California Road Trip

scharf_10

Active Member
Hello there.

I have read some threads relating to West Cost American road trips but I thought I'd start a new thread just to get a better idea of my plan.

Essentially 2 - 4 of us are planning a road trip next summer (2012) involving San Francisco to Los Angeles and Las Vegas etc. It will be 7 or 10 days (10 is preferable, based on cost really).

It's fairly easy to find out typical information online about things to do and where to stay, but just wondered if anyone had any personal experience of this type of thing.

A few questions:

Where to fly to? I've found flying to Vegas [return] to be a lot less expensive than San Francisco - is it best to do a return trip rather than go to and go from separate airports?

Any good hints and tips on places to go which aren't your typical every day attractions?

Just general help with car rental etc, anything to watch out for?

If anyone can help it would be much appreciated.

Cheers, Scharf! :thumbsup:
 

hyperfish

Distinguished Member
Too long ago to give much advice, but I did San Francisco-Las Vegas-Los Angeles in 2002.

The best advice I can offer is to assess your arrival time.

Dropping straight into a major city with eight lanes of early evening traffic, and all the unfamiliarities wasn't a great start.

Other than that it was my wife's favourite holiday.
 

Fe_man2000

Well-known Member
Also consider the time you have - do you want to spend it travelling back to Vegas to save some money or spend the time doing other things. Vegas to San Fran is 570 miles which is a whole days drive.

In San Fran - personally I really enjoyed going to Alcatraz and the prision audio tour - walking around the prison with the noises of prisions shouting at you in your ears is an experience.
 

Lancia34

Distinguished Member
My g/f and I did this trip in May this year...was awesome :thumbsup:

I planned everything out and ended up booking with Virgin - maybe not the cheapest but they have good flights and I have found them great for everything so far :)
Anyway we flew into Vegas - spent 4 nights there
Drove through Death Valley (stayed 1 night) and then onto Yosemite Park (2 nights) - Both Death Valley and Yosemite were mind blowing - truly amazing places
We then drove to San Fran and stayed 4 nights - loads to do, cycled around the bay, across the Golden Gate Bridge and up to the Redwoods, as well as doing Alcatraz and so on :smashin:
We then spent the next few days driving down the Pacific Coast Highway, stopping twice and then stayed 3 nights in LA. We then flew out of LAX.

Basically, I spent a long time working out the route and doing this way (or the reverse) is definitely the most interesting. It took us 15 nights so if are wanting to do all 3 main cities you won't be able to spend much time in each place. You need a good 3 days in both Vegas and San Fran. Not a lot to do in LA really apart from Hollywood and the odd theme park.

If you want a proper road trip with awesome scenery then I would definitely recommend driving through Death Valley, Yosemite and the Pacific Coast Highway :thumbsup:

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Oh and we booked a convertible but couldn't fit our luggage in it so swapped it for a Camaro :D
Note that most hotels in cities charge valet parking ($35-60 per night) so bear this in mind. We didn't pick up our car until the end of our stay in Vegas.
 

scharf_10

Active Member
Hi guys, thanks very much for the replies.

Lancia34 - great advice.

After a bit more browsing around online etc, we've decided to go for 14 days. I can't take any more time off work in one go so this will have to be the maximum.

To be honest your itinerary sounds absolutely spot on for what we're planning on doing. I'm 22 and have a full time job whereas the guys I'm going with are at Uni - money isn't exactly restricted but it won't be a luxury trip with beautiful accommodation etc.

Yosemite and Pacific Coast Highway were definitely on our list, as well as San Fran, Vegas and LA. Death Valley sounds great but we may miss it out due to time more than anything.

Did you book your accommodation well in advance, should I expect it to be expensive per night?

Good idea with picking the car up after the first 3 days!

Cheers, Scharf.
 

Lancia34

Distinguished Member
I booked the whole thing only about 2 months in advance but they were all top range hotels (Bellagio, Beverly Hilton etc...). Pretty expensive ;)

You should have no issues booking a decent priced place in the cities but might want to book a little early to get the rooms at hotels in between.
Generally though, accommodation is always available in the US somewhere, the brother did a similar route and didn't book any hotels, just turned up and got rooms where ever he ended up.

I like to be a little more prepared :)
 

Lancia34

Distinguished Member
Oh and Death Valley is actually pretty much on the route from Vegas to Yosemite (and then San Fran). It is just about 150 miles of desert but it has a hotel bang in the middle. Nice place to stop for the night in 105 degrees heat :)
 

Lancia34

Distinguished Member
hyperfish said:
We got drinks and fuel then drove through.

