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  1. #1

    Default San Francisco - Los Angeles - Las Vegas and many National Parks (advise needed)

    Hi,

    I'm visiting the States for the first time in my life, and I only have a couple of weeks to plan everything (I got free flights, so do not blame me please :) ) Could you please revise my brief itinerary?

    After arriving in SFO, we'll spend two full days in SF, and the road trip begins with Day1:

    Day1 - pickup a car in SFO at 12PM, drive to Monterey, chill and sleep
    Day2 - do Big Sur, sleep in Morro Bay
    Day3 - visit Santa Barbara, drive to LA, arrive the hotel in the evening
    Day4 - Los Angeles
    Day5 - Los Angeles
    Day6 - leave L.A. early morning, drive to Las Vegas, visit Joshua tree NP, 29 Palms, Amboy, Kelso, arrive LV late in the evening
    Day7 - Las Vegas
    Day8 - drive to Grand Canyon, visiting Hoover Dam on the way (need an advice for a place to spend the night near the Canyon)
    Day9 - drive to Antelope, take a tour there (if I am able to book it still, haven't checked), visit Horseshoe Bend, drive as close to Zion NP as possible, spend a night there (another advice needed)
    Day10 - spend some time in Zion, drive back to Las Vegas (is Bryce canyon worth extra miles?)
    Day11 - drive to Death Valley, stop there for some pictures, then head towards Yosemite (its Eastern part), stay overnight somewhere along 395(?).
    Day12 - explore Yosemite (you Americans are blessed with such wonderful nature, I can't wait to go to all these places!)
    Day13 - explore Yosemite (maybe go to its Western part for the overnight stay)
    Day14 - drive to Sequoia NP early in the morning, spend the day there, stay somewhere near (Fresno, any other towns?)
    Day15 - drive to Napa Valley (any recommendations for staying there?)
    Day16 - Napa wine tasting, or simply exploring the Valley.
    Day17 - not yet planned
    Day18 - not yet planned
    Day19 - drive to SFO in the morning, return the car, fly back home.

    Please note: we are on a low-end budget, meaning that we'd like to spend nights in hostels, motels and even campsites.
    We're not sure if we want to go to Napa Valley. I imagine it to be like Italy or France which is practically next door from where we live.
    So we basically have two full days spare, and another two if we skip Napa. Should we squeeze them into the places we've already planned to visit, or should we rather go to some additional cities, cities, parks or mountains?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Welcome to RTA! That's great, that you are traveling on free air travel. It sure doesn't happen very often on this forum, that's for sure.

    Commenting on your day-to-day plan:

    Day 1 - you are coming from overseas and are going to be dealing with jet lag and flying fatigue, even if you think you'll sleep on the plane. Do yourself a favor, grab a hostel overnight in SF before setting out on a drive, if you can.

    Day 8 and 9 - you haven't left yourself much time to actually see the Grand Canyon except for perhaps a quick look-see at one scenic point. As for where to stay -- the least expensive venues are going to be in either Williams, Cameron or Flagstaff, AZ. Tusayan is higher in price because it's the closest one to the South Rim. For Zion, Springdale is the first place I'd look, with St George and Hurricane as the next.

    Day 11 - Bishop is one idea for an overnight.

    I'm sure others will chime in with more ideas!



    Donna

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

    Default A few thoughts.

    Nice start with your itinerary and welcome to RTA.

    First off, you could save yourself some time and miles by just visiting Vegas the once after Zion and taking a more direct route to GC from Joshua tree. You would miss out on the Mojave preserve and Hoover Dam, but I think it would help in slowing that part of your trip down a bit and giving yourself more time to enjoy it. You could also drive route 66 through Oatman to Kingman and through Seligman. Kingman or Williams would make a good overnight stop depending on what time you are leaving Joshua Tree NP.

    Bryce Canyon is a lovely NP that doesn't take to long to explore the highlights, if you fitted it in it would be best done before Zion NP.

    As mentioned, Bishop or Mammoth Lakes would be a good stop on route to Yosemite, but you won't see the park from the east side of the mountains, so only 1 night that side and then enter the park on Tioga Pass [CA120] into the Valley. Make sure you also visit Glacier point.

    Those 2 'spare' days could easily be used up between GC and Zion including a trip to Bryce canyon, but you might also want to leave a day to relax and explore SF at the end of your trip. Perhaps a boat tour to Alcatraz Island. From Napa you can drive across the Golden Gate bridge, but before you get on the bridge from the north you can drive up the Marin headlands on Conzelman road where you will get great views of the bridge and Bay area, fog permitting !

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Accommodation.

    Quote Originally Posted by arturijus View Post
    Please note: we are on a low-end budget, meaning that we'd like to spend nights in hostels, motels and even campsites.
    Before you leave, book a room at or near the airport in SF. You should not be driving after a long haul flight. Pick up your car when you are ready to leave SF.

    Check out this site for hostels most of which have private rooms. However, be aware that for dorm beds hostels charge by the person, which can sometimes be more than a cheap motel. At the same time, don;'t overlook the extras a hostel will give you, such as coffee 24 hrs, and cooking your own meals. Sometimes even free food/meals. All the areas through which you will be travelling have excellent hostels. In SF and LA I can highly recommend the USA hostels. Not the cheapest but by far the best. The GC hostel in Flagstaff is very good, even though it is a loinger drive to the GC. Get an early start, and you'll have plenty of time at the canyon. I agree you need to allow at least another day for the GC, to really get to see and appreciate that NP.

