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West Coast Road Trip - 42 days to fill!

Birmingham, United...
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West Coast Road Trip - 42 days to fill!

Hello folks,

I have the daunting task of filling 42 days of itinerary in California in the holiday of a lifetime for myself, the wife and our two kids 14 and 12. One will turn 13 on August 1st.

We were going to do it last year, but couldn't afford it. So we're *really* excited!

Our first full (but no doubt jet lagged) day will be Wednesday July 16th in San Diego having arrived the day before. Our last day will be Tuesday August 26th also In San Diego where we fly back in the evening.

That's 42 full days to fill! I haven't booked anything, yet, except the flight and the car.

We were thinking San Diego -> Las Vegas -> San Francisco -> Los Angeles -> San Diego.

Our thoughts so far are that we don't want to miss anything important along the route, with a mixture of culture and excitement, with an emphasis on theme parks.

We got married in Florida in '06 and crammed in too many parks into two weeks, and our feet ached like hell! Having learned our lesson, 'rest days' where we spend less time on our feet will be important, while at the same time keeping the kids entertained.

We were wondering whether we can combine value for money and quality by taking 2 bedroom apartments for 7 days each in (or near) Vegas, San Francisco and Los Angeles. That would tie us to those cities for a week each, but I'm hoping we would still have enough time to do everything in between.

Driving for more than 6 hours a day is not something I think the kids would enjoy particularly.

And our budget for the trip not including the flight and car which are already paid for is, I guess, between £15,000 and £20,000.

Your suggestions are very much welcome. Thank you in advance.

Edited: 22 April 2014, 19:39
Seattle, Washington
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1. Re: West Coast Road Trip - 42 days to fill!

Gosh, with six weeks I'd certainly be looking beyond those cities. With that amount of time you could easily head north, or east, or both - for example up to the redwoods in northern California or all the way to Seattle and Vancouver, or east through the Utah national parks up to Yellowstone... there are massive numbers of options.

A week in Las Vegas in late summer with teenagers is quite excessive IMO. Not just the heat, but really not that much to do for the kids. Unless you're really into gambling, I'd reduce (or even eliminate) that part of the trip.

You also might want to think outside the box a little. You could, for example, fly to Seattle or Vancouver and take a week's cruise to Alaska - you might be surprised at how inexpensive it can be.

Or explore the Gold Rush country on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada, then continue up to Lake Tahoe - lots of scenery and history.

Maybe it would help to know what you like to do - hiking, foodies, wildlife, theater... ? and let the location and itineraries flow from that.

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2. Re: West Coast Road Trip - 42 days to fill!

Hi Spinball,

Your idea to spend 7 days in an apartment in each city sounds like a good idea if you don't want to do too much driving and get plenty of rest (while the kids can still have fun). As far as theme parks are concerned, I'm not aware of many in California other than Disneyland. What California (and the West in general) does have, and you haven't mentioned, is some amazing National Parks, especially Yosemite and Redwoods. Do either of those interest you? Vegas can seem like one big amusement park, so I'm sure you can find plenty of fun things you'll enjoy there, particularly the shows.

Let us know if you're interested in anything else other than just visiting those cities. I'd be happy to suggest some stops between cities if I can get a better idea of what you like other than theme parks. Do you like museums? Nature? Shows? History? Outdoor adventures?


Fremont, California
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3. Re: West Coast Road Trip - 42 days to fill!

In Vegas Tahiti Village is a very nice place to stay for the week - nice place, great pools, shuttle to the strip while still being far enough (a couple of miles) away to be relaxing. Outlet shopping across the street, steam showers in some rooms; nice kitchens, washer/dryers, etc.


In San Diego, . If you want to stay beach side look at rentals near Pacific beach, much closer to San Diego, beach vacation. Beach Cottages is also a possibiltiy.



If you do Disneyland and Orange County good to include a place there. Marriott Residence Inn Main Gate is a great place to stay. Hot breakfast in morning (plentiful and good), 24 hour pool, barbecue area, nice condos, easy to get to freeways....i.e. besides Disneyland easy to get to other areas.


