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15 day trip and route from La


Janr
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Hi,

We are planning a trip with my sister and brother in law and have about 15 days to go from LA to LA in early May. 

Thia is a rough plan but would appreciate your thoughts and expertise.  We are wanting to see as many highlights of the area but trying not to spend the time just in the car.  We may need to cut something out to achieve this. 

We arrive off the cruise ship on 4th May 

4th  Palm Springs

5th 8th May Vegas

9th Grand Canyon

10th Death Valley

11th & 12 Yosimite (thinking of staying at Mariposa outside the park.  (Is their a cheaper way of getting into the park pre buying a pass.  Is a day 1/2 day tour in the park recommended.  Will certain roads be a problem?

13th Lake Tahoe

14th Sonna wine country

15th 16th San Fran

17th Monterey

18th Santa Barbara

Back to LA

Are there any must see things to see or do.

We then go on for another 4 months around travel around the States, but as we have a short time with my sister, and they are flying back to Australia this has to be more structured.

Many thanks

Jan

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Wow! Are you planning to sleep at all on this trip? I think that you need to take a closer look at your itinerary. 

We arrive off the cruise ship on 4th May ~4th  Palm Springs  This much will work just fine.It is only about 2 hours drive to Palm Springs. You will be bypassing Joshua Tree National Park, closeby.

5th 8th May Vegas    Time here just depends on what you want to do. If you enjoy shows and gambling it isn't very much time but for me, it would be too much time. Here is information on what to do there. 

9th Grand Canyon It will take just over 4 hours to drive to Grand Canyon NP. If you plan to drive up the day before you could do a quick tour but this is an awfully big place to pack into one day. Some guided tours do it but you will miss a great deal if you do so. You should plan to spend at least 2 days here and many of us have spent longer than that. 

10th Death Valley This is another very large park that you will only have time to drive through. The drive from Grand Canyon will require nearly all day. If you plan to spend the night in the park you will have some time but if you don't Death Valley NP will be just a blur.

11th & 12 Yosimite  This is a park that you can see the highlights of in a day but it will mean a lot of time spent in the car and very little time to do any of the hiking trails.  The drive from Death Valley will take about 6 hours so that too will limit your time in Yosemite NP but it is possible. 

13th Lake Tahoe  If things go well you can get here in 5 1/2 hours but 6 is more likely. There are many places to stay near Lake Tahoe and how much time you need will depend on what you want to do. If seeing it is enough, you can do so and there are also guided tours. 

14th Sonna wine country  Drive time should be no problem on this one but you do need to plan your tour and choose what you wish to visit.

15th 16th San Fran  This is a very large city with interesting things to see and experience. Travel to it will not be a problem but you should plan ahead to know what you wish to see & do and also how you will get from place to place.

17th Monterey: 18th Santa Barbara : The highlight of this area in our opinion was the bay aquarium. There are golf courses and a beach so it will be a full day. Santa Barbara is much the same and while it is a scenic drive, none of this should require a great deal of time. You may want to spend most of that time sitting on the beach to rest as you will be very tired by this point in your trip. 

I hope that this is helpful to you. If it were me, I would shorten the time spent in Las Vegas and San Fransisco and put that time into Grand Canyon and Yosemite. I would also try to shorten the amount of travel as the route that you have planned will take you nearly 2,500 miles (4000 Km) and about 40 hours of actual driving, if all goes well.

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Clearly this is all personal preference but having done 90% of this trip multiple times (minus the trip through Napa) I think you are hitting the high points if you are fast travelers and just looking to give things a quick look.  Grand Canyon is a good example, if you want you can walk up to the South Rim, look over, soak it in a minute and then get back in the car and go.  You could also spend a week hiking the different trails and taking in all the different views, depends on how you want to do it.  One thing I would recommend is to not sell yourself short on the return trip from SF to LA.  That, along with the Yosemite valley, is the highlight of this trip.  The drive down CA 1 from SF, through Santa Cruz, Monterey, Big Sur (if open) and down to Santa Barbara, etc. is amazing, absolutely breathtaking drive with plenty of places to pull over and just look at the pacific from a cliff high above.  Give yourself time to enjoy this.  Also, I just realized you said May so the pass won't be open from the back side of Yosemite, might make more sense to head up the east side of the Sierra (through Lone Pine) all the way to Tahoe and then down to Yosemite.  You will love this trip, even if you don't get to sleep a lot, you can sleep when you get home 🙂  Don't be afraid to boondock a night or two along the way, don't get caught up spending a large part of your day finding a campground if you are just going to sleep and move on.

