Planning trip to CA from Australia

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Apr 17th, 2009, 02:24 AM
  #1
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Planning trip to CA from Australia

I am planning my first family trip from Sydney Australia to California and would appreciate some honest advice on my draft itinerary:
Please be brutally honest as I will be travelling as 2 Adults and 3 Children (6, 4 & 1 years) so I need to balance practical with fun but be very organised!
Scheduled for March/April 2010 - is this a good time?
To begin:
1. Fly in to San Francisco (spend 2 nights)
2. Hire a car, drive to Yosemite (2 nights) - is this about 4-5 hours drive from SF?
3. Drive to LA, arriving Anaheim (4 nights) - 5 hours driving? [Disneyland 2 days plus Universal Studios)
4. Hire a car, drive to San Diego (3 nights) - 2 hours drive? [Zoo, Sea World and Legoland)
5. Drive back to LA to fly home out of LAX

Your thoughts? Is this comfortably doable or should I drop SF and fly in to LAX doing Yosemite, LA and SD only?
Tracy0309 is offline  
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Apr 17th, 2009, 05:54 AM
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I would cut down on the time in Anaheim, it is an ugly flat suburb with nothing but the theme parks. SF and Yosemite are more worthwhile than LA
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Apr 17th, 2009, 06:09 AM
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My bias is showing here but my initial thought is that you will be concentrating on too many big cities & amusement parks in too few days (11-12?) and missing some wonderful natural attractions such as Sequoia National Park and the Big Sur coastline & San Simeon along hwy 1. Think Great Ocean Road in Victoria and you will grasp the importance of this particular stretch of coastline as one of the world's greatest coastal drives. I think your children will find these places spectacular too and remember their visit for a long time. Natural attractions is what we found most attractive about Australia, not big city concrete and the theme parks of the Gold Coast (although we did spend a very relaxing week there doing other things.)

Don't forget that you will need time to deal with major jet lag. Please consider extending your trip, even a little bit, to see more. I would think two weeks would be a bare minimum.
Keep us posted on how your itinerary evolves and be sure to give us a trip report when you arrive home. It sounds like a great adventure for all.
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Apr 17th, 2009, 06:20 AM
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March/April is a bit early for Yosemite IMO; the valley floor will probably be okay, but there will definitely be snowy conditions at higher elevations, and, depending on the year, there may or may not yet be enough runoff to make the waterfalls as spectacular as they will be in late April or May.

Given your schedule is already pretty tight, I'd suggest you consider swapping the two or three days in Yosemite for the same number of days heading north from San Francisco (also around 5 hours' drive) up to the coastal Redwood groves between Eureka and Crescent City. Even if the weather's misty/drippy, it's easy touring, and the redwoods are like nothing you've ever seen - a really unique environment.

Take at least one of your Anaheim days and re-allocate it to driving to LA via the coast, as Orlando Vic says. I would definitely not stay in Anaheim; the Disney complex is easily reached from other more attractive areas of southern California.
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Apr 17th, 2009, 06:35 AM
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I wouldn't cut out SF. Too much to see and do for all ages. I would also cut out the time in Anaheim and put at least another day in SF/Yosemite. I know you've got to entertain 3 small kids, but looks like you may be themeparked out as you're hitting most of them.

Yes, SF to Yosemite is about 4+ hrs, and Yosemite to LA is closer to 6 hrs.

One big thing to consider - March even April can still be wintry in Yosemite and not all entrances will likely be open so be prepared to be flexible and plan accordingly. [We've been to Yosemite in March and while it's beautiful, there was only one entrance open due to snow etc] You might want to reverse your schedule and fly into LA, do it and SD then head up to SF/Yosemite and fly out of SF.

And if you could squeeze 14 full days in, that would certainly be better.
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Apr 17th, 2009, 06:49 AM
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One thing I noticed is that you are going to Universal from Anaheim? Universal is up in LA - so you would be going back to LA - not sure if I read your schedule right but just an FYI.
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Apr 17th, 2009, 07:55 AM
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I like Gardyloo's advice about driving the northern coast. Or weather permitting a drive down through Big Sur but keep an eye on the weather for that one.

Southern California may be a little rainy but nothing that would keep you indoors for very long.

