North west coast with a toddler

Apr 8th, 2014, 05:46 AM
  #1  
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North west coast with a toddler

We are planning on travelling to the US from the UK around 22 August 2015 for 3 weeks. We will have a child with us who will turn 3 while we are there and I will turn 40. We have a rough itinerary but need some suggestions on places to stay and recommended time to stay in the areas.

Flight UK to San Francisco. Stay in San Fran for maybe 4 nights.
Would like suggestions which areas to stay that are suitable for a tight budget in San Francisco. Clean and basic is fine as unlikely to stay in the room for anything much than sleeping.
We will then hire a car and head to Yosemite for approx. 2-3 nights. Any suggestions where to stay. Looked online and not surprisingly accommodation seems very expensive.

From Yosemite the plan is to drive to Oregon and spend a about a week here. Not sure if we should rent a condo or something for a week and do day trips or travel around every few days and stay in different areas. Suggestions would be really helpful. I've had a look on the visitor sight and it looks like lots of kid friendly walks, parks etc. this may have been Portland.

The final week would be to head to Seattle. Would a week be too long? Should we include Vancouver or spend more time in the first 2 states? We will fly home from either Seattle or Vancouver depending on the final leg.

Thanks in advance.
mogton is offline  
Apr 8th, 2014, 06:31 AM
  #2  
 
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There are 3 HI hostels in SF which would be your cheapest choice if any of them meet your need.
You may be able to see all you want in SF in 3 days.
Leaving SF you could take an Amtrak bus from the Ferry Building to Emeryville connecting to a train to Sacramento. Rent your car in Sacramento to go to Yosemite. If you can get lodging inside the park do it. Otherwise stay in ElPortal.
Return the car to Sacramento and take the midnight Coast Starlight to Portland. Rent a car in Portland to cover Oregon and Washington. Don't take a rental car into Canada.
If you want to go to Vancouver, take the Amtrak train or bus from Seattle.
Amtrak trains are quite often late but it doesn't make a lot of difference if you are not connecting to another train or plane. The scenery from Mt. Shasta all the way to Portland should be in daylight.
tomfuller is offline  
Apr 8th, 2014, 06:42 AM
  #3  
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Just wondering why I would travel to Sacramento to hire a car rather than just pick it up in San Francisco? The general rental car would cost me about £270 for nearly 3 weeks and would save me taking luggage and a 3 year old and a pram from one transport to the next hence why I thought a car would be the best option.
mogton is offline  
Apr 8th, 2014, 06:50 AM
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If you have that good a deal on one car including insurance and no drop off fee, by all means take it.
You don't need to be paying for a rental car for the time in SF.
I like taking the trains and driving less miles.
tomfuller is offline  
Apr 8th, 2014, 06:54 AM
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You seem to be torn between taking a grand tour of the West Coast and hanging out in a self-catering cabin, and you have planned a trip with a lot of driving during the busiest vacation time when rates for rooms and cars are at their peak. You have also created an additional expense by dropping off a rental car at a place other than where you pick it up.

Typically, when in Oregon travelers from distant places want to see the coast from Brookings to Cannon Beach, Crater Lake, the Columbia River Gorge, etc. It isn't necessary to drive from Yosemite to Oregon to spend a week in a cottage by the sea.

You might want to rethink your travel plans. For instance, you could have a great experience with an itinerary such as this: San Francisco, Yosemite, Tioga Pass, Bowdie Historic Park, Death Valley (others will tell you it's too hot), Las Vegas, Zion NP, Grand Canyon, Los Angeles, Highway 1 to San Francisco and home. Or you could fly into Los Angeles and start a loop trip from there.

HTtY

PS Cow Hollow Motel and Columbus Motor Inn are two places in San Francisco that have rooms with comparatively reasonable rates.
happytrailstoyou is offline  
Apr 8th, 2014, 06:57 AM
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Does that price include the one-way drop charge? Thinking that might be tomfuller's reasoning (other than being a train fan ).

In Yosemite, you might check to see if any of the tent cabins may be available, as those would be least expensive in park. Of course, lodging fills up as much as a year in advance, so you are very late. If you stay outside the park, just know to plan on taking a good bit of time to get back into the park. http://www.yosemitepark.com/lodging.aspx

How long are you planning on taking to drive from Yosemite to Oregon, and where are you thinking of staying/visiting?
sludick is online now  
Apr 8th, 2014, 07:13 AM
  #7  
 
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I would second the recs for Cow Hollow as a good neighborhood for you in SF with kids. Lots of good hotel/motel choices there.