For Hollywood and LA area I like either Celebrity Hotel or Magic Castle



In San Francisco, look for rentals (best) or other such site



Cow Hollow Suites


On your return to San Diego you could stay where there are nice swimming pools, theater on site, close to Safari Park, Its called Welk Resort. Its an hour or so from San diego.


Yeah - just a few of hundreds of possibilities, but thought I'd at least pass along the names of some places we have enjoyed. Have fun planning your trip and yes, staying put for a week or so is good.

On the way to San Francisco, you might want to mix it up with a couple of nights stay along the coast for one night stays.

Fremont, California
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4. Re: West Coast Road Trip - 42 days to fill!

Theme parks - there are many more than Disneyland

1) Sea world in San Diego

2) Legoland (but I would skip this one due to its pricy and your kids would hate it as the rides have age limitations (younger)

3) Disneyland

4) Knotts Berry Farm

5) Universal

6 Magic Mountain (you could do this one from Hollywood as a day trip)

7) Santa Cruz Boardwalk (you could do this one as a day trip from San Francisco)

8) Great America (in Santa Clara) - can do as a day trip from San Francisco (Good roller coasters - not as good as Magic Mountain but a nice one for teens)

9) Discovery Kingdom - not as good as Sea World in San Diego, but you can take a ferry from San Francisco to Discovery Kingdom as a day trip while there.

and probably more that I have missed...

The theme park expert on Trip advisor for California is Darkbeer so he will have lots of great information on this area if you want to look for more details on theme parks.....this is just to let you know based on the post above that there are yes many more theme parks in California that are major draws.

Birmingham, United...
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5. Re: West Coast Road Trip - 42 days to fill!

Thank you for your replies. I was thinking that we wouldn't have enough time in 42 days to fully explore California + Vegas. Hadn't considered going further afield. We'll have a chat about it, thank you.

We won't be doing any gambling in Vegas, I don't think. It's not something we are interested in. But surely there is plenty to do within a 50m radius to keep us going for a weekish?

We would like to do some walking in beautiful scenic locations, but not particularly far as I don't think the kids would have the patience for it in hot weather. So 'hiking' I think is not on the short list.

Food wise, I'm fairly determined not to get fast food. I would like to seek out the notable eateries in the various places we go, but nothing incredibly fancy. The kind of thing you find on Man vs Food, but it's a case of quality, not quantity.

Museums are a must if they are very good.

The daughter is studying astronomy, so I'd like to seek out a good observatory where they can do some planet gazing.

We'd like to do some shows, I think. Shows which are unique to the area and which the kids would enjoy.

Outdoor adventures would be interesting. I have no idea what that entails, though. (We have a fairly sheltered life, spending 99% of it indoors and 70% sat at computers).

The one thing I am looking forward to is visiting MGV. The boy loves playing COD and so is excited about shooting some machine guns in real life. So am I :)

Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, The Hoover Dam, Death Valley, Area 51, Zoos, Sea World, Six Flags, Disney, Universal, Raging Waters, are the things which come to mind. The kids love beaches and swimming.

Bastrop, Texas
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6. Re: West Coast Road Trip - 42 days to fill!

Don't forget the Monterey Aquarium and Big Sur. Also, look into Lassen Volcano National Park. If you go to the Grand Canyon, consider visiting Page as well.

Vancouver, Canada
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7. Re: West Coast Road Trip - 42 days to fill!

While I agree with ibgardyloo, I also think it sounds like you perhaps don't want that much of a road trip. That approach would involve more short stays of one or two nights and covering more territory. It sounds like you want to stay put in one place for a week and just explore that area. Also valid.

Have you considered renting an RV? This might also work. Caravan parks in the US are much more comfortable than the places I've stayed in the UK.

