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Three week trip to California with an RV - what must we not miss?

(40 Posts)
GalensOyster Sat 09-Jan-16 21:59:24


We're planning the holiday of a life time this summer - a three week trip to California with the DC (13 and 8). We've booked flights (yay!) and our intention is to take a road trip in an RV. Our plan is to arrive in San Franscisco, stay there for a few days (Alcatraz, Golden Gate etc) and then head out to Yosemite, Sequioa, Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley (Mesa Verde?) Joshua Tree, LA and then back to SF to fly back to London.

We're quite out-doorsy so lots of hikes, bike rides and horse rides are planned but my question is, are we planning too much driving? What should we be sure NOT to miss and what should we miss because it's not worth it? I'm ploughing through travel guides and googling until I go cross eyed so I would really appreciate some tips from people who have been there and done it before me and, crucially, who've had a good time. Is Universal Studios really worth it, for example? Any insider tips for me?


OP’s posts: |
RusholmeRuffian Sun 10-Jan-16 20:31:26

I don't think that's too much driving but I love a road trip! Driving over there is way less stressful than it is here once you are out of the big cities. I haven't been to all the places you listed but I have been to some - Death Valley and Monument Valley are both worth visiting.

If you can stay at the View Hotel in MV I would recommend it, you can watch the sun set and rise over the buttes from your balcony.

Try and do a bit of the coast south of SF, at least as far as Big Sur. I personally wouldn't choose to spend more time than absolutely necessary in LA but that's just me!

LittleBearPad Sun 10-Jan-16 20:54:08

I wouldn't bother hanging about in LA at all or even going

I would consider an overnight in Vegas just because it has to be seen to be believed and despite what you might think is bizarrely quite family friendly. At least parts are. grin

Hoover Dam is worth a look between Vegas and the Grand Canyon. You can drive right over it. Death Valley is extraordinary. SF is a lovely city. They do tours to Alcatraz in the evenings. We had a thunderstorm when we went which made it atmospheric!

The coast south of SF is lovely. Monterey etc. Santa Cruz is horrible - avoid it.

Have fun. I loved our holiday there.

FeckTheMagicDragon Sun 10-Jan-16 21:09:13

Was going to mention Las Vegas - there is an RV park at CircusCircus, but don't do what we did and cut out the Grand Canyon for it. Big mistake!

ICantFindAFreeNickName2 Sun 10-Jan-16 21:13:54

I love all the places that you mention, but think it maybe quite a lot to cover in 3 weeks.
SF is my kids favourite city and I know we are unusual but we loved LA, especially Universal Studio's.
You need to plan it out on something like google maps, allowing for the fact that you will probably be travelling slower in a rv than a car. I would rather see less places but have more time in the places you do see.

Bunbaker Sun 10-Jan-16 21:20:40

"I would consider an overnight in Vegas"

I wouldn't. It is a lot of driving. Also Las Vegas just doesn't appeal to me, but that is just personal preference.

I assume you will be staying is SF for a few days before you pick up your RV? These vehicles are huge things to drive around cities, so you may want to give LA a miss, although we did stay there in order to do Disneyland and Universal studios, both of which I felt were worth it. We went to San Diego on our trip and loved it, and spent a couple of days in Palm Springs.

We also went to lake Tahoe, but found South Lake Tahoe city really tacky and rather seedy with "adult" motels and casinos etc.

didireallysaythat Sun 10-Jan-16 21:23:36

We lived in SF/SD for 4 years. I think you got most of what I'd suggest on your list already. Hoover Dam used to do a hard hat tour which is great. SD is only a couple of hours south of LA and the wild animal park is good (or the zoo) if your kids like that sort of thing.

FannyFanakapan Sun 10-Jan-16 21:27:09

We did la to sf 2 years ago - spent 2 weeks. Great fun, but:

Yosemite in a camper is a challenge - as is big Sur - lots of windy roads.

Petrol for the camper - they are gas guzzlers and you will spend a LOT on gasoline.

I would consider doing car and cheap motels if we did it again - maybe with a bit of a camper experience thrown in.

Summer in a camper van is hellish - very hot inland.

We tried to travel for 3-4 hours, then pitch camp for a couple of days. We did some beach days, some nature days, some adventure days at the lake, theme parks.

chemenger Tue 12-Jan-16 11:58:12

We have done several road trips in the US, mostly tent camping and motels/hotels (more hotels as we have got older and more affluent). I'm not tempted by a camper, to be honest, because a car is so much easier to get around in, easier to park in towns and cities. The exception would be if we could do what the Americans do and tow a car behind the RV. We've never had trouble finding accommodation (we book National Parks as soon as booking opens for our dates, if at all possible) and it is generally less expensive than the equivalent here. I would definitely recommend Mesa Verde, we've been three times and I still find it fascinating, Durango, which is not too far away, also has the steam train and great rafting. I wouldn't go back to Las Vegas in a hurry, but it is worth seeing just for the sheer scale of the disregard of its environment. We always end up driving too far, but your plan looks fine to me.

specialsubject Tue 12-Jan-16 13:12:35

too much for 3 weeks, I'm afraid. I'd also lose the camper and get a car plus motels. if the in-park ones are already booked there are gateway towns for all the parks.

