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  1. Default Family of 8 Sedona-Vegas-San Diego

    Greetings!

    My husband and I, along with our six children ages 1,3,5,9,11,12 will be traveling to visit family in Las Vegas and San Diego next year (2018). This will be our children's first time going west (we live in Florida) and so besides the excitement of meeting a lot of extended family for the first time, we are really wanting them to experience the incredible landscape which is unlike anything they have ever seen. The dates we are planning on are March 27-April 9th, so 13 days. This is the ROUGH itinerary/route I was thinking.

    Day 1 - fly into Phoenix around 10 AM and drive straight towards our Sedona hotel, making stops at Montezuma Castle, Red Rock State Park and Chapel of Holy Cross which are all right off the interstate before Sedona. Sleep in Sedona.
    Day 2 - Drive to Grand Canyon, first making a stop of Slide Rock State Park, which is on the way. Spend the rest of day at The Grand Canyon and stay overnight
    **total drive time so far - about 4 hours

    Day 3 - Spend the morning at the GC, grab lunch and begin our drive to the Hoover Dam. **drive time - 3.5hours. Hoover Dam visit then head to Vegas to visit family and sight see for a few days.
    Day 4 - Vegas
    Day 5 - Vegas

    Day 6 - Leave early and drive to Death Valley **drive time - 2 hours. Spend the entire day at Death Valley then drive to Sequioa NF **drive time - 5.5hours OR Skip Death Valley and save those 2 hours of driving and go straight from Vegas to Sequioa **6hours**
    Stay 2 nights at Sequioa.
    Day 7 - Sequioa
    Day 8 - Leave Sequioa and head to Joshua Tree National Park - **5 hours (maybe leave in the middle of the night so kids can sleep?)
    OR skip Joshua Tree and Palm Springs and head straight to San Diego
    Day 8/9 - Joshua Tree to Palm Springs for the night
    Day 10 - Leave palm springs and either do the detour (1.5 hrs) to see Mt. Jacinto) or drive straight to San Diego . **2hrs**
    Day 11 - San Diego
    Day 12 - San Diego
    Day 13 - departure from San Diego back to Florida

    Questions
    - I am not so particular about visiting certain places as I am about the topography/landscape for the children to experience. I would prefer to cut back on the driving if any of these parks (between Arizona, Nevada, and California) overlap a lot in features. I am pretty set on seeing Sequioa since there's nothing else like it, but flexible with other landscape (dessert, canyons, boulders, etc). So what do you think I can cut out to help cut down on the driving time, if anything? I am a little afraid of this being an exhausting trip and the kids getting desperate with so much driving.
    -Would you skip death valley and go straight to Sequioa from Vegas.
    -Would you stay 1 or 2 nights at the Sequioa forest?
    -Would you stay 1 or 2 nights at The Grand Canyon?

    HELP. Any guidance would be greatly appreciated!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,051

    Default a few concerns

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I think you're on the right track, but there are a few areas where I think you'll need to rethink your plans and approach.

    First, what are you planning to do for a vehicle that will fit 8 people, car seats, and luggage? Doing a loop trip, where you start and end in the same place can often save quite a lot of money, but if you need to rent a specialty vehicle, that might be your only option.

    Two, you're going to have to significantly rework your travel time estimates. I suspect you are using the estimates of online mapping programs, which are overoptimistic in best case scenarios. When you consider that you'll be traveling with half a dozen kids, your actual driving times are going to be significantly longer.

    The biggest place that would come up is Sequoia. You really can't drive from Vegas, see Death Valley, and make it to Sequoia in the same day. That's nearly 500 miles, a fair bit of it on 2 lane and mountain roads. Just drive time alone is going to be close to 10 hours, and that's before seeing Death Valley or accounting for the extra time needed for your large group. Even if you skipped DV, you couldn't do it in anywhere near 6 hours. It's 7-8 hours under good conditions, and again, longer for you considering the size of your family.

    Similarly, planning to see a bunch of stuff on your first day seems like you're being pretty optimistic. I mean, I wouldn't plan to do much anything at all on that first day. To get a flight that lands in Phx around 10am, that means it will have to leave Florida around 7am, which means getting to the airport at 5am, which means getting everyone up and out of the house around 3 or 4 am (and that assumes a non-stop flight!) and so while it will probably be around 11 am- noon, by the time you get your bags and car and get on the road, and while getting the road by noon means you'd theoretically have time in the day to stop at places on the way to Sedona, you'll have kids who will have already been traveling for going on 10 hours and starting to feel the effects of jet lag.

    So, a few things I would do differently, Go ahead and plan to spend the first night around Sedona, but consider anything you stop at along the way to be an unexpected surprise. If you want to still see things around Sedona, then I would plan for 2 nights at the Grand Canyon.

    I would do Death Valley after Vegas, but I would stop between there and Sequoia - perhaps around Lake Isabella or Bakersfield.

    I would skip Joshua Tree. It's a much longer drive than just 5 hours (even google estimates it at more than 6), and it a fair bit out of your way. I would also strongly recommend AGAINST any idea that has you driving through the middle of the night "while your kids sleep." All that's going to do is mean that they'll be wide awake, when you are exhausted, and that's not good for anyone! I will note, if you end up having to drive back to Phoenix to complete the loop, then I might look at doing Joshua Tree between SD and Phx.

    If you wanted to add in another National Park, I'd look at Yosemite over Joshua Tree. If you are going to visit 4 National Parks, you will want to by the $80 annual National Parks pass (it might even be cost effective for just 3 parks).

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,739

    Default The Kids will enjoy more time outdoors.

