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3 weeks in USA in February -- refined itinerary

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Dec 17th, 2014, 07:37 PM
  #1
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3 weeks in USA in February -- refined itinerary

My girlfriend is coming to USA for the first time in early February of the next year (from 30th of January till 22nd of February). For exception of spending few days in my city (Huntsville, AL), we will be traveling the rest of that time. I want to be able to show her the best of USA.

A little about our interests... We like beautiful nature, cities, architecture, historical sites. Some good museums is good, but this is not must. We are more quiet type, not really into night life. I never really been to west USA except for San Francisco, which I loved and want to come back. She is from Chile.

Here is my plan at the moment, with few possible options for the end of the trip.

1. We will fly to San Francisco and spend there 3 days after spending few days in my city.
2/3/2014 -- Fly to San Francisco in evening
2/4 - 2/6 --- 3 days in San Francisco

2. Next we will rent a car and start our drive to LA via Highway 1. Some of the place that we will try to hit:
Monterey (spend a night here?), 17 Mile Drive, Carmel
Big Sur (not sure if we should stop at one of the parks there.. like Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park)
Hearst Castle, San Luis Obispo, Solvang, Los Olivos, Santa Barbara
I am thinking of spending about 3 days to drive from SF to LA, is it enough? Would I need to add another day to this or not?
Where should be make out night stops during those three nights?

3. Finally, we will arrive to LA and probably spend there 3 days.

After this I cannot decide between three possible options (last 7-8 days):

Option 1: Fly to Hawaii, spend there the rest of time (Kauai or Big Island)

Option 2: Drive to Las Vegas from LA (spend just one day there) and make a loop through Zion, Bryce Canyon, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon, and back to Las Vegas.
(similar to this: http://www.gate1travel.com/north-ame...lParks14-l.gif)

Option 3: Fly with nonstop flight to New York and spend the rest of the time there.

Which option do you think would be best?
How is Zion, Bryce, Monument Valley and Grand Canyon during February month?
New York is probably going to be kind of cold and wet.
Hawaii could give us nice break from the cold.

What could you all recommend or improve about our itinerary?
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Dec 17th, 2014, 08:41 PM
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I would head to NYC but then again I live in a warm climate.
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Dec 18th, 2014, 03:47 AM
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I think the plan for the first part of your trip is fine and the pace sounds about right given your interests
All of your choices for the last part of the trip would be fine.

I have done the Vegas-Grand Canyon-Bryce-Zion loop in February, but we were lucky that there was no snow falling when we happened to be traveling. There was snow on the ground, but not on the road in Bryce, so we visited the fantastic view points but did not hike down on that trip. The trails at Grand Canyon and Zion were fine for hiking. That said, you have no control of the weather and it could be cold and snowy when you plan on going and that could make travel between the sights difficult/impossible, but probably not for more than a day or so.

New York is great but it will probably be cold and could have either rain or snow at that time of year.

Hawaii is fantastic, and I prefer the Big Island, but the downside is that you will lose some time with travel to/from as it is farther from Alabama than your other choices, if that is your final destination.

You have probably been to cities and beaches before, for something unique I would opt to do a loop from Vegas and see Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce. I would not try to go to Monument Valley as it would add too many miles to the trip. In the end only you know what would make you both the most happy.
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Dec 18th, 2014, 04:16 AM
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Well you have a risk of bad winter weather anyplace you go. IMHO NYC is more doable in winter - since there is so much to do indoors - while being outdoors for much of the day if you get snow (you will get cold in the western parks) can put a real damper on any vacation not specifically for winter sports.

Note; Average temps for Grand Canyon for Feb are about 40 high and about 20 for the low - not really much colder than than those of NYC.

My question would be - how much would you enjoy exploring the outdoors in weather like that?
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Dec 18th, 2014, 05:34 AM
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I haven't been to Hawaii in a very long time and have never been to New York City so will have to save my comments for the southwest.

I've been to Zion and Bryce in February and am going to Monument Valley this February. At this time of year it is beautiful, inexpensive, and uncrowded. It's also cold (at night) to fairly chilly (middle of the day). I hate cold weather but tolerate it because of the above pluses - and all that rock tends to reflect heat so it's not that bad during the day if it's sunny. You also run the risk, as others have already mentioned, of having lousy weather and may have to delay traveling by a day or two if that happens.