When you drive from Anahiem to San Diego start off in mid morning or early afternoon. Same with going back. There's no point in getting an early start or thinking you're going to be there in time for dinner if you leave at 3pm.
Some of the longest drives in my life have been the 100 miles from LA to San Diego.

Cut and paste this tip: On the way from San Diego to LAX use the toll road #73 - it'll cut a few miles from the trip.
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Apr 17th, 2009, 09:06 AM
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Yosemite is too early to be going in March/April..
I would spend another day in SF..only spend 2-3 nights in LA and spend 5 days in SD.
I would drive the coastline from Big Sur to Santa Barbara..go see Hearst Castle..stay in Santa Barbara one night..spend as little time in LA as possible..
San Diego is very similar to Sydney..used to live in Rose Bay and you will love SD..La Jolla/Del Mar are gorgeous..it is Spring so it won't be as warm so you might want to head for a night in Palm Springs..easy drive.
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Apr 17th, 2009, 09:19 AM
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Looks like we are almost unanamous - more time in SF, more time checking out the natural beauty of the area, and less time in theme parks. I think it is a toss up between going to Yosemite or driving the CA coast - depends on what you want to see. Both would be great.

If you do take the coast route down and skip Yosemite, I am not sure about Hearst Castle with little kids though - you know your kids, so you are the best judge, but the tour of the castle is pretty regimented. You really do have to stay with your group, not touch things, etc. Lots of other great things to see on that route though that are perfect for kids
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Apr 17th, 2009, 09:21 AM
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Personally I'd just stick aournd SF, expand my outdoor time & go up (& down) the Coast. Muir Woods, Big Sur, etc. I won't even get started on the wine bit. LA, eech.
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Apr 19th, 2009, 05:24 PM
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I agree with most of the others except I'd say cut out Northern California and stay in SoCal with the limited time you have. I don't think your kids would enjoy all that driving. There's much more for the kids down South and the weather is usually good there at that time of year. Don't forget the Wild Animal Park.
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Apr 20th, 2009, 02:08 AM
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Thanks to all for your well considered feedback. In answer to the kidlets, they are high energy narcissists, consistent need to be endlessly entertained and generally worshipped. Not easy to tire out – not a bloody shrinking violet among them!!

We are trying to jam in a lot, but want to keep it fast paced and exciting, and to be honest, the kids are not great car travellers as they are lacking the patience gene...I think I have come up with a combination that we can all agree to. Your thoughts again are much anticipated.

Based on your advice on the time of year for Yosemite, we will drop that and try this on for size:

Extending trip by 3 days to 15 days/14 nights.

- Fly in to LAX, 3 nights in Anaheim at Disneyland Hotel
- Drive to SD, 4 nights
- Domestic flight out of SD to SF for 3 nights (include some car hire for touring north)
- Fly back to SYD, departing SF, stopping in Hawaii for 4 nights

I also must check your school holiday cycles, as we are planning on travelling sometime during our 1st term school break next year (beginning Good Friday 2 April 2010 to Monday 19 April 2010). What is the school holiday situation at the same time for US school kids? Is the Easter long weekend of Friday 2 April to Monday 5 April also a public holiday for all?
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Apr 20th, 2009, 04:43 AM
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Yes, schools in my area are on break from April 1 until and including April 5 and lots of families will head to Disneyland. Disneyland will be very crowded that long weekend.
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Apr 20th, 2009, 10:45 AM
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Easter is not a public holiday, so no extra days off for most of the working stiffs - you wont have to worry so much about holiday weekend issues. However, since elementary and high schools are generally out the week before or the week after Easter, there will be more people travelling than normally would be on your average weekend in April. Spring Break for colleges and universities isn't tied to Easter and varies from school to school.
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Apr 20th, 2009, 12:11 PM
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Most elementary schools are out the week after Easter, and in SoCal this year they were also out the week before Easter. That week is crazy busy at any Southern California venue, but the worst is Disneyland. I vowed never again to do Disney during spring break a couple of years ago. I just got back yesterday from our annual San Diego vacation, and the best days we have had, every single year, are the ones where we DIDN'T do a park or event, but watched the seals at La Jolla, hung out at the beach, had a picnic in Balboa Park, etc. Don't do so many park things that you miss the real fun! Old Town San Diego is also good with kids who like to run around, lots of grassy areas among the "olden day" buildings. And it's a taste of Mexico, which might be fun coming from Australia.
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Apr 20th, 2009, 06:55 PM
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March in Yosemite will give you the opportunity to snowshoe up at Badger Pass; the ski area rents snowshoes.
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Apr 20th, 2009, 09:49 PM
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I like your second itinerary much much better than your first.

