San Fran to vegas trip of a lifetime with a toddler, desperate for advice

(49 Posts)
Nipo Wed 27-Jul-16 20:26:30

Hi

I have just booked our dream holiday and after reading loads of posts and recommendations I'm feeling slightly frazzled and would love some advice..

We fly in to San Fran on 26th April and out of vegas on the 11th may. I was thinking it would be a quite time post spring break, however it appears that its one of the best times to visit Yosemite national park....

I was thinking the following, based on research and reading forums

26/27 - Maker hotel San Fran (we have been here before)
28 - motel?
29/30 - evergreen lodge or Tenaya lodge
1- motel en route
2 -monterey
3 -monterey
4/5 - anaheim disney
6/7 - san diego
8 - motel en route
9/10/11 - vegas - mgm grand or venetian

Is this crazy in terms of driving?
Can i risk not booking hotels for every night with a toddler?
Is it a massive loss not doing the grand canyon?
Am i missing out not staying in yosemite national park vs just outside and do i need to book now as now panicked won't get a room if leave it later?

I was going to book my vegas hotel with the smarter vegas link

any advice would be so greatly appreciated...

thank you so much

Lorelei76 Thu 28-Jul-16 12:23:50

I wasn't going to reply to this as I didn't drive between those places but as no one else has replied, it might need a bump anyway!

um, re driving, from what I know your San Fran to Monterey route seems fine.

I would always book motels though, that's just me. I couldn't bear the idea of having nowhere to stay in case of anything being fully booked and you have a toddler.

speaking of which...I love Vegas but we did notice quite a few bored toddlers. It could be that there's stuff for kids which we didn't notice but I remember thinking it an odd choice. You will have your buggy I presume, but you will walk very long distances just to get from A to B in the hotels, as they direct you through the casinos. Then keep in mind you will see big promotional trailers advertising prostitutes etc.

The Grand Canyon is wonderful. But if you think you will ever go back, then don't worry - I went to Vegas once on a similar trip (combining different places) and because I only had 2 days in Vegas I didn't do the GC but did it the next time. So you could do it next time when DC older and more likely to enjoy it?

I'd pick the Venetian over the Grand myself but i wasn't well off enough to stay at either, sadly!

chemenger Thu 28-Jul-16 14:58:05

Do you need to stop over for the night of the 28th? I would go straight from San Francisco to Yosemite in one day. It is a four hour journey which you could break somewhere along the way. The roads in California are good, we've always found driving easier than home for long journeys.

chemenger Thu 28-Jul-16 15:03:04

If it were me I would not do the Las Vegas part (but you have probably booked your flight back from there). It is quite a marmite place, we did not like it at all, but many people do. What are you planning to do there if not the Grand Canyon ?

If you are not too fussy and you are planning to stop in reasonable sized places I think you will be fine not booking. We book in high summer when we have children with us but in the past we have trusted to luck and its been fine.

MadamDeathstare Thu 28-Jul-16 15:23:20

I would check your routes and projected drive times on Mapquest when planning your trip. It is 5 - 6 hours from San Francisco to LA going down the super-boring 5, driving along Pacific Coast Highway takes a lot longer.

I also wouldn't go to Vegas with a toddler. We took our four year olds, they enjoyed it, but it's going to be a four hour drive from LA and you could probably get more enjoyment for your time by spending longer at one of the other cities you are visiting. If you do go to Vegas, we stayed at the MGM Grand just after it opened and it was foul. The rooms were dark and depressing and reception kept checking random people into our room while we were still in residence and giving them keys to get in.

Your three year old will enjoy the Monterey Aquarium. If you are driving down Pacific Coast Highway and go through Santa Barbara there is a nice children's playground just across the street from the beach, there is a carousel next to it. The Santa Barbara zoo is also a very pleasant small zoo. You may be able to see sea life on the beaches as you drive South. We saw elephant seals, and whales and dolphins swimming just off the coast.

If you are going through LA to get to Disney, my children enjoyed Kids Space www.kidspacemuseum.org/, also the Family Room at the Getty Center, and the children's garden at the Huntington Botanical Gardens www.huntington.org/childrensgarden/.

Lorelei76 Thu 28-Jul-16 15:24:41

OP you have Universal Studios on your LA list I hope?

TheNumberfaker Thu 28-Jul-16 15:27:16

Your toddler will love the Bellagio fountains and Cesar's Palace roof paintings!

Nipo Thu 28-Jul-16 19:50:44

wow...thank you, this is all great. Ive thought that about vegas but my husband really wanted to go and the flights are booked now.
Def going to take the advice and go straight to Yosemite vs stopping on route. I also hear there is a sea world as well as universal studios so think i may look at staying in anaheim a little longer too now.
madamdeathstare thanks for all the links can't wait to check them all out, I'm super excited...hopefully i can get a deal at the venetian nearer the time as currently way too expensive to book now

Tweennightmare Thu 28-Jul-16 20:08:43

OK just come back from a similar route. We drove straight from San Fran to Yosemite. To be honest didn't see anywhere worth stopping on the way and journey fine so would go straight there. We stayed in the park but didn't really feel it was worth the expense and next time would stay out. Also the journey to Monteray is fine so don't think you need the motel on the 1st but I would stop off between Monteray and Disney especially if you are doing the Big Sur as it is a slow road. San Diego is fab for young children I would increase my time there. Also agree Vegas is not ideal for young children but there would be enough there to keep them entertained for a couple of days . You will have a fab time

