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California flights etc help

(105 Posts)
Dinkydoos Sat 13-Sep-14 07:39:20

Hi there
Have got a bit carried away and seem to have changed a fairly low key trip to NYC area into a cAlifornian odyssey.....
I have a quote for 2 adults and 2 kids (10 and 8) school summer hols for:
Birmingham direct to New York ( staying there a week as have relatives with a summer house on an island)
Then fly direct to San Francisco a week later and then after another 15 nights fly back from Los Angeles to heathrow. The flights plus a SUV car for all the time is £4500. Does anyone know how that seems, I didn't think it was too awful seeing as the lowest New York return I could find was £650 each.... But would hate to overpay.
And anyone any itinerary ideas, hotel, places tips for california who have been recently, I know loads of you had a thread and we're going this year so any info about what worked or not would we great.
Rough plan is
San Fran 4 nights
Yosemite 3 nights
Monterey 2 nights
Big sur 1 night
Santa Barbara or somewhere 3
La 2 nights

Any advice appreciated ( especially as I told DP we would just have stick at going to my relatives place and have a relatively low key holiday!)

PeppermintInfusion Sat 13-Sep-14 09:02:53

Flight prices sound about right to me (about £1100 each) and your Cali itinerary spends the right amount of time in each place smile

specialsubject Sat 13-Sep-14 10:11:16

can you cut costs by changing the car? You don't need a SUV for that, it is all on normal roads.

Tinkerball Sat 13-Sep-14 10:17:32

We did something like this last year, only 2 nights in NY mind you! We also did 4 in SF and then 1 in Monterey, 1 in Santa Barbara, 4 in LA and 4 in Laguna Beach. In hindsight I would have did 2 in Monterey and probably 1 half way down the Big Sur. Flights seem ok to me, who are you flying with? Have you got your Yosemite accomodation booked? And we beefed a SUV to because we had all the luggage to transport and didn't want to be crushed! It was fine for 2 adults and 2 children, we all had a main suitcase each, hand luggage each plus other stuff.

Dinkydoos Sat 13-Sep-14 11:52:05

Thanks all!
The flight cost yes is around 1100 each but that does include the car. Tinkerbell do you mean you changed up from a SUV to something else ?
And Any tips on places to stay? Fave bits?
Thanks In advance smile

BeckAndCall Sat 13-Sep-14 12:04:42

Some thoughts from our experiences (all good, i might add)

Dont underestimate the size of Yosemite - the different entrances are miles and miles apart. If you can stay close to the valley floor that cuts down the travelling time to see the main sites (half dome, bridal veil falls etc) but if you prefer to be more relaxed, say, try the Redwoods holiday cottages near the east or south (cant remember which ) entrance. Drive to the middle is a good 45 mins but the area is lovely and we swam in the merced river at the bottom of the garden. Thinking about it, its very near to Wawona.

personally id do less time in SF - we were there for about 4 nights and were happily done by then. There are a couple of theme parks close by if thats your thing though - we got a boat to one if i recall - really fun day out. In SF we stayed at the Hyatt near Fishermans wharf (the area to be in) which was nice. And usefully there is an ihop within walking distance (a family fav for us)

Monterey is nice too - a couple of nights should do it. We drove along a coast road there (maybe by pebble beach?) and watched the sea otters which live there. And Carmel is a lovely little town which is just a hop and a skip from there.

Im persoanlly not a big fan of LA - but thats just me. I would say dont try to do too much as you'll just wear yourselves out - stick to a couple of activities (eg universal studios tour or a walk up and down rodeo drive) and again, dont underestimate distances or the time taken to get to the airport!

have a great time!

clam Sat 13-Sep-14 12:20:39

Yosemite alone is around the size of Derbyshire. So, not only must you factor in the journey there, you also need to remember the amount of touring once in the park.

We did a similar trip two years ago, and the flights were around 3200 in and out of SFO, changing planes at Philly. Kids older (so adult fares???). I think it usually costs more to leave from a different airport (e.g. LAX), but we couldn't face driving back up to SF from LA, so used airmiles for a free flight. But of course, we then had to pay a lot for luggage, so it wasn't really free at all.

I reckon two years on, with the way prices have rocketed, for the flight itinerary you're looking at, 4500 doesn't sound too wild.

