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Five Go Mad in California....looking for accommodation tips!

(32 Posts)
CointreauVersial Sat 27-Feb-16 16:50:34

We are finally going on the "big US vacation" in August this year - myself, DH and three teenage DCs are going to California. Can't wait! We have so far booked flights (into/out of LAX) - itinerary is pretty flexible, but we will try to fit in the usual (LA, Pacific Coast Highway, San Fran, possibly Yosemite, Lassen etc).

I've been before, but just with DH, but as there are now five of us, accommodation is a bit more tricky. If anyone has any suggestions of great/inexpensive/cool places to stay in California I'd love to hear them!

CointreauVersial Sat 27-Feb-16 19:12:00


AttilaTheMeerkat Sat 27-Feb-16 20:00:04

How long are you in CA for?.

What do you and the DC like to do?.

Check driving distances carefully. Its a vast state and you do not want to spend loads of time sitting behind a steering wheel.

ThroughThickAndThin01 Sat 27-Feb-16 20:02:16

Apple Farm, San Luis Obispo, if you are travelling LA to SF along the Coast..

CointreauVersial Sat 27-Feb-16 23:20:45

We are in CA for just short of three weeks. Yes, I know it's bigger than it looks!

We will probably have three nights in LA (giving us two full days there, which will be enough, I think). Then head out of town.

I spotted Apple Farm on another thread. Looks nice (and I loved Hearst Castle last time we visited so will probably drag the DCs round it) but pricey! Actually, pretty much all the hotels we've looked at seem to be pricey, and it's the usual room permutation conundrum if you have three big DCs.

We are happy with Motel 6 level of rooms, to be honest....

RudyMentary Sat 27-Feb-16 23:26:08

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

lorelei9 Sat 27-Feb-16 23:30:10

excellent trip!

okay, I was also going to say Apple Farm but we stayed off peak quite a while ago.

I find in the US that the most basic hotels or motels are absolutely fine. I stayed in a wonderful hotel in LA which is now closed (or got taken over) so I can't suggest it. I can say to avoid the Custom Hotel which is more for the airport so I guess you wouldn't anyway, but just in case..

in San Fran I stayed in one of the big chains ...a cheaper one...I'm sorry but I can't remember which it was which shows you how little time we spent in was near Fisherman's Wharf but there are other locations you might prefer. And another time in a B&B type place near Union Square - it was really nice.

I haven't done Yosemite or Lassen.

but really what I'm trying to say is if you book cheap and cheerful, which I always have, it will be fine. I have certainly never arrived anywhere in the US and thought OMD what a horrible place. Only slight oddity was in Santa Monica where the hotel seemed to think gigantic furniture was the order of the day....!

have a fab time!

CointreauVersial Sun 28-Feb-16 00:35:01

That's OK, Rudy. flowers Any hotel suggestions appreciated....

barkingfly Sun 28-Feb-16 03:19:21

For San Francisco, we always liked the Wharf Inn-, It is not fancy and not cheap, but in a family friendly area and with secured parking. Close to a cable car stop too.

Illiria Sun 28-Feb-16 06:49:05

I live in Sonoma county, just north of SF. I would advise to do google maps driving estimates. I still forget that LA is 8 or 9 hours drive south on a good day.

Lassen is good but there is not much between SF and it, but a bit further north Lava bed national park is supposed to be awesome.

Yosemite will be baking and packed in August. It is very pretty though, be aware of bears and the crowds. We drove around it mostly as we were coming in through the Nevada side but took us an hour or more to park in the valley.

I loved the redwoods in the north of the state - the avenue of the Giants especially.

If you take the 101 north of SF stop off at a few wineries as most have something else to interest those who can't drink - fantastic views, wine cave tours, croquet. Francis ford Coppola has a winery, sells on the name mostly but has a good collection of film memorabilia.

If they liked Charlie Brown then take them to Snoopy's home ice, a skating rink in Santa Rosa that Charles Shultz had built for the town and has a snoopy museum. He lived in either sabastopol or Petaluma.

If they are film buffs look up the different filming locations from LA up to Mendocino county - something for every genre. Hitchcock fans have lots to see and some of the 90s horror films were filmed here too such as scream and ikwydls.

The 1 - coastal road - is picturesque but has very sharp turns and cliffs. It Is better to do from SF up than the other way.

The 5 is more inland but I prefer it for the drive back down from Lassen to SF. Still picturesque but no 100 foot drops into the ocean.

The jelly belly bean factory is between SF and Sacramento, go on a weekday to see the factory in action during the tour. it is free and you get to try any of their flavors.

I have only done the historic old part of Sacramento with the train museum, we went as DH went as a child before moving to the UK. I would only suggest if they are into trains, DF and DH loved it but DM and I were a bit bored.

Not CA but if you are going through Yosemite then Vegas might be an option? hotels there are surprisingly under 21 friendly. You could drive up from LA and go through Yosemite the other way.

