USA trip

Old Oct 20th, 2014, 07:08 AM
  #1  
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USA trip

Hi everyone.

This is my first post having just joined, so please bear with me.

I'm sure West Coast questions have been, and, are asked to death here, so apologies for adding more. Although I have read some past threads, I have some questions of my own with the hope of getting some specific current advice on what may be, or maybe not a good idea.

Ok, so this is what I am working with so far.....

We are coming to the US next year, starting out on the 21st of August, and spending approx three weeks there, probably leaving on the 12th of September. The outline plan so far goes something like this....

Day 1 - Land L.A on 21st, spending overnight not too far from airport after collecting car.
Day 2 - Possibly spend early part of day in and around L.A. city tour.?) Then drive up to S.L Obispo / Cambria to overnight.?
Day 3 - Drive to Monterey and overnight here.
Day 4 - Drive onto San Fransisco mid/late afternoon and overnight there.
Day 5 - San Fransisco
Day 6 - San Fransisco
Day 7 - San Fransisco
Day 8 - Leave San Fransisco fairly early and drive via 140 route, Mariposa to Yosemite N.P. Overnight Yosemite
Day 9 - Yosemite N.P
Day 10 - Yosemite N.P
Day 11 - Leave Yosemite early...ish via Tioga Pass, then 395 down to D.V to overnight at Furnace Creek. (doable.?..looks a long way)
Day 12 - Spend early part of day visiting few places in D.V (advice.?) Drive onto Vegas before dark and overnight rest in Vegas.
Day 13 - Leave Vegas and drive onto C.G.N.P. Overnight at location either within or close to Park.
Day 14 - Grand Canyon day, leaving later heading to Page for overnight.
Day 15 - Page day to visit Antelope Canyon / Horseshoe bend / possible river float trip.?...overnight at Page.
Day 16 - Leave Page to head back to Vegas, via Hoover dam route.?
Day 17 - Vegas
Day 18 - Vegas
Day 19 - Vegas.

I am aware the above does not include the full amount of days we have available, but, during this trip I am not sure whether to add a day at L.A to visit some sights there, or, at Yosemite to take more of that in. We are considering doing some white water rafting there, but don't know much about it, so any views of that are welcome. I am also considering staying at or around Lee Vining after leaving Yosemite also, to reduce the distance we travel from Yosemite to Furnace Creek in Death Valley. Alternatively, we could add a day at Furnace Creek for more rest time and visits. I am also considering skipping Page altogether, so as to avoid the extra 130 miles of driving North of the Grand Canyon South Rim, but am not sure what else to incorporate into the schedule. I have had it suggested to drive around the north of the CGNP, visiting Zion / Bryce, and then into Page and down to GCNP South. Again, opinions on this are welcome.

What I do not want to do is to spend all the time driving. From what I have read from various threads / websites, it does appear that people tend to want to cram in so much that they have no time to actually enjoy the places they whizz through. This is something I want to avoid. We will have a good stay in S.F, and also in Vegas to end the trip, but what comes in between is changable depending on what appears a good choice and what's logistically feasible within reason.

Travelling will be my wife and I. We are both late 40's.

All advice or views are welcome and will be appreciated.

Thanks in advance everyone.
Notamused is offline  
Old Oct 20th, 2014, 07:52 AM
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Depending on how late your flight gets into LAX, you might want to get the car the next morning. You should be able to get to a nearby hotel without a rental car.
As for San Francisco, you may find that staying outside the city near a BART stop may be cheaper and easier. Parking in the city can be difficult.
The Hacienda casino/hotel is about 2 miles from Hoover Dam. They have a good all you can eat buffet that you don't have to walk through the casino to get to.
If you stay at the Hacienda, you can visit Hoover Dam morning or evening. Drive across the dam to the Arizona side to the second or third parking lot for free parking.
The parking garage on the NV side is a bit of a ripoff IMO.
I would not spend 3 nights in Las Vegas.
Have you considered visiting Bryce Canyon or Zion National Park?
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Old Oct 20th, 2014, 08:40 AM
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Death Valley will be very hot in late August. You can still visit for a night, but plan on doing all of your sightseeing in the late evening or early morning. I would absolutely not add another night there as you will be pretty limited in what you can do in the afternoon due to the heat.