Nipo Thu 28-Jul-16 20:46:58

Great ...so i now have...Gosh i wish i had a week longer theres so much more i want to pack in

26-28 San Fran
29-30 - Tenaya lodge just outside Yosemite
1-2 - Monterey - looking at Monterey tides, although currently saying no rooms available
3 -- XX somewhere en route? Any recommendations??
4-6 - Anaheim
7 - San Diego
8 - somewhere en route ?? Any recommendations??
9-11 Vegas

AppleMagic Thu 28-Jul-16 20:53:15

Evergreen Lodge is brilliant. We stayed there with our two year old (and 8 week old) a couple of years ago at Easter. I've also stayed in the park itself pre-kids and would prefer to stay at Evergreen Lodge again.

I agree that Monterey-Anaheim would have been an epic drive. The traffic in LA can make a HUGE difference to how long it can take to travel through.

AppleMagic Thu 28-Jul-16 20:55:37

Will you go past Palm Springs or Joshua Tree NP between San Diego and Vegas? Either would make good stop overs if they split the journey well.

AppleMagic Thu 28-Jul-16 20:57:54

We've also stayed at the Best Western San Simeon (near Hearst Castle and the elephant seals) between Monterey and Anaheim and would recommend but it may not be far enough south to be worth stopping.

Nipo Thu 28-Jul-16 21:11:16

Thanks Applemagic i will look at those two options, i was clueless as to where to think about stopping on that drive or where to start looking

Ive provisionally booked the abrego in Monterey given quite a few top hotels seem to be fully booked already and it seems very well rated.

Do you think santa Barbra is worth staying ??

AppleMagic Thu 28-Jul-16 21:44:14

Santa Barbara is a nice small town. Cute high street with interesting/reasonably upmarket shops and a nice beach. I'll be honest, I found it a bit boring but I wasn't that keen on Monterey either and lots of people love it there.

MadamDeathstare Thu 28-Jul-16 21:50:13

Some suggestions for that route are
The Madonna Inn which is great if you like flat out kitschy insanity that is not necessarily in the best of taste. We stayed in the William Tell room complete with waterfall shower. I wish we could have tried out the Caveman room though, it was booked.

Solvang is like a bizarre outlet mall designed by an illustrator for Hans Christian Anderson. It about an hour past Santa Barbara. Nearly half the town claim Danish descent. When we went everything shut by 8. We stayed at the Chimneystack Inn.

Santa Barbara is lovely. If you can go there on a Sunday morning there is a craft market along the sea front that is worth a visit. There is a Mission up in the hills and the pier as well as the zoo. You can rent four wheel rickshaw things and pedal yourselves along the seafront. There are plenty of restaurants in the center of town.

MadamDeathstare Thu 28-Jul-16 21:52:31

Here is a link to the Madonna Inn www.madonnainn.com/stay.php.

MadamDeathstare Thu 28-Jul-16 22:00:49

If you are going to Vegas I think there is jousting in the basement of the Excalibur Casino, a bit like Medieval Times. There is a volcano that erupts every half hour or so outside the Mirage. There is an aquarium in the Mandalay Bay and gondala rides in The Venetian complete with singing gondalier. I don't know if there is still a pirate show outside Treasure Island.

We took the DC to the Ethel M chocolate factory that is about a 15 minute drive from the strip. It is a small chocolate factory with a small desert garden and water treatment plant, but it is still interesting. You get free chocolate samples too which is always good.

Rainshowers Thu 28-Jul-16 22:04:41

Thanks for the link to the children's garden at the Huntington, I've added that to our list.

We're doing LA to San Fran in September, but we're just taking it easy and not doing Vegas or Yosemite, as we'll have our 2 year old DD with us. We've pre-booked hotels using booking.com, great as we've been able to chop and change a couple of times as our plans have changed.

My main concern is the flight though, I've already started stashing things away for entertainment!

Nipo Thu 28-Jul-16 22:08:57

Wow madonna inn looks crazy ..totally going to have to sell my husband on it but my 2.5yr old would love it!think jousting she's a bit young for but the volcanoe would be a big hit..ive heard somewhere there are lions too

Crispbutty Thu 28-Jul-16 22:13:21

Carmel looks nice. Ventura is lovely. I stayed over night in bishop when driving from San Fran to Vegas.

Malibu is gorgeous and there is an amazing restaurant called paradise cove on the beach which does great food and you can celeb spot too.

Nipo Thu 28-Jul-16 22:17:20

How far would you say madonna inn is from Anaheim as Google maps is saying 5hours yet it's also saying 5hrd from Monterey and this seems mid point

Toomanycats99 Thu 28-Jul-16 22:20:23

I did Yosemite and Grand Canyon in the same holiday and much preferred Yosemite. That may have been down to the fact that we did t go into the canyon and just saw it from the edge. Yosemite was amazing and I would love to go back.

Nipo Thu 28-Jul-16 22:40:27

Think I may scratch San diego off my list and add la instead vs just Anaheim ...given we will do SF zoo and aquarium and poss seaworld

MadamDeathstare Thu 28-Jul-16 22:49:27

I am getting 3hrs 32 minutes from The Madonna Inn to the Disneyland resort.

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