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  1. Default Visiting West Coast - March 2015

    Happy New Year Everyone!

    First time poster and recommended by others to come on here to help me with my trip to the West Coast.

    We are travelling from Melbourne Australia in March 2015 for around 4 weeks and working LA, Grand Canyon, Vegas, San Franciso, Disneyland and probably Tijuana.

    Family of 5 (3 kids and 2 adults).

    Have booked flights and needing some help and guidance from the team here on what i should do:

    Thinking of doing an RV, wanting to know are they really practical - any dos or donts with them?
    Im assuming fuel consumption will be really really heavy.

    Im not working on a real budget, but dont want to restrict us for days at a time at locations if we ant to spend more or less time than planned.

    Any tips or advice, really appreciated.



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default For starters from a fellow Melburnian.

    Hi Jamie, and Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum.

    I am glad there are others in Melbourne promoting RTA.

    Sounds like a great adventure. RVs are rarely cheaper than hotel and car, by the time you take into account all the extra costs of the campgrounds (which can often be as much as a budget motel) the extra fuel and the difficulty of parking in urban areas such as LA and SF.

    You will probably find that most members here will advice against crossing the border into Tijuana, especially with children. The drug wars on the other side of the border have made this an unsafe place to visit.

    If you can possibly fit it in the budget I would highly recommend staying within the NP at the Grand Canyon. Seeing a sunset and/or a sunrise over the canyon is an unbelievable experience.

    You could add Death Valley to your trip, after you leave LV - an amazing landscape, not to be missed - and in March it will not yet be boiling hot (not like tomorrow is forecast to be - lol)

    On your way to SF you could make a detour into another great wonder of the natural world - Yosemite. You would go from DV via Bakersfield to Yosemite and onto SF. On the way back to LA take the Pacific Coast Highway, which is every bit as spectacular as the Great Ocean Road. It is a two day drive, and best done from north to south, so not to have to constantly cross over oncoming traffic.

    Lastly, be sure to take your RACV membership with you. It will entitle you to free maps and tourism information from the AAA. You could pick up maps for the States through which you will be travelling on that first day in LA, when you won't want to start the road trip.

    Where in Melbourne? 3040 here!

    Last edited by Lifemagician; 01-01-2015 at 05:45 AM. Reason: correction.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default A few further thoughts.

    You don't say what ages the children are, but there is an interesting program in the US NPs, called the Junior Ranger program - aimed at school aged children. It gives them some activities to do, and you as well as the young ones will learn much about the parks. The children get some small souvenirs to take home.

    My grandchildren always keep a journal when they travel, in which they record each day the most interesting thing experienced. A great before bedtime activity. It is important that if the parents help that the child makes all the decisions. Experiences can be recorded in text (writing), drawings, stubs from entrance tickets, pictures from brochures, photos, etc. All can be recorded in an ordinary exercise book. Great to look back on after the trip and for the years ahead.

    With a family of five you might find this link helpful. Most hotels are limited to an occupancy of four (depending on the ages of the children).

    In March there will probably be no need to book much ahead of time, as it is well before the busy season. However, I would look into booking any accommodation within the national parks as soon as you have your schedule organised.


  4. Default

    Thanks Lifey.

    Yes already come up with the 4 people per room scenario, hence why im also looking at the RV.

    Kids are 16 15 and 11.....



  5. Default

    Lifey 3029 Western Suburbs :)))

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

    Default starting points

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    RV's can be a great way to travel, but it really depends upon the kind of trip you're looking to take. They are not a good choice if you're traveling on a budget, as they will almost always cost more than a car/motel trip. They are also not a good choice if you're going to be spending most of your time in cities, as they are tough to get around and it can be hard to find a suitable place to camp.

    What RV's are good for is trips focused on nature, where you'll be spending lots of time in places like National Parks. On a fairly long trip, like yours at 4 weeks, there is also an advantage that you're always sleeping in the same bed, as opposed to checking in an out of hotels - although setting up an tearing down from a campground also requires time.

