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3 weeks covering SF, Monterey, Lake Isabella, Las Vegas and LA (Disney)

3 weeks covering SF, Monterey, Lake Isabella, Las Vegas and LA (Disney)

Jul 16th, 2014, 10:55 AM
  #1  
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3 weeks covering SF, Monterey, Lake Isabella, Las Vegas and LA (Disney)

Hi
We've booked a trip to California (first timers - cant wait!) from 5 - 26 August. The flight, hotels and car hire are all booked. The itinerary is as follows:

Day 1 - Arrive San Francisco (4 nights)
Day 5 - Pick up car & drive to Monterey (5 nights)
Day 10 - Drive to lake Isabella (1 night)
Day 11 - Drive to Vegas (5 nights)
Day 16 - Drive to Annaheim (6 nights)

We've tried to minimise the driving as my husband doesn't want to spend too much of the holiday sat in a car (I tried to include Yosemite but he wasn't up for the drive).
We'd really appreciate some advice on the following:

First, given our itinerary, what are the 'must see's? So far we've identified various 'things we must do' including Alcatraz, Whale watching, Hearst Castle, Grand Canyon, Disney & Universal (for my 11 year old the LA leg is the absolute highlight of the trip!). Whilst in SF I'd like to drive out to Napa - but where exactly and what should we see?

Second, tips on best driving routes - and where to stop for views/lunch etc - en route to the various places we're staying.

Third, whats the best way to buy tickets for Disney & Universal. Online in advance? There is a 3 day Disney (both parks) pass for $265 and my son is nagging me for a front of line pass for Universal (worth the high price?. The Southern California City Pass seems to include San Diego but we're not planning on going that far south).

Many thanks in advance
shelleymills is offline  
Jul 16th, 2014, 10:56 AM
  #2  
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ps meant to say we're coming from london, altho the post says posted in the US!
shelleymills is offline  
Jul 16th, 2014, 11:14 AM
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I know you have your hotels booked, but if possible, I would make a small adjustment to the itinerary.

You have 5 nights in Monterey and then 1 night at Lake Isabella - and since you mentioned Hearst Castle, I think your plan is to drive Hwy 1 from Monterey to San Simeon, see Hearst Castle, and then continue onto Lake Isabella. This will make for a pretty long day. You'll have about 6 hours of driving that day, plus Hearst Castle and other sight seeing through Big Sur. Instead, I would take 1 night from Monterey or Las Vegas and add an overnight stop in Cambria or Pismo Beach - effectively break up the Monterey-to-Lake Isabella leg into 2 days.
november_moon is online now  
Jul 16th, 2014, 11:25 AM
  #4  
 
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Isn't Lake Isabella mostly dried up? Drought. How about Big Bear Lake, or Lake Mead while in Las Vegas?

No to the front line pass. Many of the local schools are back in session by that last week of August....plus if you find you need the frontline pass you can just "upgrade" at the park, takes 3 minutes.
clarkgriswold is offline  
Jul 16th, 2014, 11:42 AM
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Regarding Lake Isabella, I was lured that way once by curiosity and found it to be bleak, indeed, and that was not during a drought. I suggest finding another route unless it's just the shortest way and a place to sleep.
MmePerdu is online now  
Jul 16th, 2014, 11:54 AM
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Agree cut a day from Monterey and several days from Las Vegas and add them to Cambria or even Pismo. There are fun sand dunes near Pismo. Your son would love getting a dune buggy or hum-v ride on the dunes. Yosemite would have been closer than Las Vegas. The drive from the central coast to LV is about 7 or 8 hours. To Yosemite about 4. Don't stop in Lake Isabella, just drive straight through.
MichelleY is online now  
Jul 16th, 2014, 11:55 AM
  #7  
 
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Have you considered reversing Las Vegas and Disneyland? Drive all the way down to Orange County, return the car and fly from there to Las Vegas and home. You should be able to rebook hotels and car rental to accommodate the change. It would save you the worst of the summer desert driving.
MmePerdu is online now  
Jul 16th, 2014, 11:57 AM
  #8  
 
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Here is a good trip report to help you plan:

http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...lden-state.cfm
MichelleY is online now  
Jul 16th, 2014, 12:08 PM
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I agree with adding a stop in Cambria or Pismo to see Hearst Castle.
Try and book an overnight at GCNP, it is too long to do as a day trip (4.5 hours each way) and do not get sucked into the hype about Grand Canyon West and Skywalk (lots of folks in Vegas promoting this tourist trap).
jamie99 is online now  
Jul 16th, 2014, 01:10 PM
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I agree w/ all the above comments. Mainly - cut a day or more from LV (I know your hotels are booked but hopefully you haven't pre-paid -- easy enough to modify your booking), add a day or two to the Pismo area, and absolutely cut Lake Isabella.