I would do some research on Las Vegas. Under 21s are pretty restricted and you may find that there is less for them to do and see than you might think. You might do a bit more research and focus more on the Grand Canyon, and perhaps places like Palm Springs or Sedona. Keep snooping before you make any final plans in that area and get some advice on that destination forum for family friendly options.

I would also say do not rush the drive from LA to SF up the coast. People tend to think of doing that drive in a day or two, but there's just so much to see and do all along that coastal section, and its so beautiful, that you could easily spend a week.

Also keep in mind that some of your destinations are very, very popular and some of them will already be booked up for 2014 (Yosemite comes to mind). You may have to adjust your plans based on what is available.

Thomasville, Georgia
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8. Re: West Coast Road Trip - 42 days to fill!

There are a lot of places you can explore in 42 days while minimizing driving time. Your max budget of $800 US per day allows you to pick and choose without cost really being a factor. I don't think I would stay put in many of the cities you mentioned too long. A few days in some for sure, but take time to get out and explore. You can move around easily with little driving time, and some of the out of the way places will provide a more well rounded visit, as well as a more complete picture of life here.

Tacoma, Washington
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9. Re: West Coast Road Trip - 42 days to fill!

In 6 weeks you can explore more areas.

I insist on you visiting southern Utah and northern Arizona. On some summer weekend nights in Bryce canyon in the summer they have astronomy things going on. Being away from civilization in Bryce or Torrey you really can SE the stars.

You can't do a week in Vegas if you don't gamble. You will not enjoy it...and it being mid summer you will fry an egg during the day on a car.

I would also look into gearing up to Portland or Seattle and explore the area.

Birmingham, United...
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10. Re: West Coast Road Trip - 42 days to fill!

Thanks for your suggestions. Bearing in mind I'm trying to reduce the number of hours in the car (as the kids will get bored), so that though I would like to visit the home of my hero Don Malarkey (Portland), it's too much travelling, so here is my draft itinerary.

I've got rough driving times according to Google.

I have listed a the 'absolute must' activities at each location that I can think of.

Day 0 (arrive in San Diego and go to sleep!) Sleep 3 nights in San Diego

Days 1 & 2 (16th & 17th July)

San Diego - relax and acclimatise.

Days 3 & 4

Drive (5 hours) to Phoenix - via Yuma. Sleep 2 nights in Phoenix

Heard Museum & Salt River Tubing

Days 5 & 6

Drive (6 hours) to Monument Valley via the Grand Canyon - maybe quick tour of GC. Sleep 2 nights in Monument Valley

Take a tour of Monument Valley

Day 7

Drive (4 hours) to Bryce Canyon National Park - Sleep one night

Days 8 - 11 (23rd -26th July)

Drive (4 hours) to Las Vegas - Sleep 4 nights in Las Vegas

Machine Guns Vegas, get re-married.

Day 12

Drive (5.5 hours) to Lone Pine via Death Valley - Sleep one night in Lone Pine

Day 13

Drive (2.5 hours) to Yosemite - Sleep 2 nights in Yosemite

Glacier Point Tour / Sight Seeing

Days 16-22 (31st July - 6th August)

Drive (3 hours) to San Francisco - Sleep 7 nights in San Francisco

Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge

Days 23 & 24

Drive (2.5 hours) to Monterey - sleep 2 nights in Monterey

Days 25 & 26

Drive (3.5 hours) to Pismo Beach - via Hearst Castle - sleep 2 nights in Pismo Beach

Days 27-36 (11th-20th August)

Drive (3 hours) to Los Angeles - via Santa Barbera - sleep 10 nights in Los Angeles

Disney, Universal, Warner, Hollywood, Beverley Hills etc.

Days 37-42 (21st - 26th August)

Drive (3 hours) to San Diego - 5 nights in San Diego

San Diego Zoo, Sea World

Fly home


Do you have any suggestions on important things we are missing?

Are we aiming for places where there are better alternatives?

Are we giving the right amount of time at each place, while enjoying the holiday at a leisurely pace?

Many thanks for your help.