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Thread: Newbie Planning

  1. Default Newbie Planning

    Hello,
    I am new to the forums and have been reading lots of trip reports which are very helpful. I am UK based and looking to hire an RV and take a West coast roadtrip with my husband and two children who will be 14 and 12 when we go. In researching all this I have a couple of basic starting questions. I am looking at Cruise America to hire a 25foot class c RV. Is it possible to drive RV along pacific coast highway from LA to San Francisco? Are there particularly difficult sections to drive? Concerned about drop off's etc. We would also like to see Yosemite and Grand Canyon. We have three weeks max to do the roadtrip. I have read that Tioga pass is closed nov - june. What route is open for travelling from Yosemite to Grand Canyon if we were travelling in October? I can't decide best time of year to go. As our kids are at school and we are not very flexible due to school holidays it may have to be three weeks in July. Is it true that RVs can't go through Death Valley at that time of year? So many questions!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default More Questions for You

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    To a large extent RoadTrips are all about personal freedom to decide how you want to travel, where you want to go, when to go, how much time to spend in any given place, etc. So before we can be of the most help to you, we might have more questions than answers at the beginning. Let's begin with some of the bigger questions raised by your current dilemma. How committed are you to travel by RV and what time of year will you end up traveling?

    RVs are not a particularly cost-effective or flexible mode of travel. What they are really about is the lifestyle enjoyed by their participants in RV parks. My son-in-law's parents love theirs; my wife and I prefer a very different travel style. If you haven't had a great deal of experience with them and found those experiences thoroughly enjoyable, then I'd strongly recommend that you not rent one for this trip. You'll save money (even when you consider the 'added' expense of hotels) and many of your concerns about roads and venues will disappear. We just completed a three-generation RoadTrip in a moderately-sized minivan and everyone had lots of room while on the road and it was easy to drive and park.

    Next up, you'll have to get your schedule worked out since, as you note, certain roads might be closed to you either due to snowfall or extreme heat. If you're going to be limited to times when your children are out of school, I would aim for either end of the summer, trying to take your trip before or after the majority of people are on the road in the May to August 'summer season'. I will note that American schools have, of late, been tending to move their academic years earlier and earlier, and now tend to close for the summer in mid-May and start up again in mid-August. Given that, my own preference would be to try for spring rather than late summer.

    Once you have those major details worked out we can be of much more assistance to you in your planning, but in the meantime, you might find these previous discussions of RoadTrips through the general area that you're considering to be of some help.

    AZBuck

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default

    Is it possible to drive RV along pacific coast highway from LA to San Francisco?
    Absolutely yes and many do, although when planning consider doing your trip in reverse order so you go from SF to LA. That way the Oceanside viewpoints will be on your side of the road when heading south.

    Are there particularly difficult sections to drive?
    It's mainly a 2 lane slow going highway, but it's not easy to answer your question as some people are more confident drivers than others. You should be just fine and again, many RV's take this route . The polite thing to do if you get a few cars caught up behind is to pull into a pull out when safe to do so and let them go by. You will often be rewarded with a friendly toot of the horn and a wave and it will relieve any pressure you might feel.

    We would also like to see Yosemite and Grand Canyon.
    Two amazing National parks and great places to be in an RV. There are others to be seen as well depending on your plans. Death valley [not in the summer months with an RV] Sequoia NP and from the Grand canyon you could head into Southern Utah for Bryce canyon and Zion NP among others.

    What route is open for travelling from Yosemite to Grand Canyon if we were travelling in October? I can't decide best time of year to go.
    Late September/ early October can be a great time of year to travel in these parts although you would want layered clothing and expect some cool nights, cold at high elevation. There is a good chance the Tioga Pass [CA120] into Yosemite will be open in October and is a spectacular drive, but if it were to close then you have other options both North and South.

    it may have to be three weeks in July. Is it true that RVs can't go through Death Valley at that time of year?
    Generally speaking, yes it's true. Most RV rental companies will not cover you with the insurance to drive through Death valley in summer due to heat issues.

    Although our first RV trip was some years ago, the basics are the same so you might get some ideas from our trip report here.

  4. Default

    Thank you so much for your very helpful replies. Southwest Dave, I already read your trip report earlier today and learned loads from it! I would go in October but that would limit things to two weeks unless I took kids out of school for a week. I would prefer it to be cooler though.

