US West Coast Road Trip Itinerary - Need Feedback
Replies: 14 - Last Post: Feb 16, 2012 5:38 AM Last Post By: nrclibn
Oct 20, 2011 2:57 AM
US West Coast Road Trip Itinerary - Need FeedbackGood Morning
I posted a topic on here 10 days ago, asking for advice and tips for planning a road trip from Las Vegas - LA - San Francisco in April 2012. See http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=2115360
I have now done some more research (including reading Lonely Planet's California guide book) and have come up with the itinerary below. It would be greatly appreciated if you could have a look and let me know your thoughts.
I have been checking flights on momondo and kayak on a regular basis and am now calculating with around £1,000 for flights from MAN - LAS and SFO - MAN for 2 people. If you have any further tips for finding cheap flights please let me know. I am hoping to fly out in the week beginning on March 26th, exact date depending on flight costs, and staying for 14 days.
We will be travelling by rental car. I would like to stay in one of the 'better' hotels on the Strip in Las Vegas (maybe Bellagio), but for the rest of the journey I would be happy for us to stay in midrange hotels or hostels. It would be great if we could stay on a ranch for one night at any point of our journey - are there any on the way you can recommend? I have been told about the rodeo in San Luis Obispo, but I think that the date is too late for us.
DAY 1: Arrival at Las Vegas Airport. Stay in Vegas.
DAY 2: Walk the Strip, see a show at night, go out for drinks. Stay in Vegas.
DAY 3: Casinos. Stay in Vegas.
DAY 4: Set off to the Grand Canyon early, visit Hoover Dam, travel to South Rim. Stay at Canyon Village or Tusayan.
DAY 5: Drive to San Diego. Stay in San Diego.
DAY 6: Visit Tijuana. Stay in San Diego. Here I am not sure if we should do this part of the journey or would be better off skipping and driving directly from Vegas to LA and visiting somewhere else/staying longer somewhere else instead.
DAY 7: Drive to LA. Stay in LA/Santa Monica.
DAYS 8 and 9: Visit LA. Beverly Hills and Hollywood Boulevard, city tour.
DAYS 10 - 12: Travel from LA to San Francisco on CA-1. Stay in San Luis Obispo (on a Thursday for market if possible) and another destination on the way for 2nd night. On the way maybe visit Santa Barbara, Big Sur (Piedras Blancas to see Elephant Seals), Carmel, Monterey. Stay in San Francisco.
DAYS 13 and 14: Visit San Francisco. Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Tour, city tour.
What are your thoughts? We are interested in great scenery, nature (beaches - not sure if warm enough to swim yet in early April), wildlife, quaint villages, traditional American culture, rock music and history, movies and iconic sites. Not interested in designer shopping, theme parks and celebrity spotting.
Any advice or tips regarding the itinerary, accommodation, flights or destinations please let me know.
Thank you so much!
Oct 20, 2011 5:54 AM
I went to california two years ago, it's a great trip. I have so many beatiful moments there.
Well, for plane tickets I suggests this page: www. netflights.com, if I'm not wrong from great britain it is a great option. I'm from Barcelona and I bought my tickets to London-LA for 300 pounds, but I bought it like 6 months before departure. I went barcelona-london with ryanair. I'm a low cost traveller. For intern flight in the USA, there is low cost airlines companies: westjet.
I've never been in San Diego or tijuana, so I don't know if it is worth to see. But if you are interested in great scenery you should go to Yosemite National Park is amazing. It's 2-3hrs drive from San Francisco. But it is worth it. If you have to stay somewhere near the park there is a camping with wood-cabins really nice and beautiful: Yosemite pines & RV or something similar (they don't pay me anything but I loved it).
In the Highway 1 there are many places to see, there is Pheiffer beach with purple sand, I don't know if it is important but it is curious. Also there is a smal town, Cambria with a beatiful bay. It is before Piedras Blancas and Big Sur. There is a hotel outside the town cheaper than big sur. I think Carmel is worth to stop and grab something to eat, everything is like a fairy tale. Walk the main street until the beach.
It is the first time I write something here and I'm not english native so sorry if my english is not clear. If you have any question, ask!
Oct 20, 2011 6:47 AM
2I would suggest you spend another day at the South rim...After sunrise drive the 64 out to the 89 Souh to Flagstaff,.Sedona,Jerome and spend the night in Prescott...Then DRIVING the slow but scenic 89 down the hill Join the 60 to Quartzite,95 South to Yuma,I-8 to San Deigo...There is plenty of worthwhile attractions...Do not waste the effort tinvisiting the shade of TJ...carracar
Oct 20, 2011 8:04 AM
The rooms in Las Vegas are relatively cheap right now due to the sour economy. They are relatively cheaper from Sunday to Wednesday night than they are over the weekend. You may want to fold that into your plans.
If you want to see one of the Big Name shows, it is wise to buy tickets well in advance. O is playing at Bellagio and it is almost unique even for Las Vegas. You may also be able to get a promotional price if you are staying at Bellagio.
