California road trip

(76 Posts)
shesariver Sun 30-Sep-12 22:25:23

Hi, I posted a bit back about planning a California holiday and got some fantastic tips and idea, was originally planning it for 2014 but thanks to DH taking on some extra work think we could go next September instead, so very excited! Now I need some realistic times, plan on being there 2 weeks....

We plan to fly into SF, stay there for maybe 3 nights then hire a car and drive to San Diego. What we want to see/do is: drive the coast highway (obviously!), Monterey/Carmel, LA (as DH is a huge film fan), Disney Anaheim (just for a day though!) and San Diego. So a mix of tourist sightseeing and relaxation really.

So can I pick your brains about how many days/nights in each place? And where to base ourselves in LA, had thought about Santa Monica...do you think this would be ok to relax at for a bit and also take in all the touristy film things about LA and Hollywood Studios?

Thanks smile

Fluffy1234 Mon 01-Oct-12 16:57:30

I booked direct with Virgin website 11 months before I travelled.

Joshpoodlehamster Mon 01-Oct-12 17:02:07

Thanks Clam. So you did Heathrow to San Francisco with the internal to cut back on the driving. We are still concentrating on southern california for the time being.

Shesariver I wouldn't try to do both San Francisco and San Diego in the one trip. Choose either or. You will be in the car far too long and it will feel like you are on business trip following an imposed itinerary rather than relaxing and having fun... I'm with the others who say take your time and avoid window blur...

lumpybumpylooloo Mon 01-Oct-12 19:13:50

shesariver There was lots of parking in the hollywood and Rodeo Drive areas. You'll see lots of neon parking signs- loads of them are underground car parks in the Rodeo Drive area but there were open air car parks just a couple of blocks back from The Walk of Fame etc.

We really loved the Laguna Beach area- so so pretty.

I really love Disneyland in Anahiem- it's far smaller than Disneyworld so very "do-able" in a day. Alternatively, there is a Legoland halfway between Laguna and San Diego.

You really will have an incredible time!!

Joshpoodlehamster Mon 01-Oct-12 20:25:07

My neighbour was discussing US Airways last week. He travels twice yearly stateside and was saying the US Airways has good staff but their fleet is older so tend to have the old-style shared tv monitors and are not generous with the drinks. He favours Air New Zealand and Virgin. Personally if I can keep to our budget I will travel with just about anyone.

In 2011 we did a home exchange with a couple from Orange County who wanted to be in the UK. We had a fab time and borrowed their car and swimming pool. We were five miles from the disney parks in Anaheim but for us it was quite the best location as we were 20 minutes from all the wonderful beaches. We flew into Orange county / John Wayne airport (SNA)which was about £30 per person more expensive than LAX but was a ten minute taxi ride away from our base. We had two stops and three flights and while we thought this would be a pain actually it kept our interest and I would probably choose to do it again if we can't bag the Air NZ or virgin flights direct.

We never made it much beyond Santa monica or San Diego for the fortnight altho did Knotts Berry x 1 and Disney x 1 and we tried to stalk One Direction (unsuccessfully).

We're doing a repeat trip in 2013 and going to the same house but this time making a contribution to our new friends' accommodation while they travel the Med (and hiring our car with Avios.) It would have been wonderful to have taken in San Francisco in 2013 but the driving for us is too tiring after the work slog to actually get away.

For everyone considering california I'd suggest SNA as a destination airport to save you a whole lot of transfer time if especially if you're heading south.

Shesariver you will have huge fun planning you trip. Your thread already has given me loads of things I want to search out!

Many US carriers now charge pax baggage fees (particularly if you have a second bag) on many US internal flights which can amount to a fair bit of cash. I note too that USairways now charge their transatlantic pax $100 for a second bag - outrageous!. I would never willingly use a US based carrier to cross the Atlantic.

Would also recommend using BA's flight into San Diego; its direct and they do not hit their transatlantic pax with hefty bag fees.

SD is a very nice city to visit for a couple of days.

Joshpoodlehamster Tue 02-Oct-12 11:35:24

Atilla, Lumpy, Fluffy, Clam and Co are any of you heading for California again if you can?

If I could save money on transatlantic flights I'm tempted to buy a couple of nights' hotel accommodation and tour north of LA around Santa Barabara, Carmel etc and mirror a little of Shesariver's possible road trip.

What sort of money are you budgeting for a hotel room that sleeps four? $200 -$250?

Visited CA this summer.

Think the amount per night you're quoting is probably about right. You may also want to look at suite room based hotels e.g Embassy Suites, Homewood Suites etc.

mummytime Tue 02-Oct-12 12:00:43

I would also vote to do Disney for a day at least with kids that age. The American's do Disney so much better.

Having done it, I would strongly recommend not doing Carmel to St Monica in a day, we did this BC (before children) and it was too fast, with kids I would definitely stop somewhere on the way to sniff the air and enjoy the scenery.
Don't feel you have to do something every day either. Part of the fun is finding little known tourist sites, and visiting diners.

PestoSandalissimos Tue 02-Oct-12 12:11:06

If you like Snoopy, you might fancy a trip to

Knotts Berry Farm

PestoSandalissimos Tue 02-Oct-12 12:13:23

Check out the childrens rides smile

clam Tue 02-Oct-12 18:37:56

Not sure what we averaged price-wise on hotels. My starting point was £100 a night, most were a fair bit over that (Yosemite/Hilton Doubletree in SF and upgrading to an ocean view at the Best Western Plus in Monterey, worth it if only because of the dolphins passing our bedroom window!) but one or two came in under - airport overnighters (Vagabond Inn exec and Courtyard LAX and the lovely Apple Farm in San Luis Obispo). But don't forget to add in tax to any quotes you get! Not to mention flipping tips! It all adds up.

