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3-week california round trip in April 2014 - I'm thankful for any advises!!!

by MTBManiac Online Now Mar 2, 2013 at 9:20 AM

We are 4 people (2 couples) and want to hit San Francsisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Las Vegas. The Highway Nr. 1 is on top of the list, we also want so visit some of the Recreational Areas like Yosemite, Joshua Tree etc. so it's not possible to stay in one place for too long.

Does it make sense to visit Grand Canyon, too? 3 weeks is not that long as we all know...

Is it better to rent a car and sleep in motels or to go with an RV? What about the combination of both?

I still have plenty of time, but I am happy for any suggestions, hints, advises!

P.S.: We've never visited Cali so far.

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15 Answers
  • giampiero6's Profile Photo

    Re: 3-week california round trip in April 2014 - I'm thankful for any advises!!!

    by giampiero6 Online Now Mar 2, 2013 at 9:26 AM

    You are in for a trip of a lifetime and will be seeing some of the best scenery and lifestyle in the world! I'll give you a fuller bit of into here in a little bit, I'm just running out now. But a couple of quick tips.

    I'd rent a car and use motels/hotels. An RV on HWY 1 and in cities will be a pain in the ass...and not worth it.

    Don't spend too much time in LA or SD (Great place to live, but not extraodinary for the visitor compared to the other locations)

    3 weeks is a nice chunk of time and if used wisely will be perfect!

    Really...this will be incredible! I road trip around this glorious state all the time and was just in Joshua tree last weekend.

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  • blueskyjohn's Profile Photo

    Re: 3-week california round trip in April 2014 - I'm thankful for any advises!!!

    by blueskyjohn Online Now Mar 2, 2013 at 9:50 AM

    I second what G states. Definitely rent a car and use hotels. I did a two road trip last summer. Our route, Sacramento (cheaper to fly into) - South Lake Tahoe - Yosemite - then to Hwy 1 at Cambria - Monterey - Half Moon Bay - Mendocino then finished in Napa Valley. Trip of a life time. I don't think we could have done so much if we had an RV. We did mostly hotels and B&B's with an occasional night camping (tent).

    As for the Grand Canyon. Maybe best to leave that for a road trip of southern Utah and northern Arizona.

    Have a great trip!

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  • marinarena's Profile Photo

    Re: 3-week california round trip in April 2014 - I'm thankful for any advises!!!

    by marinarena Online Now Mar 2, 2013 at 10:09 AM

    3 weeks seems like just the right amount time to hit each location, about 3-4 days each in the 5 locations, including Grand Canyon. I am particularly fond of Highway 1, especially from Orange county to San Diego. Find a slightly above modest beach motel along Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach or Dana Point, where people are tremendously friendly I've found.

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  • Agraichen's Profile Photo

    Re: 3-week california round trip in April 2014 - I'm thankful for any advises!!!

    by Agraichen Online Now Mar 2, 2013 at 10:11 AM

    It would be helpful to know where you plan to fly in and out of as well as likes/dislikes. Consider that 1-way car (rv too) drop off charges can be excessive so think about a loop itinary if you do drive which I'd recommend.

    San Francisco to San Diego via Monterey and other sites mentioned above is a great drive. You will need to check the CalTrans web site for Hwy 1 construction as the route just south of San Francisco is notorious. There is a large tunnel being built to avoid this mess but I haven't checked lately for its completion date.

    If you do take in Las Vegas consider a helicopter viewing of the Grand Canyon. It is done in 3-4 hours with the addition of a Hoover Dam flyover and the Las Vegas Strip at dusk if you get an afternoon flight. It's not like being there and hiking but it does give the opportunity to see this sight.