We have done this kind of a road trip many times from SF to Portland and I think it would be great to pick up a car the day you are ready to leave SF as you are planning, then go to Yosemite and then on over to the coast.

With 3 weeks I would look into how much it might cost to rent a car in SF and drop in Seattle and either fly back home from there on an open jaw ticket or fly back to SF for your flight from there. We lived in Seattle many years and because my husband is French, we go to Europe a lot and flying to Europe from Seattle is nice because it is shorter than from SF.

I don't think 3 weeks is a lot for SF, Yosemite, Oregon coast and Seattle. I would be tempted to drop one of the destinations....Yosemite is great but crowded and expensive in the summer, but if it a must do, then you might want to reconsider the coast this time even though it is lovely.
jpie is offline  
Apr 8th, 2014, 07:18 AM
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We don't get hit with a drop off fee.... car rental is cheaper internationally plus your petrol/fuel/gas rates are very cheap for us in comparison.

Regarding the self catering accommodation, sometimes it works out cheaper to take a week rental than pay per night in a hotel, plus means as adults there will be a part of the holiday where the baby will have his own room. We are not looking for a coastal cabin. We may take an apartment in Portland but was hoping for some inside knowledge whether it'd be better to do 3 days in one area of oregan and then 4 days in another. It was recommended on here to do SF-Oregan-Seattle as initially we were very open to any itinerary.

We are travelling Aug/Sept 2015 not this year so aware re booking early for availability.
mogton is offline  
Apr 8th, 2014, 07:21 AM
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We have also been recommended to avoid death valley, vegas etc with a small child due to the heat. We have done LA ona previous trip.
mogton is offline  
Apr 8th, 2014, 07:26 AM
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Rental car rate is £300 max including drop off in Seattle and all my insurances. I will either bring our car seat or include one in the hire. It's the reason I tend to drive in the states. I've done Yosemite but my partner hasn't so not sure he'd agree to give it a miss. I wasn't specifically looking at Oregon coast.... more Portland and surrounding areas... not sure if that's classed as a coastal area.
mogton is offline  
Apr 8th, 2014, 07:27 AM
  #11  
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thanks for the cow hollow recommendation. will certainly look into that area.
mogton is offline  
Apr 8th, 2014, 07:52 AM
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Apologies, I was given some wrong information on a different forum. I was told San Francisco or Yosemite to Portland Oregon was only a few hours drive however I have just looked and it seems closer to 10 hours drive so will have to go back to the drawing board again. I now see a flaw in our itinerary.
mogton is offline  
Apr 8th, 2014, 08:00 AM
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yep-it is a looong drive. Once you decide on a new plan let us know. I totally agree about car rentals in the US between gas costs being lower. Also,I don't know if you have been to the US before but hotels and motels here tend to be spacious which is great.\ especially with kids.
jpie is offline  
Apr 8th, 2014, 08:48 AM
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I haven't read all the responses -- but I'd really start over - the drive from Yosemite to Oregon will be very long.

What you'll want to do is book your nights in Yosemite as soon as your dates are firm . . . yes, even for next year. Then plan the rest of your itinerary around that booking.

You need to understand where our tom is coming from His heart is in the right place but - Not only does he LOVE trains, he apparently was seriously traumatized by a car hire car drop off fee sometime in the past. He creates some quite convoluted plans to avoid them. You are from the UK -- you will be VERY underwhelmed by our pitiful rail service - no need for trains for this trip. And most American Fodorites don't realize that our foreign visitors get tremendous rental packages w/o any drop off fees, insurance included, etc.
janisj is offline  
Apr 8th, 2014, 09:51 AM
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That is good news to hear this is for 2015 (Yosemite lodging), as well as the great car rental deals. Driving to Portland from Yosemite is likely to be along the lines of 13 hours nonstop driving, and I don't think you'd want to do that to the poor child. Allotting the time for stops, some enjoyment of the scenery, etc., this fits more into a 2-3 road trip. The quickest, I-5, is also the least scenic and enjoyable route.

I like the itinerary suggested by happytrails to you. Also, we have done something similar: Reno south (including Bodie, Mono Lake, and Devils Postpile), Yosemite, Monterey, San Francisco, Tahoe, back to Reno. It's a loop that includes some very different areas, and driving between each one is limited to 4-5 hours each leg.

