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Road trip west coast USA December 2014/January 2015

Cairns, Australia
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Road trip west coast USA December 2014/January 2015

I am planning a road trip through the west coast USA in December 2014/January 2015 with my family. We are looking at travelling from LA to San Antonio, Texas (or the other way around) and would like to see San Diego, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Yosemite. We were thinking of hiring an RV but someone suggested hiring a car and staying in motels might be cheaper. We're a bit wary of hotels and if we go that option would be looking at needing at least 1 separate bedroom. Can anyone offer any suggestions? We'll have around 2 or 3 weeks to do the trip. Thanks!

Henderson, Nevada
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1. Re: Road trip west coast USA December 2014/January 2015

I have driven from San Francisco to San Antonio in three long days of driving, so three weeks will give you some time to explore (two weeks would be pretty tight) On the boards we will always tell you you need more time, and we are really good at adding things to your trip...

I would strongly recommend a car and motels... RV's are fine in national parks, but clumsy in urban areas. This is the off season in this region. Motels will be cheaper that otherwise. Some of the places you have listed (Yosemite and the Grand Canyon) will be cold... snow on the ground cold...

From Los Angeles Yosemite is a nice day drive via Bakersfield and Fresno (up the Central Valley) Spend a couple of days in the valley (more expensive than outside but worth it) From Yosemite you head to the coast at either San Francisco or Monterey and spend 3 days down the coast to LA... Spend time in LA before heading south to San Diego... when done with San Diego you can take I-15 to Las Vegas... its a decent one day drive. After a few days in Las Vegas it is a one day drive to Grand Canyon. I would suggest two nights... then on along I40 to Albuquerque, then south down the Rio Grande Valley to El Paso, then east across Texas... (Interstate 10)

At Van Horn head south off I-10 on Hwy 90... try Marfa... its a west Texas art colony town... with weird lights... Big Bend National Park is nearby. Head east, probably by heading back to I-10... and on to San Antonio... you may want to detour north to Austin, particularly if you like music...

Good traveling... Randy

Park City, Utah
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2. Re: Road trip west coast USA December 2014/January 2015

Definitely suggest using a car and hotels, as noted. You should have no problem finding hotels that offer multiple rooms. Embassy Suites, Homewood Suites, etc. are good options for lower cost suites or multi-bedroom hotel rooms.

As noted, Yosemite will be somewhat limited but still worthwhile. But just know you won't be able to drive all the way through the park due to snow.

Here's a potential sequence for you:

LA

San Diego

Yosemite

Death Valley

Las Vegas

Grand Canyon

Consider adding Zion and Monument Valley

On to San Antonio

You hadn't mentioned San Fran and the west coast. If you wanted to do that and have the flexibility, think about flying into San Fran and doing this:

San Fran

Yosemite

Monterey and down west coast

LA

San Diego

Las Vegas

Grand Canyon

Same as above

For car rental, look at Australian brokers who can often package in the insurance and one-way fees.

Have fun.

Uden, The...
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3. Re: Road trip west coast USA December 2014/January 2015

There will be drop off charges for the car between Ca and Tx (or in reverse) between $ 300,-- and $ 500,-- plus tax depedning on the company. www.traveljigsaw.com.au is a good way to start

Suggest to fly San Francisco (no car needed) and make your way t Yosemite-Monterey-Cambria-Los Angeles. Not sure you'll have the time to add San Diego. From LA you can drive to Death Valley NP-Las Vegas-Grand Canyon and from here either to ABQ/Santa fe, or to Sedona-Phoenix-Tucson and to Tx. Don't miss White Sands NM in New Mexico and Carlsbad caverns. Big bend is a great place as well but 3 weeks will be tight to do all of this. Driving west to east you'll lose hours for timedifference. Carrental in Ca.prob will be a bit cheaper than from Tx and a second driver renting from Ca always is free.

Tet

Oregon Coast
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4. Re: Road trip west coast USA December 2014/January 2015

Hi again, Laura N. I gave you some approximate costs in your other thread.

For areas outside southern California -- this time of year is WINTER!

RVing in the snow and cold is *not* fun. Stick with motels. Note, you will not find the major brand names in National Parks, such as Homewood Suites. They tend to be in larger towns and cities. Las Vegas has some good deals so ask on that forum.