Oh and if you HAVE prepaid/non-refundable, I'd still cut a day or two from LV . . . August is the lowest of low season in Vegas and the nightly rates should be quite low so 'eating' a night shouldn't cost that much.
janisj is online now  
Jul 16th, 2014, 01:16 PM
  #11  
 
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To give you an idea about why you should skip Lake Isabella

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MNADUIyrXA

And this was filmed in FEB (our rainy season) . . . it is likely much worse now.
janisj is online now  
Jul 17th, 2014, 01:33 AM
  #12  
 
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Buy your Disneyland tickets in UK from attraction tickets direct via Internet they are usually cheaper.
Stargatesg30 is offline  
Jul 17th, 2014, 08:10 AM
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Thank you everyone who responded. We've taken your advice and are going to trim a night off Monterey and spend that in either Cambria or Pismo. If we also lose the night in Lake Isabella where is a good stopping off point between the coast and Vegas? We also want to see the giant sequoia (probably spelt that wrong!). Thanks again
shelleymills is offline  
Jul 17th, 2014, 08:21 AM
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Pismo Beach is a 6 hour drive to Las Vegas so even though that is long -- I'd do it in one go.

The only practical way to fit in Giant Sequoia would be to drive Pismo Beach/Cambria to Sequoia/Kings Canyon - about 3.5 to 4 hours. Then the next day Sequoia to LV which takes 6+ hours . . . so that wouldn't work as a 'stopping off point' since it would add significantly to your drive.
janisj is online now  
Jul 17th, 2014, 09:38 AM
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Five nights in Las Vegas is three nights too many. Much nicer to stay near the coast, like Pismo Beach. Maybe stay the night in Santa Barbara.
Tabernash2 is offline  
Jul 17th, 2014, 10:00 AM
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I'm one of those who fail to understand the attraction of Las Vegas (even though I lived there long ago when it was altogether a different place). While I realize it's the epitome of entertainment for some, if cigarette smoke and sleaze is not your cup of tea, do make sure it's worth the considerable heat and bother to get there before you go.

The alternative would be staying on the coast in relatively cool clean air and seeing some of the most spectacular scenery in the world at a slower place. Or including a visit to Sequioa NP if it's worth the detour. There are redwoods along the coast which might be better, given your trajectory.
MmePerdu is online now  
Jul 17th, 2014, 10:24 AM
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I totally agree re: Las Vegas.
Tabernash2 is offline  
Jul 19th, 2014, 07:58 PM
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shelleymills, you say the "LA leg" is the absolute highlight for your 11 y.o., but Anaheim is not really close to Los Angeles in transportation terms.

The drive between Anaheim/Disney and Universal Studios will likely take an hour or more each way. For the most part, the route is along a particularly ugly highway that is the main north-south truck/lorry route through Los Angeles. If you intend to spend more than one long day sightseeing in L.A., then I suggest you spend a couple of nights actually in L.A. If your budget would allow, the Sheraton Universal Hotel, close to CityWalk and the studio tour, has a room with 2 queen beds for the 2 nights of Aug. 24-26 for $212. There is a pool.

What airport are you departing from?
Jean is online now  
Jul 21st, 2014, 08:17 AM
  #19  
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Hi all - Again many thanks for the advice. We've now cut a day from Monterey and added a night in Pismo Beach. I agree it makes sense to drive all the way down to LA and then over to LV and fly home from there, but our flights were booked over a year ago using miles and those are the only flights that were available, so we're stuck with flying out of LA.
Jean - My fault, I should have said my son is most looking forward to Disney and Universal and so we're staying in Annaheim although we plan to also visit LA too whilst we're there.
Still haven't made a decisions regarding Lake Isabella. It really is more of a stopping off point, but we've no desire to spend one of our precious nights in a 'bleak' place! But is there a better option without adding significantly to the drive to LV? (And is Lake Isabella completely dried up/bleak?)
shelleymills is offline  
Jul 21st, 2014, 11:35 AM
  #20  
 
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>>(And is Lake Isabella completely dried up/bleak?)<<

Did you click on the link I provided? That was filmed in the wettest month of the year - we have been in extreme sought ever since. What ever water visible in that video would be MUCH less now. I haven't personally been down that way this year-- but yes it will be TOTALLY bleak.

Just drive straight through. Pismo Beach to LV is about 6 hours - leave early in the AM, stop for lunch somewhere and you'll be in Vegas by late afternoon.
janisj is online now  

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