    AZ Buck, we have a motorhome here in the UK and love getting away in it and camping with the kids so its really a major part of why we want to do this in an RV. In my initial research I was reading forum posts where people were saying RV on pacific coast highway was not a good idea then others saying it was fine so wanted to check that.

    We also want to do one night in Vegas just because it has to be done really. I did think perhaps the national parks were one trip and pacific coast highway another.

    As you can tell, lots of ideas! Thanks again for advice so far.

  5. Default

    One more thing, Southwest dave have just read your planning report for the grand canyon/san fran trip. So helpful. Is there a list of campsite you stayed at while on that trip?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default

    I am fairly sure that I named each campsite we stayed in during the report, but once you have worked out what you want to do then we should be able to recommend a few. If you decide on July, you will need to check the nps web pages for when the booking window opens for your dates and book asap after. The RV sites are extremely popular and limited in number so they sell out fast in the summer months.

    I did think perhaps the national parks were one trip and pacific coast highway another.
    With a full 3 weeks you could do both, but it would depend on what pace you like to travel at. LA is not really 'my thing' in an RV, if it's not yours, you could head south around Big Sur and then cut inland from the Cambria area.

  7. Default

    The PCH is a fantastic trip. Having an RV would allow you to stay overnight in one of the beautiful state parks along the way. You will definitely need reservations in July, many months ahead of time, especially on weekends and around the July 4'th holiday.

    The 25' model is a good size if you are new to driving RVs. It drives much like a minivan. The 30 and 32 foot models have lots more room but are much more difficult to maneuver in tight spaces.

    A lot of people suggest driving the PCH from north to south, and for good reason. All the turn offs will be on your right and easy to pull into. Be aware however, that going this direction you will be driving along the edge of massive cliffs with only a couple of feet to spare. I have driven thousands of miles in the mountains, yet parts of this drive had my hair on end. The view from some of the turn offs is like the view from an airplane; high and spectacular.

    If you are worried about driving along cliffs, you could go south to north instead. You would be driving on the mountain side, but that would mean crossing the road every time you enter and exit a pull off. This would be very difficult in July. Another suggestion would be to get several days of driving experience before driving this part of the trip.

    Have a great trip.

  8. Default

    Thanks so much! This is all so incredibly helpful. We are now thinking that perhaps October would be best for us as much cooler and we want to do some hiking and kids might find it easier going in cooler temperatures. This would limit us to two weeks give or take a day for flights either side as limited by school holidays. What do you think would be realistic to fit into that? We definately want to see Yosemite, Death Valley, the Grand Canyon and bit of San Fran. Not fussed about LA. PCH would be great but not sure I can fit that in. Would happily do some of it and cut off. Sorry for all the questions!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Speaking as a teacher, if a parent approached me about taking their child out of school for this type of vacation, my first response would be "take me with you!" But my second would be, "this type of vacation is highly educational, GO!" So if I were either the parent or the teacher, in your case, I'd pull my kiddos out of school and go.

    That said, most schools in the US have some sort of paperwork to fill out if you're going to pull children from school for more than a certain amount of days. Teachers have to try to pull together some work for the child to do so that the school gets credit for the child being in school. So I would ask at your children's school about the policy for vacations overseas, and emphasize that this is an educational trip, not your average go-see-Grandma-spend-every-day-on-the-beach type trip. :-)


    Donna

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Learning on the road.

    Quote Originally Posted by Feesoot View Post
    ... unless I took kids out of school for a week. I would prefer it to be cooler though.
    You may find that they will learn more in that week of travelling than they ever will in a classroom.

    Be sure that at each NP you visit you book them into the Junior Ranger's program. You can do it with them, it will teach all of you a great deal about each NP.

    As well as that, get each child to keep a daily journal. [This can actually start with the planning. I take it you are involving them in the process.] Get the children to record their memories of the day, and include small memorabilia, such as the stub from an entry ticket, or a small item found. Photos can be added later.

    These are great to look back on in the years to come, but also great for show and tell at school. My (very shy) grandson had to do his (grade 1) show and tell over two days, after they had spent three weeks in Britain. There is no greater confidence builder.

    Lifey

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