Re: SUV, we had one, and they were a fairly standard option. It's not remotely necessary for the 4x4 bit, as the roads, even through the mountains (we went up to Mammoth Lakes) are way wider and better than in Europe, but you do need to bear in mind luggage for four for that length of time, so a larger car is preferable.

PowderMum Sat 13-Sep-14 12:45:09

My first thoughts were, that's a lot of driving....
I love San Francisco and San Diego, but LA just doesn't do it for me.
Over the years I have planned many holidays like your adventure, to start I look at what there is to do in each place, what do I like etc, then I would look at the travelling distances and try to add variety to the holiday. My DC were 16 and 14 when we went to San Francisco last summer as part of a 3 week US adventure, we had a full week there and had been before but decided against going out to Yosemite as we felt it needed longer than we had.

Accommodation actual in Yosemite gets booked up really fast.

We would always hire a SUV especially if we were doing lots of miles, the higher position and space makes for less frayed tempers.

What sort of activities does your family like - theme parks, city sightseeing, shopping, beaches, hiking?

Flight prices sound on the mark to me.

AttilaTheMeerkat Sat 13-Sep-14 17:17:00

I would think that your flight costs are about right and I would use a SUV as well. Ensure you are perfectly proficient with all its workings before driving it (make sure you know how to fill the car with petrol for instance, many US garages will insist on payment first before filling the tank).

What are your children like in cars?. I would not underestimate driving distances; CA as a state is vast and so are distances between places. There's quite a lot of driving here, the distance from Yosemite to Monterey is just under 200 miles.

Re LA I would look at staying in Anaheim because that is the city where the Disney parks are located.

You would need to book accommodation for Yosemite asap as people often book this a year in advance.

(How would you return to Birmingham from Heathrow - taxi?)

Tinkerball Sat 13-Sep-14 20:54:27

Beefed! Where on earth did that come from!! It's meant to say booked.

MillyMollyMama Sat 13-Sep-14 21:21:41

LA is wonderful but stay in Santa Monica. If you must go to Disney, stay near Disney, but Santa Monica is far better and you can easily see the best bits of LA such as the Getty Centre, Mulholland Drive, Paramount Studios, and other interesting buildings such as Capitol Records, Rodeo Drive, and also drive to Malibu to see the Getty Villa and walk to Venice Beach. Touristy bits of LA are tacky but Santa Monica is lovely.

Big Sur has few accommodation options but the Post Ranch Inn is amazing but expensive. We stayed in Carmel and drove there. We loved lunch at Nepenthe Cafe overlooking the dramatic coastline. Carmel has much more choice of accommodation and is very attractive. Fantastic beach. Better than Monterey in my view. We stayed at the a Tickled Pink Inn in Carmel (chintzy again!!) but it is not really a place to go with children.

In Santa Barbara we stayed at a B and B. There are quite a few of them, and they too are rather chintzy in decoration (it is a B and B trait) but you will be well looked after. We loved Santa Barbara. There might be suitable B and B accommodation in Carmel and Monterey too. If DH likes golf, you can get lunch in the club house at the Pebble Beach Golf Club. It is on the very attractive 17 Mile drive out of Monterey down to Carmel. We found the book Driving Around California published by Thomas Cook useful.

ICantFindAFreeNickName Sat 13-Sep-14 21:24:25

We have done a similar trip(children were 8 & 15, except we included Vegas as well). I would check whether you need a car in San Fran, as I believe parking can be expensive. We loved walking around & riding the cable cars.
We stayed by Fishermans Wharf. Whilst there we went to Alcatraz, the Science Museum & the crazy zig zag hill (I think it's called Russian hill or something similar). W also spent a bit of time just walking around & shopping. We all loved the city.
Driving down we stopped off at San Lois Obipso (I think) and went to a traditional drive-in movie.
LA - We stayed in the Magic Castle Hotel in Hollywood. We loved it as although the rooms were a bit run down they were very spacious (used to be an apartment block). The hotel is great fun for kids - you can get free drinks & goodies & dvd rentals 24hrs a day. Whilst in the swimming pool they gave us ice-pops. They even provided free washing powder in the laundry room. It was just round the corner from Manns Chinese Theatre & the star walk. Took the bus to Universal Studio's. Drove to the Observatory and Bear tar Pits. loved it all.
We are all big film fans & loved seeing places we recognised in all the places we visited.
You are going to have an amazing trip

californiaburrito Sat 13-Sep-14 21:38:03

The flight prices are too be expected. I paid £3600 for 4 this summer with no car and no stop.

