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rhondafletcher Mar 7th, 2016 07:48 AM

Road Trip - Virgin Brits!
Hello All. Me, my husband and two children (12 and 9) are hoping to take a California road trip in July. We have spent time in the US but none on the West Coast. We'd really like to spend 14 or so days travelling from San Francisco down to San Diego, visiting Yosemite, Napa/Sonoma (are they the same place?), Carmel (is that close to Napa/Sonoma?), Monterrey, Big Sur, Santa Barbara, Vegas/Grand Canyon along the way. I don't know where to start. How much time should we spend in each place? Are any of these day trips or drive throughs? Ideally, it would be nice to have one or two beach days for the kids and also a theme park to break up the driving and sight seeing. Places we really want to see are Francis Ford Coppola's vineyard which I think is in Sonoma and the Grand Canyon but beyond that nothing springs to mind.

Any help on suggested itinerary and driving routes would be much appreciated.

Many thanks.
Rhonda Fletcher

rhondafletcher Mar 7th, 2016 07:49 AM

Also recommendations for hotels and guest houses in these areas would be great! Thanks.

PaulRabe Mar 7th, 2016 08:04 AM

First of all, in two weeks you can't travel from Napa Valley down to San Diego, along with seeing Las Vegas & the Grand Canyon. Oh, I suppose you COULD drive that distance and SEE things, but doing so would be a waste of time & money. So you'll have to decide what things to cut out. This means YOU deciding what YOU want to experience during this visit. I could tell you what places *I* would enjoy, but it's far better if YOU choose places YOU would enjoy.

> Napa/Sonoma (are they the same place?)
Napa County is adjacent to Sonoma County. Both are famous for wine tourism. So they are close (both physically & in what they offer), but they are not the same. So, on a two-week vacation, choose or the other (or neither), but do NOT choose both.

> Carmel (is that close to Napa/Sonoma?

The Napa Valley is north of San Francisco. Carmel is south of The City. Not close.

J62 Mar 7th, 2016 08:21 AM

A good starting place is a map. I like to use google maps to lay out a driving route.

I think you have too much distance to travel & too many locations to fit into 2 weeks. You will see that your points of interest stretch north/south and east over great distances.

To answer your general questions.

Napa & Sonoma (see google maps) are the same general area, about 2 hrs north of SF.

Carmel is the other direction ~2hrs south of SF

Yosemite is 4hrs due east of SF

LV is full day drive further East of the CA coast, and the GC another 1/2 day drive beyond that.

Here's a possible itinerary that touches all your points of interest. It has driving nearly every day, and takes longer than the 2 weeks you have planned. I do NOT recommend this itinerary.

Day 1 arrive SF
Day 2 tour SF
Day 3 Drive to Sonoma / Napa.
Day 4 Drive to Yosemite
Day 5 enjoy Yosemite
Day 6 Drive 4-5 hrs to Monterey
Day 7 enjoy Carmel/Monterey
Day 8 Drive big Sur, to Santa Barbara
Day 9,10 Beach days
Day 11 Drive full day to LV
Day 12 Visit LV
Day 13 Drive to GC
Day 14 Visit GC
Day 15 Full day drive to Southern CA
Day 16 Amusement park in LA area - Universal or Disney or Knotts
Day 17 Drive to San Diego
Day 18 Visit San Diego
Day 19 Visit San Diego. Zoo, Wild Animal Park, Sea World, or Beaches.

sludick Mar 7th, 2016 08:25 AM

So, Carmel and Monterey ARE close. You could stay a couple of days there and see some of both. Big Sur - down a bit farther along the coast - is anybody in your party prone to car sickness? Very winding road, but beautiful. If you don't stay a night there, then suggest at least 3-4 nights in the Monterey area.

In July, you may run into minimum stays of at least 2 nights, so be aware of that.

Forget Las Vegas/Grand Canyon on this trip. You'd have to make a large detour inland across not scenic area in hot July, nor do you have time for it.

Napa-Sonoma - agree, pick one.

Santa Barbara - not a day trip, you'll want to stay there.

How much time do you want to plan for San Francisco and San Diego?

Big Sur link:

nytraveler Mar 7th, 2016 08:45 AM

Agree that you are going to make some hard choices. And I fear you are seriously underestimating the distances/driving times involved (esp the very heavy traffic when near the cities). (The whole of the distance you are covering - without LV/Grand Canyon - is greater than that of the entire United Kingdom.)

