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  1. Default Vancouver to San Diego on a time limit....

    I'm planning a road trip to San Diego in August and need some advice. We are heading down from Vancouver and plan on driving 12-14 hours per day to arrive 2 days later. According to google maps this seems possible (maybe a bit crazy!) but I'm looking for some insight on whether or not it seems do-able to drive along the 101 for some of the trip and still make it in time. We were looking at cutting into the 101 somewhere between Portland and Eugene Oregon, seeing some of the coast (even tho it will be near evening) and then seeing the red wood forest during our next day's travel and ending up somewhere within 4 hours of Sandiego that night.... Big question is where is a good place to get back onto the I-5, or is it crazy to stay on the coast (thus not wasting time crossing back over? Once again google maps tells me I can get from Crescent City to Santa Barbara in 12 hours but I'm worried about traffic slowing us down. Do you trust Google Maps to give you a legitimate timeline? It also tells me I can get from Santa Barbara to San Diego in about 3 hours, but again will traffic on the coast make that a lot longer? I realize its quite the time crunch but we're really hoping to not have to do the I-5 both ways for a little more of a scenic drive. Thanks so much for all your thoughts and advice!

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

    Default Definitely not.

    Hello and welcome to RTA !

    This really is a minimum 2.5 day drive with 2 overnight stops required, anything else is beyond what we would recommend you should drive on back to back days, and that's without seeing the coast. One 700 mile day is one thing, doing it all again the following day is another and no, absolutely no chance of you taking 101 or having any sort of enjoyment attempting this over 2 days. I would strongly recommend you allow more time and enjoy the road while staying safe.

    Forget Google map times, it does not allow time to eat, rest, fill with gas and assumes you can travel at the posted speed limit all day, not possible in the real world.

    I have presumed Vancouver BC but if you are travelling from WA a 2 day run down I-5 would be fine, but still doesn't really allow for time along the coast.
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 04-09-2016 at 03:58 PM. Reason: Added info.

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


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    In a word, no it is absolutely not possible to detour off I-5. In fact, it's really not possible to do this drive safely in 2 days at all.

    Google map travel time estimates are simply a fantasy when talking about long haul travel. In the real world, it will take you back to back 14 hour days on the road if you stick to the Interstate - and that's in a best case (and highly unlikely) situation where you don't hit any traffic around Seattle, Portland, or Los Angeles.

    Back to back 14 hour drives really are not a good idea, even with multiple drivers. After about 10 hours in a car (even as a passenger), the human body simply can't maintain a level of concentration needed to safely operate a 2 ton machine at 70+ mph, and your reaction times will become very similar to that of a drunk driver. The first day, you might be ok, but the second day your danger level will increase as fatigue compounds itself - a problem amplified even more by the fact that you'll almost certainly be dealing with LA area traffic when you are at your most exhausted.

    Professional drivers would be required to take 2 overnight stops for this leg, and we'd strongly recommend you do the same, even if you only take all-interstate route. If you take a full 3 days, then you possibly could consider making a detour over to US-101 for a bit.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    You need to take I-5 the whole way, with one exception. I would bypass LA by taking CA-46 to CA-99 to CA-58 to US-395 to I-15. Yes, it's longer in miles but will keep you out of most of the bad LA traffic. 3 hours from Santa Barbara to San Diego is only possible at 3 in the morning on a weekend, if that. 12 hours from Crescent City to Santa Barbara is only a dream.

    US-101 is not a good option through SF. You would have to cross the Golden Gate toll bridge, you will be mailed an invoice for the toll (via license plate photo, it's cashless electronic, if not paid within 21 days you will be charged with a toll violation which is expensive) then either fight your way through city streets or take CA-1 (not a freeway) to I-280 to get back to US-101. Either way is slow going.

    Google Maps times are pure fantasy, especially through cities and on non-limited access roads.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    San Diegan here who has headed north to Seattle on several occasions. MWMichael and SWDave speak the absolute truth: this is a 2.5 to 3 day trip using I-5. Any detours to the 101 or even to skirt around LA will take more time. It's 1400 miles just on I-5. Count on that to be around 28 hours, which is really too much to split between 2 days. If you can leave and get just south of Seattle on an evening drive, crossing the border (assuming you have all your paperwork in hand and have no real long lines to wait in), you could get down to Tacoma or even Tumwater (depending on your border crossing wait) and cut that much off the next 2 days' travels, making them two 600 mile days. Frankly, that's what my husband and I would do on a time crunch.

    The other issue to consider here, besides border crossing, is crossing through LA. You want to try to time it so that you are not heading south on the stretch between the junction of I-5 and I-10, and further south, during Rush hour. Ugh, ugh, ugh. Watch your timing.


  6. Default

    wow good thing I asked! There are 4 of us to swap around but we were solely going on google maps times. Thank you all, back to the drawing boards!

  7. #7


    The quality-of-life trip south is mostly along the coast -- at least south of San Francisco. Once you reach the greater LA area you will want to follow the suggestions mentioned earlier. Staying in the Ventura area and leaving at 5am is nice along the Coastal Highway and usually I-10 our of Santa Monica doesn't have as much traffic going east and you can cut over to the eastern/south LA "by-pass" route. But be prepared for traffic anytime of the day in the greater LA region (having a cell phone with a data plan for on-line traffic maps is a useful aid).

    I-5 is a boring haul through California's great valley. Tons of trucks and other vehicles. Not a fun drive.

    I-5 through Oregon isn't too bad, but cutting across to the coast in Washington State makes for a more scenic, but longer drive.

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