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Planning a California Trip - looking for advice on 2 things

Planning a California Trip - looking for advice on 2 things

Feb 23rd, 2010, 05:44 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 18
Planning a California Trip - looking for advice on 2 things

My wife and I are thinking about heading out to California this summer. We both have not been out there together so we are excited.

We will likely be flying out of Grand Rapids, MI or Chicago and into LAX where we will rent a car. We are planning on staying with some friends for a few days in LA then heading up to San Francisco along the coast, stay a few nights in SF. Then we would make our way up to Portland, OR staying a night around Crater Lake on the way.

Those are the main things we would like to see with some variation of the above.

Here's the challenge:
The plane ticket cost for doing a multi-city flight GRR-LAX-PDX-GRR makes sense, although the price of a multi-city car rental is huge. It is not worth the expense. It would make more sense for us to drive up to Portland and then drive all the way back to LA and fly out again when you look at time/cost. We would rather not make the drive back however. Does anyone have any advice on this? Is there a different route, where we can drive back to LA on a limited budget? Multi-city car rental advice?

Also, ticket prices from the Midwest to Cali are really great right now but had a slight spike in the last few days. I checked to see how full the planes were and they were very empty. Should we jump on these tickets now out of fear of the increase, or should we wait until they head back down again?
jimbruckb is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2010, 06:57 AM
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I agree that getting a car in LA and dropping it off in Portland then flying home is the best way to do this. I have done this between other cities many times and have not found the added car rental cost to be that much. Try several car rental agencies and see if you can get a more reasonable quote. As for airfares, my experience on many flights I have taken from Midwest to CA is that the fares are more likely to go higher rather than lower if you wait.
Don't forget to plan plenty of days to enjoy Big Sur, Carmel, Pacific Grove, and Monterey. -----at least three days to enjoy all the beautiful sights and activities (Monterey Bay Aquarium is a must do as is Point Lobos State Reserve).
Have fun!
montereybob is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2010, 07:06 AM
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Just time for a quick answer right now -- re the airfares and driving back.

Southwest fries from Chicago and Milwaukee to LAX, Burbank and Ontario -- try all three for best fares since all are convenient for the LA basin.

Re driving back to LA to avoid drop off charges - how much are you finding in drop off costs? Yes you could drive back to LA via I-5 -- but it isn't a 1-day drive. Two days/one night minimum. So, are the car drop off costs more than an extra night's hotel, 5 or 6 extra meals, and a LOT of extra gas?
janisj is online now  
Feb 23rd, 2010, 07:07 AM
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OH - WN (Southwest) also flies to Orange County, but generally the fares are a bit higher . . . .
janisj is online now  
Feb 23rd, 2010, 07:19 AM
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If you are not tied into summer I would suggest you go in September, or at least late summer as opposed to early for better weather especially along the coast. The airlines usually have great fares then too. I just checked random dates for a 10 day one way rental in Sep and saw Avis' oneway fee was only about $200 over returning back to LAX. Since I fine Avis usually high you can probably do better. Under no circumstances would I consider driving back to LA, that is a LONG drive.
Barblab is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2010, 08:24 AM
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Long Beach is another possibility (which is in between LAX and Orange County), so you have a lot of airport choices.

How many days is this trip, excluding flying days?
sf7307 is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2010, 08:40 AM
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I don't suppose WN 'fries' those routes

Yes, Long beach is a good option Jet Blue and some others fly into LB.
janisj is online now  
Feb 23rd, 2010, 08:59 AM
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Never had fries on Southwest; just pretzels.
montereybob is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2010, 09:03 AM
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I would suggest you drop Crater Lake ( it is out of the way) and Portland, and instead plan to see Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, the eastern Sierras, and Death Valley. You could then drop the car off back in LA and fly back from there.

If you allow for enough time for the California coastal trip, a trip to Oregon doesn't add much.
Placename is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2010, 09:23 AM
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I agree with Placename. Drop the Oregon portion and plan it for another time. How much time are you giving this trip anyway? That would dictate if you should drop Oregon. Adding Yosemite Tahoe etc would be ideal.

