Vegas & Pacific Coast – Advice on driving routes, wineyards, food & stay
Replies: 26 - Last Post: Sep 24, 2012 12:10 PM Last Post By: SusieGirl7
Sep 20, 2012 5:12 PM
15I have learned that it is much cheaper to sample cuisines at nice restaurants for lunch instead of dinner. Some chain restaurants have been advertising 2 meals for $20 (Applebees); all you can eat pasta for $10/all you can eat soup or salad for $7 (Olive Garden -- Italian cuisine); etc. I ate lunch at La Posada Inn and Spa near where I live, where the menu's highest price for lunch was $14. Their dinners are 3x that price.
You might save money on accommodations if you stay at hostels in some locations http://www.hostelbooker.com or at a Motel 6, Super 8, Quality Inn, where you may get a room for 4 for around $100 instead of $200. There is a popular hostel in Santa Monica and one in Hollywood. The Fort Mason Hostel in San Francisco is also popular. They have all been recommended many times on this forum, so you may find their e-mail addresses by using the Search feature above right. Some motels include complimentary all you can eat buffet breakfasts (Quality Inns).
Sep 20, 2012 7:41 PM
16Not sure I'd call Olive Garden Italian cuisine ... Italian food maybe, but "cuisine" is stretching it.
But the point about checking out lunch prices is a good one. You can often get better deals at lunch.
Still, if the food budget really is $70-$100/day for 4 people, I'd be looking into ways to increase it, or even that $10 Applebees meal (plus beverage/tax/tip) isn't going to be very doable more than once or twice on the trip.
You should definitely be able to spend less on accommodation. Early December isn't a very busy travel time, so hotel rates tend to be low. Doing a few random searches (San Diego, Santa Barbara, Monterey) there are lots of options for quad rooms for under $150, and more than a few under $100. (And many include breakfast -- an oddity of U.S. hotels is that less expensive motels most often include a free breakfast
And a very important tip -- if you haven't yet bought your plane tickets, try to arrange your stay in Vegas to be mid-week. Weekend prices are MUCH higher. (Looking on Expedia, Treasure Island Hotel and Casino is $154 on the last weekend in November, $50 mid-week the first week in December. Other hotels offer similar discounts.
Sep 20, 2012 8:26 PM
17Yeah, not sure I can get on board with the all-you-can-eat pasta at Olive Garden being "cuisine" either. Generally, using Urbanspoon or Yelp you can find a casual panini shop or pizzeria that will serve better and more interesting Italian-inspired food than you can get at Olive Garden, and for about the same price.
For other interesting food on a budget, don't forget about California's food trucks. All kinds of interesting stuff on offer, if you find the right spot. There are other non-Asian ethic foods that can often be had for around $10 - inexpensive middle eastern eateries are easy enough to find, especially out in the less-fashionable suburbs that are quickly becoming the new ethnic neighborhoods. Mexican food is everywhere, and at the little family-run hole-in-the-wall places you'll find tasty eats for cheap.
Bur generally, your food budget is extremely limited. You can stretch it a little by carrying a cooler and self-catering on the road. Between the free hotel breakfast and a quick self-catered lunch, you can get far enough ahead to have an interesting meal every couple days.
Sep 20, 2012 8:27 PM
Sep 23, 2012 11:42 AM
19Hi everyone, thanks once again for the responses! We will keep in mind the advice on food and try to find some more money for eating out :-)
Based upon the feedback on this forum, we've decided to drop LA & San Diego. So our revised tentative itinerary is to land in Vegas around Nov 27, spend two days there (including a day for Grand Canyon), then drive to Santa Barbara, spend the next 7 days driving and stopping along the Pacific Coast, and finally spending another 4-5 days in SF + Napa/Sonoma. So, additional questions :-) :
1. We still want to do the Grand Canyon from Vegas. Options seem to be : 1. Take a day tour to the West Rim (including the skywalk) 2. drive to the South Rim, stay overnight, and drive the next day to Santa Barbara. Which of these two is recommended to best enjoy the Canyon, esp given the time of the year? If it's #2, how long is the drive from Vegas-Canyon South Rim, and from South Rim to Santa Barbara? Should we use public transportation (bus) instead, and rent out a car at Santa Barbara for the journey up north?
2. From Santa Barbara, we are planning to spend a couple of nights in Solvang, a night in Big Sur and another couple of nights in Monterey. Is that too much? :-) We are interested in stopping and enjoying sites along the way (e.g. wine country around Solvang, Salinas, Pismo Beach, Big Sur park, Carmel by the sea, Monterey cruise for whale watching) and I particularly liked Trekker502's recommendations. I stumbled upon Channel Islands and they sounded interesting - is that worth a visit? And finally, should we book accommodation in advance or just keep it 'spontaneous'?