Nothing to linger over in that heat.

True, not a massive amount to stop and look at (apart from some amazing scenery) but was great jumping into the swimming pool when it was that hot outside. You can easily drive through it in 3 hours or less.
:(
 

mr:w

Well-known Member
Loads of good info so far, we did an 18 day loop from SF > LA > LV > Yosemite > SF.

We were in SF for 4 days but could easily have done a week, there's so much to do.

Apparently Route 1 is better if driven from SF to LA so that helps determine your route. Stop over somewhere like Monterey or Carmel & check out Hearst Castle before you reach LA.

Getty Centre in LA is worth a visit just to check out the building and to get the view down on LA from the hills. Also hire some bikes and ride from Santa Monica down past Venice Beach, excellent way to spend a few hours.

Only thing I'd say for Vegas, don't leave without taking a 'copter trip over Hoover Dam and down into Grand Canyon, just amazing....

If you do the full drive around Yosemite as well as Route 1 it helps if you're okay with heights, some sections you're a few thousand feet up with a straight cliff edge by your side which is a bit disconcerting at first.... ;) Also check out Mariposa Grove in Yosemite, the sequoias have to be seen to be believed.

And pretty sure I took a snap in the same place as Lancia34, just from a different angle :smashin:

honeymoon_056.jpg
 

Lancia34

Distinguished Member
Apparently Route 1 is better if driven from SF to LA so that helps determine your route. Stop over somewhere like Monterey or Carmel & check out Hearst Castle before you reach LA.

If you do the full drive around Yosemite as well as Route 1 it helps if you're okay with heights, some sections you're a few thousand feet up with a straight cliff edge by your side which is a bit disconcerting at first.... ;) Also check out Mariposa Grove in Yosemite, the sequoias have to be seen to be believed.

We stopped in Monterey which was great and also Santa Barbara - just outside la which is a great town as well :)

Some very twisty roads in Yosemite, especially in a car that steers like a boat! :laugh:
There were some scarier roads coming out of Death Valley and when we had to detour off Route 1 heading down to LA as there was a roadslide blocking the road...went up over the hills - twisting road, one and a half cars wide with no barrier and a sheer drop of about 2000ft...very, very scary!

But also good fun :) :smashin:
 

hyperfish

Distinguished Member
Some very twisty roads in Yosemite, :

It was T-shirt weather in the valley. As we followed the road out it was like a different season with rain and sleet. Air con off and heating on in 20 minutes of driving.

We got stuck for an hour while a rock slide was cleared.
 

Lancia34

Distinguished Member
It was T-shirt weather in the valley. As we followed the road out it was like a different season with rain and sleet. Air con off and heating on in 20 minutes of driving.

We got stuck for an hour while a rock slide was cleared.

Thats what climbing 4000ft in half an hour does :D
Crazily awesome place :)
 

dc8900

Distinguished Member
Just an FYI, but it's perfectly fine to enter the U.S. and leave from another. I do quite often, I have family on the east coast as well as TX and SF.

Most airlines call it multi-city, the ones I've used (in order of preference) were: BA, Continental (although with the United merger not sure of they still do it) and then American.
 

scharf_10

Active Member
Hi everyone - thanks for all the advice on this.

I think we're going to fly to Los Angeles from Edinburgh and return from Vegas to Edinburgh.

The reason for this is I'm looking to spend the final 3/4 days in Vegas and drop the car off on the first day in Vegas, even though I will have collected the car from LA.

Can anybody recommend a company which lets me pick up in LA and drop off in Vegas without it being far too expensive - I know i'll be hit with the young driver surcharge anyway.

Cheers, Scharf.
 

saintie1

Active Member
I have done SF - LA via Yosemite, Monterey, Big Sur, Hearst's Castle, Santa Barbara, & Santa Monica. Decided not to go as far as Las Vagas due to the distances involved. The thing is with leaving out Las Vagas when you are driving around and you see somewhere you like you can spend some more time there and not feel pressurised to keep to a tight timetable and always on the move.

Spent 15 days on this route. SF is brilliant and quite compact compared to the normal US cities. Spent 5 days here before hiring car to head off. Yosemite is unreal. Big, big mountains stunning scenery and waterfalls and stayed in log cabins right in the heart of the valley. These are booked through the national park authority. Worth noting many hotels state they are in the NP but they are on the outskirts. Walking around at night in the park was ace but the Rangers will scare the crap out of you when you pick up the keys to the lodge......the big bears stop at nothing to get food!

