is terrifying.

    I was toying with the idea of taking 101 down the coast as long as possible, since I grew up on the north/central Oregon coast and am used to 101 from Astoria to Newport (south of Newport I've only driven once as far as Crescent City). I know it will add some time to the trip, but would it be a better choice to avoid the big-city congestion? I'm the type who prefers the two-lane highways to multi-lane freeways, I just can't decide if the extra time on the road will be worth avoiding the congestion.

    I would love to do 101 the entire way (or, I believe it turns into just 1 at some point?), but I'm not sure if that's feasible, time-wise. We'll be picking up a rental van in either Portland or Salem around 9-10 am, hopefully getting on the road by 10-11 am. I'd like to be off the road by 8 pm, 9 at the latest. So, maximum of 10 hours a day driving, including pit stops for food and gas. I don't see us stopping to sight-see except for some quick photo-ops along the road. We just want to get to Disney, but in the least stressful manner possible.

    My tentative idea was to take 101 at least as far as Eureka, and stop around there for the night. After that, I have no idea. Like I said, I really want to do 101 the whole way to avoid the multi-lane freeway if it's doable and won't make it over 8-10 hours a day on the road. Getting through San Francisco, if we do 101 the whole way, seems a little daunting. And I read a post by someone on another discussion saying that if we're coming from the Santa Barbara area (which we would be if we take 101/1), to avoid LA traffic to get on 405 and come up to Anaheim from the south. Good plan?

    Help, please! :)

  2. Default

    Replying to myself, but it looks like sticking with 101/1 the entire coastline adds roughly 8 hours to the 15 hour (on I-5) trip. I'm not sure that's a good idea. An extra 4 hours or so I can see, but not 8. So, best areas to do I-5 and best areas to do 101? I'd really like to see the southern Oregon coast again, and some of the best parts of the California coast, and avoiding downtown LA is a priority.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I'm all for taking the coastal route, if you've got the time. It does take about twice as long as I-5. You'd need at least 4, if not 5, days to drive the coast the whole way. US-101 does go the whole way, but it is not the coastal highway the whole way. US-101 is actually a freeway in many sections where it is not the coast highway.

    Having said that, I don't see how using it has anything to do with avoiding cities. If anything, it is going to be worse, as it will force you to go right through the Bay Area (specifically San Francisco if you take it the whole way) as opposed to I-5 which runs past Sacramento.

    Once you get to LA, there is just no way to avoid traffic and the things that make you nervous. Disney's location just makes it impossible to avoid heavy traffic and freeways. Having said that, I can't think that I've ever heard the terms "405" and "avoid LA traffic" in the same sentence before. I-405 (or The 405 in CA speak) is one of the most congested highways in America. I-5 is no picnic either, but at least it goes right to your destination and won't force you to add even more miles.

  4. Default

    Thanks so much for the reply! We're trying to only spend one night on the road, driving 10ish hours for two days to reach Disney. This is the advice I read on another RTA post that made me consider the 405 to avoid I-5 through downtown LA:

    Quote Originally Posted by W. Larrison View Post
    "In LA, if you're heading for Disneyland, my recommendation is to avoid the I-5 freeway through downtown. The reason is its one of the oldest, narrowest and busiest freeways in LA, and if you're going to have traffic problems its a good bet you'll have them on the I-5. If you're coming in from Santa Barbara area, about your best route is to take the 101 through the San Fernando valley (not much choice, and this can be a very busy freeway), then the 405 (San Diego Freeway) south to loop around the city, and then the 22 freeway east over to Anaheim (or duck north and catch the 91 freeway east to Anaheim). There are several other alternative routes, but the idea is to avoid going through downtown LA where the 101, 5, 10, 60 and 110 freeways all junction together. There are carpool lanes most of the length of the 405 which makes it a much easier and quicker drive than the I-5 (which doesn't have any -- too old & narrow). If you can, I'd try to hit the LA area before 630 am, after 9 am, before 3:30 pm or after 7 pm -- just like every other city with rush hour traffic."
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 05-23-2013 at 08:32 PM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Quote Originally Posted by scatterbunny View Post
    So, best areas to do I-5 and best areas to do 101? I'd really like to see the southern Oregon coast again, and some of the best parts of the California coast, and avoiding downtown LA is a priority.
    You were replying to yourself just as I was starting to respond. How much time do you actually have for this trip? There are not a lot of easy ways to go back and forth between I-5 and the coast, in most cases. Travel times provided by online map programs are generally very optimistic, and should be used with a very large grain of salt.