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For San Francisco I'd suggest taking a tour.  We did this one with our daughter who lives there and she was very impressed.  It's a small van tour rather than a big bus.  You will have ample time to get off and explore. You'll cross the Golden Gate and have lunch in Sausalito.  We parked the car at the Larkspur Ferry landing on the north side of the Bay.  The ferry took us by Alcatraz and the Golden Gate and we disembarked where the tour van was waiting for us.  Very easy.

https://www.sanfranshuttletours.com/

Death Valley in May - be prepared for 100 deg or more.  The rangers say they have foreign tourists all summer long (135 deg) because they want to experience the 'dry' heat!

RE: Buying a national park pass.  Are you 62+?  You can buy the Senior Pass for $80 which then lets you enter all national parks free for your lifetime - also some other types of public parks. It would let you in free along with whoever is in the car with you.  Otherwise, some parks have a daily pass if only going in for a day.  Some have a 7-day pass.  You'll have to check with each park.  Each park has a wonderful web site - worth looking at. It gives you an idea of things to do, road information, special alerts, etc.

I'd cut off at least one day for Las Vegas but that's just us. We don't care for it.

Yosemite will be extremely crowded and will take some time for driving and trying to find parking. It's our least favorite national park but for your visitor it's worth seeing, I guess.

Have fun!  You'll need a vacation after this one!

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  • 4 weeks later...

Thanks so much everyone for your imput  and very helpful info.   We have decided to limit the trip to La to Vegas.  My sister will do a day trip to Grand Canyon as we have seen this before.  

We will take 2 days to get from Vagas to Yosimite staying at Oakhurst before going through the park and having 2 days in Yosimte View Lodge.  Any must or interesting see's on the trip from Vegas to Oakhurst?

We will have 3 days at San Fran and then a slow 3/4 day trip back from San Fran to LA.

We have hired a Dodge caravan from Alamo car hire and plan to buy camping gear to cut our accommodation costs (which seem very high especially in Yosimite, Vagas and San Fran!)

Our car hire includes unlimited mileage, cdw allocated inclusive ep protection, vehicle license recovery and additional driver.  Would we need any other cover for the USA?  Unfortunately our travel insurance only covers car hire for 15 days and we have 116 days.   And we only have a debit card. 

Is there a private company that does roadside assist for foreigners and car hire as Alamos is quite an expensive daily rate. 

Is there a way of paying tolls, again bypassing the expensive car hires option?

We will be going to Yosimite but then travelling around the States for 4.5 months.  What would be the best pass option to get into these parks.  My husband will be 63 and I will be 61.

We don't have our car rego until we arrive on 5th May. 

Again many thanks for your help. 

Cheers

Jan

 

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Husband can get the National Parks senior pass and you and everyone in the car with him gets in free.  The lifetime pass is $80 but there is an annual pass for $20.  Once you buy four annual passes, you can trade them in for a lifetime pass.

Personally, I would skip Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe entirely, but that's just me.  Both are a long way out of your way, and you would do better to spend the time at Grand Canyon and Yosemite.

Also, those places have been completely booked for several months, so you will have trouble finding even a camping spot inside the parks.

Edited by Solo18
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8 hours ago, Janr said:

We will take 2 days to get from Vagas to Yosimite staying at Oakhurst before going through the park and having 2 days in Yosimte View Lodge.  Any must or interesting see's on the trip from Vegas to Oakhurst?

If you're taking the quickest route along I-15 to CA 58 to CA99, a good lunch stop is Peggy Sue's 1950s Diner in Yermo, just east of Barstow along I-15.  It's a kitchy 1950s diner with good food and atmosphere.

https://www.yelp.com/biz/peggy-sues-50s-diner-yermo

Across the highway is Calico Ghost Town, a recreated 1850s silver mining town.  Not really worth a stop but I mentioned it because you'll see their signs.