We had 2 double beds in each hotel room, which we coped with because we also had 6 nights in friends' houses where we could get away from the kids spread out a bit.

clam Tue 02-Oct-12 18:40:15

Not that you'll be there at Hallowe'en, but Knotts Berry Farm does a seriously scary evening of events.

clam Tue 02-Oct-12 18:42:23

Oh, and we had individual seat-back TVs on our flights with US Airways. The transatlantic ones anyway. Had to resort to ipad/laptop on internal ones. Food was nice!
I used to think American Airlines was good - not any more! At least, not once I experienced Emirates anyway.

Polgara2 Tue 02-Oct-12 19:24:24

We did California many moons ago before the dc. We flew into LAX, stayed in Anaheim, then down to San Diego. Across desert to Phoenix, Arizona to the Grand Canyon. Hoover Dam, then Las Vegas. Back to LA via Palm springs.
Fabulous and hope to do something similar again with the dc.

shesariver Wed 03-Oct-12 10:21:09

Yes Im having lots of fun planning, so thanks again everyone for their help and have taken lots of ideas on board!

We are now considering going back to original plan of 2014 rather than next year, for a start we could save and go for 3 weeks rather than 2 which I think would give us better scope to see and do what we want. Im impressed by the number of people who book their own flights and accomodation and delaying it would mean being able to save up and book flights like this to. And then of course book the accomadtion - I know the flights tend to go on sale 10 months before, realistically how far in advance would we need to book accomodation and do you pay the full amount when you book?

Decisions....my heart is saying book 2 weeks through travel agent for next year but my head is def saying wait and book 3 weeks independently!

Fluffy1234 Wed 03-Oct-12 13:02:02

I always book flights 11 months ahead with Virgin or B.A and have to pay in full.
I'd go for booking for next year as the way flights have gone up over the last few years who knows how much they would cost by 2014. Plus its easy to over think holidays or find a reason not to go. I've never regretted any big trips I have done with my dc. Two weeks would be fab and once it's booked you will have something to look forward to throughout winter. Also you would need a lot less spending money for two weeks compared to three. What is your budget and how old are your dc if you don't mind me asking?

I would add a night in Big Sur to break up the driving, this hotel is amazing, gorgeous little wood cabins that you stay in and great food. There's a magical feel to it.

Joshpoodlehamster Wed 03-Oct-12 16:06:51

We book our flights by credit card and then pay in full when the statement is due. I'm sure everyone on here would offer guidance and hand holding if you decide to assemble all the holiday elements yourself and d-i-y.

We stayed in the UK in 2012 and just had a week at Granny's so we could save up for next year. Saving up is a real slog.

Nice place Sleep

mummytime Wed 03-Oct-12 17:51:47

We have had lots of driving holidays in the US where we didn't book accommodation except the beginning and end. But we did luck out in 2002, as we managed to get some rooms in very nice places because of the attacks the previous years. Places like Yosemite or even SF you have to book, others it can be more relaxed, depends on how many hotels/motels are in town, and if its a holiday weekend.

USairways, I preferred their internal planes to their trans atlantic ones.

clam Wed 03-Oct-12 18:23:49

Flights you'd have to pay at the point of booking, but most hotels take credit card details and you pay on checkout.

We had a fantastic time, as I've said, but I'm not sure I'd have wanted to do 3 weeks actually. We were away 2 weeks and 2 days and it was simply exhausting. I'd underestimated the irritations of living out of a suitcase and never properly unpacking. That's a minor point in the grand scheme of things, but nevertheless worth bearing in mind.

shesariver Wed 03-Oct-12 20:40:01

fluffy DS2 is 10 just now and DS3 is 4. Would love DS1 to come to but hes 19 and realistically would be bored with us despite it being America! grin

shesariver Wed 03-Oct-12 20:46:33

sleep Ive saved that recommendation, thanks!

Thanks everyone who has responded smile

clam did you buy cool bags there in a supermarket? I remember this getting discussed on a previous thread!!

DowagersHump Wed 03-Oct-12 20:51:02

I would go for 3 weeks rather than 2 as it's an awful lot of driving and with a 4 YO, it's nice to be able to stop when you want, rather than feeling you want to rush to the next place.

Between LA and San Diego, Palos Verdes and/or Balboa/Newport are really nice places to stop over

tigerdriverII Wed 03-Oct-12 21:05:38

Would say break the journey up quite a bit new did 3 nights SF, loads to do then 2 nights Monterey - the aquarium was fab, we spent all day there. Next two nights Pismo Beach near St Luis Opisbo. This was our favourite place in a way, not a lot happens there but there was a pelican colony in the grounds of our hotel, it's near enough to Hearst Castle to spend a day there and you can get surf lessons on the beach. We had a couple of days in Santa Barbara which was ok, not really my cup of tea. The next week we took an rv to Sequoia, then Yosemite. this was fab too, like a different holiday. You've given me itchy feet!

clam Wed 03-Oct-12 21:10:14

Oh that's right, I remember! Well we went to Target and got a padded bag-type thing. Unfortunately, most places that sold ice only had massive bags of it, which was way too much, even though we were intending to decant it into small freezer bags. The one time we did do this though (in Yosemite, where their village store sold manageable quantities), they leaked and our sandwiches got soaked!
So, not very successful really. What we ended up doing was putting the bottles of water into the hotel room fridges overnight, and keeping them in the cool bag, minus ice, during the day. It was good enough I suppose.

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