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  1. Default LA to Las Vegas to San Fran


    I now there are loads of threads on this road trip but this would my husband and I's first road trip ever and we want to get it right. We are not keen on too much driving so i have tried to break it up as much as possible. But would welcome some advice on routes, what to see, car to hire and where to stay. We are planning to go in Either June or Sept for 18 nights/19 Days. Suggested trip below:

    (DAY 1) Arrive L.A. Stay in LA
    (DAY 2) See LA
    (DAY 3) Drive to San Diego (1st Night) Stay at ?
    (DAY 4) See San Diego. (2nd Night) Stay at ?
    (DAY 5) See San Diego. (3rd Night) Stay at ?
    (DAY 6) Up early to drive to Grand Canyon (Williams). 528 miles (ish) (1st Night) Stay at ?
    (DAY 7) Drive to Grand Canyon (1hr and ½ North) (2nd Night)
    (DAY 8) Up early to drive to Las Vegas. (250 miles ish) Arrive Las Vegas lunchtime. (1st Night) Stay at ?
    (DAY 9) see Las Vegas (2nd Night)
    (DAY 11) See Las Vegas (3rd Night)
    (DAY 12) See Las Vegas (4th Night)
    (DAY 13) Leave Las Vegas and drive through Death Valley. Stop and Stay at ?
    (DAY 14) Drive to Yosemite (1st Night) stay at ?
    (Day 15) Yosemite (2nd Night) Stay at ?
    (DAY 16) Drive to San Francisco
    (DAY 17) See San Francisco.
    (DAY 18) See San Fran.
    (DAY 19) Fly out of San Fran.

    Please help us to make this a trip of a life time, all advice welcome.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default It'll be a trip of a lifetime alright !

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    Congratulations, you have done a fine job with your research and planning and you are in for a wonderful adventure !

    Williams or Flagstaff would make ideal locations for your first night towards GC as it will be a full day on the road. Although Flagstaff is a lttle further it would set you up nicely to head north on 89 and enter the GC via the east entrance along Desertview drive. This will allow you to explore the viewpoints along the way as you enter the GC the same direction as the Colorado river flows through it. If you can find availability and your budget can manage it, I would look to stay in the park around the village area, if not Tusayan is just outside the south kiosk and would allow you time to witness a sunset, although you could head to Williams creating a nice loop.

    Bishop CA is a good location to break the journey between LV and Yosemite while driving through Death valley. From Vegas take 160 to Pahrump and then just north of town turn left onto Bell Vista/ Ash Meadows road to Death valley junction and then right and immediate left onto 190 to Furnace creek. You could take a detour to Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the USA at 283ft below sea level.

    Again, if your budget can manage it and there are availabilities then Yosemite Valley is the place to be, if not you will find alternative lodgings in Groveland, Mariposa and El Portal and other surrounding towns, but it will add to your travel times. While in Yosemite make sure you visit Glacier Point for the amazing views and Mariposa Grove for the giant Sequoia trees.

    In SF you can enjoy China Town and Union square for a little shopping, Coit tower and the cable cars for a little fun and Fishermans Wharf for entertainment and dining on the world famous Pier 39. I would also recommend a trip to Alcatraz Island and if this appeals you can book in advance to save waiting in long queues hoping to get aboard the next boat. If you do, use the National parks website to book as it's the only official ticket office where you won't have to pay agents fees or need to book other tours that you might not want, selling them in tandem with another tour is the other way they make their money.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Balancing the sights.

    Hi and Welcome to the Great American Roadtrip Forum.

    A couple of suggestions jump straight out at me. If you are flying into LA, why are you flying out of SF? This trip could be a perfect loop by finishing up driving the spectacular Pacific Coast Highway (CA1) from SF to LA. (You may also find that fares will be cheaper flying in and out of the same location.)