Many resorts also offer airline ticket/room "packages." I think that would require both arrival and departure out of las Vegas. That may also save the drop-off fee on the rental car. You should check that option before you book tickets anywhere else. I don't know that there is a bargain there but it doesn't hurt to check.
I'd skip Los Angeles before I'd skip San Diego but that is just me. Give Tijuana a pass unless you like your vacations served with generous helpings of sleazy, tacky, cheap, dangerous(?), and depressing on the side. Don't try to drive the rental car there either. This may also be a problem for you since you are not U. S. citizens but I don't know.
Why Santa Monica? You won't be able to tell where Santa Monica begins and the rest of Greater Los Angeles ends unless you happen to see a sign announcing that fact.
My comments aside, I see nothing wrong with your plans. One thing about the beach; due to something called the California Current, the water along the California Coast is never "warm." That's why surfers wear wet suits. How "warm" the beaches may be in April is a matter of personal taste.
Oct 20, 2011 9:37 AM
Although the rainy season is winding down in April, you could still get some wet weather, Last year, we had an unusual number of late season storms. The amount of rain increases as you go north. LA averages about 3 days of rain in April; San Francisco about 6. HOwever, April can be a good time of year in the SF area--you can run into glorious sunny days.
Tijuana is not the tourist destination it used to be. It will not give you a glimpse of Mexico; it will give you a glimpse of a border town that is suffering serious problems. If you rent a car in Las Vegas, the contract will probably prohibit you from taking it into Mexico. Rental companies in San Diego will often let you drive into Mexico a short distance, but you must buy Mexican insurance from them.
If, after looking into what Tijuana is like these days, you still want to go, then you can take the trolley from San Diego, walk across the border and get a taxi.
PIedras Blancas is just north of Hearst Castle, a rather amazing place built by a newspaper baron with grandiose ideas and too much money. You can only see it on a tour, which should be booked in advance as they tend to fill up.
Be sure to book your Alcatraz tour in advance as well. Book from the official vendor. The night tour is well worth it.
Here is a working cattle ranch in the San Luis Obispo area that does farm stays. Double L Ranch. However, they have a 2 night minimum stay. Another in the same area Work Ranch Both require advance booking.
Oct 20, 2011 12:32 PM
5Thank you so much for the feedback so far! Please keep it coming! I am loving all the comments and keep getting new ideas for our trip :)
Based on the comments, I am now thinking about scrapping the stay in San Diego/visit to Tijuana and driving straight from Las Vegas to LA. Instead I would like to spend a 2nd full day at the Grand Canyon (maybe visit Hoover Dam while still staying in Vegas as recommended).
I also like the idea of visiting Death Valley (the pictures I have seen so far are stunning!), however I am thinking this may be out of the way quite a bit?
I would definitely like to incorporate an overnight stay on a ranch, just not sure where yet. Maybe San Luis Obispo. Any recommendations?
I have also read about Hearst Castle but not sure if worth the time as we have already been to several old mansions in the UK and Europe and they are all starting to blend into one... Unless this one is more interesting. What do you reckon?
Whale watching sounds great too.
How many days do I need in each of the other 2 big cities (LA and San Francisco)?
Car rental will not be a problem, I used to work at a car rental broker for several years and sold rentals for the US on a daily basis :) Most large companies (Alamo, National, Dollar) do not charge one way rental fees between AZ-NV-CA. I am also familiar with young driver fees and which packages to get so no issues here.
Oct 20, 2011 12:53 PM
6Hearst Castle is not exactly an old mansion, although it's crammed to the gills with stuff from old mansions and castles and whatever else Hearst could buy on trips to Europe. And not just furnishings. He took walls, ceilings, whole rooms. It's a complex of buildings, not just one mansion, with a couple of amazing swimming pools and huge gardens.
He even had his own zoo, and there are still zebras wandering around.
Everyone who was anyone in the 1930s & 40s visited there, from Clark Gable to Winston Churchill.
If you have seen the movie "Citizen Kane," it's really about Hearst.
There aren't a lot of working ranches along your route (or anywhere else, for that matter) that allow overnight guests. There are so-called "dude ranches" that take guests in summer, but they are set up for week-long stays, with all sorts of organized activities like barbecues, trail rides, and singing around the campfire. The two I linked above are all I could find.
Oct 20, 2011 2:12 PM
If you are driving between Las Vegas and the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, you have to go way out of your way to miss Hoover Dam. Start plotting your prospective routes on a map.
Oct 20, 2011 2:47 PM
8As post 6 elaborate on Hearst Castle is worth a visit. I really enjoyed it.
Oct 21, 2011 12:18 PM
9I am thinking maybe we should get a flight from Las Vegas to LA to save us the long drive there. Flights are £28. We wouldn't be missing out if not driving that leg of the journey, right?
Also, as we will be over for Easter, will the shops and attractions be shut on Easter bank holidays in the US?