DH lived in LA for a while, Pasadena. We did mostly touristy things there - Disneyland, universal and the open top bus tour. DH wouldn't let me not mention his favorite burger joint, 50s decor and they have been running it as long I think. Real mom and pop business - 'pie and burger' in Pasadena.

Illiria Sun 28-Feb-16 06:54:33

Oh and for hotels DH and I tend to go with the best western chain as its big enough to have a decent head office if there is an issue but not too expensive. Plus every hotel is almost identical so you know what you are getting.

ScienceRocks Sun 28-Feb-16 06:59:48

If you have a car in San Fran, book accommodation that includes parking! Avoid the gangland areas around Polk and Turk.

Monterey, Carmel, San Luis obispo are all great places to stop between la and San Fran. Motels are fine, chances are you will just end up crashing in them and not spending a huge amount of time in them so just check reviews to make sure they are clean!

Haven't airbnbed in the us, but have found it a great source of family accommodation in recent years elsewhere in the world. More space and often cheaper and more flexible about dates for a family group, but again check reviews.

CointreauVersial Sun 28-Feb-16 12:02:33

Ooh, some fabulous info - thanks very much! Will look at the Wharf Inn.

Useful tip about the coast road - my next task is to print out or buy a big map and start plotting our route!

Not going to Vegas; DH and I have been before, it's a long, hot drive, and the DCs are too young to get the most out of the place. Yosemite was the one that got away last time; we came in late April and the road in from the east was still closed by snow so we never made it there. But that meant we discovered the amazing Bodie ghost town.

Would love wine country, but again, more for DH and I! I can see the Jelly Beans being popular, though.

I wondered about AirBnB, but I've never tried it before. I keep imagining it's some student's sofa bed, but I know it's moved on from that.

Last time, we used quite a few Motel 6s. I guess they are still OK? A bit like Travelodge here.

Illiria Sun 28-Feb-16 18:34:33

Yeah I have made the mistake of forgetting California gets snow twice now in March, once when we were driving to Vegas for our wedding and then again going up to Lassen for our anniversary

There is a six flags on the way to the jelly belly factory - if they like roller coasters.

SquirrelledAway Sat 05-Mar-16 09:24:40

Lassen is fabulous, and won't be too crowded - we stayed at Red Bluff. It is a good day's travel (250 miles) up to Red Bluff from SA, we went via Muir Woods and Sausalito. Don't forget that off the beaten track people eat early and restaurants are often closed by 9pm. You'll probably get away with booking 2 x double queen rooms, and prices get cheaper once you're away from LA, SF etc. Hampton Inns, La Quinta, Holiday Inn Express etc are all good value.

Fatrascals Sat 05-Mar-16 09:39:33

Marking place

LagunaBubbles Tue 08-Mar-16 10:44:20

California was my once in a lifetime holiday in 2013 - that we loved so much we did it again last year! grin

It was me, DH and our 2 boys so the rooms we had slept 4, not sure how many sleep 5 or you may need 2 rooms. We are all big film fans and did loads stuff based around this. We drove up over the Golden Gate Bridge to Bodega Bay and Bodega one day, this was where Hitchcocks The Birds was filmed and saw the old school house from the film plus got chatting to the woman who ran the grocery store, it had been an anniversary the week before we were there and Tippi Hendren the actress from it had visited the store.

My DH found a signed still from the film and wondered if it was hers and the owner phoned someone to check - my DHs face was a picture when he realised it was Tippi she had phoned to ask her if "this Scottish guy whos here wants to buy it" could buy it! Yes it came home with us!!

We also visited the street in LA where Martys house was in Back to the Future, big fans!

CointreauVersial Tue 08-Mar-16 17:59:13

Sounds excellent, Laguna!

I'm guessing we will probably need two rooms in most places. Can you recommend anywhere in LA?

LizzieMacQueen Tue 08-Mar-16 18:06:59

Have you looked at the cost of renting an RV for your trip - or are you not really caravanning type of people?


TSSDNCOP Tue 08-Mar-16 18:11:07

I really want to that Lizzie I am saving it for when DS is about 12.

In SF we have stayed at the Mermaid a couple of times.

TSSDNCOP Tue 08-Mar-16 18:12:35

Cointreua go for Santa Monica, smaller, cooler and better beach access. Marina del Ray or up the coast toward Malibu to eat.

dingalong Tue 08-Mar-16 18:20:46

We stayed in yountville for a night and had a lovely night. We had planned to get to Lake Tahoe (we were there in December)

CointreauVersial Tue 08-Mar-16 18:21:12

I'm tempted by an RV, but don't think the DCs will buy it. No WiFi, for starters! We might end up killing each other in such a small space. And DS will probably refuse to use the toilets.

(no, we're not camping/caravanning types)

dingalong Tue 08-Mar-16 18:22:47

We'd a lovely time. We'd booked our accomodation in sf

CointreauVersial Tue 08-Mar-16 18:24:08

I've been to Santa Monica (on business, a few years back), so I know it's nice, but oh, the prices of hotel rooms!

Where did you stay in SF, dingalong?

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