West coast usa, info anyone - is this too much?

(52 Posts)
Bigwuss Sun 19-May-13 15:30:21

DH wants to see everywhere, literally everywhere, and I think we're trying to do far too much.

Plans so far are
Las Vegas -3 nights
Drive to Grand Canyon stay overnight
Drive to Phoenix stay overnight
Flight to LA
Anaheim 4 nights
Drive up the coast over 3 days
Looking to stay in Santa Barbara 1 night, somewhere near big sur, 2 nights.
San Francisco for 3 nights

What would you lose? Are the drives realistic given it will be summer?

Crutchlow35 Sun 19-May-13 19:39:56

that is a lot.

3 days in vegas ok - not enough but ok

takes 4 hours to drive to the canyon at least. overnight is good but you would be away almost immediately to get to phoenix.

i would therefore may be suggest a canyon daytrip from vegas.

Crutchlow35 Sun 19-May-13 19:41:32

why phoenix? you cant possibly see it in a day so base yourself in vegas and fly to LA.

you will never be out of the car travelling with your plans. that would drive me bonkers. especially if you get stuck in traffic and end up out of time.

As it is you'll spend the entire holiday behind the wheel of a car and will see very little. Driving distances are vast.

I like Phoenix very much but it warrants more than one day.

I would do a triangle of Anaheim, Las Vegas and San Francisco with say 4/5 days in each. Internal flights within the US are not as reasonable cost wise as they once were and they will charge you for any hold luggage.

mumblechum1 Sun 19-May-13 21:08:24

Yep, you will spend most of your holiday on the freeway. We went 2 years ago for 3 weeks and did 8 nights in Sonoma valley (Russian River), 4 nights San Francisco, 1 night Carmel, 8 nights Santa Barbara and that was plenty of driving.

In August we're going again but being lazy and spending 10 nights in Santa Barbara (thinking of buying a second home there), and 10 in the Santa Ynez mountains.

I'd suggest you do San Fran, Santa Barbara, Las Vegas, and a helicopter day trip from Las Vegas over the Canyon.

Have a fab time!

specialsubject Mon 20-May-13 09:57:10

San Francisco is wonderful, and has the advantage that you can lose the car.

Otherwise it is indeed too much driving. BTW if you want to stay at the Grand Canyon you need to book way in advance. Flagstaff is an hour or so away I think and makes a much better base. The helicopter trips don't see the 'main' canyon as flying is banned over it. Try to get to the south rim and use the shuttle bus along it for the various overlooks. A day there will be highly memorable.

to see Las Vegas - arrive mid afternoon, walk the strip at sunset and dusk (too hot otherwise), admire the big things, sleep, leave.

Lemonytrees Tue 21-May-13 06:25:30

I agree with others, I would drop Phoenix. We took a helicopter to grand canyon, stayed overnight and then back to Vegas.

The drive from LA to SF will be fine - we did it with 2 preschoolers and stopped twice (Carmel and Santa Barbara)

Vagndidit Tue 21-May-13 13:40:00

Definitely drop Phoenix. It's ok if you'll be in the area already but certainly not worth the 4 hour trek from the Grand Canyon ( assuming you're heading to the South Rim of the canyon)

I personally think that 4 days in Anaheim might be a bit much, but I've never been a fan of The Disney empire.

BreakfastCricket Tue 21-May-13 15:48:05

Remember that Anaheim need not necessarily be Disney it is also fabulously close to Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Venice Beach, Catellina Island etc and all the fun of the sand and sea... Because Disney is there you get the benefit of lots and lots of accommodation at more affordable prices.
Anaheim itself is not pretty.

Bigwuss Tue 21-May-13 18:16:24

Thanks all, you have helped persuade DH to drop Phoenix. We are looking at doing a day trip to Grand Canyon, which will be the longest day ever...so we get longer to drive up the coast.

Just got to find somewhere to stay now.....

HalfSpamHalfBrisket Tue 21-May-13 18:33:15

We've been to SW US 3 times and always do massive amounts of miles - I love driving there - both the long desert stretches and the (somewhat scary) canyon hairpins. Last time I had the car for 10 days and did 2200 miles.

Just read your last post - yes - you could spend longer on the coast roads - but all it is is looking at the sea - the canyons are far more interesting <not working for the National Parks Service honest Guv>

I was about to suggest Sedona which is not far from Flagstaff - it is the most beautiful town; you could use it as a base for the Canyon? (Maybe next time!)