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  • KimberlyAnn's Profile Photo

    Re: 3-week california round trip in April 2014 - I'm thankful for any advises!!!

    by KimberlyAnn Online Now Mar 2, 2013 at 10:37 AM

    I also recommend not using an RV. When we visit California we do travel with our own 5th wheel trailer. Since we own it, we are not paying a rental fee, and it is cheaper to stay in campgrounds and cook most of your own food, but when you factor in the cost of the rental, I don't think you would be saving anything. Also RVs that you rent are usually one vehicle, not a trailer that you can unhook and leave behind, which we can do with our 5th wheel. We have to use a good sized pick-up to pull or trailer, and even the truck can be difficult to park in some areas in towns and cities. I definitely would not want to have to park an RV. We have driven hwy 1 a number of times, and it is one of my favorite highways in the entire country, just stunning. Be aware that it is a 2-lane, and there are areas with drop offs on the ocean side of the highway, so unless you are use to mountain type driving with steep drop offs on one side, I think you would not be happy driving an RV along this road.

    In my opinion, trying to squeeze the Grand Canyon in, would be a bit much, but then I tend to like to travel differently than a lot of people. I like to settle into places and spend time exploring each place, before moving on, but I understand that some folks like to see a few highlights, then move on, so that they can see as many places as possible. If you are one of those that enjoy seeing a lot of places, then you could probably fit in the places that you have mentioned, but do prioritize what you enjoy the most---Hiking? Museums? Sports? Nightlife? Shopping? City activity or more nature? You simply won't be able to see all that any of these places have to offer. Check out people's VT pages for each of these places, and list the "Things too Do" and "Off the Beaten Path" items that most interest you, then continue your planning using this priority wish list. This list will also help you to decide if you have time to visit all the places you have mentioned, or if you need to cut back some.

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  • vtveen's Profile Photo

    Re: 3-week california round trip in April 2014 - I'm thankful for any advises!!!

    by vtveen Online Now Mar 2, 2013 at 10:47 AM

    We made also a (almost) 3 weeks (May/June) in 2011. Our itinerary was:

    • Los Angeles (Rancho Palos Verdes) couple of days with relatives
    • Rancho Palos Verdes - Mission San Juan Capistrano - Carlsbad - Julian
    • Julian - Anza Borrego SP - Salvation Mountain - Indio
    • Indio - Coachelle Valley Preserve - Palm Desert - Indian Wells - Indio
    • Indio - Joshua Tree NP - Twentynine Palms
    • Twentynine Palms - Mojave Nat. Preserve - Zzyzx - Tecopa
    • Tecopa - China Ranch - Death valley NP - Stovepipe Wells
    • Stovepipe Wells - Wildrose Charcoal Kilns - Alabama Hills - Lone Pine
    • Lone Pine - Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest - Mammoth Lakes - Lee Vining
    • Lee Vining - Mono Lake - Bodie - Lee VIning
    • Lee Vining - Bridgeport / Travertine Hot Springs - South Lake tahoe - Tahoe City (it was snowing and freezing !!)
    • Tahoe City - Squaw Valley - Truckee - Nevada City - Bridgeport Covered Bridge - Grass Valley
    • Grass Valley - Empire Mine State Historic Park - Auburn - Sacramento
    • Sacramento - Sonoma (Mission) - Muir Woods NP - San Francisco
    • San Francisco: bike trip Golden gate and further
    • San Francisco: highlights
    • San Francisco - Bean Hollow State Beach - Carmel (Mission)
    • Carmel - Point Lobos State Reserve - Pfeiffer Big Sur SP - Julia Pfeiffer Burns SP - Nacimiento Fergusson Road - Mission san Antonio de Padua - Cambria - Piedras Blancas (elephant seals) - Morro Bay (wouldn't recommend for a stay)
    • Morro Bay - San Luis Obispo - Oso Flaco Lake Natural Area - Solvang - Santa Barbara - Santa Paula
    • Santa Paula - LA: Getty Center, Rodeo Drive, Hollywood (sign), Walk of Fame,  La Brea Tar Pits - Marina del Rey
    • Marina del Rey - Venice Beach

    Sorry, but till now I didn't add tips about this road trip on VT; to get an impression you could take a look at a number of selected pictures: flickr.com/photos/vtveen/set...

