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Driving from Vancouver to San Francisco - Family of 4

Sydney, Australia
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Driving from Vancouver to San Francisco - Family of 4

Hello,

We are a family of 4, coming from Australia, and wanting to drive from Vancouver to San Francisco. Timing is 23/MAY, and flying out of San Francisco to Australia, on 01/JUN. Our children are twin 5 year old girls. We LOVE the outdoors, and anything active.

We will have already had 1 week in Vancouver, visiting family. As I was born and bred in Vancouver, I know the west coast from old days, but that was 20 years ago. My husband and girls have never been down the West Coast. I had a few questions, if that's ok to ask.

Will the weather be quite nice this time of year? (Am thinking it will still have a bit of chill in the air, but perhaps that is because I have gone soft living in Oz all these years!) Also, my memory says that the drive from Vancouver to Portland along the freeway is not that interesting (although Seattle is great).

So, I was thinking that we might take the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria, BC. Then, ferry to Anacortes. Then, to Seattle. And, then, I don't really have a plan from there. We plan to have a couple of nights, 2.5 days in San Fran. So, that leaves us 7- 8 days to get from Vancouver to San Fran.

Another question: does it make sense to go via Anacortes, or just drive straight down the freeway? Any suggestions anyone might make, would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you, Heather

West Grey, Ontario
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1. Re: Driving from Vancouver to San Francisco - Family of 4

Welcome to TripAdvisor, Heather;

You will most likely find it impossible to find a company that will allow their car to be rented in Vancouver and dropped in San Francisco, as the vehicle must somehow be returned to the point of origin, towed if necessary.

Best Regards

Lewes, United...
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2. Re: Driving from Vancouver to San Francisco - Family of 4

Hi Heather

Actually, you can find cars to rent in Vancouver from companies that allow you to drop the car in SF. However, because there is an international one way drop fee, the cost to do the one way trip is likely to be extortionate, the fee likely higher than the rental and insurances element. Also, it will restrict your choice of both rental company and car model.

On this forum, we generally recommend folk to take a train between Vancouver and Seattle (or somewhere just south of the border, Bellingham is possible, for example) and pick up the rental car then. Car rentals are generally cheaper in the USA than for Canada. If you need a car when in Canada, rent one one for Canadian use only.

However, this does mean you cannot get yourselves to Anacortes by ferry in the way you'd like.

Please do some research on what you wish to do that is possible and fits with car rental prices that you're happy with, and revert here with your thinking. Then we can offer more advice on the fun side of things, like the trip planning and destination suggestions to seek out.

For where to start with car rental comparisons, I'd suggest, as you're from Oz and may well prefer prices in AUD, that you look at:

www.traveljigsaw.com.au/

There's also a car rental topic up on the right in the TopQs section of this forum, full screen version.

SWT

Uden, The...
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3. Re: Driving from Vancouver to San Francisco - Family of 4

I agree, rent the car from USA on the one way trip to SF. I also don't think you'll have the time to make the VI detour. Weather in may is unpredictable and often still wet along the Or coast. Don't miss redwood NP and Avenue of the Giants on the way to SF. With good weather try to visit Mt. St. Helens between Seattle and Portland if you go that way.

Tet

Seattle, Washington
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4. Re: Driving from Vancouver to San Francisco - Family of 4

A quick visit to Expedia shows a week-long, one-way rental from Vancouver to SF will run around $1200 counting drop fee, while from Seattle it will be around $500 less. The train will cost $120 for the whole group, so renting in Seattle makes sense.

Since 23 May is the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend in the US (Monday the 26th is the holiday) the train makes even more sense as it avoids possible long delays at the border. The holiday might complicate things slightly in terms of hotel availability in tourist areas, so planning ahead would be a good idea.