3. Since we are all flying out of SF, we were planning to drive through SF to Napa/Sonoma, and then return to SF to spend a couple of days - is that ok?
4. Finally, will we need to rent a 4WD for our drive (Pacific Coast, possibly Vegas - Grand Canyon- Santa Barbara) or will a regular car suffice?
Btw, the Michelin 3 star in Napa that I stumbled upon is Bistro Jeanty (http://www.bistrojeanty.com/) - I understand the French Laundry needs to be booked 3-4 months in advance and as rightly pointed is out of our budget.
Sep 23, 2012 11:48 AM
Sep 23, 2012 11:53 AM
21For your other questions:
1. Get a car for the whole trip. Use maps.google.com for driving times/distances. Go to the south rim and spend a night in the park.
2. I think that's too much time for a casual trip. Skip Solvang completely. One night in Big Sur is good. Maybe two in Monterey if you plan to whale watch and go to the aquarium. Channel Islands is fine but I don't think necessary. Book accomodation in advance for Big Sur at least.
4. No way do you needa 4WD.
Sep 23, 2012 12:31 PM
221. Overnight at the south rim.
Vegas to south rim.
South rim to Santa Barbara.
2. As I noted on another thread, xBig Sur is not a point, but a region. It's also very close to both xSolvang and xMonterey (it is a 4 hour drive between the two). Spend that "night in xBig Sur" in the xMonterey area.
The Channel Islands are nice, and worth a day trip on a coastal trip that long.
Book lodging in advance.
3. Yes, in fact you should do this to avoid having the car in xSF.
4. You do not need a 4WD vehicle. Any road that really requires it (think dirt roads) will likely be prohibited by your rental contract anyway.
Sep 23, 2012 1:16 PM
23Your new plan only gives you few more hours at the canyon, at the expense of a punishing all-day drive to Santa Barbara. Personally, I feel that to make the round-trip from Vegas worth it, you need to give the park, at a minimum, one solid afternoon of activities, followed by a leisurely morning. As it is now, it looks like you'll land in Vegas, have the rest of the day there, which won't amount to much, drive to GC the next day and see what you can in the afternoon, and then drive all day to Santa Barbara the next, then take the next 6 or 7 days to meander up the coast.
Your Vegas/GC leg is severely rushed, without much leisure time for either Vegas or GC, while the coastal leg is extremely leisurely. If you're serious about visiting Grand Canyon (or want to do more in Vegas then check out the hotel lobbies), I'd steal a day from the coastal drive.
Sep 23, 2012 1:38 PM
24If you want to tour the wine country north of Santa Barbara, stay in San Luis Obispo rather than Solvang. You will enjoy that town a lot more. There is a university in the town, so a lot of bars and eating places that cater to students. Try to stay on a Thursday for the Thursday Night Market--part farmers market, part craft fair, part music fest. It will not be held on Thanksgiving.
Wherever you go for wine tasting, be prepared to pay for it. You are more likely to find free tastings in the San Luis Obispo/Paso Robles area Than in Napa or Sonoma. Tasting in Napa is going to cost $15 or more per person at each winery you visit, unless you get lucky.
There are a few places ot stay in the Big Sur area, but they are not cheap unless you camp.
A few years ago, Lonely Planet interviewed me about Thanksgiving and travel. Here: Home for the holiday
If you want to try local seafood, Dungeness crab season is scheduled to begin November 15. The first crabs will show up in restaurants and markets a few days later. As it gets close to the opening date, experts start catching crabs to see how mature they are. If the crabs are not ready, the season will be delayed.
These early-season crabs are the best, and can be rather expensive. One crab is enough for one or two people--a single crab can weigh a kilo or more. . It is usually eaten cold, accompanied by melted butter, mayonnaise, or some other sauce. The best place to have crab is Monterey northward. The cheapest way is to buy cooked crabs from a market and have a picnic.
Sep 24, 2012 11:30 AM
25thanks all, agree that the Vegas leg is too rushed - I'm now planning to keep a night in Vegas and two nights at Grand Canyon - so this gives us 1.5 days in Vegas and a full day at the Grand Canyon - enough for some activity and then some rest ahead of the long drive the next day to Santa Barbara or LA. This still leaves us with enough time to enjoy our journey along the coast.
I have another question - one of my friends is extremely keen on visiting LA (don't ask me why!) - if there was one thing we had to do in LA in half a day, what would that be?
thanks for the tip on crabs - we all make an annual crab pilgrimage here in India, so delighted we'd be able to sample some along the way !
Sep 24, 2012 12:10 PM
26Los Angeles is the size of a small countries and has world class museums, dining, beaches, amusement parks, nature, Hollywood, etc. What did you want to see.
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