    Not wanting to spend all your time driving is understandable, but your time allotment to National Parks vs. cities may disappoint you, especially since this is 'a trip of a lifetime. Parks such as Grand Canyon and Yosemite deserve more than just a day. If your budget allows, I would highly recommend staying within the NPs. The accommodation books out very rapidly, but if your trip takes place in Sept, you may still have a chance. Or you might have a chance to pick up a cancellation. Check availability on the national parks website.

    As for hotels, and where to stay, why not start out by checking the hotel link to the right at the top of this page. Some great deals to be had.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    As luck would have it, there's a whole thread about San Diego County on this website: check this out! If you have further questions on San Diego, please feel free to ask -- I have lived in the county for many years. Where you stay will depend on whether you want to move close to what you want to see each day, or pick a central place and go to each place from there (recommended).


  5. Default

    Can I suggest considering cutting down the time in San Diego and/or Las Vegas, to make time to visit the excellent national parks in southwestern Utah, namely Zion and Bryce Canyon?

    It's about 170 miles each way from Las Vegas to Zion itself, and about 80 miles each way from Zion to Bryce Canyon. There are several towns nearby offering choices of accommodation (for example Springdale, Hurricane, St George and Cedar City).

    In the same area there's also the Kolob Canyons section of Zion (accessed separately from I-15), and Cedar Breaks National Monument near Cedar City.

    With limited time my preference would be Zion - but that's just my opinion.

    Of course it's all about personal preferences and you might prefer to stay in Vegas - I'm just throwing out ideas here, nothing more than that.

    On a separate topic, this thread has some excellent advice regarding budget accommodation.

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

    Default Vehicle.

    car to hire
    A mid size Sedan would be more than adequate and offer the best compromise between size, comfort and value in my opinion. You can check out the classes of car and price compare by using the RTA reservations link to the right of each page.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Depends on where you are coming from.

    Further to Dave's comments above......

    You state that you are flying into LA and out of SF, but from where? If you are from Europe, for instance, you might be better off checking out one of the European consolidators, such as We have also had reports from travellers from other regions who have used consolidators with great success.


  8. Default

    Thanks you all for your very useful comments. We have decided to go in June 2016 to allow us time to save so we can stay and do everything we want, unless we get any extra money which will allow for us to go next year, fingers crossed.

    My hubby and I are not really outdoory people, which is why we are stopping for at least 4 days in each cities, we may extend our stay in LA by one day and reduce San Fran.

    We will look into staying at the NPs in Grand canyon and Yosemite and booking well in advance as advised.

    I would like to have a convertible but my hubby is pushing for a 4x4, which do you think would be better?

    We are flying from the uk.

    Lots of planning ahead

  9. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Osithomas View Post
    I would like to have a convertible but my hubby is pushing for a 4x4, which do you think would be better?

    I would strongly advise against a convertible. In summer you need the shade of the roof from the sun and the sealed space for air conditioning to be effective that a conventional car offers.

    I can't see any advantage to a 4x4. Rental car companies won't allow you to drive them on unpaved roads. But other members here might have other thoughts and I think it would be useful if anyone can comment on their miles per gallon.

    If you're into saving money (a subject close to my heart) then you might want to check out that budget accommodation thread I linked to a few posts ago.

    Enjoy the planning, I reckon that's all part of the holiday!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default both pricey, neither needed

    Quote Originally Posted by Osithomas View Post
    I would like to have a convertible but my hubby is pushing for a 4x4, which do you think would be better?
    If I was going to pick between the two, I'd go convertible. You can have the top down and have the wind through your hair if you'd like, and it could make for even better views, especially in high elevation areas.

    If you're driving through the desert heat, you can always put the top back up and crank up the A/C.

    An SUV doesn't really provide any advantage, other than a slightly higher seating position. There is no place on your trip where you would need 4 wheel drive, and going off-road in a rental SUV is prohibited by every standard rental contract.

    However, if costs are a concern, neither is a good choice. Both are going to come with major premiums in price that could easily be double or triple the cost of renting a regular sedan. It may even be difficult to find either at all if you aren't going to return to LA, as they often aren't available for one way rentals, although rules are sometimes relaxed for LA-SF trips.

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