    Day 8 - Leave Sequioa and head to Joshua Tree National Park - **5 hours (maybe leave in the middle of the night so kids can sleep?)
    This is a big No No ! Not only will the kids be restless and grumpy the following day due to the lack of a good nights sleep, they will be restless and grumpy the same time as you are feeling exhausted and in need of sleep yourselves. Just fit into your trip what you can at a relaxed pace and get off the road before dinner and relax for the evening before getting a good nights sleep. For the children to have a fun time and appreciate the landscape they need time to enjoy it and not be rushed in and out of the car, running around and being 'touchy feely' with nature is far more important to them than sitting in the car looking but not touching. Try doing less and let the Kids have time to enjoy the great outdoors. Death valley and Sequoia are both great but I think you might be better off driving through the Mojave National Preserve on a more direct route to Joshua tree and divide your time better.

  4. Default Excellent feedback

    We are planning on driving a 15 passenger Ford Transit, much like we already drive, to give us plenty of room for comfort and all of our things. We are flying home from San Diego, so we are going with Enterprise rent a car, since we can drop off the vehicle there. Plus my husband has quite a bit of Enterprise points from business travel.

    Ok, I see what you're saying about the drive from Vegas to SNF, I will look for a hotel near Lake Isabella or Bakersfield to rest then.

    THANK YOU for the reality check of the travel work involved to getting to Phoenix. You are absolutely right about how tired the kids will likely be...myself included. The excitement of planning this makes me too much of an optimist, so I needed to read that! I will make any stops on the way to Sedona be a matter of unexpected surprise. I was thinking of staying 2 nights in Sedona, so that we have more time to see Red Rock State Park and of course recover from flying.

    Would you recommend staying more than one night at the GC? Is there enough for the kids to actually do, since we can't traverse any major trails.

    My gut was telling me to skip Joshua Tree, so thank you for giving me permission to. I showed me husband your route going straight from SNF to SD and he asked....why not do a night near LA/Hollywood then and do a studio tour with the kids? It doesn't seem to add any significant time to the route down to San Diego. What do you think? We have not booked our return flight home yet so we don't mind extending the trip by a couple days if it's worth the extra expense.

    If we decided to go up to Yosemite too, how much more drive time should I realistically bank on?

    Would you recommend staying one night or 2 nights at Sequioa?

    We are going to buy the pass, Thank you!

    and I will not make the mistake of driving through the night....I should know better...we've done that before and it was pretty darn awful. Thank you!



    If you wanted to add in another National Park, I'd look at Yosemite over Joshua Tree. If you are going to visit 4 National Parks, you will want to by the $80 annual National Parks pass (it might even be cost effective for just 3 parks).[/QUOTE]

  5. Default

    Thank you Southwest Dave!

    Yes, I decided we are not going to do any driving throughout the night. I would completely agree with you about just driving the more direct route down through the Mojave and Joshua Tree, but my children are so excited about seeing the Sequioa forest. We are homeschoolers and they love nature studies, so this would be incredibly special for them. For that same reason, like you said, I want them to appreciate and enjoy it, not from the car, which is why I have to sacrifice a couple parks, since they make no sense 'route-wise'. :( Would you recommend doing 2 nights at Sequioa?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,739

    Default Weather to consider.

    First off all we need to be sure whether we are talking about the same Sequoia when you say "Sequoia forest" as the National forest is in a different area than Sequoia National park. I think 2 nights at Sequoia NP would be wise as by the time you account for travel time that may equate to just one full day in the park, same with the Grand canyon. Where you start from and head to after a visit will help determine your stops, but yes at least a full day at each. I would certainly pack layered clothing as both are at elevation and the weather could be cold and in Sequoia you could still see snow and disruption on the roads with a real possibility you may have to use chains, something you would have to check is ok with your rental company. It can be a great time to visit and wonderful for the Kids, but if you can move your dates to near end of April it could be beneficial.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,536

    Default

    As far as a television/movie studio tour is concerned, I'd do my research. You're traveling with young children, and many studio tours will not allow children 3 and under. What studio tour were you thinking of?

    If you're thinking "Universal Studios", be aware that it is more like a theme park and less like a studio tour at each renovation. It is also very expensive, because you'd have to pay for all but your two youngest.


    Donna

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,935

    Default Some reading to enjoy the GC.

    Quote Originally Posted by TableforEight View Post
    Would you recommend staying more than one night at the GC? Is there enough for the kids to actually do, since we can't traverse any major trails.
    Particularly since you are homeschooling, I would recommend that you get hold of Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon, Elias Butler and Michael Patrick Ghiglier said to be the best book ever written about the Grand Canyon. Despite its title, it is in no way morbid. A very interesting book, and a real page turner. The three older children are old enough for it. You may want to read it as well.

    Lifey

  9. Default Thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by Lifemagician View Post
    Particularly since you are homeschooling, I would recommend that you get hold of Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon, Elias Butler and Michael Patrick Ghiglier said to be the best book ever written about the Grand Canyon. Despite its title, it is in no way morbid. A very interesting book, and a real page turner. The three older children are old enough for it. You may want to read it as well.

    Lifey
    Will definitely read this with my big girls. Thank you! I love context given with good books. Any other titles you recommend for heading out west?

  10. Default

    Thank you Donna! We have no idea what we are getting into in LA. Just random ideas here and there so thank you for the insight. We live in Orlando so trying to avoid 'theme park' stuff at most costs. We do love movies and our kids are familiar with many classic hollywood productions so I was looking for a kind of classic experience... wondering if a stop in LA would be worth it with such a young crowd though.

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