Cairns, Australia
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5. Re: Road trip west coast USA December 2014/January 2015

Thanks everyone for your ideas. If we stay in motels at that time of year (Early-mid December) will we need to pre-book, or are we likely to be able to find places to stay along the way? also regarding the weather, I realise there will likely be snow in Grand Canyon etc, but I thought further south like Santa Fe, Albuquerque and down to Texas the weather was quite mild? My mother lives in Texas and is encouraging an RV trip. Am I being led astray by her??

Uden, The...
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6. Re: Road trip west coast USA December 2014/January 2015

Santa Fe is 7000' + so likely to have snow there. The more southern route Sedona-Phoenix-Tucson-El Paso will have less snow but an occasional snowstorm along I10 in western Tx is not uncommon. You should make reservations for the National Parks.

Cleveland
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7. Re: Road trip west coast USA December 2014/January 2015

Read the top questions in the right margin.

Read relevant threads in this forum and the trip reports thread at the top of the forum for relevant trip reports. Certainly read through local destination forums and top questions, such as for Yosemite, to attempt to learn of conditions/opportunities at the time of your trip (perhaps reading posts from this past October through this past January).

E.g., the books for in-park lodging for the great NPs, such as Yosemite and GC, reportedly already are open for the time of your trip and it's possible you already may be relegated to trolling for cancellations. In-park lodging capacity is less in the winter than in warmer months. You should attempt to plan your trip ASAP and book reservations for at least Yosemite and GC, which you could always cancel. Some persons even book alternative nights until the plans are firmed up.

During the winter, one night may be sufficient for both Yosemite and GC, unless perhaps you might want to engage in winter sports activities at Yosemite, such as skiing, snowboarding, etc. Yosemite is a very different place in winter, and you should research what activities are available. E.g., the Bracebridge Dinner is famed, but expensive.

http://www.bracebridgedinners.com/

Keep in mind that you'll have less daylight in the winter. The goal at GC is to see one sunset and one sunrise, and hope that the weather cooperates.

I'm not an RVer, but I've read this forum long enough to know that there is an issue with winterized RVs in the winter. Perhaps use the search engine at the top of the forum, or do a general web search, for "RV winter." Do you have any winter driving skills/experience? Have you ever encountered "black ice" (if not, search for it on this forum and the web)? What are the issues about heating an RV in winter?

Driving an RV is NOT a good idea IMO for your first encounter with snowy or icy roads. Your experience with winter conditions may be limited, or you may encounter a winter blizzard, but you should anticipate the worst.

The key to safe winter driving is slow speeds, especially as safe stopping distances are greatly increased, regardless of tires and vehicle power train (such as AWD or 4WD). With an RV, even slower speeds would be warranted, given the much greater stopping distances and higher center of gravity.

Winter seasons can vary greatly from year-to-year. My understanding is that this will be an El Nino winter, which means more precipitation and likely more snow, especially at higher elevations, in the Southwest. Does your mother drive in winter? Does she have any experience with an RV in winter? Two questions to consider when evaluating her advice.

How many persons are in your family? What are the ages of any children? What are your family's interests? Can you provide more exact timing of your trip? E.g., will you be here before Christmas? If so, have you considered where you'll spend Christmas and New Years's Day, when many attractions and restaurants may be closed?

Check out the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. You could hike with snow shoes there, assuming there is snow. The pines and boulders in Long Valley around Mountain Station are magical, especially if there is snow. Within an hour, you can be back in the relative warmth of the desert!

Personally, I would want to spend some time in the San Diego area on a winter trip.

Are you spending time in theme parks in the LA area? If so, two weeks is a very short time, again suggesting another disadvantage of slower RV travel. Also, there are several threads in this forum (perhaps also in the driving and safety tips top questions in the right margin) about driving at night in the West due to the risk in some areas of large mammals on the roads.

Good planning!

Edited: 24 April 2014, 14:05
Oregon Coast
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8. Re: Road trip west coast USA December 2014/January 2015

>> My mother lives in Texas and is encouraging an RV trip. Am I being led astray by her??<<

Umm, yes. I think so!

I've been RVing for many years and TranscendentalEye mentions some very good points in post #7.

LA and San Diego weather will be delightful, but as other posters have said, not so much in the other areas you want to visit. Maybe you'd get lucky and have some nice weather, but maybe not.

RVing in cold and snow is *not* fun I can tell you that first hand! You have to manage your utilities so things don't freeze. Even in rain it loses some luster.... think about hooking up electric lines, water hoses, sewer hoses all in the pouring rain. It gets dark early, it's too cold or wet to sit outside by a campfire.....

9. Re: Road trip west coast USA December 2014/January 2015

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