    Personally I would recommend staying in hotels/motels. Be aware during summer it is not allowed to travel through Death Valley in a RV.

    It would skip Grand Canyon, better for another holiday in Arizona/Utah.

    We had a breathtaking trip to California, I'm sure you will have also !!

    happy travels

    Jaap

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  • travelgourmet's Profile Photo

    by travelgourmet Online Now Mar 2, 2013 at 1:01 PM

    Welcome to California . Only one question about your holiday. What month do you plan to take this California Adventure? It will help to know to determine the routes to take to see it all. There are many other unique areas between San Francisco and San Diego and Yosemite is one of the most inspiring, but depending on your desires Hwy 1 is the Pacific Ocean coastline and Yosemite is the mountain side. Many scenic areas to see along the way along the coast such as the Monterey Bay area with Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Big Sur, Mooro Bay, to San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach. You could spend two weeks just seeing these locations. San Francisco and the Napa region which includes Sonoma are a five day visit to see all the sites of worth . As for the Yosemite side of California, there is Hwy 49 which is home or was the home to the gold rush era and many towns still exist. From Nevada City to Oakhurst are towns with a history. California is a large state to travel and just seeing the highlights could take up the three weeks. Take a look at the Virtural Tourist Travel Guides for California to see all there is to see, then choose the locations you desire to visit. California here we come, say most of the tourists, but they only see the topping. I would take the motel route instead of RVing due to the easy access to streets as well as being able to park with a car in a city or stop at a restaurant and Hwy 1,(PCH) is narrow for some distance and a automobile gas mileage could be better. But, if camp grounds are your rest areas, then of course a RV would be nice. Reserve way ahead of your date to make sure a space is available. Happy Travels. :-)

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  • Jamesr3939's Profile Photo

    Re: 3-week california round trip in April 2014 - I'm thankful for any advises!!!

    by Jamesr3939 Online Now Mar 2, 2013 at 4:56 PM

    I think you can go very well in three weeks. B

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  • Jamesr3939's Profile Photo

    Re: 3-week california round trip in April 2014 - I'm thankful for any advises!!!

    by Jamesr3939 Online Now Mar 2, 2013 at 4:57 PM

    Where do you plan to arrive/depart?

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  • MTBManiac's Profile Photo

    Re: 3-week california round trip in April 2014 - I'm thankful for any advises!!!

    by MTBManiac Online Now Mar 29, 2013 at 4:34 AM

    Do you know 5th wheel rentals? We won't spend too much time in the cities, just the highlights, we are more into hiking and enjoying nature.
    In the national parks we plan to BBQ every night.

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  • MTBManiac's Profile Photo

    Re: 3-week california round trip in April 2014 - I'm thankful for any advises!!!

    by MTBManiac Online Now Mar 29, 2013 at 4:38 AM

    travelgourmet wrote:
    Only one question about your holiday. What month do you plan to take this California Adventure? 

    Hi, it's going to be in April 2014, it's not possible to book flights this early, so we have to wait until fall to book. But it will be around easter holidays!

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  • travelgourmet's Profile Photo

    Re: 3-week california round trip in April 2014 - I'm thankful for any advises!!!

    by travelgourmet Online Now Mar 29, 2013 at 3:59 PM

    I ask only because if you travel Hwy US-395 for any reason, you will most likely travel in snow country. If so, snow chains may be needed and some rental companies do not like to have their vehicles needing chains. Also, the Hwy US-395 entrance to the Yosemite Valley using the Tioga Pass road CA-120 may still be closed due to snow in April. Check with road conditions before leaving to even think about going this way. See: dot.ca.gov/hq/roadinfo/displ...

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  • Bob_VW's Profile Photo

    Re: 3-week california round trip in April 2014 - I'm thankful for any advises!!!

    by Bob_VW Online Now Dec 28, 2013 at 6:59 AM

    MTBManiac wrote:

    We are 4 people (2 couples) and want to hit San Francsisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Las Vegas. The Highway Nr. 1 is on top of the list, we also want so visit some of the Recreational Areas like Yosemite, Joshua Tree etc. so it's not possible to stay in one place for too long.

