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California & Vegas Road Trip

Northampton, United...
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California & Vegas Road Trip

Hi All

My and my friend (2 females/early 30s years of age) from UK are planning a road trip for next year. We have a whole month so time is on our side to get the most out of the trip without wearing ourselves out trying to fit in everything and spending all our time on the road than actually seeing the sights and taking it all in or simply relaxing.

We fly into San Fran at the end of May and fly out of Vegas at the end of June 2013.

We definitely want to visit family and friends in LA so accommodation is taken care of here. Otherwise nothing else has been booked yet, we will however book our San Fran & Vegas accommodation before we leave. After spending time in and around SF we would love to see Yosemite, see the beautiful coastline, LA, San Diego if we can, the Grand Canyon ending in LV and anything else fun in between. Ideally looking to hire a convertible for either some or all of the journey.

Flights are paid for so is £2000 each a realistic amount for spending money?!

Any recommendations on the most wise routes for our trip, fuel budgets, car hire companies, daily food budgets, must sees & dos, hotels etc would be gratefully received.

Thank you in advance! :-)

Uden, The...
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1. Re: California & Vegas Road Trip

Hi and welcome to the forum

With 30 days you can do a great trip but there are many options. Give you one:

1. Arr SF

2,3: SF

4. SF-Yosemite

5,6: Yosemite

7. Yosemite-Monterey

8. Monterey-Cambria/Morro Bay/Pismo Beach

9. To Los Angeles

10,11: LA.

12. LA-San Diego

13: San Diego

14: San Diego-Sedona (long drive)

15. Sedona-GC

16: GCNP

17. GCNP-Page (Antelope Canyons, Lake Powell, Horseshoebend, Riverrraft)

18. Page

19. Page-Monument Valley

20. Monument Valley-Moab (Canyonlands NP, Arches NP, LaSal Mountainloop, ut128)

21,22: Moab

23. Moab-Torrey (Capitol reef, Goblin Valley, Little Wild Horse Canyon)

24: Torrey-Bryce www.scenicbyway12.com

25. Bryce

26: Bryce-Zion

27: Zion

28: Zion-Las Vegas

29,30: Las Vegas

31: Home planning your next trip.

Buy an America the Beautiful pass at the entrance of your first NP. Costs are $ 80,-- and its valid for one year. Saves you money with the many NPs on the way.

Buy a cooler for this trip.

Instead a full day in Bryce you also can stay one night and add a night to Sedona.

$ 6000,-- in 30 days means $ 200,-- per day for the 2 of you. That can be done but it's on the low side depending on the kind of hotels you are staying.

You definitely need reservations in Yosemite, Grand Canyon and Monument Valley but it's wise to make more reservations like in Moab but also in the other Nationa Parks.

A convertible has very little bootspace so you must travel light and prevend to keep the luggage on the backseat of the car. A midsize SUV has a lot more space.

Count on app $ 4,-- for fuel per gallon (Us gallon app 3.8 l). and for average fuelconsumtion between 20-25 mpg depending on the car.

Many groceriestores have delis where you can buy sandwiches etc etc.

Rent the car from the UK and all insurances are taken care of. Maybe use carhire3000 but there are more.

Happy planning


Marina, California
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2. Re: California & Vegas Road Trip

Convertibles are always at a premium, particularly in the Southwest. Whereas you can expect to pay about $15-20 per day for a regular car on a weekly rate, you should expect something in the $40 per day range for a convertible. It'll eat up your budget, particularly for 30 days. My suggestion would be to rent a convertible for 2-3 days in one of your coastal stops, then turn it in and get a more economical vehicle for the remainder of the trip. Since you're going to LA and San Francisco, and would like to do the coastal drive, I would suggest you try to rent a convertible for a one-way trip between those cities. In San Francisco, if you stay in the city (really the best way to do it), a car is a liability as overnight parking can be as much as 50% of the hotel rate.

The lodges inside the parks and San Francisco will be your highest costs for lodging. Depending on your level of adventurousness, you could also look into camping, particularly in some of the national parks. Late June will be warm in the deserts, but it would be a nice experience.

Washington State
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3. Re: California & Vegas Road Trip

I like colinaz's suggestion of renting a convertible just for the SF to L.A. portion. Yosemite Valley and the Hwy 1 coastal drive are probably the best places for convertibles!

You absolutely MUST have lodging reservations for the National Parks, especially Yosemite. Some of the lodging options for next June are completely reserved now as the reservation window opened a year in advance. Each city/destination forum has a Top Questions in the upper right and many of them have some terrific lodging information for visitors. The Yosemite forum has a lodging article you need to read.