Agree with you about avoiding the hot desert areas that time of year for the child's sake (and yours).
sludick is online now  
Apr 8th, 2014, 11:48 AM
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Frankly I'd skip Yosemite and use those days for Washington, Oregon or BC instead. In late August or early September the seasonal waterfalls in Yosemite - IMO one of the big draws - will be dry, and the year-round ones will have very low water levels. Couple that with big crowds - see below* - and you'd be in for a tiring few days. Also, I don't know how you fare in the heat, but both the Yosemite valley floor and - much more importantly - the Calif. central valley and Sierra foothills - can and probably will be very hot. Temperatures in the 100F+ range are not at all uncommon.

(*The note from above has to do with timing. The first Monday in September is the Labor Day holiday (Labour in Canada) and it's the traditional "last weekend of summer" with many schools re-opening on the Tuesday or later that week. Next year the first Monday is the 7th, so because of that the schools are likely to start the week earlier, but regardless, your timing would put you smack in the middle of some of the busiest (= expensive) days of the family-tourism year. I expect Yosemite will be horrendously crowded.)

Instead, I'd stick to the coast all the way north, starting with a couple of days along the Sonoma and Mendocino County coasts (Hwy 1 north of the Golden Gate.) There are some charming small towns such as Bodega Bay and Mendocino along the road, and the weather ought to be superb.

Continue north to the redwood state and national parks, spending one or more nights in Ferndale or Trinidad, and traveling at least part of the "Avenue of the Giants" byway off US 101. I have taken a number of British friends on this drive, and unanimously they proclaimed it to be the highlight of their holidays. Seriously.

Once you cross into Oregon, the first 80 miles or so of coastline are among the most scenic coastal drives in the world - take your time and enjoy them. At this time of year frankly I'd stay on the coast all the way to the Columbia River at Astoria; the inland areas such as the Rogue River Valley (Medford, Grants Pass) can be boiling hot at that time, and even the Willamette Valley (Eugene to Portland) can also be very warm.

At Astoria I'd cross the (awesome) bridge into Washington, and visit Cape Disappointment (lighthouses, Lewis and Clark history, etc.) then follow the Columbia River's north shore to I-5, then visit Portland and the nearby Columbia River Gorge. Here, too, the many waterfalls might not be as full as earlier in the year, but the advantage over Yosemite is that the crowds will be much smaller, and accommodation more plentiful and much cheaper. Visit the Hood River Valley and Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood - the valley should be full of fruit trees ready to harvest.

Then continue to Seattle and recapture the "Yosemite days" in Vancouver or possibly on Vancouver Island - Victoria etc.

I'd probably go with a few days here, a few there, in order to experience as much of the amazing diversity of the region as possible, rather than staying in one place and having to do very long day trips (infeasible in many cases). Of course this has everything to do with your own traveling style, and how you think your child would handle that sort of trip.
Gardyloo is online now  
Apr 8th, 2014, 06:50 PM
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Hmm, I'd hate to have you miss Yosemite as it is one of my favorite places in the world. You can always book something there in advance and then cancel as I don't believe there are any cancellation fees as long as you let them know within the appropriate time. It is more expensive to stay in the park but much more convenient. If possible, try to plan your stay after our Labor Day, September 7, as most students will be back in school.
KTtravel is offline  
Apr 8th, 2014, 07:07 PM
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Actually in most parts of California schools return in mid August.
janisj is offline  
Apr 8th, 2014, 07:39 PM
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What about 4 nts San Fran, rent car, yosemite 3 nts, then 3-4 nts down to Santa Barbara driving N thru Big Sur, Carmel, Monterrey return car in SF. Fly direct pretty cheaply to Portland. 3 nts Portland, rent car to drive to coast and 2 nts Cannon Beach, end in Seattle. Or skip Seattle and take the long but scenic coast drive up from SF ending in Portland!
eroz is offline  
Apr 9th, 2014, 07:06 PM
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It is still a long distance. I would chose either CA Big Sur or Oregon coast. I would be tempted to do what you suggest:

4 nts San Fran, rent car, yosemite 3 nts, then 3-4 nts down to Santa Barbara driving N thru Big Sur, Carmel, Monterrey but return car in Burbank and then fly to Seattle and skip Portland on this trip. The flight back to Europe from Seattle is easier and I think you would have more fun if you don't have to drive back to SF to drop the car....
jpie is offline  
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