    As for your trip, I think the destinations will play a big role. You've mostly listed cities for your destinations - and if that's what you want to stick with, then an RV might not be a good choice for you. However, there are lots of other great parks, beyond the Grand Canyon you haven't included. Yosemite, Sequoia, and Death Valley are popular options in California. There are also lots of great parks in Utah, like Zion and Bryce Canyon, and with 4 weeks, you could look at going even farther, to places like Monument Valley, Arches and Canyonlands, perhaps even into Colorado, like Mesa Verde.

    I will say as far as cities go, I would really do some research before heading into to Tijuana. There have been serious safety problems in Mexico in recent years, especially in major cities along the border, like Tj. My understanding is that things are getting better, but make sure you have all the facts and information to keep your family safe before making plans to cross the border.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Quote Originally Posted by Jamie F View Post
    Yes already come up with the 4 people per room scenario, hence why im also looking at the RV.
    I've really never see many problems with a 2 adults/3 kids scenario at most hotels. Most rooms with 2 beds will be ok for 5 people - especially if you're talking about kids being the extra person. Typically, motels will offer a rollaway bed for the extra person - although since they sometime charge for it, you may be better off buying a cheap air mattress.

    You'd really have to be getting 2 hotel rooms every night before going with an RV could start being close to a money saver.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    San Diego resident chiming in here: Almost every week, we see something in the local news about problems in Tijuana. None of our friends want to go near it, because of the issues that Lifey and Michael mentioned. So if I were you, I would seriously rethink that idea.

    With three kids, I would still think that the motel will win out over the RV if you're on a budget. Here's why: an RV will cost around $1000 per week to rent. Two motel rooms will cost about the same per week, assuming $70/room/night. Then there's the fuel consumption (5-6 mpg), the campground fees ($20-50, depending on where you stay, per night).

    Then you think, well, I'll save on restaurant fees if we cook in the rig all the time. What folks have to remember is that they already have the staples for cooking at home, but you'd have to buy some of those here in order to cook.

    Here is a thread comparing RV's with motels.


  9. Default

    Thanks Michael/Donna and Lifey.

    Your comments make a lot of sense.

    As i think the trip will be split city and NPs i will be better off staying away from the RV's and the Fuel consumption will be a factor when trying to balance off on the cost of accommodation.

    So now my focus must be on booking hotels etc with the 5 kids, good idea on the air bed mattresses i think that will make it clearer to book.

    What would you suggest be the best way to book the motels? Expedia? or another?

    Thanks and sorry for keep asking questions.

    Want this trip to be memorable for the right reasons :)

    Cheers for now.


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Some thoughts.

    Don't be sorry for asking questions, that's the whole purpose of the forums ! ;-)

    For Hotels you can get an idea of costs by using the RTA booking centre on the right of the page and then compare costs. is another I find good but it's a case of digging around to find the best deals. If you want to stay within the National parks [where lodgings are usually expensive and camping cheap] then it's best to check out the site, hich also gives you plenty of info on each park.

    An RV can be a great way to travel [see our trip in the area here ] but in March things can still be brisk in the mountain areas. Still it should give you a picture of the other great National parks mentioned earlier in this thread.

    I would get a good map of the area and start searching around the RTA site for info and see what appeals to you. Once you have a better idea of where and how you want to spend your time we can help 'fine tune' your plans and offer suggestions. Doing a loop trip means that you can fly in and out of the City that offers the best flight and car rental rates when you combine them, in your case SF, LA or Las Vegas. When you plan, consider taking the coast road between SF and LA and spending a night or 2 along the way to enjoy the towns and amazing coastline and State Parks. Head south and the coast will be on your side of the road !

    With 4 weeks I would be looking at something like this [starting from any city]. LA >[San Diego ?] > GC > Bryce canyon [possible detour to Monument Valley and over night stop in Page AZ on the way] > Zion NP > LV > Death valley > Yosemite [possibly overnight for Sequoia on route] >SF > Monterey/Cambria > LA. Plenty of time for a relaxed trip.

    Enjoy the planning !!

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