    As far as LA, one thing you really need to keep in mind is that LA is not like many cities where traffic is focused on a single downtown area. It is very much a decentralized region, and you have traffic issues all over the area, and avoiding downtown doesn't mean you'll be avoiding traffic.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    If you are only giving yourself 2 days for the drive, then you simply don't have the time to do any of the coast. Sticking to I-5, you're looking at back to back 8-9 hour days, and detouring over to the coast for any section is going to push you far beyond the 10 hour days you are looking for.

    The points about I-5 that Larrison made are valid, to a degree. I-5 through LA isn't one of my favorite highways either, but I've also never been on I-405 without dealing with a huge traffic jam. If anything, I might look to head east at Bakersfield, work over to I-15, and approach Disney via CA-91. That adds quite a few miles, and I've never found the need to take that large of a detour, but if you really want to avoid LA itself, it might be a possiblity.

  7. Default

    Thanks! So I guess we'll stick with I-5 the whole way, just to keep things simple. Is Sacramento a good place to consider stopping for the first night? I'd like to drive more on the first day and less on the second day, if possible, I'm just not sure where a good stop might be...someplace with cheap motels not too far off of I-5.

  8. Default

    They're right -- the 405 is congested. There's still construction on the section between SF Valley and West LA with occasional overnight closures. You're better off staying on I5 unless there are lane closures. For people coming from Santa Barbara on Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) it is better to take the 10 to the 405 than to take the 10 through downtown to the 5. Finally the route suggested with the 405 is not the best route in my opinion.

    We'll be picking up a rental van in either Portland or Salem around 9-10 am, hopefully getting on the road by 10-11 am. I'd like to be off the road by 8 pm, 9 at the latest.
    Sacramento is fine. If you're starting at 10 or 11 am you might not make it as far as Sacramento by 8 pm.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    The connection between 405 and 101 is congested at any time of the day or night. I would come straight down I-5. Time your departure on the 2nd morning so that you are NOT arriving in Anaheim on a weekday between 3 pm and 7 pm. Like any city, that's considered "Rush" hour and the traffic will be anything but.

    The suggestion to work over to I-15 takes you quite a bit out of the way and could put you on CA91 at rush hour. Ugh.

    BTW, I too was scared to deal with LA for many years. Now I just do it, and unless I get stuck in a major snarl, it's not bad.


  10. Default

    Thanks for the advice, everyone. :) We booked a vacation home for five nights at the end of June and will be taking I-5 down, as suggested. Our plan is to leave as early as we can the first day, stay near Sacramento that night, get up early and back on I-5 the second day and get to Anaheim (hopefully not too terribly late) the second evening. We'll stay five nights at the home. I think we'll be doing Disney for 3 days (3 day park hopper passes). We want one full day at the rental home to enjoy the pool, BBQ, and have some drinks.

    The day we check out and head home (which will be a Friday morning) we were thinking of visiting a nice beach, so I wondered if anyone had some suggestions? Growing up on the Oregon coast, I prefer more secluded beaches, but we'll have a 1-year-old so the trek down to the beach can't be too bad. I just know the thought of something like Huntington Beach is a bit overwhelming, after spending three days at Disney I think it might be nice to spend an hour or two of "zen" time on a less-crowded beach before we start the long drive home.

    I'd rather not go to the beaches south of Anaheim if I can help it, since that will be out of our way and involve back-tracking. If there are some nice beaches northwest of Anaheim that would be ideal, since we'll already be going in that direction to get home.

    The length of time we spend at the beach will depend on where we'll need to stop for the night on the way home.
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 05-29-2013 at 06:26 PM.

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