California Coast Roadtrip advice please

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May 15th, 2018, 06:35 PM
  #1
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California Coast Roadtrip advice please

Hi Everyone, I'm new here, after spending a good chunk of time scanning the forum looking for info that may relate to my trip, I decided I might as well post myself. So here it goes, my first post

My husband and I are planning our bucket list california coastal roadtrip in December with our 2 eight-year-olds. Any tips or advice would be very appreciated.

We have a few dates that aren't flexible

Dec 1/2nd (ish) leave Toronto
Dec 5th we have to be in Santa Fe
Dec 8th we have to be in Oakland
Dec 9/10 flt home to Toronto

Originally thought it was perfect, Fly into LAX and head up the coast, then realized the drive would be much better from North to South....live and learn. So I realize they'll be some backtracking between Santa Fe and Oakland. oops.

Some highlights we'd love to see/do include the following:
SF-tour city, Alcatraz, golden gate bridge, haight-ashbury (?)
Yosemite
Monteray
Big Sur
Hearst Castle
Oakland (8th)
Santa Barbara (5th)
Joshua Tree
maybe LA (but could maybe take or leave it if time was an issue?)

If you're still reading this post, thank you. Any tips or advice I'll take whatever we can get. Thanks so much.
traveltheworl2018 is offline  
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May 15th, 2018, 06:58 PM
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First of all, welcome aboard!

Second >>Originally thought it was perfect, Fly into LAX and head up the coast, then realized the drive would be much better from North to South....live and learn. <<

It essentially makes no difference if the drive N to S or vice versa. It can be very slightly better for some views N to S - but many people prefer the other direction because it is easier for the driver not being on the cliff side

>>Dec 5th we have to be in Santa Fe<<

I assume (HOPE) you mean Santa Barbara and not Santa Fe . . . cuz Santa Fe would be impossible

Now for the bad news - you do not have nearly enough time for SF, Oakland, Yosemite, Monterey/Carmel/Big Sur, Hearst Castle, Santa Barbara, Joshua Tree and LA . . . That is a good three week trip.

Have you booked your flights yet? December can be fine -- but it can also be stormy and not the easiest time to drive the coast if there is a winter storm. Looking at Santa Barbara on the 5th and Oakland on the 8th, you are pretty much stuck flying into LAX - a couple of days in LA, then Santa Barbara on the 5th. Perhaps fit in San Simeon on the 6th before heading to Monterey for the evening of the 6th and 7th, Oakland on the 8th (you could stay in SF as a base for Oakland), then finish up with a couple of days in SF - fly home from SFO or OAK.,
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May 16th, 2018, 02:03 AM
  #3
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Thank you for the reply!

yes I meant Santa Barbara lol.

ok, so its fine yo take trip south to north? What about pulling over for views? Id hate to be there and the entire time wish we were driving in the other direction, bug that way would be easier.

also, we may be ok trading tine in LA fir time in joshua tree and/or yosemite, is it still too tight timewise? i realize more time is of course better, we judt dont hsve it.
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May 16th, 2018, 05:48 AM
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Well as long as you recognize that you're playing "beat the clock" big time, it's not impossible. You'll have to drop Yosemite for sure, but that's okay because early December is not a very good time for that area; it can be wintry some years, wet others, and it's a very long way from the coast, particularly with two 8 yo kids asking when are we going to get there.

One thing I'd investigate is flying into Palm Springs instead of one of the LA airports. There's a (Westjet) nonstop from Toronto, but it's quite pricey, while a plane-change route (stop in Vancouver) is half the price. That way you could start with a visit to Joshua Tree NP, also ride the aerial tramway, then - if you want - blast over to Santa Barbara and north from there. That would save several hours of trafficky driving and give you more time on the ground.

Apparently California Highway 1 is planned to be fully open along the coast south of Big Sur sometime in September, so I'd allot time to make that drive, rather than the inland bypass that's now required. I'd try to include time to let the kids see the big elephant seal colony just north of Hearst Castle, to visit the Point Lobos nature reserve just south of Carmel, and the Monterey aquarium.

I'd also make time to see the beautiful old Spanish missions in Santa Barbara and Carmel.

Here's a timeline that (hopefully) would allow this. It's still pretty high-speed. Remember that daylight hours will be fairly short.

Dec 1 - arrive Palm Springs
Dec 2 - Joshua Tree day trip
Dec 3 - Aerial tramway
Dec 4 - Drive to Santa Barbara
Dec 5 - Santa Barbara
Dec 6 - Drive to Hearst Castle area
Dec 7 - Drive to Monterey via Point Lobos
Dec 8 - AM Monterey (aquarium), PM drive to Oakland

If you can't arrive until the 2nd, either skip the tramway or do it in the morning of Dec. 4 and drive to Santa Barbara in the afternoon. That ride will take longer as you'll be transiting LA during peak traffic hours, although bypassing the downtown area to the north on I-210 will save a little time.

Map (doesn't show full length of CA 1 yet, but it will be available in December) https://goo.gl/maps/TW8gLLVp5ZH2

Pictures -

Joshua Tree (taken in January)



Santa Barbara Mission



Elephant seals, near Hearst Castle

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May 16th, 2018, 08:18 AM
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There isn't so much traffic in Hwy 1 through Big Sur that you can't cross the oncoming lane to access the pull outs when driving north. You may have to stop and wait for a couple cars to go by, but it's not a big deal. And people are only driving like 30 mph anyway.
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May 16th, 2018, 08:59 AM
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I agree that driving South to North is fine, if that's what works with your plans.
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May 16th, 2018, 10:10 AM
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>> You may have to stop and wait for a couple cars to go by, but it's not a big deal.<<

And probably not even that many in early December . . .
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May 16th, 2018, 10:25 AM
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I would take Gardyloo's excellent itinerary and follow that. I agree driving south to north is just fine. You aren't going to miss anything and it will work better for your overall plan to head north instead.
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May 16th, 2018, 11:47 AM
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Wether you follow Gardyloo's itinerary mostly depends on 1) if you want to skip LA in favor of Joshua Tree (Joshua Tree is great), and 2) IF you can get decent airfare into Palm Springs.
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May 16th, 2018, 12:39 PM
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Good advice so far. Do stay flexible and if there is a bad rainy or foggy spell, have a plan B. You might need to back track a bit or head inland. It is a beautiful drive, so relax and enjoy.
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May 20th, 2018, 01:50 AM
  #11
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AMAZING! Thanks so much Gardyloo and everyone else! That itinerary looks fantastic
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