You're itinerary sounds a bit full on, you need to plan time to move from place to place. SF to Yosemite and Yosemite to Monterey will take you about a day each unless you are planning to get up very early or drive at night.

Tinkerball Sat 13-Sep-14 22:08:11

Yes we didn't have our car in San Francisco, we only picked it up at the end before the start of our road trip. Although we did hire a small car for the day so we could drive up to Bodega Bay (north over the Golden Gate Bridge, that was surreal even driving over it!), my DH is a huge Hitchcock fan and that is where The Birds was filmed.

LA may well be touristy but there was no way we were going to California and not see it! One day we drove around and saw the Walk of Fame and Hollywood sign etc. Another day we went to Universal Studios.

Its hard to pick a favourite bit dinkydoos as we loved it all! Being big film fans we did a lot of stuff based around that, my DS and DH love Back to the Future and we visited the street in LA that Marty McFlys house was in. The studio tour at Universal was fab, much better than I expected. We also visited Crystal Cove State Park, beautiful beach.....which was the beach in the Bette Midler film Beaches and saw the beach cottage in the film to.

Driving down the Big Sur was probably my highlight as the scenery is just gorgeous. None of the driving was too much for us, and we relaxed at night so never got too exhausted. We stayed in the Pacific Edge Hotel in Laguna Beach which was basic but clean, but totally worth it because of the view as it was right on the beach looking out to the Pacific Ocean.

Dinkydoos Sun 14-Sep-14 09:02:04

Thanks all, it's incredibly helpful.
I have actually done this once before when I was a young thing twenty odd years ago so have an idea of driving distances.
You are sort of reminding me though that we are trying to do too much, no point not having time to smell the roses, but there's so much we want to do ( wails self indulgently) hmmm.
We can fly back out of San Fran, and I too have no real desire to do La ( didn't bother with it last time either) but think kids would think Hollywood sign and a few biTs cool. Also DP would love to do PCH
No plan at all to do any disney or park stuff, been to florida so ticked that box and def want something different.
Last time I went I remember wishing we were staying in Big Sur so think I want to do that but most of hotels are very couply/ romantic and can't see my 2 loud fitting in..
Also (god this is a marathon post isn't it) me and partner and up accruing a ton of holiday inn chain points with our jobs so even though I know they won't be useful for yosemite or big sur, we will def need to use them in San Fran, Monterey etc even though I would much prefer more unique hotels.
So San Fran, yosemite, big sur, Santa b, La. Where do I cut something out?
Help ( hopeful)

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 14-Sep-14 09:24:50

I would do SF and LA and one stop midway between the two flying back from LA. Spend more days in fewer places and keep the likes of Big Sur for another visit. CA is vast and deserves more than one sole visit anyway.

What else do you and your children want to see, above all you need a balance between what you would like to do and what they would like to do. After all this holiday belongs equally to all of you.

LA is a big sprawl and its made up of 100s of cities but it should not be dismissed entirely.

Yosemite is indeed lovely but in August for instance it can get very crowded because accommodation for there gets booked out 12 months in advance (and the waterfalls are mere trickles of water).

Virginiaplain1 Sun 14-Sep-14 09:50:27

Not long back from a similar trip and agree with everything said about Yosemite. It's huge, and the twisty roads mean that it takes a long time to get anywhere. Staying in Yosemite Valley is an option, but it does get booked up very quickly. All the accommodation is managed by one corporation and, as they have a monopoly, does not represent good value for money, or good quality. We stayed in a great bed and breakfast at Fish Camp, just 2 miles from the gate. The owner was very knowledgable about the area and sent us on a couple of great walks that we would otherwise have missed.
The drive from SF to LA is great, and it's worth spending a few days stopping off on the way. Don't miss the aquarium at Monterey or Hearst Castle and the elephant seals at Piedras Blancas. Cambria is a lovely town to stop at, with a fantastic beach.

Tinkerball Sun 14-Sep-14 13:05:45

My kids loved seeing the elephant seals! We are actually planning a return trip next year and taking a bit longer Eg staying in Cambria for a few nights and finishing with hiring a villa in San Diego.