Your plan has you leaving Death Valley and driving to Las Vegas for an overnight before heading to the Grand Canyon. You will probably be leaving Death Valley by noon or so, and Las Vegas is only a couple hours away. I'd keep driving to either the Grand Canyon or Zion (if you decide to work Zion into your itinerary). The Grand Canyon is another 4-5 hours, Zion is about 2.5 - 3 hours from Vegas.

I would absolutely stay inside the park at the Grand Canyon.

I would spend only one night at Page. Plan your day around the Antelope Canyon tour, fit in the other things if you can and then head to your next stop.

If you decide to add Zion and Bryce, Zion deserves 2-3 nights and Bryce one night. So, if you do away with that Vegas night between Death Valley and Grand Canyon, and do away with one of the Page nights you are getting close to having enough time to visit Bryce and Zion. Like I said earlier, I think it makes a lot more sense to go from Death Valley to Zion in a day rather than stop in Vegas for an overnight.

Lastly, you are visiting during a major holiday weekend. Labor Day weekend is September 5th - 7th. You can expect the national parks to be busier than normal starting on the 4th for sure, probably even on the 3rd. Keep that in mind when trying to work out an itinerary and book lodging. That busy period starts at about day 14 or 15 in your itinerary. Zion and the Grand Canyon will be busiest, Bryce not as bad.
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Old Oct 20th, 2014, 09:03 AM
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Just a quick note right now w/ a couple of random comments -- will post more when I get home:

• Death Valley in August will be EXTREMELY <red>HOT</red> Like 120+F/48 to 50C. You won't be doing much/any outside the car/ac. No - do not add any time there -- in fact consider skipping it all together.

• You are dashing up the coast but spending several days in Las Vegas (Vegas will be very hot too). The drive on the coast is absolutely gorgeous - and especially between SLO and Monterey/Carmel is slow driving. I'd cut one or two days from Vegas and add time between LA and SF.

IMO LV doesn't merit 4 days whereas the California coast does.
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Old Oct 20th, 2014, 09:20 AM
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You don;t mention who "we" are - and if you have kids the trip should probably have a different shape depending on their ages. For smaller kids you need to allow more time to do some kid things. If they are older - but still under 21 - I would skip Vegas - since there is not really much for kids to do there and they're not allowed in any of the casinos.
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Old Oct 20th, 2014, 09:25 AM
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I have spent a lot of time in all the areas you are looking at. How much is too much or too little is something that depends on every individuals interests obviously. What always amazes me is that people think they can know beforehand how much time they will need in a given place.

You want to do a road trip. Here's how to do a road trip. I would arrive in LA, rent the car and leave LA if your arrival is before say 6pm. The car rental shuttle will take you directly from the airport to the rental office. Leaving it till the next morning will just cost you a taxi to a hotel and then a taxi to the car rental. Why add that cost?

Hotels near the airport are NOT in a desirable neighbourhood. I stayed in a nearby hotel once due to a late arrival time. Never again. The hotel had bars on the windows of every ground floor room and a walled and gated parking lot. What does that tell you?

Have the car rental agent show you on their free map, how to get onto Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway (it actually runs right through the Airport, you just need to get onto it from the car rental lot location). Stay anywhere along that highway(or within a few blocks) your first night. The farther north the better but anywhere from Santa Monica onwards.
https://maps.google.ca/maps?biw=1280...classic&dg=brw

Highway 1 (not 101) from Malibu to San Francisco is one of the most scenic drives in America. You can do it in a couple of days as you suggest or you can spend a couple of weeks exploring it.

