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  1. #1

    Default Advice for 2013 West Coast Tour: Seattle to San Francisco

    Hi folks

    What a wonderful site!! My partner and I are looking to do a road trip up (or down) the west coast, Seattle to San Fran (or vice versa) possibly including Las Vegas also. It's just the 2 of us, and at the moment, we're at the very start of researching options. We are looking at spending anywhere from 4-6 weeks to make it a really great, 'once in a lifetime' trip to make sure we take in all the best places to visit/experience. Happy to look at both RV's or car hire + hotels, even travelling some of the way perhaps on a train. Amongst travelling, we are both very interested in gastronomy so being able to tuck into some great, local cuisine is a must!

    I am having a real good hunt around on this site plus others, but any initial advice would be most grateful to help point us in the right direction. Also any recommendations for good books that might also help would be gratefully received.

    Ideally, we're looking for some great views, some great experiences, places to see, maybe even some whale watching if possible. Haven't set a budget as yet, but not looking to spend much more than about £6,000 altogether, including flights (return from London, UK).

    You're help, guidance and advice would be most welcome!

    Thanks in advance!!!

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


    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums ! [Glad you are enjoying]

    With just the two of you travelling a car and Motels would certainly work out cheaper than RV hire by the time you consider campground fees, high fuel and rental costs etc, but it can be a great 'Lifestyle' choice, if it's your 'thing' that is. I would certainly keep to what ever mode of transport you decide on for the whole trip to avoid multiple one way drop fees on your rental[s] and to see more of the country.

    Heading south when on the coast has the advantage of the Ocean being on your side of the road. I would also consider doing a complete loop to avoid a one way drop fee on the rental, with 4-6 weeks you would have the time. Taking the coast south to SF via the Redwoods etc and heading inland to Vegas [via Yosemite NP and Death valley] would give you the option of taking an inland route back. Lake Tahoe, Lassen Volcanic park, Crater Lake, Columbia River Gorge and Mount Ranier are just a few of the places you could visit. You might want to go beyond SF on the coast to Monterey and drive that part of the coast around Big Sur to Cambria, it's widely regarded as one of the worlds finest coastal drives.

    Once you have done a little more research and got a few more of the basics together I'm sure we can offer more tips and meaningful advice.

  3. #3


    Thanks Southwest Dave...I like your idea of doing a loop to avoid drop off costs and gaining the advantage to experience even more the West Cosst can offer on a more inland route. It just seems like such a huge task knowing which routes to take, what to see, where to stay etc. but some food for thought definitely. Thank you.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Bit by bit.

    It just seems like such a huge task knowing which routes to take, what to see, where to stay etc.
    You just need to chip away at it bit by bit. Concentrate on Seattle to SF and then SF to LV and so on. It will probably take on many different shapes before you get there, but once you have started we are here to help. The most important thing to remeber is that planning the trip can be half the fun !

    A Seattle > SF >LV > Seattle loop by the quickest route could be done in 5 'work' like days, so you have plenty of time to explore the coast, City and State/National parks etc. [although you wouldn't be able to see everything in between in a lifetime] Once you start to get a few dots on the map, things will start to fall into place and a route will begin to form.

    You will then need to decide how long you want to stay at places like San Fran, Vegas and work on your time frame. Some people like to keep on the move and spend just a day or 2 [hours even] and others prefer to spend multiple days in fewer places. It's not beyond the realms of possibility to head to the Grand canyon, the National parks of Southern Utah and include Yellowstone in your plans. These are the things that you can work out based on your interests and travel style. Once you have those basics worked out we can 'chip in' with suggestions and do a little 'fine tuning' with you.

  5. #5


    Thanks again - I think there will be some places we'd like to really spend some time San Fran, and the National Parks, and other we'd happily only spend a day or two at, like Seattle and LV. We're giving ourselves plenty of time to enable this. A I said, we hadn't considered doing a loop back round, going a different route back and thus taking in even more different places but that's definitely a possibility. If we go with a rental car and motel option, is it worth booking motels up in advance, or is it just as easy to drive and find somewhere as and where we want to crash (appreciating the risk that without booking ahead means some places will be full). Where can I find info on motels? Or is it a case of looking at the route, seeing the towns/cities we'll be going through and literally googling best places to stay in those areas?

    And definitely fancy the Grand Canyon...Yellowstone too is we can fit it in!

    I'm thinking perhaps buying a detailed map of the West Coast so I can really get my head around the different routes & places to stay etc. Can you recommend a good map purchase to do this?

    Thanks again - really appreciate your help!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.


    To the top right of this page you will find the RTA reservations link where you can get an idea of Hotels and costs in any given area. I usually search around for accomodation in the places I know I am staying at [and when] and check reviews, locations etc, and go with my gut instinct if booking in advance. [Although we mainly travel by RV in the States]. We don't book every night [whether camping or lodging] but do tend to book popular places well in advance, such as at the Grand canyon, Yosemite etc. The parks are very popular, especially in the main season, and book out quickly. You will always find somewhere but that can add travel time and take away from the visit, and as far as I am concerned you can't beat staying in the park. Once that's booked up the closest towns then tend to follow.

    When we are not booked up, I still do a little research and carry the details and phone numbers of places that appeal to us and our budget, so we can phone ahead. Having said that, we are normally on more of a time crunch !

    In the 'Shop' link in the green tool bar above you will find a map/Atlas store where you can order on line. Most book shops will have some on the shelf at home or can get them to order. We have purchased 'AA' and 'Insight' State maps and found them fine for the basic stuff. For more detailed maps [where the Motel might be in SF for example] I print off directions and a map from Google.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default See if you can get free maps from AAA.

    Quote Originally Posted by Crazykids View Post
    I'm thinking perhaps buying a detailed map of the West Coast so I can really get my head around the different routes & places to stay etc. Can you recommend a good map purchase to do this?
    Can't say I have ever seen a map of 'the west coast'. There may be one. Others may know.

    What I use is the National Geographics map of the US - wall size and laminated. It is very good for the detail it shows of cities, natural features as well as main roads and interstates.

    The other thing you can try is this....

    Are you a member of the automobile association in Britain? If so, that gives you access to maps and tourist information from the AAA. What I would do, with your time frame, is write them a letter, enclosing photo copies of both sides of your membership card, and requesting maps of the States through which you will be travelling - CA, OR, WA, ID, WY, NV, AZ, and possibly also UT, MT and CO.

    A friend of mine used to be the manager of the international department at AAA, and says they used to get requests like that all the time. She sent me a bundle of books when I had a query. She is now retired, and I am not sure if things have changed, or not. But for the cost of a postage stamp, it is worth a try.


  8. #8


    Thanks again Southwest Dave and Lifey...some great advice indeed :)

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