With the Grand Canyon if I was driving there I'd want to stay overnight then have a full day there exploring, watch sunset, and sunrise the following morning, then blat on to the next destination. I would highly recommend Bryce Canyon as well if you can fit it in - it impressed me more the the Grand Canyon TBH.

There's a great thread on moneysaving expert:
forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.php?t=3248860 with loads of info and advice.

Crutchlow35 Tue 21-May-13 18:34:48

I highly recommend signature at MGM for Vegas. Ask for a room in tower 1.

In San fran I recommend kimpton argonaut hotel. Was fab!

lljkk Tue 21-May-13 18:36:41

What Vagndidit said.
LaBrea tar pits are cool.

BreakfastCricket Tue 21-May-13 18:59:21

HalfSpam- a serious thank you for linking such a wonderful thread. I had seen it before a long time ago but now it is far more relevant.

Bigwuss Tue 21-May-13 20:56:08

Great link, thanks

I'm so looking forward to it.

sweetestcup Tue 21-May-13 21:38:39

You will have a wonderful time, we are doing something similar apart from Vegas. 4 nights San Francisco, 1 Monterey, 1 Santa Barbara, 4 LA and 4 Laguna Beach.....cant wait!

I live in LA and would just say 4days at Disney sounds horrid! Do 2 at Disney then get yourself into LA proper, it's awesome

HappyAsASandboy Sat 25-May-13 07:38:05

I have done a very similar trip.

I would stick with 3/4 nights in Vegas, but take a day trip flight to the Grand Canyon and not stay there or in Pheonix.

I wouldn't stay so long at Anaheim. We did a single (long!) day with a night either side at Anaheim.

Spend the days you save in Anaheim in LA or San Framsisco. I don't know anything about Santa Barbara, but I'd head to San Fransisco. It's one of my favourite cities in the world smile

Have a fab time whatever you do smile

lljkk Sat 25-May-13 07:47:19

I don't get this either, but people from outside SoCal can happily spend small lifetimes at Disneyland. It's a daytrip to me, too, and cannot imagine why anyone would want to drag it out longer, but Nowt as Queer as Folk.

likestoski Sat 25-May-13 07:53:23

We went a few years ago and spent most of it driving!!! Flew into Chicago and then straight onto San Francisco. Had 4 days there and the drove to Los Angeles. Had 2 days there and drove to Las Vegas, which took 8 hours, stayed there for 4 days and then onto Grand Canyon, stayed over night and then the biggest journey was to San Diego. Took almost 10 hours!!! Had 4 days there and flew home from San Diego.

Instead of driving to canyon, we should have taken a helicopter ride.

ComtessedeFrouFrou Sat 25-May-13 08:24:51

You don't mention DCs in your post, so I guess from that you aren't taking any. 3 days in Vegas is plenty IMHO unles you are really inveterate gamblers.

Bill's Gamblin' Hall and Saloon is very reasonable and cheap if you want something adequate, small and not too fancy. The other hotels (MGM like someone else suggested) would be better if you want lots of in-house amenities, but we have been twice and never felt that was necessary.

We stayed at the Inn at East Beach in Santa Barbara - again, motel style, but good rooms right on the beach.

When exactly are you going. We went to California last May and it was foggy by the coast and ROASTING in SF and Vegas. We had a convertible and it was actually too hot for us to put the top down much (although we are both quite fair shade lovers).

flipflump Sat 25-May-13 08:45:03

We started in LA, spent 3 nights, could have stayed forever. Short drive to Vegas, had 2 or 3 there was plenty either way. Then drove to Yosemite, fav part of the trip, it was breathtaking. 3 nights there but wanted to spend a week. We then went to Sonoma, lovely but would miss this part out. Then onto SF, fantastic 3 nights there, it's a wonderful place. It was absolutely freezing when the sea fog came in. We then drove to Big Sur for 2 nights, could have stayed FOREVER!!! Stopped at Carmel, Monteray etc on the way back down but wouldn't stay there. We then did a couple of nights in Santa Barbara, nice way to relax at the end of an adventure. Then back to LA to fly home.

For us it was perfect, full of happy memories. It was just DH and myself so the driving wasn't an issue and we took everyday in the car as another adventure, more to see and do.

Sorry for hijack but I nearly started a post like the OP's then I saw this. We have arranged our LA road trip (well when I say we, I mean I have organised everything...) And then dh pipes up last night "you don't think we've got too much on, do you?" I tore him off a strip at the time - as he just nodded and agreed as I was booking, but obviously not listening - and now I'm worried sick he might be right. Especially now I've read the op and replies.

