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Just back from California if anyone wants tips

(31 Posts)
Jessie40 Thu 22-Aug-19 22:43:53

We are a family of 5 (3 grown up children} and have just returned from a great road trip to California. I got lots of tips from people on this forum before we went.
This was our itinerary if anyone is interested, lots of driving but worth it.
San Fransisco 3 nights
Yosemite 2 nights
Monterey 1 night
Santa Barbara 1 night
LA 3 nights
Vegas 3 nights

OP’s posts: |
Belindabelle Fri 23-Aug-19 13:21:11

Welcome back. We did it two years ago and it was by far our best holiday. Would you do anything differently next time? I want to go for 3 weeks next time.

Jessie40 Fri 23-Aug-19 16:59:07

Belindabelle, its amazing isn't it.
I would research San Fransisco better as we weren't over keen but everyone that I know that has been, has loved it. So we must have gone wrong somewhere.
I would spend an extra day in Yosemite absolutely fantastic and probably stay in Carmel rather than Monterey, but only as we drove through Carmel and it looked so beautiful. Apart from that probably not. We enjoyed LA and Vegas was a great experience.

OP’s posts: |
Lemondrizzzzle Fri 23-Aug-19 17:01:36

We’re thinking of doing this next year. Did you stay in hotels or hire a RV?

bigTillyMint Fri 23-Aug-19 17:06:20

We came back a week ago - think it was my best holiday ever!
San Fran 3 nights
Sonoma 1 night
Yosemite 3 nights
Mammoth Lakes 1 night
Bishop 1 night
Topanga Canyon (close to LA) 2 nights
Solvang 1 night
San Luis Obispo 1 night
San Simeon 2 nights
Monterey 3 nights
Santa Cruz 2 nights
San Jose 1 night


Belindabelle Fri 23-Aug-19 17:09:59

We stayed in hotels. I would use an RV for some of it but no way would I fancy driving a RV on some of those roads.

Our itinerary was

San Fransisco 5 nights
Pacific Grove (between Monterey and Carmel) 3 nights
Las Vegas 2 nights
Death Valley 1 night
Yosemite 3 nights.

Belindabelle Fri 23-Aug-19 17:11:16

Oh we also had one night in Mammoth. I forgot about that.

TheMarschallin Fri 23-Aug-19 17:18:13

Can I ask; how busy was Yosemite? And did
You drive your RV there?

bigTillyMint Fri 23-Aug-19 17:33:03

Yosemite - we stayed in Mariposa and arrived for about 8.30 and got parking at Curry village fine but it was busy - probably because of people camped there as well. Tioga Pass Rd was a lot quieter.

Jessie40 Fri 23-Aug-19 21:46:19

We stayed in hotels. Rv's looked great.Very slow on the Pacific coast
San Fransisco; Hilton at union square. Be prepared for a lot of homeless in and around Union Square.
Yosemite; Tenaya Lodge. Not cheap but lots of activities for kids. Book the Yosemite tour early if you want Tenaya tour. We used an outside company which they recommended which was fantastic It got busy in the afternoon but our guide knew where to go first.
Monterey; Portola hotel and spa. Perfect location there's a tram which is free down to Cannery Row. The aquarium cost us over 200 dollars which we personally didn't think was worth it.
Santa Barbara;The Santa Barbara hotel
LA;The Garland. Great Location. Film night every night children could watch while swimming . Warner brothers tour was excellent as was the LA tour.
Vegas; Caesars Palace

Wish I was still there instead of ploughing through holiday ironing!

OP’s posts: |
BubblesBuddy Sat 24-Aug-19 00:32:50

Carmel is better than Monterey! Best place to stay and the beach is lovely.

Jimjam68 Sat 24-Aug-19 07:00:39

We are nearing the end of our trip, just in San Francisco before flying home shortly.

We did

5 nights Santa Monica (everyone said don’t stay as long in LA but I thought there would be plenty to do and it was fine and allowed some rest time.

2 nights Santa Barbara
3 nights Monterey (would probably only do 2 and add a night to Santa Barbara
3 nights Yosemite (I could have stayed for ever. We stayed at the Awahnee and it was lovely)
4 nights San Francisco (3 would probs have been enough). Alcatraz was great, definitely recommend booking that up early.

I’d like to come again and do an in land route - Las Vegas, Death Valley, Lake Tahoe and return to Yosemite (it was amazing).

It’s been expensive with the exchange rate but we’ve had an amazing time.

Aragog Sat 24-Aug-19 08:13:12

We've loved California too, though did our visits over two fortnight visits.

Trip 1:
3 nights - Las Vegas
7 nights - Santa Monica
3 nights - Disneyland
1 night - Las Vegas

Trip 2:
4 nights - San Francisco
1 night - near Six Flags
2 nights - Napa
1 night - Sacramento
2 nights - Yosemite
4 nights - Monterey

Although our Yosemite nights were cancelled the day before due to first fires last summer so we didn't get there and ended up booking 2 nights at Santa Cruz instead.

Alamindah Sat 24-Aug-19 08:32:07

A perfectly timed thread from my point of view! We are hoping to do this next summer with 3 children who will be aged 20, 18, 15. We would like to drive but in a car and stay in hotels or air bnb. Any specific dos and donts would be greatly appreciated (including places to stay)! Also, is there any reason why most people start in San Francisco and go down the coast. We fancy doing it the other way round but worried in case there is an obvious reason to do to north to south! Thank you

bigTillyMint Sat 24-Aug-19 09:44:04

@Alamindah we drove up PCH from LA to San Fran. TBF, the views as you are driving might be slightly better the other way, if there's no fog (Not much for us!) But as there are so many places to stop, it isn't really much of an issue at all.

