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California coastal roadtrip in the fall

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Hubby and I are planning a coastal California road trip starting in San Diego and ending in San Francisco. This will be a 9 day trip in late September / early October.

A couple of years ago we had planned to drive from our hometown (Vancouver) all the way to SF to spend a couple days but we were so blown away by the beauty of the Oregon coast that we slowed it down and only made it as far as Eureka. So this is really part II of our road trip

The plan is to fly into SD, do one-way car rental, and just stick to the coast leaving the national parks for another trip.

So here are a few things we are trying to iron out and we hope you could help us out!

1) Should we fly into SD or LAX? I ask because SD flights involve a longish layover at LAX anyway and we would prefer to spend the extra time outside driving rather than waiting in an airport lounge. However if dealing with car rentals and driving out of LAX is too much of a hassle then we'll just suck it up and do the airport lounge thing.

2) We only have time for one wine region. Would you recommend Santa Barbara over Napa/Sonoma given our time constraints?

3) We normally do not book hotels except in major cities, preferring instead to overnight where we happen to stop. Do you think this is a good idea for the California coast?

Thanks muchly!

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