You mention Monterey. Look at just that area. You have Carmel, the '17 Mile Drive' that goes through the Pebble Beach Golf Club, the Monterey acquarium and Cannery Row, at a minimum to consider in that area. Have you read 'Cannery Row' by John Steinbeck?
https://www.google.ca/?gfe_rd=cr&ei=...d=ssl#q=carmel

https://www.google.ca/?gfe_rd=cr&ei=...=17+mile+drive

http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/

How long will that area alone take you? Are you aware of the chain of Missions established by the Spaniards that go all up the coast? Some are on Highway 1, one is in SLO (San Luis Obispo, pronounced 'slow' locally)another in Santa Barbara. Would you want to visit one or two?
http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=22722

What about Morro Rock and Hearst Castle? I've spent several days hiking coastal paths near Morro Bay several times. Hearst Castle has about 4 tours you can take that would take days to do.
https://www.google.ca/search?q=morro...w&ved=0CDMQsAQ

https://www.google.ca/?gfe_rd=cr&ei=...=hearst+castle

Farther north you will go through Big Sur. Heard of that?
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/David-...b_5095299.html

All this is just an example of what is available long before you get to San Francisco or even Monterey.

So here's my point. You can plan any itinerary you want to but inevitably you are going to try and cover too much ground in too little time. That's because there is far more to see and do than just a few highlights you have thought of so far.

You could easily spend your entire time doing a circular route around the Grand Canyon taking in Zion, GC North Rim (superior in my opinion simply because it only gets 10% of all GC visitors), Lake Powell (via 89A from Kanab, not 89)down to Cameron Trading Post and west to GC south rim and then west to Las Vegas.

You really need to consider how much time you want to spend actually driving. You can spend a lot of it covering the area you are looking at.

The way I do a road trip is simple. First, do lots of research for places of interest to YOU. Then start at A and wing it from there. I do NOT plan a fixed itinerary at all. I let what I find along the road decide how far I get each day or not.

One of the good things about road tripping in the USA is that there are plenty of motels/hotels along the highways. I've never yet not been able to find a room to rent within my budget.
Sojourntraveller is offline  
Old Oct 20th, 2014, 09:32 AM
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Glad I saw this before I left for the day . . . BIG red flag there: >>I do NOT plan a fixed itinerary at all. I let what I find along the road decide how far I get each day or not.
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Old Oct 20th, 2014, 09:33 AM
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I agree with everyone else that you are rushing through the California Coast and spending way too much time in Vegas. Perhaps it would make more sense if you tell us why Vegas?
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Old Oct 20th, 2014, 09:47 AM
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<You don;t mention who "we" are>
Except he does, nyt. Quite clearly.
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Old Oct 20th, 2014, 10:56 AM
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I agree that you are devoting too many days to Las Vegas unless, of course, gambling is an important pastime for you and I would want to make certain this itinerary includes Bodie Ghost Town (California), Valley of Fire State Park (Nevada), and Zion National Park (Utah).

HTtY
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Old Oct 20th, 2014, 11:17 AM
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<First, do lots of research for places of interest to YOU. Then start at A and wing it from there. I do NOT plan a fixed itinerary at all. I let what I find along the road decide how far I get each day or not.>

This makes no sense. Why bother to do lots of research and then simply wing it and not plan anything out? Either decide what you want to see and make an itinerary to get to those destinations, or just drive around randomly and see whatever you happen upon. I believe the OP is looking for advice on the former strategy.

Also, as stated already OP has plans to drive along the coast, stay in national parks and is including a major holiday weekend towards the end of this trip. Simply winging it is just not a smart idea.
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Old Oct 20th, 2014, 11:22 AM
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The announcement of plans to visit Death Valley always brings forth the warning that it is hot there. Surprise! True, June-August are the warmest months and some find the heat unbearable. I find the heat exotic and invigorating to my senses--something I can't experience in other places I travel.

We always enjoy a stay at Furnace Creek Lodge, nearby Artist's Drive, and the heavens at night.

