South West Road Trip - what route to take?
Replies: 33 - Last Post: Dec 8, 2012 1:53 PM Last Post By: amysaunders82
Dec 5, 2012 2:25 AM
South West Road Trip - what route to take?Hi,
I am looking for some advice on a trip my boyfriend and I are planning to South West America in July/Aug next year. We did a two week road trip around part of the East coast last year and it was great.
I work at a school in Britain so we get six weeks off for the summer, so we’re flexible as to when we can go within that six weeks, but we can’t go before 24th July or after 2nd September. We think we will go at the end of July (25th-ish) for three weeks. Hopefully it might be slightly cheaper leaving in July.
At the moment only my boyfriend can drive, however I am going to learn in the new year. Not sure if I’ll be able to get insured though on a hire car if I have only just passed? I think he will do most of the driving even if I do pass as I’m so inexperienced and I will only do it if there is an emergency (he was ill last year for a few days when we were on the East coast so we were stuck).
We have literally only just started planning but it’s loosely based on doing the following;
Fly London to Vegas
- Vegas x 2 nights
- San Diego x 1 night (is there somewhere interesting to stop off half way from LV to San Diego? Bit of a long driving stint)
- Tijuana – I volunteered in Mexico for a few months back in 2008 and I would love to go back, even if it’s just for the day! I expect it will be very Americanised as it’s on the border, but I don’t mind that. I doubt the hire car will let us cross the border, but according to Google maps San Diego is a 20min drive. Is there another way to get across and spend the night in a hotel there perhaps? Is there a bus which does this which isn’t too much hassle? Would a taxi drop us there with our cases and then we cross on foot and get a taxi on the other side? I am hoping there are some nicer hotels a little way out of the city down the coast.
- San Jose
Not sure whether to drive back down to Vegas on the coastal side of Yosemite, or down the east side. I am guessing that side would just be barren desert?
Vegas x 1 night
Not sure how long we’ll spend in each city as haven’t done any research into what is there yet. I’ve heard LA isn’t great, but I think it’s got to be done as it’s en route!
My boyfriend and I are 30 and 32, when travelling we like history, sightseeing, photography, trying new food. We enjoy nightlife, but not too fussed by this as a day of sightseeing normally has us in bed by 9pm!
Any tips/advice/the usual pearls of wisdom would be greatly received as we have only just started to research this so it would be good to get a route sorted so we can book our flights and fill in the gaps. You guys helped a lot last time around!
Dec 5, 2012 3:29 AM
1Three weeks is sufficient time to complete a triangle of Las Vegas > San Diego > San Francisco (via LA) > Las Vegas (via Yosemite NP), and your rough plan is in good shape initially - and you probably don't need to stop anywhere between LV and San Diego (see below).
However it seems to me that (a) parts of your trip will be really hot, and (b) some of the places you wish to visit will be very heavily booked. It really is not a good idea to under-estimate how crowded popular places are during the US summer holidays (Yosemite NP, Grand Canyon NP, the coast from LA to SF, etc). You need to book accomm about now for August.
Also - when you fly into Las Vegas, I would allow at least three nights - one to settle in after the flight, one out at the Grand Canyon itself or Tusayan (seeing Hoover Dam on the same trip), and then one more back in Las Vegas. Worth making sure your three nights in LV are Sunday to Thursday (and 25 July 2013 is a Thursday - can you move your flight forward to 23 July?).
Dec 5, 2012 4:46 AM
Dec 5, 2012 5:43 AM
3August is fine along the California coast and in Yosemite National Park. It is Las Vegas and the route to the Grand Canyon that will be hot, but you will be in an air conditioned car/hotel.
I use http://www.hostelbookers.com and http://www.hostelworld.com for my accommodations worldwide. Many hostels have private rooms for couples. Also, Motel 6 and Quality Inn motels are good for budgets. Here in Santa Fe, New Mexico, there are now 4 Motel 6s along the old Route #66/Cerrillos Road, which leads off of the Interstate Highway into the historic downtown area. The usually charge about $35/night for one person plus taxes -- maybe $40/night for a couple. That's about the same price as some hostels. The Quality Inns include a large, buffet breakfast, indoor swimming pool, gym, and laundromat.