I wish I was going back.

Belindabelle Sat 24-Aug-19 11:27:02

I could talk about our California road trip for ever.

We started in San Francisco because the flights were the cheapest. We also flew home from there for the same reason. A return from the same airport was half the price of an open jaw ticket.

I think I would need about 3 separate trips to explore California properly.

Originally we were going to drive all the way down to LA stopping at Pismo Beach and staying in Santa Monica but the PCH was closed due to landslides so we extended our stay in SF and went to Vegas and Death Valley instead. I had really wanted to drive down the coast road instead of the interstate so we left LA for another time.

I want to go back and spend some time north of San Francisco. We drove up to Muir Woods and onto Bodega Bay for the day. I would love to go further north to Fort Bragg and beyond. Them go over to Lassen and Lake Tahoe before spending some time in Nappa and Sonoma.

Another trip would be our original plan of driving down to LA. Maybe going down to San Diego and over to Palm Springs. Then there is Arizona and Nevada. The Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Sedona. Oh and DH want to go to Area51.

So much to see.

Alamindah Sat 24-Aug-19 12:18:17

Thank you @bigTillyMint. I have now realised about the views and driving on the other side of the road!

Jimjam68 Sat 24-Aug-19 17:37:13

We did LA to SF because it was cheaper but had wanted to do it the other way as the weather in SF tends to be cool in August (actually it’s been unusually sunny), and I wanted to finish off in warmer weather. There are lots of viewing places on the PCH but most of our journey was shrouded in fog anyway!

Jessie40 Mon 26-Aug-19 17:28:58

We did San Fran to LA the view was amazing but we did say probably not as good going the other way.
We never realised just how cold San Fransisco was. Take a coat! We went to a baseball game and the locals were in padded coats, hats. It was still sunny but cold. Unless we were unlucky. The island over the golden gate bridge was warmer and beautiful...Sarasota.
We went to the Grand Canyon by helicopter using Papilion Helicopter tours. We are a family of 5 and had to split up and it was for my sons 21st birthday! Apparently due to weight. There was a group of 8 behind us, larger people than us so they had to be split. The company said nothing they could do it was down to weight and come back tomorrow. However we didn't have time to do this. Very disappointing considering the cost and we were a family. It was an amazing experience but just bear this in mind.

OP’s posts: |
PenguinsRabbits Mon 26-Aug-19 18:30:53

What kind of temperatures was it in the different places roughly in summer? We are considering California for a holiday either next year or next few years but 3 out of 4 of us aren't good in heat.

Where did you fly in and out of?

How expensive was it?

Prefer rural areas to cities and love nature / wildlife if there's anywhere good for that.

DH has been before for 3 weeks but years ago. Not started researching it yet as we maybe tight for money next summer but should be better year after and may do it after DDs GCSEs in 3 years time unless we can get a good price on it. Wary with Brexit as well though could be the only country you can visit. grin Thanks.

Jessie40 Thu 29-Aug-19 20:15:15

We flew from Heathrow to San Fransisco.
San Fransisco was sunny but cold. Sweatshirt during the day but jacket at night.
Yosemite beautiful during the day, shirts and vest top but in the evening jeans/sweatshirt.
As you travel down the weather gets warmer, we finished in Vegas which obviously was very hot.
Its not a cheap holiday, we planned and booked everything independently. flights through sky scanner and hotels on

OP’s posts: |
QuitMoaning Thu 29-Aug-19 20:53:15

We are going at end of October and so excited. We cashed in airmiles and going upper class as a real treat..

We will be doing a lot of driving so a bit apprehensive

1 night Santa Cruz
2 nights en route in motels booked on the way between Santa Cruz and Grand Canyon (via Sedona)
2 nights on the South Rim at El Tovar
3 nights in Vegas
1 night in Lone Pine
Drive all day to Monterey
2 nights in Monterey
Drop car off and then
4 nights in SF

Just the two of us, the boys (aged 21 and 18) said they didn’t want to go away with us this year. This was before they found out where we were going.
Helicopter tour, whale watching and Alcatraz all booked!

Belindabelle Fri 30-Aug-19 22:35:19

We went in October and San Francisco was really warm. Yosemite warm in the day but cold at night. Vegas and Death Valley hot but We could cope.

zafferana Mon 02-Sep-19 19:23:13

Where did you fly in and out of?
San Francisco, LA, San Diego or Las Vegas (if you want to include LV in your itinerary). You can fly into one and out of another and there are all kinds of hacks for getting good prices - booking a fly drive package, keeping an eye out for seat sales and flying indirect.

How expensive was it?
I reckon you won't get much change out of £10k for 14 nights for 4 people once you've paid for flights, car hire, accommodation (v. expensive in SF and LA), petrol, food and entry to attractions.

Prefer rural areas to cities and love nature / wildlife if there's anywhere good for that.
Focus on the National Parks (of which there are quite a few in the north and west of the state), Lake Tahoe and the coast for sea lions and whales.

PenguinsRabbits Mon 02-Sep-19 21:15:24

Thanks very much. I did a quick look and it does look around £10k for 4 of us so as we are trying to do a cheaper holiday next year (unless sell our old house but with no deal not holding my breathe on that) so might leave California for a few years time, maybe after DDs GCSEs. Going to do Thailand and maybe Borneo next year which I can do for similar to what we spend in Europe and great on wildlife. California sounds great for in future though.

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