HTtY
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Old Oct 20th, 2014, 11:37 AM
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I agree with janisj, spend more time along the coast and less in Las Vegas. Be sure and book your lodging for Yosemite and Grand Canyon asap and keep calling for cancellations if you cannot get what you want right now.
Why not spend a day or two in Los Angeles, it is the second largest city in the USA and has many things to see and do outside of the usual Hollywood stuff (which is a letdown to many tourist).
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Old Oct 20th, 2014, 01:18 PM
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Hotels near LAX are fine - there are plenty of chain hotels without bars on the windows. No, I wouldn't live there, and you'll probably eat in the hotel restaurant, but they're absolutely fine for an overnight.

I also agree with the others - a couple of days on the coast, drop a day from Las Vegas unless there's some special reason for you to spend so much time there (it's very hot in summer in Las Vegas, too -- probably be upwards of 110 degrees F)(But I admit, one day in Vegas every 10 years is enough for me).
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Old Oct 21st, 2014, 02:10 AM
  #15  
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@ Tomfuller

Thanks for the reply.

We would be coming in at around 7.45pm, so not too late. As you say, we could get a overnight close to the airport and collecet car next morning, but also, as another poster suggested, would it be better to collect car and drive to santa Monica for first night, and then plan from there.?

Also, For San Fransisco, we would not look to keep the car, but would put it back in and take another out when we were ready to move on. We wanted to have a few days in S.F, and from what I gather, there's little point in having a car there and paying for parking when we would not really need it. The public transport system would be fine for us during those few days. Any opinions on this or the choices on arrival to L.A are welcome.

Interesting points about facilities near Hoover Dam, thanks. As for Zion / Bryce then yes, we have considered diong Zion also, but are unsure what to do.


@ Wherearewe

That's good advice Re: Death Valley and we will take that on board, thank you. Perhaps we will stick to the one night there, it makes sense. not really sure of the part between Yosemite and any parks, so going North or South of the CGNP is what's been confusing me. As I said, I don't want to be contstantly stuck in a car, but would like to see places. I guess it's somewhat of a compromise, and one which only we can make the decision over. It's so tricky to choose.

Thanks for the tips about Labour day. we will keep that in mind.


@ JanisJ

Thanks for the post. We don't have solid plans set as yet and so are most definitely open to all sorts of opinions and guidance. We may well be rushing through the PCH region yes, and if this needs more time, we can do that and reduce elsewhere. I take on what you're saying about Death Valley, and that's noted. We will make any trip early morning or later in towards evening. We would like to spend the last few nights in Vegas to finish up, and no, this is not for gambling reasons. Initially Vegas was not something that really interested us, but we know so many people who went and loved it, even those who felt they may not, that we just want to see for ourselves what it's like. May or may not be for us, but we want to do it.


@ Sojourntravller.

Thanks for the post, there's some infomative stuff in there and I really appreciate the time you have taken to write it out. I will consider it carefully. I find your suggestion of collecting car and heading up towards Santa Monica interesting and somewhat appealing. If that's easy enough, we would certainly consider this on arrival.

We are not interested in any missions, and while we want to see some of the Pacific highway, we are not totally sure about where as yet, so how many nights we spend there is flexible. As many appear to be suggesting here, it requires more time. Maybe we will look into doing that.

I'm not entirely as confident as you about the winging it part, and feel that making some firm reservations is wise. As others have stated, it's a busy time of year and in some places, it could be pretty critical to ensure we have somewhere to get to confirmed. not knowing where we are and trying to arrange stuff on the fly sounds stressful, and my wife would slap me if we had to sleep in the car..haha.


@ JanisJ

Yes, I get what you're saying and thanks for the advice on Sojourntravellers post.


@ Austintraveller.

There is no real reason for Vegas. The part of my post above here sort of descibes our feelings towards it. We just thought it might be a good place to finish.


@ HappyTrailsToYou

We are not set for sure where we will go altogether, but, we do hav to make some compromises. We are not able to see everywhere, but all suggestions are very welcome and give us more to think on. Thanks for your tips.


@ WhereAreWe

Yes, I feel a degree of planning is essential given the nature of what we intend to cover, and so I agree with your thinking.


@ Jamie99

We have no plans to stay in L.A. We are aware there is much there, but we aren't sure it's for us. I feel we would prefer to move on and see what's further north. Whether that's incorrect or not we don't know.


