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Exciting family holiday to California next year - please would you look at our itinerary and tell me if it sounds like it'll work?!

(39 Posts)
notquitesureagain Mon 24-Nov-14 21:35:44

So yes, 2-week family holiday. Our first big family trip together and we won't have the opportunity to repeat it so we're keen to get it right. DH has mostly drawn up the itinerary so far but I'm just a bit concerned that because we've never travelled in the US before we might be missing something. DC will be 5 and 7, we're planning to do the second half of the trip (from San Diego onwards) in a camper van. Any recommendations, considerations, comments gratefully received. Thanks v much indeed

Sat: Universal Studio Tour
Sun: Santa Barbara (whale watching)
Mon: Disney
Tue: Huntingdon beach
Wed: Disney Adventure Park
Thurs: beach day
Fri: San Diego Seaworld
Sat: pick up camper van, Palm Springs
Sun: Death Valley National Park
Mon: Las Vegas
Tues: Grand Canyon
Weds: Las Vegas
Thurs: Mojave National Park 1 day
Fri: Joshua Tree national park 1 day
Sat: Disneyland then fly home

Hulababy Mon 24-Nov-14 21:39:49

Sounds amazing.

However, you may find it very hard to do the last Disney park and still fly home that day. It would work out quite dear for the park for only a few hours at most. I'd go for a shopping mall and wander round type of day on the last day.

Hulababy Mon 24-Nov-14 21:40:41

Also - work out all your distances and routes and look at timings. You dont want to end up arriving at places and not having any time to look around and enjoy them.

TessDurbeyfield Mon 24-Nov-14 21:42:53

Do you mean Santa Barbara for whale watching (it's a bit of a long drive from Disney etc) wouldn't somewhere like Dana Point be more sensible?

Have you looked at flights going back from Vegas? you seem to be doing a lot of going back and forth on that itinerary and it might make better sense to go from there (drive between LA and Vegas is very dull)

Ragwort Mon 24-Nov-14 21:46:48

Have to say I think you are packing a huge amount in, that will all involve a lot of driving and not much time for just relaxing and enjoying the sights ......... will your children really want to be travelling so much?

Another suggestion - San Diego has the most amazing zoo .............. better than Sea World I would suggest.

TessDurbeyfield Mon 24-Nov-14 21:49:24

Is the first week about day trips whilst staying in one hotel as a base (near Disney?) or are these different places to spend the night?

drspouse Mon 24-Nov-14 21:49:28

When is it? Death Valley is even more hellish at some times of year (I have done a fair bit of travel in this part of the world and the other gaffe people often make is trying to drive on NoCal mountain passes in June snow!).

I'd say far too much driving, far far too much for a family holiday. Cut down the sights you want to see by about 1/3, or go for longer, and definitely fly home from Las Vegas if you must see the Grand Canyon.

Or just do the California coast part that would be a lovely 2 week holiday.

Bunbaker Mon 24-Nov-14 21:49:52

That looks like an awful lot of driving to me.

Zebrasinpyjamas Mon 24-Nov-14 21:55:09

We went to California this March. We went to Las Vegas for a couple of days then flew to San Diego. From there we drove to San Francisco over 2 wks (but we skipped LA as we have been before).

Your itinerary involves a LOT of driving. Around LA traffic is appalling unless it is the weekend so will take longer/be more stressful than you might expect. driving in the rest of California is more relaxed. However I would think about whether your children will cope with being cooped up for all of those journeys. Do you really want to pack up and move every night for example?

However California is a fab place so you will have a lovely time (and probably leave with a list of places to do in a future trip).

notquitesureagain Mon 24-Nov-14 21:58:58

Thanks so much for your responses.

Google maps tell me that mileage between LA and Vegas is 269 miles so we were thinking that over four days, that wouldn't be too bad... But it's useful to know that it's not a very interesting drive, we might need to give that some thought.

Re the comment on disney - we were thinking of one of those inclusive tickets so we'd only be going there on the last day because we'd be driving that way anyway and wouldn't have to pay again for entry.

But you may all have a point re packing too much in. DC will still be pretty little smile

Great tip re San Diego zoo, thanks

notquitesureagain Mon 24-Nov-14 22:05:17

Sorry cross-posted with a couple of other people - taking on board what you are saying re too much driving etc.

What would you prioritise? If, say we were to stay in one place for the first half of the trip and use that as a base to say go to Disney and do some whale-watching, what would be the best way to approach that? That way, a camper van for the second half of the trip might be more feasible...

Bunbaker Mon 24-Nov-14 22:14:18

Another vote for San Diego zoo.

7to25 Mon 24-Nov-14 22:31:33

Yet another vote for the zoo over sea world.

SilasGreenback Mon 24-Nov-14 22:33:08

Is that just a day trip to the Grand Canyon? It's a heck of a drive.

We did a similar sort of trip this summer and definitely regret how much we packed in and had under estimated how long all the drives would take.

AttilaTheMeerkat Tue 25-Nov-14 07:08:58

What time of year are you travelling?. I ask that because of Death Valley and the whale watching.

It needs a complete rethink; there's far too much driving here and you could spend all your time behind the wheel as a result. The itinerary is really all over the place and there's too much back and forth driving. CA is a vast state in terms of size and driving distance and time can be badly underestimated.