Oct 21, 2011 12:37 PM
10The US does not have anything called a "bank holiday." There are assorted public holidays, such as Christmas or Independence Day. Some are called Federal holidays, as they are established nationwide by the Federal government. Some states set their own additional public holidays. What is opened & closed depends on the holiday. Government offices and banks close on Federal holidays and sometimes on state holidays. Restaurants, attractions, and stores vary with the holiday. Almost everything closes on Christmas. Few close on Veterans Day.
All of this is leading up to--Easter is not any sort of official holiday in the US. Nor is Easter Monday observed as a public holiday. Some stores and shopping malls may choose to close on Easter. Few attractions will close. Many restaurants will have a special Easter Branch. The better the brunch, the more it needs ot be booked ahead.
Oct 21, 2011 1:27 PM
11The drive from Vegas to LA is unattractive. Flying is a fine idea.
You have a lot on your plate, so any day saved will be well used.
I'd skip Santa Barbara and San Luis stops (unless you time it and get to see the market).
I could easily live in Santa Barbara, but don't find it much of a tourist stop except for
the mission there.
I say drive Hwy 1 to Monterey Peninsula in one day.
Take the freeway 101 north from LA to San Luis turning to Hwy 1/Morro Bay.
Have lunch at Nepenthe south of Big Sur Village.
There are lots of things to do in Carmel, Monterey, Pacific Grove, Santa Cruz.
You could reserve your first night at a hotel at the mouth of Carmel Valley,
just north of leaving the Big Sur coast road before you try to find your way around the Peninsula. That way a night time arrival is no stress.
Carmel Mission Inn or Carmel River Inn.
Plenty of fine restaurants nearby. Rio Grill for one.
Five miles south of Carmel Valley off Hwy 1 is Point Lobos State Reserve.
If you don't visit it at sunset on your way north,
start your next morning, after breakfast, by backtracking south to visit it.
It is a mini Big Sur up close with short trails to spectacular coves and outcroppings.
Next a short visit to Carmel Mission.
The missions are a vital and interesting part of California history and Carmel is one of the most beautiful missions. You said you are interested in "rock music and history".
Rock music history or history?
Then drive around behind Carmel Mission, past Clint Eastwood's Mission Ranch,
but don't look at it because you are not into celebrities, to the mouth of Carmel River Beach, drive north to Carmel Beach, park and walk uphill into Carmel-by-the-Sea for lunch.
Back to the car, pay at the gate to drive through Pebble Beach 17 Mile Drive, coming out north in Pacific Grove. Follow the coastline drive around the point to Monterey Bay...
This maximizes your exposure to one of the most beautiful coastlines in the country.
Expect Springtime weather to be not too different from back in England.
Chilly breezes off the water, warm in sheltered sunny spots.
Asking how many days you need in LA and SF is like me asking how many days do I need in London and Paris. The only limit would be time and money, right?
Oct 24, 2011 3:32 AM
This is the revised itinerary.
DAY 1: Arrival at LAS airport on Tuesday March 27th, 2012. Stay in Las Vegas.
DAY 2: Visit Las Vegas: The Strip, The Beatles LOVE show and drinks. Stay in Las Vegas.
DAY 3: Visit Las Vegas: Casinos. Stay in Las Vegas.
DAY 4: Day trip to Death Valley. Stay in Las Vegas.
DAY 5: Visit Hoover Dam. Drive to Grand Canyon South Rim. Stay in Grand Canyon Village (El Tovar or Bright Angel Lodge).
DAY 6: Hiking in Grand Canyon. Stay in Grand Canyon Village.
DAY 7: Drive back to Las Vegas. Fly to LAX.
DAY 8: Visit Los Angeles: Hollywood Boulevard, Sunset Boulevard. Stay in Los Angeles.
DAY 9: Visit Los Angeles: Downtown LA. Stay in Los Angeles.
DAY 10: Hwy 1: Drive to Santa Barbara. Visit Santa Barbara Mission. Drive to San Luis Obispo. Visit Thursday's Farmer's Market. Stay in San Luis Obispo.
DAY 11: Hwy 1: Drive to and visit Hearst Castle. Drive to and visit Piedras Blancas Lightstation. Drive to and visit Carmel. Stay in Carmel.
DAY 12: Drive to San Francisco. Visit San Francisco: Alcatraz night tour. Stay in San Francisco.
DAY 13: Visit San Francisco: Walking tour. Stay in San Francisco.
DAY 14: Visit San Francisco. Stay in San Francisco.
Someone mentioned that it would be whale-watching season. I would like to add this to the itinerary but need to find out where the best place would be.
Any comments or suggestions let me know.
Oct 24, 2011 10:48 AM
13April is also a transition time for whale populations in southern California. You might want to devote day 12 to either a whale-watching cruise or kayaking trip in the region of Monterey Bay and/or Santa Cruz. If you would settle for sea otters and seals, cruising or kayaking the Elkhorn Slough is an option as well. However, you'd probably want to shift the Alcatraz tour to the night of day 13 so you're not rushed.
Feb 16, 2012 5:38 AM
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