We're flying to Vegas, staying overnight then straight to San Diego for 2 nights (incl zoo)
2 nights Anaheim incl Disney
2 nights LA incl universal studios
2 nights Santa Barbara
1 night san luis for Hearst Castle
2 nights monterey
3 nights San Fran
2 nights yosemite
1 night bishop on way back to LV
2 nights LV

Tell me where I can cut things down and where to stay put longer! The dds are 11 & 8.
I'm so worried now! (Not least that dh was right hmm )

HalfSpamHalfBrisket Mon 27-May-13 07:44:47

Vegas-San Diego is a full, long day's drive. If you only have 1 night in Vegas after landing and then do this you could be v tired.
Our last hol was into and out of Vegas, we did Vegas - LA (easy drive), and the other big drive was San Diego- Monument Valley, and we broke that journey with an overnight in Sedona.
All the rest is fine I think, but post on the MSE SW USA thread (link above) and they will have suggestions too.
We did 2 nights San Diego, loved it there, zoo is great. DP wanted to nip down into Mexico but I told him it would invalidate our car insurance (stories of Tijuana scared the crap out of me)

flipflump Mon 27-May-13 09:03:51

Itchy, if I were you, I'd knock Santa Barbara down to 1 night, it would be plenty. It's a short drive from LA. I'd extend LA by 1 night, there's a lot to see plus you're doing universal so need time. You're current plan is 5 nights between LA and San F, that's quite a lot. You've got an incredible trip planned, I'm jealous!!!

flipflump Mon 27-May-13 09:12:50

Itchy, another plan could be, leave Santa Barbara in the morning and do Hearst then onto Monterey without staying a night. Again freeing up a night to use elsewhere. Stopping twice between Santa Barbara and SF seems quite a lot. I think you'd enjoy having some time to spend around big sur, the drive takes ages as its so scenic, you'll want to stop for lots of photo ops.

MorrisZapp Mon 27-May-13 09:22:11

Grr v jealous reading this! We've got a toddler so the long haul is off the agenda for a bit. My top tip is to fly to LA and stay in El Segundo, which is where the airport is. You can be in your hotel room ten minutes after leaving the airport, and it's brilliant for getting to wonderful Manhattan Beach. There are two awesome outdoor malls nearby too, including Whole Foods, Target etc. We loved staying there, it made an ideal base.

Agree with previous posters about Vegas - San Diego being a long drive just to prepare yourselves for but as your DDs are older (my two are little so forgive me, I have no idea what a road trip is like with kids beyond aged 4!) and lovely though San Luis is, if you want to cut down a nights stay cut it out there (maybe do two night in Monteray?)

Don't stay in El Segundo, there is nothing there and you can easily get to Manhattan Beach from Venice/Santa Monica/Marina Del Ray, which are also better placed for Hollywood etc. But I would personally stay on the Westside and not in Studio City where Universal is - only cos all the cool bits of LA are on the southern part of the Vally IMO

Otherwise, sounds like the perfect trip! PM me if you want any LA specific hints and tips as I live here!

Oo brilliant - thank you!
The reason we wanted 2 nights in Santa Barbara is we figured we'd be quite knackered after Disney, LA & Universal Studios so wanted some R&R at a laid-back beachy place. Plus it'll be our wedding anniversary.

We fancied a night at the Madonna Inn at San Luis as it looks so kooky.

And I've swapped Bishop for Lone Pine so we can enjoy journey back better.

Will give Vegas to San Diego some more thought... Trouble is, hotels are pretty much booked. I'll investigate.
Thanks again!

AmandaCooper Tue 28-May-13 00:57:09

We did a similar trip and loved being on the road. The one suggestion I'd make is don't drive up to and stay at the Grand Canyon - go from Vegas in a chopper.

MasterOfTheYoniverse Wed 29-May-13 06:09:59

we are doing pretty much the same working our way down from San Fran with a 5 & 7 year old.we also do 2 days in Nappa valley at the tail end.

4 days SF
4 days drive PCH down and stops in monterrey, Big Sur, San Luis de Obispo
5 days LA (Definitely no Disney for us. Only Universal and exploring the hills/santa monica and beaches)
3 days vegas, including return helicopter trip to Grand Canyon.
2 days Nappa Valley

we only drive 4 days + 2 days and fly LA-Vegas & Vegas-SF
Trying to limit daily drive to 4 hours with lots of stops to soak in the scenery and the missions.

MasterOfTheYoniverse Wed 29-May-13 06:11:37

Forgot to add, everyone advises to drive DOWN the PCH, not up to be on the right side of the road and make the most of the cliff views.