MichelleY is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2010, 09:51 AM
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Unless you have a lot of time or a particular reason to go to Portland, I agree that focusing on CA is best - there is a lot of California north of SF and even taking I-5, it is a long haul. As an alternate if you don't have much time to see the countryside between SF and Portland, you could get a flight rather than drive up there.
november_moon is online now  
Feb 23rd, 2010, 10:52 AM
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Interesting. Great thoughts. We didn't really have a compelling reason to go to Portland other than the fact that I love urban planning and we did a google image search of Crater Lake and loved the pictures.

We will consider taking off OR and just spending time in CA. That may save us a lot of time/energy.

As far as timeframe, we were thinking somewhere between 7 to 14 days. We wanted to see the necessities while keeping close eye on time and money. Basically our time and money budgets are not set in stone at this point, and we are trying to figure out what "have" to see, then adjust from there.

Thanks a lot for all the feedback. I appreciate everything.

Probably a silly question, but we can camp in Tahoe and Death Valley right?
jimbruckb is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2010, 11:31 AM
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I don't know if you'd have more look on pricing a oneway car rental from LA to San Francisco, instead of into Portland? Then you could either fly to Portland and rent a car there, or do a round trip back to San Francisco.

If you're going to drive a loop back to LA you'll want more than a week. Maybe you could just go as far as Crater Lake, rather than Portland, you can also see Lassen.

You can camp in Death Valley, here are the campsights.

mlgb is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2010, 11:32 AM
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Yes you can camp in the Lake Tahoe area and in Death Valley - however Death Valley in the summer will be HOT, so you might want to rethink camping there. For Lake Tahoe, here is a link to a site I found with a list of campgrounds: http://www.tahoesbest.com/Camping/campgrounds.htm
november_moon is online now  
Feb 23rd, 2010, 12:11 PM
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Camping at Tahoe? Definitely. Camping at DV -- in the summer? Definitely not IMO.

They don't call it Death Valley for nuthin.

It isn't just "HOT" - it can easily be 115-120F during the day. Even driving across isn't w/o dangers/issues.
janisj is online now  
Feb 23rd, 2010, 01:48 PM
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It is just too hot in Death Valley in the summer to camp. I was in the region once in early June and it was over 100 at midnight. It was too hot to sleep.

If you want to stay in Yosemite, you really should get reservations as soon as possible, even for camping.

www.nps.org is the place to start.
Placename is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2010, 02:44 PM
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If you go to Yosemite, Crater Lake, or even Death Valley get lodging reservations NOW!! Since you mention camping, you might want to check out Yosemite---Curry Village or Housekeeping camp. This is luxory camping and includes the tent with beds.

It would be easier to just stay in CA and do some things there. I agree with others that DV is far better in the winter. However, seeing the Redwoods, Crater Lake, Oregon Coast, and Portland would be very nice. You can't really go wrong either way. You might want to include Sequoia NP. It won't be as crowded and the trees there are bigger than Yosemite or Redwoods.
spirobulldog is offline  
Mar 11th, 2010, 10:12 AM
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I would drive up the coast, cut over to Crater Lake and then drive back down via the Sierra. Cheap camping equipment can be found at Target, K-Mart and other similar stores. Donate the equipment to Goodwill at the end of the trip. The cost of the camping equipment will be recuperated in ten days, especially if one decides to cook rather than eat out. National Forest campsites are relatively cheap. California State Park campsites will be difficult to get without prior reservations, and are relatively expensive ($35 to $42 per night). Yosemite campgrounds may be full, at least in the valley.

You might be interested in my trip reports on camping from SF to Seattle. Do a search with the word "camping" and you will find them, or click on my name to find my trip reports.
Michael is offline  
Mar 11th, 2010, 11:41 AM
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At this point, unfortunately, Yosemite campsites are fully booked, maybe there's one or two but you have to diligently search for the right day. But, yeah, if you like camping, Yosemite is the BEST.

Crater Lake: too late to book the night at the hotel there, but do keep it on your list for another trip, and book early, because it is an amazing place, better than any post cards you see! At night, dazzling.
Surfergirl is offline  
Mar 11th, 2010, 01:24 PM
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AutoEurope will probably have the best price for your one-way rental if you decide to continue on to Portland. All taxes and even insurance coverage is included in their rates...you agree to pay for a full tank of gas on pickup and can return the car empty. Read the fine print when comparing to other rates you find.
clarkgriswold is offline  

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