I would instead choose 3 cities and spend a few days in each using those as a base to further explore. The distance between the two National Park you cite as well is just over 100 miles; would you want to do that sort of driving here in a day?. Its further than driving from London to Southampton.

I would look at Universal's website and book a tour in advance.

AttilaTheMeerkat Tue 25-Nov-14 07:09:46

I would also vote for SD Zoo.

2fedup Tue 25-Nov-14 07:18:47

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

hopefulpuffin Tue 25-Nov-14 11:04:26

This is a very full itinerary for 2 weeks. Maybe 3 weeks. But no way would I try to do this in 2 weeks with young kids. I don't think anyone will have any fun.


I lived in SoCal on and off for a number of years. How are you getting from LAX to all the other places on your list prior to the RV?

None of the places you've got listed are particularly close together and I think you'll find some are repetitive.

I'd pick one theme park. If it's Disney then it's Disney. If it's Universal Studios then it's Universal Studios. Based on the rest of your trip, I'd eliminate Santa Barbara & Universal Studios and do Disney/Huntington Beach. Or Disney/some other OC beach - there are a ton of nice beach towns in Orange County.

You could easily spend several days in San Diego. It's a fantastic city and there are tons of things to do with kids. You might consider Disney and then heading to Carlsbad for Legoland - Carlsbad is also an awesome beach town and family friendly. It's about 1/2 way between Disney & San Diego.

There's a train service along the coast to San Diego too that might be fun - although I'm not exactly sure where it stops in San Diego in relation to the Zoo, Sea World and the other attractions - consider the USS Midway aircraft carrier too.

If you're going to Palm Springs (great town), you're virtually next door to Joshua Tree (I lived there twice). It's approximately a 3 hour drive from San Diego to Palm Springs.

I'm not sure why you're getting an RV? With perhaps the exception of Death Valley (again, you might want to reconsider the number of deserts you're visiting and I LIKE the desert) all the places you're going have easy access to clean, reliable family friendly hotels. If you decide to stay in or around Joshua Tree let me know and I can help you out with ideas.

I'd seriously consider doing a straight line route and price out the difference in flying into LAX and out of Las Vegas.

I realize it's a lot to take in and you want to see and do as much as you can but I wouldn't enjoy the trip as you currently have it and I'm afraid you'll spend A LOT of time in a vehicle.

homebythesea Tue 25-Nov-14 12:49:21

Las Vegas to Grand Canyon is at least a 5 hour drive - contrary to popular belief it is NOT a suitable day trip if you really want to see it properly.

Distance / time calculations are misleading because the speed limit is lower than here (and is complied with) so your max speed will be 65mph, average speed nearer 50 and that's in a car (not an RV). Around LA your average will plummet to about 30mph on most Freeways at busy times

You have far far too much driving hither and thither. Look at for their suggested 2 week itineraries to give you an idea

Death Valley a waste of time - it's a load of nothingness that I doubt your DC's will appreciate and it is hellish hot even at night (I'm talking 100 degrees at midnight!)

We preferred Universal to Disney but these are at direct opposite sides of the City (see above re driving speeds) so if you are staying in one place then again that's a lot of your day in the car. Santa Barbara is far from LA - you might consider Santa Monica / Venice with fun Pier attractions and bike riding along the shore.

TropicalHorse Tue 25-Nov-14 12:57:49

Boycott horrible Sea World! Free the orcas!!

SolomanDaisy Tue 25-Nov-14 13:07:22

I'd stay in Orange county for the first half of the trip. You can do whale watching and a beach day at Newport/Balboa and it's easy to do a day trip to San Diego or Universal, though it would be time in the car. I used to love the drive to Vegas on a Friday night, with all the cars, there's a great optical illusion effect that makes it look like you're all going down a massive hill. The only way to do the Grand Canyon from Vegas in a day with young kids is a helicopter trip.

californiaburrito Tue 25-Nov-14 13:12:41

I do this trip every year.

Again, you have way too much driving. When you think about moving from city to city you really need to give yourself a day to do the journey and check in/ check out.

My kids are 3 and 6 and they would explode after a couple days at that pace. You also need to remember that you and your kids will be severely jet lagged, plan nothing on day 3.

I think you need to cut out half of your destinations. Why Vegas? Are you happy to walk down the street with your family while your husband is harassed to visit a brothel? Also, don't go to Sea World unless you want to cry. The zoo is awesome (but don't under any circumstance take the free bus tour it is a waste of your time)

If you can narrow down the things that are important to you PM me and I'll suggest an itinerary.

PrintScreen Tue 25-Nov-14 13:17:11

I would actually skip Disney. It's theme park full of long and hot queues which can be done in Europe. Total waste of time in gorgeous US. Spend a few days driving from Vegas to the Grand Canyon, its a huge distance and you can stop by other stunning national parks like Bryce Canyon, Zion, Mesa Verde etc etc etc.

iseenodust Tue 25-Nov-14 13:18:49

I think your DC are too young to get anything out of Las Vegas, death valley & would ditch that part of the trip. Flying out of LA we had fab views of Bryce Canyon.
Santa Barbara we liked for it's laid back feel & smaller scale. People actually walk down streets there !

MakeMeJumpIntoTheAir Tue 25-Nov-14 20:49:24

Make sure you have travel sickness pills, and all that goes with car sickness - a lot of the roads we drove on were quite bendy.

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