First, with 2 kids I would not do Las Vegas. It is not geared for kids - but really for gambling and there are just way too many places that they can't go. And it will take 4 days out of the center of your trip.

And agree - how many nights are you allowing for:

San Francisco (would want at least 3)
LA - will you even visit
Anaheim (2 or 3)
San Diego (at least 2)

Think you need to do some heavy duty map work and look at realistic riving times and then come back with specific queries.

As for lodging, what is your specific budget per night - and can you use a room with 2 double beds?

rhondafletcher Mar 7th, 2016 08:51 AM

OK that's all very helpful. Maps not my strong point!!!

It sounds as though Im a being a bit ambitious! Maybe we should stick to SF to La this time and cut out Vegas/San Diego and also Yosemite. Would that be more realistic?

rhondafletcher Mar 7th, 2016 09:12 AM

Yes totally agree nytraveller. I had googled driving time from LA to SF and it said 5 hours so I thought what I as suggesting was manageable. Back to the drawing board. Do you think SA to LA would be OK in 2 weeks with stops at Sonoma, Santa Barbara, Carmel?

J62 Mar 7th, 2016 09:22 AM

Yes, you can get from SF to LA in about 6hrs if you time it right, but that route is not along the coast.

With 2 weeks I think you have time for something like this:

a) Northern CA. SF/Sonoma/Yosemite/Monterey/Carmel, + Perhaps Big Sur.


b) SF + LA - incl Sonoma, Monterey/Carmel, SB.

janisj Mar 7th, 2016 09:22 AM

two weeks is fine for that -- I'd personally substitute Yosemite for Sonoma.

Say 3 days in SF, 2 full days in Yosemite, 2 days in Monterey/Carmel, 1 day somewhere along the 'mid coast' like Cambria two days in the Paso Robles or Santa Barbara areas for vineyard/wineries, 3 days in LA, fly home.

rjw_lgb_ca Mar 7th, 2016 11:07 AM

San Francisco to LA being a five-hour drive is just plain delusional.

Even on I-5.

Not to mention: Are you experienced drivers, used to driving on the "wrong" side of the road? If so, you still need to steel yourselves for the stunning amount of traffic you'll run into in the greater LA metropolitan area at least once. Sorry, but that's the fact. Since I spend so much time in my car during the week, I really, really, REALLY dislike driving vacations; even the four- to five-hour drive from home to Las Vegas gives me fits, especially since I can get from my front door to Vegas in two hours via Long Beach's JetBlue (or leave an hour earlier to take in a nice wine flight at the airport wine bar).

Your original sketchy itinerary was aggressive to the point of a bit, well, bonkers (sorry). This state is just too big to appreciate and enjoy in two weeks. Two YEARS, even. I tend to suggest that newbies focus on ONE part of the state and really explore it: southern California, San Diego to Santa Barbara (central point: LA), or Northern California, Cambria to Mendocino (central point: San Francisco). You'll be back for the second round, I guarantee it.

sf7307 Mar 7th, 2016 11:15 AM

I would personally skip Napa-Sonoma with 9 and 12 year olds. I don't see the attraction for kids. The views are lovely, but I doubt they'll be very interested in the wineries.

With 14 full days (not including travel days), I'd do something like this:

1. San Francisco - 2 days
2. Yosemite - 2 days
3. Monterey/Carmel - 2 days
4. Drive down the coast, plus Santa Barbara - 2-3 days (maybe overnight in Cambria after Monterey/Carmel, then in Santa Barbara. I'm personally not opposed to just spending an afternoon in Santa Barbara -- too many homeless for my taste, and I live in San Francisco where the homeless population has exploded over the last couple of years).
5. LA - 2 days
6. South of LA beaches - 2 days
7. Anaheim area - 2 days

Even that's 15 days.

jamie99 Mar 7th, 2016 11:16 AM

Drop Napa and Sonoma. Do you have lodging reservations yet for Yosemite? Places book up a year in advance.
3 days SF
1-2 Monterey
1 Pismo Beach
2 Santa Barbara
3 LA
2 DisneylandAnaheim
2 San Diego
You can do wine tasting for a lot less money in Paso Robles near Cambria or the Santa Ynez Valley inland and north of Santa Barbara.

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