I'd lose LA and the theme parks from the itinerary. Death Valley is wonderful but in summer...are you sure?


you get the idea...

CMOTDibbler Tue 12-Jan-16 13:22:23

LA is horrid imo. If you are outdoorsy, you have to go to Monterey so that you can kayak in the bay among the seals, sea lions and sea otters. I'm not sure if the whales are around when you will be there.

PassiveAgressiveQueen Tue 12-Jan-16 14:56:08

We did this last year and 250 miles a day was too much, we couldn't comfortably do more than 40 miles an hour or else the thing rattled and we couldn't hear each other talk.

If i you are going summer time death valley will be too hot, we were mid june and the las vegas desserts were too hot already.

sarahanne4 Tue 12-Jan-16 17:33:08

The Pacific highway is amazing, with lots of little stop offs and beaches you'll want explore. I would also recommend Las Vegas if you are considering Death Valley (it's relatively close) and from there you can take a sight seeing flight to the Grand Canyon for about $100-140 each. I wouldn't recommend driving it, as it's another 12 hrs past Vegas, we did and it was basically a very long day in the car for about an he on the canyon - although it's very beautiful. We missed out LA on the basis that if we'd seen Beverley hills cop we'd probably already seen all the 'good bits' - I'm glad we did as my aunt who went a couple of was after was very disappointed with that part of their trip.

You'll have an amazing time, whatever you manage to wedge in! Road trips obviously entail long periods in the car, but in that part of America there is certainly lots to entertain you even out of the window! Have fun smile

specialsubject Tue 12-Jan-16 17:40:41

as hikers the sightseeing flights to the Canyon will just frustrate you, and they don't go to the main section. Go to Grand Canyon village on the south rim and really see it. Walking down is non-trivial in summer heat but walking along the rim, with shuttle bus hops to quieter spots, will provide plenty of opportunities.

stay in Flagstaff which is about an hour away if the village is full.

Vegas is worth an overnight to see the lights and fountains, no more. But only if it is en route - as outdoor types there's nothing there. It has a hideous climate so you won't want to be outside there in high summer!

specialsubject Tue 12-Jan-16 17:46:08

also re Death Valley - it was subject to flash flooding (!) in October and there was a lot of damage. Scotty's castle is closed for the foreseeable future, as are some other roads.

but I really would think hard about visiting at all in high summer.

GiddyOnZackHunt Tue 12-Jan-16 17:48:47

Yy to Monterey.
Vegas is great in a weird "ooh it's real way" but actually is a bit sad and boring after 1 night.

ThroughThickAndThin01 Tue 12-Jan-16 17:50:54

Did a road trip last summer, although car and hotels. Stayed in LA for 5 nights - way too long, 2 nights max. Loved Yosemite, Las Vegas, San Fran, you'll have a ball. I envy you!

ThroughThickAndThin01 Tue 12-Jan-16 17:54:08

If you do go to LA, I'd thoroughly recommend the VIP tour of universal studios. (That's about all id recommend there tbh)

Bunbaker Tue 12-Jan-16 18:23:59

I'm glad others have suggested that you review whether it is wise to hire an RV. We just hired a car and stayed in cheap motels. I agree that most of the side roads aren't suitable for an RV. We drove down route 49 and it is very winding. Yosemite isn't very RV friendly either, and I'm not sure I would want to stay in anything less substantial than properly built accommodation there as bears can be a problem if they smell food.

specialsubject Tue 12-Jan-16 19:46:38

Yosemite has thorough bear procedures; if you are overnight in the park you need to clean the car out of anything that smells (not just food), and if you are camping you use bear-proof lockers.

so we stayed outside the park!

BendydickCuminsnatch Tue 12-Jan-16 19:47:57

Big Sur! smile petrified forest, muir woods.

PassiveAgressiveQueen Tue 12-Jan-16 20:23:02

I loved the RV, as i hate road trips the packing up every day, leaving something important behind in the rush to get out. Arriving in some god forsaken spot at lunchtime parking anywhere and having a hot lunch (it was still in snow yellowstone in may). Having a full fridge of ice cold drinks all day and night (once we got nearer vegas), the toilet and beds were always clean as i cleaned them.

GalensOyster Tue 12-Jan-16 20:27:32

Thanks everyone. Lots of food for thought here. We're now considering just 1.5 weeks of RV and then hiring an SUV for a poddle down the coast. Unfortunately we cannot miss out LA since DH has family there.

Is a SF to LA 1 week road trip crazy driving?

OP’s posts: |
SweetAdeline Tue 12-Jan-16 20:29:05

Death Valley will be horrendously hot in summer. Monument Valley and Mesa Verde are great but too far away from the rest to be worth going to in this trip.

SweetAdeline Tue 12-Jan-16 20:32:05

Sorry x-post.

If you mean the PCH (ie not including Sequoia etc), then I'd say a week is too much. I've done it with one overnight stop (which felt too fast) and two overnights (which worked for us). I'd say you'd need at most 4 days to see it all in detail.

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