You also need lodging reservations for the coast, unless you want to start your hunt for a motel early in the afternoon and skip the sightseeing & tourism.

The California state forum has info in the Top Questions about the Hwy 1 drive.


>> must sees & dos, hotels <<

Again, that information is on the Top Questions & the Itineraries on each forum page. Read that, then post a question specific to each destination. Let forum folks know what you enjoy doing & when you're visiting. A 'must do' for me (kayaking in the Elkhorn Slough) might not appeal to you. Your 'must do' might be finding a funky bar to hang out with locals, shop for fabulous clothing, and spend hours setting up & taking the best photographs (none of those things appeal to me!)


Do you arrive after the busy Memorial Day holiday weekend?

Fathers Day weekend is pretty busy in National Parks as well, but not nearly as busy as Memorial Day weekend.

Most school districts will be out for the year by the 3rd week in June (some end their school year in late May), so you'll see more and more families as you continue your fabulous trip!

I like Tet's trip in Reply 1, but if your travel style is to spend more time in each destination and to experience fewer destinations, let us know. He can come up with another fabulous suggested itinerary.

Lewes, United...
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4. Re: California & Vegas Road Trip

I would say that, if you really want to experience a convertible, having it for just a few days will be your only option anyway. We rented one once for the drive on Highway 1from SF, southbound, and it was such fun, so I totally agree that that's the part of your trip to have one, i the budget will stretch at all. However, we did a circular trip and had left all our surplus luggage at a friend's place in SF. The boots/trunks really are very limited. They are also not that useful on the hottest days out in the desert and in the interior, when you'd probably want the benefit of the hood up and the air con on, or if you don't want sunburn in the middle of the day. If you're on a tight budget, then my view is a mid sized car would be the most economic on fuel and rental cost, yet still give you enough boot space for the luggage two females are likely to carry. Always book your car rental before arriving in the USA for the best prices, and book the car you want, don't get swayed by upgrade offers at pick up as they are rarely actually a better deal than booking a more expensive car from the start. Do note that if you use the companies recommended on this forum, you can avoid one way drop off fees for picking up a rental car in California, anywhere, and dropping it off in Las Vegas. However, I seems to remember the only exception to this is for rentals of convertible between SF and LA, as it happens. If you want more tips and info on car rental, insurance considerations and the names of the recommended companies, have a look at this (regettably now very long) topic, and some of the best tips are buried in the detail of the numerous responses:


While I really like Tet's itinerary in post 1 and think it covers a wonderful range of different and spectacular destinations, I'm not sure it really meets your description of how you wish to travel. I feel it has rather too many stops, and none long enough for your tastes, but only you can decide that. He did offer alternatives, which I'd be included to take him up on.

As you plan to stop in SF for a few days, definitely don't pick up the car until you intend to leave the city. You can easily get the BART from SFO into the city centre. Also, if dropping off the convertible in LA, and staying with family and friends who have cars, don't pick up the second rental car until you leave. Car parking is pricey in both of those cities, and LA traffic can be a nightmare. If you don't plan to head out of the city once you reach LV, then drop the car on arrival there, too. However, LV is perhaps different. Car parking is usually free everywhere and walking the huge blocks in the heat not always so nice. Taxis back to the airport aren't super cheap, so do the maths on whether it's better to hang onto the car for a few more days or use taxis.

As accommodation is taken care of in LA, probably the most expensive destination on your list, then I think your budget should just be enough. However, we can offer further suggestions on how to keep costs down if you wish.

The month of June will be a lovely time to be in the west of the USA. Yosemite's waterfalls will have plenty of water so look spectacular, and you should still find spring flowers at elevation. The desert regions won't be too hot yet either, but LV will be warm, and GC also.

Have a great time,


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5. Re: California & Vegas Road Trip

How much are you planning on in dollars?

A proposal:

Days 1-3: SF

4: Drive up coast to Bodega Bay

5: Up HWY 1 to Mendocino

6: Mendocino

7: north on 1 & 101 to Crescent City (Giant Redwoods)

8: Crescent City (redwoods)

9: 199 to Ashland

10: I 5 to Sacramento

11: HWY 50 to HWY 49; 49 south to Yosemite.

12-14: Yosemite

15: Drive to Monterey

16: Drive HWY 1 to Cambria

17: 1 to LA

18-20: LA

21-23: San Diego

24-25; Drive to Grand Canyon

26-27: GC

28: Drive to LV

29-30: Viva Los Vegas

31: Bon Voyage

Fundamental difference between mine & Tet's trip is you get coast & lots of huge green trees (mine) Vs. lots of canyons & rocks. You might look up the towns above on Travel Advisor to get better feel.