BreakfastCricket Wed 29-May-13 21:40:43

itchyandscratchy not sure if you mean you have booked hotels already and can't amend or that hotels are filling up... if it helps we have just booked the Omni in San Diego this week and booked it using their own web site and got 25% off using their summer package discount. £106 for deluxe room so we saved £10 versus the normal best buy hotel websites. We also got free web usage and a preferred position by joining their loyalty scheme. The good bit is that a work contact who used to live in SD recommended that hotel the day after we had booked! However parking is £20 and you might not want a downtown location.

All these road trips sound amazing.

Pitmountainpony Sun 02-Jun-13 04:11:16

Disney is pretty special if your kids are of an age they will enjoy it but be warned it is very busy in the summer.
Nepenthe for a beer on the big sur and deepens is a nice place. for breakfast or to stay. It will be great.

Pitmountainpony Sun 02-Jun-13 04:11:37

Deetjens inn

Just spotted this thread. I think half of MN will in california this summer! We fly on 4 July. Into and out of Vegas.

1 night las Vegas - four seasons
Picking up hire car next day and hitting Target to stock up on snacks drinks etc for car
Driving to death valley - two nights there as will get there late in day
long long days drive to Sequoia
1 night there then on to Yosemite for one night
Yosemite to SF - 3 nights at westin
Sf to monterey for one night
Carmel for one night - I know they are very close!
Driving down PCH stopping off at Pismo Beach for two nights to just sit on the beach
Two nights at universal Sheraton hotel - will get there in evening and do universal next day and then head into Hollywood for a wander
Weekend in Simi valley with relatives
Couple of nights not booked yet but thinking San Diego
Two nights grand canyon
Two nights Vegas at bellagio

DH and I have done some of this before but in winter and without DS who is 11.

Advice/tips/don't do thats welcome!

If you have booked the Bellagio already then fair enough but I would have gone for the MGM Signature (a non smoking and non gaming facility). Bellagio is not all that child friendly.

Re San Diego would recommend the Embassy Suites in town situated near the Midway aircraft carrier.

Bellagio booked I'm afraid. And one of the few non refundable ones!

When you say not particularly child friendly what do you mean? He is almost 12 and we are not planning on being in the hotel that much. Will be doing my last minute shopping and maybe having an afternoon by the pool and having a wander in the evenings. We tend to be fairly boring in the evenings on holiday and just have dinner and head back to the room to watch a movie or something.

Please do not let my experience of it put you off any - you must go to the Jean Phillippe patisserie in the hotel. Also the Bellagio café is worth a visit. Your son can certainly walk through this casino with you but you must not linger at all.

Not planning on lingering. Have already warned him. I think our room has a view of the fountains so looking forward to that. We will have been travelling for over three weeks by then so will probably be shattered and not up for much wandering even.

Last time I was in Vegas the fountains were frozen it was so cold. And this was way before the bellagio was even built. We were there just after Xmas 1990.

The patisserie sounds good! Will bear that in mind. Just don't tell anyone on the low carb bootcamp threads! grin

Pitmountainpony Tue 04-Jun-13 19:11:19

I would say unless budget is no problem stay outside the canyon and drive in each day......we paid maybe 4o bucks for a morel room outside the canyon, drove in and ate one the hotels with views at the canyons.....the drive in was pretty quick....it was maybe a motel 6 ....but surprisingly pleasant and two doubles in a room. If you are too tired to do San Diego after la which will make for a longer drive on the final leg, you could always hang out in Laguna beach area or crystal cove......if you are tired of the city thing. Unless you plan on the zoo or sea world I personally find San Diego a bit bland and boring if you are doing SF anyway you get a nice city in there. But your satnav rather than rent as someone up Thread said. I really like Universal and it is better for an almost teen than Disney to be honest. Maybe walk from the hotel to save the parking fee as that hotel is right next o universal.
Have an amazing trip. We live here and we are still thrilled by every holiday we take here, forever tourists here. Forever on holiday somehow.

Pitmountainpony Tue 04-Jun-13 19:15:00

You can also buy a super cheap cell phone here maybe 25 bucks wth small amount of credit at Walmart so in an emergency you can use it...prob cheaper than using a uk mobile........do not go into Death Valley without masses of water and a mobile phone. It is incredibly hot there in July.
Nepenthe for a drink on the big sur. it is the most spectacular view....as is that from the waterfall that is signed. Pffeifer beach is a must in big sur too. Hard to find, a small fee to park but oh so worth it. Stunning.unmissable.

clam Tue 04-Jun-13 19:20:55

We did this last Summer. Would give right arm to go back this year too!

monsterchild Tue 04-Jun-13 19:23:18

Phoenix? really? why?

