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HELP WITH CALIFORNIA DRIVING TRIP

Old Dec 16th, 2012, 11:54 AM
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HELP WITH CALIFORNIA DRIVING TRIP

We are 3 adults from Florida planning our first trip to California the end of July, beginning of August 2013. Possibly 2 more adults and a 13 year old boy may join us. We will have approximately 10-12 days, not counting travel time, and will be renting a car. California is a mighty big state. Can anyone suggest a great driving itinerary?
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Old Dec 16th, 2012, 12:17 PM
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Put California vacation in the search box and look at some Trip reports that others have to get an idea of what you would most like to see then come back with some specific questions about itinerary.
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Old Dec 16th, 2012, 03:01 PM
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Amen - tons of reports under California. I think it's best to go from North (San Francisco) South - along the Coast Hiway - stopping at Carmel/Monterrey or even Big Sur for a night - and then maybe at Cambria (by Hearst Castle) - and then see what you want in LA and maybe visit our less congested - beautiful area down here in San Diego.
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Old Dec 16th, 2012, 05:24 PM
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My favorite things in California are
Yosemite, The Coast/Carmel area-down to Hearst Castle, Sequoia National Park, San Francisco. San Diego is nice too. Another favorite of mine is heading up to Redwoods NP area, but I don't think I would do that on a first trip.


Here is a thought
Start out in Sequoia National Park. Spend a night there at Wuksachi Lodge. This is the best place to see the huge trees in CA. Yosemite has nice trees and Redwoods too, but these are the best of the best, IMOP. I don't think I would do Yosemite in August as a lot of the waterfalls are likely to be dry by then.

From Sequoia head over to San Francisco for a couple of nights.
See Chinatown, ride cable cars, see Fisherman's Wharf, Golden Gate, Alcatraz
Then head down the coast. We like sea kayaking in Elkhorn Slough. Stops at Carmel, Big Sur, McWay Falls, Pebble Beach drive, Hearst Castle. You would want to allow 2-5 days to do the coast, depending on what all you wanted to do along the way. Take a boat out to Channel Islands National Park. Perhaps spend a day or two in LA.
Continue on to San Diego and spend a few days there.

If you haven't seen Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands, Joshua Tree, Saquaro. Those are all worthy national parks to see.

If you do more than 2 national parks, then buy a park pass(it's good for a year)and save some $$
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Old Dec 16th, 2012, 05:38 PM
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Great ideas! You have really helped me get started. Also went to "California Vacations" as suggested and found good tips there as well. I like the idea of San Francisco, Yosemite, driving south down the Coast Highway, Hearst Castle. Would love to see some of those BIG trees and area wineries. Will also look into open jaws airline tickets. Any recommendations for interesting places to stay along the way?
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Old Dec 16th, 2012, 05:53 PM
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Be sure that you don't get burned with a big drop off fee if you use an open jaw trip.
Rental cars are generally cheaper in Las Vegas than in the California airports.
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Old Dec 16th, 2012, 06:55 PM
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IMO it makes no sense to travel all the way to Las Vegas just to get a cheaper car. That is hundreds of miles out of your way. Sort of like starting a road trip from Jacksonville up through Georgia . . . but detouring to Miami to get a better rental deal

W/ just 10-12 days you don't have time for much more than SF (say 3 or 4 days - 4 if you take a day trip to Muir Woods), Yosemite (2 days), the mid coast (2 or 3 days days) and a couple of days around LA.

For Yosemite - book your accommodations as soon as your dates are firm. You'll want to stay in the Valley - and Yosemite Lodge is the best option there - unless you have unlimited budget for the Ahwahnee
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Old Dec 16th, 2012, 08:57 PM
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I like JanisJ's plan except I would skip LA and throw in Lake Tahoe after SF. Then head down the east side of the Sierra on Hwy 395, thru Tioga Pass into Yosemite. After your time in Yosemite, head to the Central Coast(Cambria, Hearst Castle, Carmel/Monterey). fly home from SF. Save LA and southern Cal for another trip.
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Old Dec 17th, 2012, 05:51 AM
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If you have 12 days and like to drive - Lake Tahoe is beautiful (say 4 hours from SF if you don't hit trafic) - and coming up through the Tioga pass into Yosemite Valley (2 hours from Lake Tahoe to the turnoff?) - is also very scenic - as is the main/valley floor - about an hour from Tioga (unless you get stuck behind a row of campers).