Hearst's Castle is a big eye opener to see how the super rich live. Really good to spend some time seeing about the gold rush and the various ghost towns that are still in existence.

Hotels from LA all the way up to SF are plentful and cheap. Go and see the giant redwood forests. If you are into golf why not play Peeble Beach?

What got me was the transformation from high mountains (which can be cold in late October) then within 2 hrs drive be in the heat of the desert.

Santa Monica is cool and hip, and as for Santa Barbara quite a gem with the Spanish style buildings and none being higher than the palm trees.

You'll have a fantastic time!
 

Lancia34

Distinguished Member
Hi everyone - thanks for all the advice on this.

I think we're going to fly to Los Angeles from Edinburgh and return from Vegas to Edinburgh.

The reason for this is I'm looking to spend the final 3/4 days in Vegas and drop the car off on the first day in Vegas, even though I will have collected the car from LA.

Can anybody recommend a company which lets me pick up in LA and drop off in Vegas without it being far too expensive - I know i'll be hit with the young driver surcharge anyway.

Cheers, Scharf.

I think most of the main companies allow this as it's normal to do the California/Nevada road trip.
Just check out Alamo, Hertz/Dollar and see which is cheapest. Might be others but I tend to go with the more known ones.
 

scharf_10

Active Member
Hotels from LA all the way up to SF are plentful and cheap. Go and see the giant redwood forests. If you are into golf why not play Peeble Beach?

Thanks for all your help again. Only one of the three play golf so I don't think we'll bother with that, but cheers anyway.

When you say plentiful and cheap - I take it some of these won't require to be booked in advance. The reason I ask is because I don't want to be stuck to a very tight itinerary, especially if we decide we really like something and decide to stay another day or so.

Cheers, Scharf.
 

saintie1

Active Member
Thanks for all your help again. Only one of the three play golf so I don't think we'll bother with that, but cheers anyway.

When you say plentiful and cheap - I take it some of these won't require to be booked in advance. The reason I ask is because I don't want to be stuck to a very tight itinerary, especially if we decide we really like something and decide to stay another day or so.

Cheers, Scharf.

Apart from booking SF and Yosemite everything else was just booked on the spot. In a tourist information centre in SF we picked up a tourist brochure that had pages of discounts. This included numerous hotels which we used along the way.
 

signs

Banned
Can you plan a road trip ?

The then wife and i went in 92 for a couple of weeks. we had a car and a hotel booked in LA , the rest we just winged it ,from Mexico to San Fran .brilliant holiday .

Have a good one :thumbsup:
 

scharf_10

Active Member
Signs - this is our plan just to wing it - although may book a nice hotel in Vegas and San Fran for a few days.

British Airways are actually relatively well priced.

Edinburgh to LA
Vegas to Edinburgh
£650ish.
 

scharf_10

Active Member
Quick update: Flights booked and paid for. Now just need to find a car rental company which is relatively cheap.

Thanks again for everyones help!
 

DOBLY

Well-known Member
We have done similar things in the past, not exactly the same though. Last year we used FoxRentACar for a trip from SF up to Seattle. They didn't have the car I had booked months in advance, but did provide a more than acceptable alternative which worked out cheaper in the end.

The swimming pool in at Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley, is a great spot for a late evening swim where the outside temperature is often over 100F - if you do stay there look out for the tiny bats who skim the pool surface for a drink !!

I found Las Vegas to be a bit of a nightmare, but that is probably just me.

Really enjoyed driving in Death Valley, Yosemite etc.

Currently planning a trip - with San Francisco as the first port of call. Was hoping to see Radiohead in Santa Barbara, but didn't get any tickets. :(
 

beastofrock

Well-known Member
this is something a friend and I plan on doing next year. What sort of costs for 2/3 weeks as I want to start saving now so I can really enjoy myself when we go
 

scharf_10

Active Member
I think it's difficult to gauge how much money you would need. Flights and accommodation will always have set prices that you can check beforehand whereas spending money can vary greatly depending on how you use your time there.

How much would you need for 5 days eating/drinking in Edinburgh, Manchester, London or Cornwall? It all depends on your taste. There will be a vast range of shops and restaurants from budget to luxury.

I can imagine it being very easy for some people to spend thousands in Vegas whereas others are more than happy just to soak up the atmosphere and not spend so much.

On the plus side - at least if you're going next year you've got ages to save!
 

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