My only concern is that you're doing the more strenuous part in the beginning, which may make the rest of the trip more of a challenge, a dragging through the rest of the trip sort of thing.

I'd stay with the original plan to fly into San Francisco and do the easier, more relaxed part first. Then fly down to LA, drive to SD, and do the theme parks (which can be really exhausting) spaced with some time off just to swim and relax in the hotel swimming pool.

The best way we've found to do Disneyland is to go really early right when the gates open and when we can get on the rides faster without the very long waits in line. Do a number of the rides, have lunch in Disneyland, then return to your hotel (you can get back very easily to the Disneyland Hotel via the monorail). Relax in the hotel (sleep?) and then return to the park for a few more hours before they close. Two days should be more than sufficient for Disneyland.

On weekends, there is a Disney parade with fireworks to close out each night.

With three such little ones, rent a stroller. Here are the stroller rental locations:

http://www.wdwinfo.com/disneyland/plan/rentals.htm

You may even be able to get a stroller rental at the Disneyland Hotel and take it on the monorail.

Believe they also have two-seater strollers or rent two strollers. No matter how high energy your kids are, you're going to need the strollers.

Bring water.
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Apr 20th, 2009, 10:24 PM
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Much better on getting rid of Yosemite..wrong time of year..

You will kick yourself for not doing the drive down the coast..from Carmel/Big Sur down to Santa Barbara.

Stop for lunch at Post Ranch Inn at Sierra Mar or Big Sur Bakery..

Santa Barbara is stunning..Malibu, Laguna Beach..La Jolla..Del Mar..some of the prettiest places in the world!

Great tip from easytraveler on the stroller at Disneyland.
I love Knott's Berry Farm too..great amusement park.
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Apr 20th, 2009, 11:00 PM
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I've lived in Southern CA, for 25 years.
You've got kids. Other replies are forgetting that. Kids are going to enjoy Disney, Universal, SeaWorld much more than San Francisco or even Yosemite or for sure long drives. Rather agree with -Supercilious- above.

More words on San Francisco. You'll hear "very romantic city" perhaps - but for kids? Romantic, yes, especially if your are homosexual (spare me the "you're a homophob" screams please. I won't respond). Last time I was there was about 6 years ago and it was dirty and not fun. Yeah, yeah, don't give me that "Fisherman's Wharf" nonsense, it is worth spending maybe an hour at. Golden Gate Bridge - nice, but kids won't care. "Aquarium by the Bay" you have better in Australia. Presido - big deal, nice park. Hearst Castle - not in SF way way down the coast. China Town - ? maybe. Union Square - no way. Ghirardelli Square - cutesy expensive tourist shopping. North Beach - with/for kids? Cable cars - ok, fun ride. I'm no fan of San Fran.

And about staying around the Anaheim Disneyland area. Sure it's not beautiful beach resorts - but convenient - lot of very acceptable motels/hotels which have shuttle service to Disney. Or even walk across the street to Disney. And reasonably priced. There is also the Disney Hotel, a bit expensive, but advantages of location and other Disney perks.

Universal Studios - If you do drive down from up north, SF or Yosemite, Universal Studios/City is on that side (north) of Los Angeles so makes logistic sense to stay over night in that area. And then make your was down to Disney and points south.

regards - tom
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Apr 21st, 2009, 04:50 AM
  #20
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Thank you again to all.
Tom (cary999) - you speak to my practical, common sense side. I absolutely hear you...
And easytraveler, the early shift at Disney - jetlag not withstanding - should be a no-brainer for us. Have not slept in past 5.30am since the little people arrived 6 years ago!
I will seriously rethink my itinerary again - cut and trim and stick more to my gut instinct re: less sight-seeing in SF - and repost.
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