Bryce will be cold. I imagine that it is beautiful without snow but I can definitely tell you that it is gorgeous with snow. But all that snow can make it more difficult for hiking but you can buy gadgets that clip onto your shoes for safer walking. Zion won't be as cold. Haven't been to the Grand Canyon during the winter so can't help much there except you will have to go to the South Rim (as the roads to the North Road are closed during the winter) so you will have to drive a long loop going south of the Grand Canyon. And the drive between Flagstaff and Las Vegas is pretty boring.

And be prepared for lousy weather driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles. So far it's been a wet winter which can make for lousy driving and sightseeing. You might want to fly from San Francisco to Los Angeles, add that time to another part of your itinerary, and save the coast for another trip.
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Dec 18th, 2014, 07:40 AM
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California coast and the southwest loop or the coast and Hawaii would be fine. But have a plan B in case there is a heavy winter storm. You do not want to be anywhere in Big Sur during heavy rains -- rock slides and road closures happen most years.

That is the rainiest time in California and so far we are having a lot of rain - but who knows what it will be like in a month or two.

Maybe do SF, fly to LA, then do the SW loop by car. The mid coast (Carmel/Big Sur/to Santa Barbara is one of my favorite places anywhere . . . But I never plan ahead to visit the area in Jan/Feb because of the weather issues. Could be awful or could be great -- I have the advantage of living only a few hours drive from Monterey so I can make last minute plans. You don't have that luxury.
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Dec 18th, 2014, 08:06 AM
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This sounds more like Hawaii or the southwest loop than NYC to me.


Huntsville isn't really cold that time of year. It's summer in Chile. San Francisco will be cool but not cold. LA will be pleasant. So....obviously Hawaii will be warm and tropical but it's not like you need to escape from a bitterly cold/snowy climate.

Would you prefer the last 7-8 days to be a segment where you can relax and do whatever you want, or a segment where you have to work a little harder to enjoy it? To me that's the difference between Hawaii and the Southwest loop. I've done both. In Hawaii you'll be able to wake up and just sit around outside, enjoy the weather, lay around on the beach OR do something more adventurous. Southwest....you'll have to get up and do something more adventurous because it will be too cold to just sit around outside and relax.
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Dec 18th, 2014, 08:52 AM
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What are her options for flying in and out of the US? (You'd want to end near her departure point.)

This just isn't a good time of year for spending a lot of time in coastal California or outdoors at the Grand Canyon, etc. San Francisco is always good. Vegas is certainly 'different' Los Angeles...oh, why?

I've driven the coastal highway. The scenery is beautiful, but it's too long sitting in a car, and the stops are underwhelming.

Hawaii is unique. Winter isn't the best season for Kauai because its most gorgeous north is likely to be overcast and rainy, with rough ocean conditions. Same conditions on Oahu's northern shores. Jan. - Mar. is Whale Season -- best viewed from Maui, but also good sightings off Big Island of Hawaii's Kohala Coast. You could also visit Volcanoes National Park on the opposite side of the island.

While all of this is part of the US, I don't know how 'typical' it is -- but maybe that's not what you want. Guests from Holland drove from NYC to Santa Rosa, California while in the States for a relative's wedding. They "saw the USA"!
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Dec 18th, 2014, 09:11 AM
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>>and the stops are underwhelming.<<

Could not disagree more . . . but again -- not easy to plan ahead at that time of year.
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Dec 18th, 2014, 10:22 AM
  #10
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Well. Actually I don't see much that we can see in Vegas, I have only placed it there as place to stay at when getting from LA and one of the parks.
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Dec 18th, 2014, 10:32 AM
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We also will fly back to my city yet days before her departure. Not to have knee flight after another.
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Dec 18th, 2014, 11:41 AM
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I'd do the Highway 1 drive and Hawaii. Just be sure to check road conditions with Caltrans (they have a website and tollfree number, just enter the number of the highway '1') before setting out, and you can always take 101 part of the way if there is a slide on 1. They do a pretty good job of clearing the road, 1 was closed last week and reopened the next day.
You'll need at least 2 overnights along Highway 1.
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Dec 18th, 2014, 01:05 PM
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I'd do the CA coast and either Hawaii or the southwest loop. NYC doesn't seem like a good fit, although it is a great place to visit.