I would recommend the very scenic route through Yosemite National Park's Tuolumne Meadows and Tioga Pass Road out to the east side at Lee Vining and Highway #395. Driving south on Highway #395 is spectacular scenery of the snow-capped mountain range -- even in August there will be snow on top at 14,000-feet elevation. It may be warm along the drive, but you will be in an air conditioned car. I do not recommend driving through Death Valley in August, though. You do need to make reservations for Yosemite Valley accommodations immediately -- the Yosemite Lodge or splurge money on the Ahwahnee Hotel.
Dec 5, 2012 5:50 AM
4If you can find a way to skip Sacramento, do so. It's a huge, hot, strip-mall.
Dec 5, 2012 5:51 AM
5First, aside from the Las Vegas to San Diego leg, your trip isn't "Southwest." It's essentially California with Vegas thrown in. Sorry but I'm anal over using the correct terminology.
Second, I'd look at previous posts on California. Versions of your itinerary are asked pretty much every day. If you do so, you'll quickly learn that a) there's no reason to stop in San Jose and b) there is a lot to see on the drive between LA and San Francisco and better places to stop than San Jose (e.g. San Luis Obispo, Monterrey, Carmel.)
Third, it's easy to get to Tijuana by public transit. There's a tram from downtown San Diego to the border and then you walk into Mexico.
Dec 5, 2012 6:09 AM
(Hoover Dam trip, Grand Canyon trip)
You can then walk across.
Stop at xMono Lake.
In general, take a look at FAQ 210.
Would that be long enough?
The issue with that time of year is that the easiest passes over the mountains from xYosemite close, meaning you'll have to detour up toward xTahoe or head around via the boring xBakersfield route.
And I'm very pedantic, so I'll note that the OP said "South West," not "Southwest."
Dec 5, 2012 7:49 AM
Dec 5, 2012 9:24 AM
Dec 5, 2012 9:28 AM
Dec 5, 2012 9:32 AM
Dec 5, 2012 10:05 AM
I knew people who finished high school in April, but that is extremely uncommon.
Some schools are year-round.
OP, each university or school jurisdiction generally sets their vacation periods, so there is no "set" vacation period.
Dec 5, 2012 11:28 AM
12The school calendar has actually shifted so that "summer" vacation runs roughly between mid-May and
mid-August now. A lot of K-12 schools in the crowded urban school districts are now year-round and get 3-week vacations throughout the year. But the college students are the ones who will be on the road and
camping. They're mostly on vacation from May 20-August 20.
Dec 5, 2012 11:31 AM
13Be sure to reserve Yosemite wayyyyyy in advance. Even now is not too soon.
Dec 5, 2012 12:29 PM
14Lots of good advice above. Labor Day in 2013 is 2 September.
This is what trekker502 actually said, but to make sure there is no misunderstanding - parts of the route from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon (South Rim or North Rim) are hot, but the actual Canyon rim is not.
I understand where trekker502 is coming from in his Death Valley advice, but I have driven through Death Valley in the summer and would do so again - at least in the direction you would be going. Eastbound and taking the most direct route to Vegas does not steeply ascend a high pass when climbing out of Death Valley (as westbound does), so the likelihood of overheating the car is minimal (do be alert to the temperature gauge / warning light, though, and turn off air conditioning if a problem is implied). Do be sure you have adequate drinking water in the car. There is a reasonable amount of traffic, so you are not likely to be stuck long if you have car trouble and stick to the main roads - but you can dehydrate very fast indeed in desert heat.
At the end of March / start of April the Yosemite high country (not the Valley) should still be under a thick snowpack, and there is a small (but not negligible) chance of complications from snow at South Rim of Grand Canyon (North Rim will be closed) - would not be a problem if not on a tight schedule, but you would be.
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