    Does it make sense to visit Grand Canyon, too? 3 weeks is not that long as we all know...

    Is it better to rent a car and sleep in motels or to go with an RV? What about the combination of both?

    I still have plenty of time, but I am happy for any suggestions, hints, advises!

    P.S.: We've never visited Cali so far.

    3 Weeks is a good unless in an RV.  LA Traffic and then San Francisco is a real "bear", but not undoable.  For LA you will put up with a tremendous amount of traffic and depending on what time it could take hours.  (Have a good GPS)  You won't be able to take a Motor Home in San Francisco, the streets are just way too tight and there will be no parking for your rig.  You would most likely have to park in Alameda and take the Bus or BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit)  Last I checked on my "Gas Buddy" App, gas was about a dollar more than what we pay here in Northern Alabama.  

    If you plan to drive:  We do the trip in 3 days (although it could be done in less time) because we don't want to be exhausted when we get there.  If you are going to San Diego First then plan a southern route that angles down to I-10.  When you get to the western edge of Phoenix, AZ you will see an off ramp to I-8 that will take you to San Diego the quickest.  In San Diego, there are lots and lots of Tourist Attractions.  There is a city tour on a Trolly which is a great way to see San Diego as well as let someone else do the driving.  Old Town is where you pickup the trolly.  There are some really fantastic resaurants in Old Towne, especially if you want some really really great Mexican Food.  Going to LA from San Diego is a straight shot up I-5 (again have a good GPS and Road Map from AAA).  Don't drive up there at 6 AM or you will be in a "parking lot".  Have a good breakfast and leave around 8-8:30 AM.  Take your time and enjoy the scenery.

    LA is where we grew up so I will try to keep it short (lol).  Lots of great things to see and do.  We use to go to Venice Beach almost every Saturday and have breakfast at the "Sidewalk Cafe" on the boardwalk.  A bit of advice, if you get to Venice Beach before 9 AM the parking will be less expensive.  We would park in the city paking lot at the end of Rose Street, then walk over to the Venice Beach Boardwalk.  Another bit of adivice, do not leave your valuables unattended.

    Suffice it to say, if you get one of the travel books from AAA you can't go wrong on whatever you plan on your trip.  Going to San Francisco:  There are a couple of ways to go.  The real senic route would be to travel up highway 101.  It's a fantastic drive and takes a bit longer but well worth it.  When you get to San Jose/Santa Clara be prepared for lots and lots of traffic.  

    Your trip plan is very doable in 3 weeks and since the Grand Canyon is off I-40 you can even get that in.  Speaking of the Grand Canyon, we stayed in Williams, AZ and took the old steam train up to the Grand Canyon.  There are a few surpises along the way so no spoiler alert here.  Have a great time and if you need any other details, you may reach me at my e-mail sqsrfun@yahoo.com

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  • Bob_VW's Profile Photo

    Re: 3-week california round trip in April 2014 - I'm thankful for any advises!!!

    by Bob_VW Online Now Dec 28, 2013 at 8:02 AM

    If you are in Los Angeles and want to go to Yosemite going up 395 is a bit out of the way about 100 miles but a fantastic scenic drive. What you could do is the California Coast up to San Francisco, then travel east through Lake Tahoe and pick up the 395 going south. Doing the "Loop" gets you into western Nevada. Sometimes weather can be a factor so give yourselves options.

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  • MTBManiac's Profile Photo

    Re: 3-week california round trip in April 2014 - I'm thankful for any advises!!!

    by MTBManiac Online Now Dec 28, 2013 at 8:12 AM

    Thank you for helping me, Bob_VW!

    Meanwhile I did a lot of investigation and planning, now this is the plan:

    froggyproggy.com/travel/dd95...

    We decided to go by rental car and stay in Motels / Hotels / BnBs.
    I guess a Chevy Tahoe sized SUV should be OK for 4 guys / 3 weeks?

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