Ok, I live in the SW US, so perhaps the charm is lost on me...

If you can, I'd go to the north rim of the GC, as it looks much more impressive because the south rim (what you'd be looking at) is a big giant wall, the north side is broken up into smaller canyons, and while big and cool, isn't as impressive.

It sounds like a fun trip!

HormonalHousewife Tue 04-Jun-13 19:28:00

Does anyone know if there is likely to be snow at the grand canyon in April ?

we are planning to go next year and repeat the road trip DH and I did 10 years ago. Back then we went in Feb and hardly saw any of the grand canyon due to snow - dont want to make the same mistake twice sad

Bigwuss we didnt rate vegas at all - couldnt wait to leave but I realise that lots of people love it !

monsterchild Wed 05-Jun-13 19:48:07

There is a chance it will be cold, yes. That time of year its usually cold at night and hot during the day, about a 40 degree (Fahrenheit) difference.

monsterchild Wed 05-Jun-13 20:01:33

HH, its less likely you'll have much snow in April. At least you aren't likely to have a multi-day storm

webwiz Wed 05-Jun-13 20:19:54

We've done this trip a couple of times and DH would have us staying somewhere different every single night. I have put my foot down and insisted on a few longer stays to break up the driving as I get sick of living out of a suitcase.

We are going this year as a last big family holiday with the DCs who'll be 22, 20 and 16. We are starting in San Francisco then taking a few days to drive down the coast to LA. 4 Days in LA and then to Las Vegas, after a break in Las Vegas we are visting Grand Canyon, several national parks I can't remember the name of and Monument Valley. We are flying back from Las Vegas rather than doing a complete loop. I can't wait!

Oh and Phoenix is grim - I didn't feel safe at all as there was a weird atmosphere.

mrsmortis Thu 06-Jun-13 10:24:23

I'd recommend you sit down with Google maps and work out how long a drive each of those is really going to be and decide if you can really manage it. I'd consider flying from LV to LA rather than driving and then maybe do Yosemite out of SF and flying back to LV from there.

Remember that you don't need to fly back from the same airport you arrive in. This summer we are flying LHR-SFO-LAX-LHR and it was about £30 more expensive than the return flight to SFO was going to be. I'd consider flying into LV spending 3-4 nights there to get over the jet lag then flying to LA (probably SNA rather than LAX). Doing LA, Anaheim, Santa Barbara from a base there, possibly without changing hotels, or at least doing Disney and LA from the same base. Then fly to SF and do the things around there (Monterey is an easy day trip, coach trips run daily, you can do an overnight tour to yosemite from there as well). You could then fly home from SFO. I'd consider only hiring a car in LA, you certainly won't need one within the city limits in SF and you'll pay a fortune for parking.

Pitmountainpony - canyon hotel already booked! And SD is partly as we have some friends there. Not staying with them but planning on seeing them.

We already own a sat nav and DH is trying to load updated maps onto it.

Will def be taking lots of water and phone into death valley!

Reason for universal over disney is that we have done Florida twice so only wanted one day at a park so picked universal as DS prefers it to Disney.

We have one really long drive - death valley to sequoia. 9.5 hours I think. We will probably still be on UK time so waking up really early if past experience is anything to go by so plan is to get up and get on road as soon as we wake up and drive for a couple of hours before stopping for breakfast. Will try and plan a couple of interesting stops on the way.

Pitmountainpony Fri 07-Jun-13 04:02:11


Universal is brilliant especially for teenagers.
I disagree on the driving- you will be fine as you have 3 weeks. Flights here are not so cheap anymore and driving is easy-LA to Vegas in 5 hours.
As long as you are happy to spend bits in the car it is much more economical to drive.
San diego is perfectly pleasant and you will enjoy it I am sure- it is just a big leg on the end of the trip but if you get to see friends it will be worth it.
There is an amazing hotel in Yosemite called The Awanhee- The Shining set designer used lots of its aspects to design his set...anyway it is pretty reasonable to eat lunch in there so that could be a nice treat-fabulous dining hall.....so you kind of access the hotel through dining there-maybe book ahead in the summer. Also get out early to get into the park each morning as the traffic really builds up.
Let me know what Death Valley is like- yet to visit!!
Have a great trip.

carlajean Mon 10-Jun-13 16:32:45

try TripAdvisor, people come up with good advice as well. I agree with previous poster, Phoenix is grim, been there once, never again

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