An hour or so west of Peggy Sue's on Hwy 58 near the town of Boron is the Rio Tinto open pit borax mine.  It's the largest borax mine in the world and produces nearly half of the world's borax.  They have a very nice visitor center (free admission) on top of the slag pile overlooking the pit and a restored 20 mule team wagon train that hauled borax from the Death Valley mines on 20 day round trips through the scorching desert and over the Panamint Mountains to the railroad in Mojave.  Over 20 million pounds of borax were transported his way during the 1880s. 

Take the Borax Rd. exit north from Hwy 58 towards the mine and follow the signs to the Visitors Center.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rio_Tinto_Borax_Mine

https://www.borax.com/borax-operations/borax-visitor-center

The Chukchansi Hotel and Casino on Hwy 41 about 10 miles south of Oakhurst has good lunch and dinner buffets.

Edited by Lou Schneider
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On ‎1‎/‎30‎/‎2019 at 12:12 PM, 2gypsies said:

RE: Buying a national park pass.  Are you 62+?  You can buy the Senior Pass for $80 which then lets you enter all national parks free for your lifetime - also some other types of public parks.

The Senior Pass is only for U.S. citizens or permanent residents, so it would not be available to purchase unless someone in this group is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

However, you can purchase an Annual Pass for $80. The Annual Pass offers free entrance to federal areas with an entrance fee (such as national parks), but does not offer discounts on expanded amenity fees such as camping.

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On 2/24/2019 at 3:56 PM, Janr said:

We will have 3 days at San Fran and then a slow 3/4 day trip back from San Fran to LA.

Jan,  I didn't notice, maybe someone else told you... but, San Francisco is lovely, however, it is not a car and especially RV friendly city.  Be extremely careful driving in San Francisco.... I don't think there's a any place except maybe near Candlestick Park to even park your RV...you mentioned a Dodge Caravan ?   I guess that would be OK..are you planning on sleeping in this vehicle?   Sounds like an "Escape Camper Van"???  Just a guess 😁

Also, be aware that the traffic in San Francisco and Los Angeles is terrible. Someone also mentioned that taking the coastal route and avoiding the 101... again it's extremely scenic...no question, but it has a lot of twists and turns.   It will be a lot slower than you might expect.  You don't want any unpleasant surprises.   

It appears that you are from Great Britain.... welcome...we loved our trip to GB in 1995... I'll never forget that.   Do yourself a favor and and pay for the offer through Alamo for roadside assistance.. think one stop shopping... you'll save a lot of headache and get peace of mind.   It's really worth it in my opinion.  Don't make it more complicated by introducing a new company even if you found them cheaper .. how much are you really saving? And it's more of a hassle. 

Finally,  LA has the dubious distinction of being number one in traffic congestion..it's certainly bad in San Francisco.. because the city is only 7 square miles... LA is huge ...503 square miles... but, traffic is one of the worst in the USA and it can happen at any time day or night... very unpredictable. 

One terrific thing about Los Angeles is it is one of the "best signed cities" in the world.  Bring your GPS on your cellphone and use Google, but, you're going to find it much easier to get around in LA because road signs on streets and freeways are clearly marked.... unlike a lot of other places....it's remarkably good. 

People are right about Yosemite National Park..if you don't have reservations...I would advise you to get them or skip it...  Go online and search Reserve America for parks.... make reservations now..if you can....

Since you're on vacation ( holiday, as you call it).. for such a long time...and coming to the LA area...you might want to consider a 2 or 3 day excursion to Catalina island...it's a short 2 1/2 hours boat ride about 26 miles off the coast ..it would be a unique experience for you.   They have helicopter service as well.. but, the Catalina Express is very nice. 

There's shopping, restaurants and hiking on the Island.... you can go for the day or stay overnight..... Incidentally.... Catalina is part of Los Angeles...  You are NOT leaving the USA. 

One more place of interest I  would definitely recommend is Hearst Castle in San Simeon.   

Good luck with your travels and stay safe on the road.

 

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