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LA-Vancouver & back via Yellowstone. Appreciate any advice!

Durham, United...
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LA-Vancouver & back via Yellowstone. Appreciate any advice!

Hi, I'm planning a trip for my wife and myself in May-June next year. I was thinking about flying into LAX from LHR then after a couple of days drive to San Francisco (via Monterey). After that we'd like to visit Vancouver (whale watching), Banff (Rockies), Yellowstone (wildlife), and Vegas, (possibly in that order), before returning to the uk after about 19 days.

I don't mind a bit of driving but didn't want to drive all of it so I would be grateful of any suggestions about which parts we should definitely drive, where we should fly and anything we shouldn't miss on the way!

I appreciate this is a big question so any ideas for just a part would be great.

San Diego...
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1. Re: LA-Vancouver & back via Yellowstone. Appreciate any advice!

To drive it all would be very long so I would suggest driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco, flying from SF to Vancouver, then a road trip from Vancouver to Banff to Yellowstone/Grand Teton, then fly from Jackson Hole Airport (JAC) which is in Grand Teton National Park, to Las Vegas.

You could also try to work in Glacier National Park in Montana if that interest you. While in San Francisco I would also suggest trying to include Yosemite National Park which is only a 4 or 5 hour drive from San Francisco.

Depending on how much snow falls this coming winter, May/June might be a little early for visiting Banff and the Canadian parks as well as Glacier and Yellowstone - not all park roads might be open yet if there is a lot of snow. It varies from year to year. Today, June 2, there is no snow on the ground in most areas of Yellowstone, according to the web cams. So if next year is similar then you should have no problems with closed roads.

This trip is a lot of ground to cover in just 19 days so I think flying some of the segments of your trip will be essential to get to all these places with only 19 days. You could make a great tour of just California alone with 19 days, and California has 9 national parks, over 200 state parks, coastal scenery, mountain and desert scenery, large cities and many other attractions.

If you prefer to stick with only the destinations you mentioned, I would stay the first night in LA, 2 nights in between LA and SF (for example, 1 night Cambria and 1 night Monterey), 2 nights San Francisco, fly to Vancouver and stay 2 nights, drive to Banff (10 hour drive, but possible in one long day), 2 nights Banff, drive Banff to Yellowstone (12 hour drive, probably break it up into 2 days with a drive through Glacier along the way), 3 nights Yellowstone, 1 night Grand Teton, fly to Las Vegas, stay 2 nights, fly home. That would be 17 nights/18 days. If you could add 1 night in Yosemite National Park it would enhance your trip. It still is a whirlwind tour, and pretty tiring, but you would be able to see all those places in 19 days.

western WA
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2. Re: LA-Vancouver & back via Yellowstone. Appreciate any advice!

Seems like too much for 19 days.

You can do whale watching in Victoria, not Vancouver. Or in Anacortes, Port Townsend or Friday Harbor Washington.

May is definitely early for Banff, Glacier and Yellowstone.

From Glacier to Yellowstone takes one whole day. Spend two days in Glacier (one east, one west), take a day to drive to Glacier from Banff. With at least three days in Yellowstone and one in the Tetons you've used up 8 of your 19 days.

I think you'd have a better time planning a big loop around Oregon and California. Come back the following year in September for a great trip to Canada, Yellowstone and Glacier.There's easily 19 days of things to do in this corner of the continent.

Durham, United...
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3. Re: LA-Vancouver & back via Yellowstone. Appreciate any advice!

That's great information thank you.

Lewes, United...
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4. Re: LA-Vancouver & back via Yellowstone. Appreciate any advice!

Hi Lee

As already said, it's a lot of driving, probably far too much, even if you were prepared to do it - which it seems you're not - in that time frame.

To some extent you seem to have 2 separate trips, the California element and the NW USA/Canada section. You have, as I see it, two choices in all probability. Break it into 2 separate driving trips with a flight in between, or, and this is what I'd more likely recommend, provided you think you will come back to the west side of North America, make it two completely different trips to get the best of it.