@ SF3707

You echo the overall sentiments towards Vegas, and this is interesting. There appears to be a concensus that Vegas is perhaps not somewhere to dedicate too much time to, and this is something we will take another look at. We are fine with the heat, as we generally like it.


@ Everyone.....

Finally, we are not completely set on where to go and what to do. so please, if anyone feels they could suggest and overall itinery for this trip, then feel free to chip in with that. Any and all advice or opinion is welcome, as it gives us more to consider. sometimes, what seems like good advice can be misleading, and conversely, what seems like bad advice can have positive elemsnts which are worth taking in.

Thanks to all for the time in answering my post. I really appreciate it.
Notamused is offline  
Old Oct 21st, 2014, 07:39 AM
  #16  
 
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For a one rental car trip, you could fly into SFO first and take public transport (BART) into the city, Spend the time in San Francisco and then rent the car downtown.
The order from San Francisco - Yosemite - Death Valley (via Tioga Pass)-Las Vegas (or Zion/Bryce)-North Rim Grand Canyon (or Page)-Monument Valley-Hoover Dam- Las Vegas - Los Angeles - Santa Monica and coastal towns on the way back to San Francisco.
You should get a better car rental deal renting downtown in either city than at the airport.
tomfuller is online now  
Old Oct 21st, 2014, 10:04 AM
  #17  
 
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Janisj, I do not live in California, that's true. However, I have visited it many times and that I think is MORE relevant than where someone lives. It is the perspective of a traveller that matters to a traveller, not the perspective of a resident who may have and quite often has done LESS travel in their home area than a outsider has.

I have travelled without pre-booking for many years in many places. I have yet to have to sleep in the car or on a park bench. That includes California in probably every month of the year.

Some people are very quick to state what they believe as if it were a fact rather than just an opinion. I go on evidence, not opinion. Here is some real evidence regarding California hotel occupancy in August. http://industry.visitcalifornia.com/...ulletinweb.pdf
Bottom line, it averages 75%.

Many people cannot accept the idea that they do not have to pre-book. That's up to them but when someone suggests that you MUST pre-book, I disagree totally. I go by the numbers, they don't lie and they are not an OPINION.

It is in fact rare unless there is a convention in town or something for a hotel to be 100% occupied. Hotels also have an average of 10% 'no-shows' every day. Walking in the door and having them say, 'no rooms available' is something I have had happen very few times anywhere.

If someone is more comfortable pre-booking at the expense of flexibility that is up to them. I prefer the flexibility to decide each day what I will do and that means winging it.

Any suggestion that you cannot wing it as easily as you can pre-book is in my experience and according to the EVIDENCE, nonsense.
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Old Oct 21st, 2014, 10:43 AM
  #18  
 
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Tossing out a meaningless statistic doesn't help the OP.

1) That statistic is 6 years old. Not relevant

2) That statistic is statewide, not a specific town or even a specific area.

If someone wants to wing it and not pre-book,that is great. For this OP, it is not good advice since they 1) have specific destinations in mind, 2) are not from this country and therefore don't have the luxury of taking multiple road trips to see things they may miss with an unplanned, flexible trip and 3) Most importantly, they have a number of destinations with high occupancy rates and therefore prebooking is the only logical thing to do.

Why wing it and take the chance of driving into Yosemite or the Grand Canyon to discover there's no room at the inn?
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Old Oct 21st, 2014, 11:55 AM
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Instead of staying in Death Valley, why not stay someplace on Highway 395 like Lone Pine or Bishop (great bakery in Bishop) where it will be cooler and just drive through Death Valley with maybe a quick stop or two?
Sorry you do not feel like LA is for you, but it is your trip, we do have some great attractions like the Getty Center and Getty Villa, Griffith Observatory, Huntington Library and Gardens and many other things totally unrelated to the movies.
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Old Oct 21st, 2014, 01:17 PM
  #20  
 
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>>not the perspective of a resident who may have and quite often has done LESS travel in their home area than a outsider has.
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