Oregon Coast
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6. Re: California & Vegas Road Trip

Hi and welcome to TripAdvisor.

I'll just a make a comment about a convertible. I've owned them for over 35 years and as mentioned above, they do have some drawbacks!

But with your initial itinerary, the three places which (IMO) would be great to have one are:

Highway 1 in California


Las Vegas (if you plan to cruise the strip)


Budget comments: If you are careful and buy some of your food from grocery stores and keep in a cooler, one person can get by for about $25 per day. I've done that, but there is not a lot of room for "fun" such as a night out at a club.

Lodging - sharing a room, as an average in mid-range motels, allow $50-$60 per person. There are cheaper options such as Motel 6 type budget motels or hostels. In general, National Park and big city lodging will be more expensive.

Fuel cost - We call it gasoline (usually just "gas") and prices vary state to state and town to town and even day to day sometimes. As a general guide, allow $4 per gallon. Any smallish/mid size rental car will get around 28 miles per gallon or a tick more. I recently rented a Toyota Corolla that had loads of room, a huge trunk and got right at 30 MPG.


Itinerary thoughts - I think you should allow some down time to just hang out and chill, rather than trying to cover a gazillion miles. Maybe establish a base location and take some short half-day trips, then relax by the pool :-)

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7. Re: California & Vegas Road Trip

"Itinerary thoughts - I think you should allow some down time to just hang out and chill, rather than trying to cover a gazillion miles. Maybe establish a base location and take some short half-day trips, then relax by the pool :-)



San Francisco...
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8. Re: California & Vegas Road Trip

Wow, those are some great itinerary proposals above. You definitely don't need a car in San Francisco. I've done many road trips up, down and across California and I would recommend you rent a car (or truck) with adequate horsepower for those mountains. Economy rentals tend to be very small and I dont want you to get stuck in inclement weather in the mountains (trust me, it happens even in the summer). A convertible is feasible, as others mentioned, for the Monterey to LA/Vegas leg of your road trip. You might not drive with the top down all the way (I'm also a convertible owner and I sometimes find whizzing along the freeway with the top down to be too noisy), but at least you'll get a great view of the coast. Also, I feel a convertible is a must for Vegas. Just my opinion :)

If you've never driven California before, you'll quickly discover that it is rather large. Budget your travel time with enough leeway between locations to account for traffic (especially in Southern Cal towards LA). I'm one of those road trippers who tends to stop a lot, so I give myself an extra hour to get from point A to point B. that way I can take my time taking in the sights.

Northampton, United...
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9. Re: California & Vegas Road Trip

Wow.... thank you everybody for your comments and suggestions. I have not done anything like this before on Trip Advisor and really impressed and touched that people are so happy to help and offer their advice or experiences! Thanks again! :-)

Tet - Thank you for such a great itinerary, if I am honest I am not familiar with the places between GC and LV so I need to read up on these stops. I am really excited to see the Canyon, its a life long dream, but not sure we will want to see many more canyons if that is the case? If we missed out these stops then that would give us more time along the way maybe? A friend has mentioned Death Valley is a must, but not sure if this is possible with everything else we want to do? Would you say this is a must to visit?

DAMc - Thank you for your route which looks really great too, again I have not done my homework yet so the places between SF and Yosemite are not known to me, but I will certainly do some reading up to see if these could go on the final route!

Agree we will still like to have chill out days by the pool etc, picnics on the beach etc so adding extra days stops here and there will be a must, it is a holiday after all!!

I definitely take on board all your comments re the car hire and convertible. We will maybe look at having one at some point, but maybe not all the way. Spending all our money on a car seems madness, when we can spend it on more fun activities, meals/nights out etc.

Accommodation - I will look at the city/destination pages as recommended above, as it seems we should really be booking our Yosemite lodging asap. I have heard watching the sunrise over the canyon is a must, so this accommodation should be booked soon too.

I need to get booking, it was a distant dream now it is a reality only 5 months to go!!

Thanks again, any more advice is definitely welcome :-)

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10. Re: California & Vegas Road Trip

My route cycles you north up the Cali coast and then over to Ashland, Or. before bringing you back down to Yosemite. The benefits are the NorCali coast, the greenest green redwood forests you will ever see, some great roads, and a small college town (Ashland) with a world class Shakespear group & open air theater.

Look up Ashland, Mendocino, Crescent City, & Redwood National Park to see if NorCali has any appeal to you.