For the latter, then you can fly to LAX, LAS or SFO or into one and back from the other. For the NW trip, you would fly to SEA or YVR. However, to get nearer the Rockies in Canada, or to Yellowstone in Wyoming, you might still want a domestic flight to somewhere appropriate. There are no non stop flight from the UK to anywhere more convenient, but there are other gateway airports to consider.

Just as a general point, it won't be possible to rent a car anywhere in the USA on the west and drop it off at a location in Canada, or vice versa. Car rental is generally cheaper in the USA than Canada, but there are decent one way deals available in Canada if booked well in advance from organisations such as Canadian Affair.

Let us know your thinking on my and the above comments and we can help to plot out the trip a bit more.

SWT

Durham, United...
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5. Re: LA-Vancouver & back via Yellowstone. Appreciate any advice!

Hi SWT

Thanks for that, I had considered that it was somewhat ambitious to fit everything into that time frame, unfortunately this could be our only visit to this part of the planet, hence the big ideas!

I was sort of thinking - days 1-5 driving between LAX and SFO then fly to YVR, days 6-15 driving (via Banff and Yellowstone), to SLC then flying to LAS for days 16 to 19, then home. Our arrival and departure days are in addition to the 19.

Not sure how feasible or enjoyable that might be though?

Lewes, United...
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6. Re: LA-Vancouver & back via Yellowstone. Appreciate any advice!

OK, I understand the big ideas. However, the reality is that 19 days is really not a long time to do what you want, and in my personal view, you will always have a better trip if you try and do a sensible amount of quality sight seeing rather than dashing around, trying to do it all and failing. You will end the trip exhausted and disappointed at so many fleeting glimpses of great destinations.

Also, I do not think 9 days of your 19 is enough time to do Banff and Yellowstone under any circumstances, and I really do think you need to decide what your priorities are, and where they lie. This is a huge, huge area you are talking about. Folk spend all 19 days of their trip just joining up the dots of SFO, LAX and LAS with a few national parks, and run out of time, without the northern element.

One option, if you must, would be to buy an open jaw/multi city flight to SFO or LAX and back from Denver, Minneapolis or Chicago. Spend the first part of the trip doing some of the California area. If you start at LAX, you could combine the Pacific coast drive with Yosemite before finishing in SF. Find a domestic flight from there to perhaps Kalispell (the nearest airport in the USA to Banff area) and pick up a rental car. Drive (via Glacier, if you want/have time) to Banff and Lake Louise/Canadian Rockies area and then head south to Yellowstone. Do Yell and GTNP. Drop the car at Jackson or West Yelllowstone airport and catch another domestic flight to Denver, Minneapolis or Chicago for your international flight back to the UK.

This would give you far more time in the national parks and enjoying the scenery, not a lot of time in cities. As you can see, I've omitted Vegas totally, I just don't see how you can sensibly fit it in. Those cities at the end are merely gateway airports to fly back from, not a destination to explore. I just chose them as I know they offer a choice of flight options to the UK and aren't too far from where you'll be, so they make a degree of sense.

Time of year and weather does have to be considered as May can still get lots of snow in all the northern parts and also in Yosemite. The later into June you can travel, the better.

SWT

Lewes, United...
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7. Re: LA-Vancouver & back via Yellowstone. Appreciate any advice!

Meant to add: The problem with your concept in post 5 is that you cannot rent a car in Vancouver and drop it off in SLC as there are no international one way car rental options available over on the west that I know of.

SWT

Durham, United...
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8. Re: LA-Vancouver & back via Yellowstone. Appreciate any advice!

That's great SWT, I really appreciate your advice, and don't worry it isn't falling on deaf ears!

I shall look into your suggestions.

L

western WA
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9. Re: LA-Vancouver & back via Yellowstone. Appreciate any advice!

You can fly to Seattle or Bellingham, or possibly Spokane to rent your car. I think I'd drop Banff. It is close -ish but not really close, and not that ideal in May anyway. I'd actually consider dropping Glacier that early, but you can do it with one way drives from either side. It takes an extra day, so 3 days plus dates to drive to and from.

May and June are much better in the southwest where it is already hot. Have you already seen the southwest parks?

Durham, United...
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10. Re: LA-Vancouver & back via Yellowstone. Appreciate any advice!

No, this is my first trip to the States.