Dinkydoos Mon 15-Sep-14 09:40:12

Thanks again!
Haven't pulled the trigger yet and we are wondering if we should revise itinerary and fly in and out of San Fran and sort of do the following:
4 nights San Fran
4 nights yosemite
Drive to somewhere like morro bay or cambria for a night
Up to big sur, 2 nights
Monterey 2 nights
Then last three nights flexible or on the beach near San Fran at Pacifica

What do you think? Is this a better idea as probably less driving?
Or would it be a mistake to miss out Santa Barbara, can't decide whether that is a must do or not...
Driving myself a bit mad....

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 15-Sep-14 11:22:41

If you want to book up accommodation at Yosemite you'd better book this asap because it gets full up at least a year in advance. Also Yosemite is quite a long way inland and along mainly single lane roads certainly nearer the National Park.

I would reconsider staying overnight in Big Sur (its actually a region) because accommodation costs there can be very steep. is an interesting article.

I would personally stick to the coast and explore those areas further by perhaps basing yourselves in one or two areas and doing trips out to further explore.

(Also having to keep packing up to move on after only a couple of nights can get a bit wearing).

yesbutnobut Mon 15-Sep-14 13:23:09

We've done a similar trip this summer with teenagers. My thoughts:

San Francisco - we stayed near Union Sq for shopping. The weather can be iffy in SF in the summer and I don't think it's worth staying any longer than 4 nights. Must book Alcatraz well in advance by the way.

Yosemite - very crowded in August. Do book accommodation as it gets booked up even though as someone else said the lodges are not particularly nice. We stayed at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls just outside the park and it was basic but clean. I was a bit taken aback at Yosemite if I'm honest - it's very crowded and takes forever to get anywhere. Of course it's beautiful but you don't really feel you're discovering it for yourself.

Carmel - lovely place, nicer than Monterey though you must go there for the cutest sea otters.

Big Sur - my favourite as I loved seeing the wildlife. We stayed in a yurt at Treebones for 2 nights - it's expensive but special and the kids loved it.

Santa Barbara - I was a bit disappointed. Check your dates as we turned up during the annual Spanish fiesta and it was crowded and party central (drunks in street etc). You don't need 3 nights there. Hearst Castle, yes it's good; Montecita is nice and the elephant seals are amazing.

LA - I enjoyed it despite thinking I wouldn't. The weather was amazing for one thing. I second staying in Santa Monica. Really enjoyed the Warner Bros Studio tour: they have the Central Perk set from Friends which you can sit it. We enjoyed a day at Universal Studios as well - just the right size for a day and the studio tours was good (Wisteria Lane this time!). Getty Museum was a real highlight.

You'll have a great time I'm sure.

MillyMollyMama Mon 15-Sep-14 16:27:56

Yesbutnobut. I totally agree with you. LA was better than we thought and I would probably cut out Yosemite in August. There is plenty to see down Highway 1. We liked Santa Barbara but agree 3 nights might be too much. You can do it on a day trip from Santa Monica. We also stayed in the Union Square area of SF. We didn't like the Fisherman's Wharf area because it is quite a jaunt to get anywhere else and is a bit "kiss me quick".

In LA, we went to the Hollywood Costume Museum in the former Max Factor factory. It still has the Art Deco make up dressing tables and lots of costumes. Nearby are a few "stars" in the pavement. I think it was Marilyn Monroe's that was covered in chewing gum and outside Macdonalds. It was unpleasant. In the LA area, a trip out to the Huntington Galleries and gardens at Pasadena is great. The cactus garden is fantastic but very hot it summer.

Dinkydoos Mon 15-Sep-14 19:08:02

Welllllllll, I've booked! Flights only held till today so just went ahead with San Fran inwards and La out...
Also booked 4 nights yosemite, only thing left really was curry village tent thing, and kids already quite excited re bears!
I know that yosemite isn't best in AUgust, but I adored it last time and have wanted to go back ever since so can't leave it out.
Was wondering whether to bother with staying at big sur, so as to cut down number of pack/unpacks and it's tres pricey.
yesbut was that tree bones place really fab then? Could you swim in river from there and what was food options within walking distance?
*atilla going to read that article now thanks!

Tinkerball Tue 16-Sep-14 00:27:24

Who did you book your flights with?

Dinkydoos Tue 16-Sep-14 07:22:59

Booked with travelbag. Always book stuff myself separately but seeing as I needed car hire, they managed to make a package that came out cheaper than I could do it.
In end paid 4800 for all of the above but I changed afew bits like adding myself as extra driver and getting full tanks of fuel etc.
Still a lot of money but I have trawled everything to see if I can get lower, and flipping school holiday premiums scupper any good deals!

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