    There are hotel/motel coupons which help with finding budget accommodation. These coupons are available on the internet and can often be found in small booklets along the way, at welcome centres and rest areas. As for camping....... Do you have a tent and sleeping gear? It would not be wise to plan and sleep in your car. Neither of you would get a decent night's sleep to be really fit for any activity the next day, or to drive to your next destination.

    Lifey

  5. #5

    Default

    Thank you for a warm welcome and all the tips. I wish I would've registered here earlier.
    I may have caused confusion with day numbers, but I did write that "After arriving in SFO, we'll spend two full days in SF, and the road trip begins with Day1". So we should no longer be tired after a long flight. But thanks for caring.

    DonnaR57>>> Following you advice which makes a lot of sense, I will extend our stay in/near Grand Canyon, so we don't have to drive that much two days in a row. And I will look for ho(s)tels in the towns you mentioned.

    Southwest Dave>>> I was looking at this shorter route from L.A. to GC (or Flagstaff). It would only save me 100 miles and two hours, according to Google, but it is still a two days journey. Because I probably would not be able to drive all the way from LA to Flagstaff. L.A. to Kingman is a 6 hour trip which is plenty for one day. So basically this is choosing between Kingman and Las Vegas for the overnight stay. I probably prefer the idea of entering Vegas when it's already dark to see all these lights from the distance. :) Unless I am missing something? But thanks for all the ideas nonetheless.

    Lifemagician>>> Thank you for your input. We will probably skip the idea of camping. We do have a tent and sleeping bags, but it would increase the amount of baggage which is already limited because we have hired a convertible.. :) About hostels. This USA Hostel Los Angeles looks great, but the problem is that it does not have a parking. It would cost us additional money and maybe cause some inconvenience if the paid parking is not next door to the hostel. We were looking at these Banana Bungalow hostels in L.A., we might just grab these. The location is OK, and they have a garage.

    Any other ideas? Is Napa Valley worth visiting?

    Greetings from Vilnius, Lithuania.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Los Angeles to the Grand Canyon is a full day's drive, no doubt about that at all! It's about 500 miles, which is do-able in one day, but it would be a 10 hour drive.

    Coming into Las Vegas when it is dark outside is definitely an eye opener. I-15 parallels the Strip for a few miles. If you are going from LA to LV on a Friday or Sunday afternoon, however, you will be in horrible traffic. Hopefully this will be a different day of the week for you.

    Many people like Napa or its neighboring Sonoma Valley. Some of the wineries give tours, most of them have tasting rooms, and the area is pretty. Whether it is "worth visiting" depends on how much you like tours and tasting rooms. :-)


    Donna

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default

    I probably prefer the idea of entering Vegas when it's already dark to see all these lights from the distance. :) Unless I am missing something?
    As you are going to Vegas from Zion, I just thought it would save you visiting twice and you would wake up closer to the Grand canyon and allow more time to enjoy this wonder of the world. You could make it to Williams, or even Tusayan from LA in one day. The reason I mentioned Kingman was your wish to visit Joshua Tree and that would make it less rushed. If you want to head into Vegas twice there is nothing wrong in doing so, I was basing it on the limited time you have at the GC and those few hours could be well spent there.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default USA hostel, Hollywood.

    Quote Originally Posted by arturijus View Post
    About hostels. This USA Hostel Los Angeles looks great, but the problem is that it does not have a parking. It would cost us additional money and maybe cause some inconvenience if the paid parking is not next door to the hostel.
    When I stayed there, I parked in the parking lot across the road. They have a special overnight rate for hostel guests, and your car is secure. You might like to email them and ask if that is still the case.

    It is by far my favourite hostel.

    Lifey

  9. #9

    Default

    DonnaR57>>> Thanks. We will be going to LV on Monday, and if we arrive late, there shouldn't be too much traffic (I guess?).

    Southwest Dave>>> I ended up booking a cheap hotel in Las Vegas. It's amazing how cheap they are compared to L.A... Already after booking I read that I'm gonna have to pay extra 29$ as a daily resort fee. Well, still cheap. An I also read that this hotel I booked (LINQ) has a horrible parking garage. I don't have any experience with valet parking. Can you briefly explain how it works and how expensive it can be?

    Lifemagician>>> I wrote them. Will see what they reply.

    Additionally, I ended up booking some lodging in the Grand Canyon village itself. It will buy us some more time to spend there, and we'll be able to enjoy a sunset/sunrise without having to drive in the dark from/to Flagstaff.
    I am now looking for a room in Page, near Antelope canyon. I am shocked how expensive they are! I'll have to pay like $180 for one night in an average hotel. Cheapest ones are 120 and above. Another night is probably going to be expensive as well, planning to sleep near Zion NP. Any advice about these locations?

  10. Default

    Looks a fun tour :)

    Day 2.Big Sur, I can recommend stopping in San Simeon and doing a trip to Hearst Castle in the morning.
    Day 6 is gonna be loooong.

    Day 9ish Maybe an idea to spend the last night after GC in Cameron which is right on the 89 and not far from the East exit from GC. [Personally, I would insert a day here and visit Monument Valley]. An early start up the 89 would take you to Horseshoe Bend. Note that the bend itself is not on the road and you need to make a mile hike to get to it (just follow everyone else). After that you can carry on to Antelope canyon where it's strongly suggested to book a tour.
    Back on the 89 towards Zion, you could overnight at Kanab where there's a lot of decent priced lodgings.
    In Napa valley I can recommend Calistoga as a nice town to stay over in.

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