For the CA coast drive between SF and LA, definitely at least 3 days (2 overnights), but if you have the time, add another day to this drive. Spend 2 nights in Monterey/Carmel, and one night in Cambria or Pismo Beach.
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Dec 18th, 2014, 03:55 PM
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I've been to Chile - outstanding country and very friendly.

Why don't you visit her in Chile during Feb and then she can come to US when it is warmer and see all the places you have listed? We rented a car there (sane driving) and drove north to south (almost - very long country)

If in LA, go to Venice Beach - it is THE fun/whacko beach, unless you surf. Then Huntington Pier.

Vaga
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Dec 18th, 2014, 04:46 PM
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Well. I got the tickets for her already. So.. I guess already kind of decided.
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Dec 19th, 2014, 04:44 AM
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armendzh, have you decided on which option you will use for the last part of your trip? If you do plan on the southwest option, you will probably be able to find lodging outside of Vegas for less $$$ than on the strip. Be aware that many of the hotels in the area add a "resort fee" that make what looks like a bargain not so much of a bargain.

If you decide on the southwest, another thing to check is the difference in costs between dropping the car in LA and flying to Vegas and renting another car or driving the car from LA to Vegas. Generally flights to Vegas from LA are pretty reasonable and car rentals from there are low too. If your flight gets in early enough you could head for Grand Canyon (south rim look for lodging in park or along the way) or Zion (look for lodging in the park or in Springdale) on the day you land there.
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Dec 19th, 2014, 07:21 AM
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>>you will probably be able to find lodging outside of Vegas for less $$$ than on the strip<<

As long as it isn't the Presidents Day weekend or Valentine's Day -- rooms on the Strip can be dirt cheap. Especially on weekdays.
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Dec 19th, 2014, 05:56 PM
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Don't know your route, but if it is Hwy 40, suggest driving through the old restored mining town of Oatman. Chile friend would enjoy it. Check location on map - near Laughlin.
http://oatmangoldroad.org/

Suggest publishing a travel schedule for us to review

Vaga
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Dec 20th, 2014, 10:33 AM
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Had you possibly thought of doing more of the South - Charleston, Savanah, Miami Beach, Southern Gulf Coast of Florida? It is beautiful, historic, old plantations, not too cold in winter, interesting foods. IMHO, a special and unique part of the US.

Otherwise, I would do California and Hawaii, but that is because I hate being cold. If you are young and do not mind being bundled up, NYC is great for museums and theater in winter.
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Dec 21st, 2014, 02:04 AM
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For the first part of your trip, yes, do plan to stop at Pfeiffer state park. Point Lobos state park near Carmel is also beautiful.

Then, you have three excellent choices that are all completely different from each other. No one here can tell you which to do because it really depends on what YOU (and your girlfriend) would enjoy most. Some factors to consider:
- the drive through the west is definitely the least expensive option. NYC and Hawaii are probably the two most expensive places in the US for hotels, restaurants, etc. Plus add in the cost of flights there.
- the drive through the west also saves you a day lost flying to get there.
- do you enjoy driving? You'll be spending a lot of time in the car with the western loop. Some people enjoy that, others don't.
- if you feel like you want some relaxation out if this trip, Hawaii is a good choice. But if it's more about seeing the sights, then the other 2 are good choices.
- How do you feel about cold weather? You will definitely need winter coats and boots in NYC and some places in the west.
- There are lots of terrific things to do indoors in NYC. For most tourists these would include museums, shopping, and going to the theater. But if these things don't interest you, NYC might not be the best choice for you.
- if you are talking about this upcoming Feb it may be difficult to find the accommodations you want in Hawaii. Things book up quickly there. It will be low season, though, in NYC and the southwest.

And a completely different option to consider--- someone above mentioned Florida. This would be convenient to Alabama and offers a combination of beaches and sightseeing. Perhaps some time in Miami or Fort Lauderdale and then drive down to Key West? Stop at Everglades National Park to see the alligators.

No matter which you choose, you are going to have a wonderful trip. Have fun!
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