From Yo - you could decice how much time you want to spend where else - and it's a 5? hour drive over to the Coast (Carmel/Monterrey)- and from there - you could drive down through very scenic Big Sur to LA in one day - or take another day at say Cambria and visit Hearst Castle. http://www.hearstcastle.org/ (Or - head back to SF - about 3 hours from Carmel).

Oh - and don't forget the Elephant Seal beach lookout - about two miles north of the turnoff to Hearst Castle. http://www.bigsurcalifornia.org/elephant-seals.html

IF you did head south - from LA to San Diego - it's about 2 hours, so again, you can see a lot if you like driving - as I/we do - or kick back more along the way.
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Old Dec 17th, 2012, 07:29 AM
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If you do an open jaw ticket be sure to price it going both north to south and south to north. Many times the rental car is cheaper going south to north due to the fact more people go the other way and they need to return cars north.
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Old Dec 17th, 2012, 08:56 AM
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If you haven't seen Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands, Joshua Tree, Saquaro. Those are all worthy national parks to see.

I'll agree that these, as well as other, national parks are worthwhile - however, none on this list is in California.


If you're going to be driving along the Central Coast of California, you can also skip Muir Woods, as you will have more than ample opportunity to see the same kind of redwoods in the Big Sur area.

With so few days, you can either go east to Yosemite or south to Los Angeles, but you don't have enough time to do both, so it all depends on your interests; however, if you are driving, then the one definite not-to-miss is the Central Coast area (Big Sur).

With that many people (six), you will need a minivan, so plan on picking up and dropping off at the same airport, unless you can snag a truly great deal somehow. BTW, you don't need a car in San Francisco, so a week-long rental might work best for you.
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Old Dec 17th, 2012, 10:11 AM
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If you want to visit wineries no need to visit pricey Napa and Sonoma, plenty of nice wineries on your drive down the coast such as Paso Robles (inland a few miles from Cambria) and Santa Ynez Valley (north of Santa Barbara).
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Old Dec 17th, 2012, 10:31 AM
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easytraveler,
I made those suggestions, because they are driving from Florida. You can do most of those in a limited amount of time and most are not far "out of the way". So do an I-40 route one way and a more southernly route the other.
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Old Dec 17th, 2012, 11:56 AM
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spirobulldog: "because they are driving from Florida."

I don't think they are driving out here from FL - I pretty sure they are flying. geordias7 mentioned renting a car.
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Old Dec 17th, 2012, 12:36 PM
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Thanks for all your help. Lots of good information. Now, out comes the map and looking at plane and car rental tickets (Yes, we are taking a plane). Still, no one has given us advice on interesting places to lodge, other than in Yosemite. Do you have suggestions?
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Old Dec 17th, 2012, 12:43 PM
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You have to give us some sort of budget for lodging before we can make any suggestions. Maybe that's why there hasn't been much input to you in this area. Yosemite lodging goes only to the early bird, so that's why you were advised to book as soon as your plans have set.
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Old Dec 17th, 2012, 12:49 PM
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Don't know prices in California. I assume they are pretty high. I would say a moderate budget, not high end or low end, but for a special place, we could go somewhat higher.
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Old Dec 17th, 2012, 01:08 PM
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The price also depends on how many rooms you need - or perhaps you could rent condos or even homes - depending on the size of your group.

Google away to find the costs of hotels - and also check out VRBO for private homes, etc.
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Old Dec 17th, 2012, 01:15 PM
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We would need two rooms. Probably not staying anywhere long enough to rent a private home. Thought some travelers may have found a really special place not to miss.
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Old Dec 17th, 2012, 01:28 PM
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There are 2 HI Hostels at lighthouses south of San Francisco.
I have stayed twice at Pigeon Point. The other is Point Montara.
http://www.hihostels.com/
There is also a HI Hostel in Monterey.
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