Weather can indeed be iffy then; sometimes it's amazing, other times wet. No way to know. (Example - taken at the Folk Life music festival in Seattle on Memorial Day weekend a couple of years ago... http://gardyloo.us/folklife2009%20038asm.JPG

However I'd strongly recommend that you hold off on the coast until you've had a chance to visit the Columbia River Gorge, just east of Portland Oregon. In May the melting snows from the mountains will fill the many waterfalls lining the Gorge, while there will be wildflowers galore in the Hood River Valley, leading to beautiful Mount Hood. It would also be a shame for your girls to miss visiting Herman the Sturgeon at the Bonneville hatchery in the Gorge. A day or even two in the Columbia Gorge in the spring is magical. oregon.com/columbia_gorge_attractions/bonnev…

From there, make it to the coast and follow it the rest of the way to SF. If time allows, after the Redwoods take California Hwy 1 from Leggett to the Golden Gate bridge. Slower going than US 101 (which is mainly freeway) but oh so scenic.

Uden, The...
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5. Re: Driving from Vancouver to San Francisco - Family of 4

Inbound SF traffic is over a toll road (like GGB) and it's cashless. Check the SF forum how to handle this.

Penticton, Canada
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6. Re: Driving from Vancouver to San Francisco - Family of 4

hi

this is an option from Vancouver to Seattle via Victoria. Drop off the Vancouver car rental at the airport and get on the PCL bus to the ferry in Tsawwassen which goes all the way to downtown Victoria. pacificcoach.com/Bus-Coach-Travel/YVR-Victor…

Spend the night in Victoria then get on the Clipper (foot passenger only) to downtown Seattle where you can pick up a car.

there are a number of hotels on or near Quebec Street, in Victoria which is a 5 min walk to the Clipper. http://goo.gl/maps/WJRRM

Sydney, Australia
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7. Re: Driving from Vancouver to San Francisco - Family of 4

Thank you to all for your great suggestions. I am tossing up between taking the train from Vancouver to Seattle, or else Bus/Ferry/Bus to Victoria. Then, Clipper (thank you - I didn't know about that!) to Seattle. Then, pick up the car. I've just done a rough guesstimate as to what we might do from there. We have 9 nights all up.

Day 1: Bus & ferry to Victoria, overnight here.

Day 2: Clipper to Seattle, pick up car. Overnight here.

Question: Is 1.5 days enough for Seattle, especially with young kids?

Day 3: Columbia Gorge. Overnight here.

Day 4: Columbia Gorge. Overnight here.

Day 5: Redwood NP

Days 6 & 7: Not sure what to do/where to go that would be interesting?

Days 8 & 9: San Francisco

Day 10: Sadly, fly back to Oz

Does this sound feasible, or am I putting too much in by adding in Victoria? My preference is to have 2 nights if possible, in one place, if it makes sense to do so, due to our girls.

Thank you,

Heather

Seattle, Washington
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8. Re: Driving from Vancouver to San Francisco - Family of 4

I frankly would not recommend the Clipper with little kids. It's bumpy, noisy, expensive and long (and, truth be told, boring) whereas the train is comfortable and reasonably fast, with beautiful views to boot.

You need to revise your southbound route. Going from the Columbia Gorge to Redwood National Park is not a one-day trip, you'd need an overnight en route, ideally on the Oregon coast someplace (the southern portion of the coast is especially scenic.)

If you drop Victoria you can add that day en route to the Redwoods and also add a day in Seattle, solving your "what to do with 2 days?" question later.

Tacoma, Washington
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9. Re: Driving from Vancouver to San Francisco - Family of 4

I was skip victoria...given your short visit.

If the internation one way rental is an issue look to take a train/bus to Seattle and get a car from Seattle after your time in Seattle.

day 1 Seattle

day 2 Seattle AM drive down to Portland PM

day 3 Portland/Columbia Gorge

day 4 Portland to Bandon, OR

day 5 Southern OR coast to crescent city

day 6 Redwoods....night in eureka

day 7 drive to San Fran

day 8-9 San Fran

day 10 fly home

alternate route.......

day 1 Seattle

day 2 Seattle AM drive down to Portland PM

day 3 Portland AM, Columbia Gorge PM, night in Bend

day 4 Bend to Crater Lake to crescent city

day 5 Southern OR coast (drive up to gold beach/cape Blanco and back) stay in crescent city

day 6 Redwoods....night in eureka

day 7 drive to San Fran

day 8-9 San Fran

day 10 fly home

Uden, The...
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10. Re: Driving from Vancouver to San Francisco - Family of 4

Keep in mind places like Crater Lake in may still can have lots of snow.