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Yet another west coast roadtrip

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Yet another west coast roadtrip

It seems like this forum is flooded with threads like this one, so I apologize if this seems repetitive. But I have some very specific questions I couldn't find answers to by myself.

I'm coming to the US from Germany. After some time on the East Coast I'll arrive in LA on August 25th and plan to drive all the way up the coast to Seattle. From there I fly home on September 24th. Since I'm planning to visit friends in Vancouver before flying back, I want to get to Seattle on September 19th. That leaves me about 4 weeks, which should make for an extensive trip.

Now to my questions:

- I was planning to rent a car in LA and return it in Seattle. But I've heard that having a car in San Francisco can be a nuisance. Is it worth to return the first car in SF and rent a new one once I leave? This should be more expensive because of two one-way rentals.

- Am I rushing myself if I want to be in Eugene by Sept 6th? I might want to see a College Football Game there. But from what I gather it's about 60% of the trip in just 50% of the time, and I would like to spend a couple of days in LA and SF each.

- Whats the better driving experience once I have reached Eugene? Back to the coast and highway 101 or straight to Seattle via Portland?

Lewes, United...
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1. Re: Yet another west coast roadtrip


Just to try and answer some of your specific questions, where I can. With 4 full weeks to get from LA to Seattle, you should have enough time to do the drive comfortably and enjoy the many coastal highlights and a number of national parks.

Regarding the car rental. As I see it you have 2 choices. One long rental, or 2 separate ones. Yes, it's true you don't need a car in SF, uniquely along the west coast. However, while parking can be expensive, there are a few motels that have free car parking and are yet well located to walk to many sights. They are just not on Union Square, and none have much to commend them beyond a clean room and said free parking! If you have 2 separate car rentals, you'd only need to pay 1 drop off fee - for the leg from SF to Seattle. The reason for that is because you can easily, as an overseas visitor, get free fee car rentals between LA and SF. Assuming you speak German, use this website for best prices, including insurances and no drop fee:


If you're very lucky, some direct rental companies, Hertz among them, can have fee free one ways between SF and Seattle, but more likely in the opposite direction of your travel at that time of year, also, some companies can be cheaper even after adding the fee. You need to do the sums and compare.

Do you have to watch that game in Eugene for some reason? Why I ask is that while I'm no college football expert (hopefully some others will post later) there can be college football in other locations at more suitable date and destination combinations. The main home page of the California forum has a good article or sports watching in general, with a list of colleges who have football teams worth keeping an eye on.

However, if you do dash a bit to Eugene, then you'd have time to explore in greater depth the Oregon and Washington coasts, and there would be plenty to see and do there at that time of year, and lots of great national parks, especially if you enjoy hiking.

Where do you finish your trip? If you end in Seattle, you could take the rental car into Canada and drive it there, provided you have already told the rental company when you book and have agreement and suitable paperwork, and return it to Seattle to get a lower one way drop fee. Otherwise, you will save money by linking Seattle to Vancouver by train rather than car.


Norwich, United...
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2. Re: Yet another west coast roadtrip

> But I've heard that having a car in San Francisco can be a nuisance. Is it worth to return the first car in SF and rent a new one once I leave? This should be more expensive because of two one-way rentals.

You could stay somewhere outside the city but with public transport connections, for example somewhere on the CalTrain or BART networks, or north of the Golden Gate and use the passenger ferry from either Sausalito or Tiburon to the city. This would be less expensive than a city centre hotel but you might not regard the travelling time in and out of the city as acceptable.

> What's the better driving experience once I have reached Eugene? Back to the coast and highway 101 or straight to Seattle via Portland?

I-5 is the fastest option. The Oregon coast road is slower but has great scenery and interesting towns. However, there are also some very good places inland such as Crater Lake, the Columbia River Gorge, Mount St Helens and Mount Rainier, so it's not an easy decision.

Tacoma, Washington
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3. Re: Yet another west coast roadtrip

What do you want to do over these 4 weeks??

You mentioned wanting to see a college football game. You know there are colleges in California (Stanford, UC-Berkeley, USC, UCLA in the LA area that will also have games

Do you want to see any nature things like National parks?

For example----

3 days in LA

10 days touring Southern Utah/Northern Arizona

1 day Vegas

3 days coast

4 days SF

7 days up to Seattle

Another thing to consider. It may be cheaper to rent from LA to SF over a 17 day period thenreturn the car and spend 4 days in SF then fly to Portland or Seattle and then do a 7 day RT rental there

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4. Re: Yet another west coast roadtrip

From what I've been told, the matchup in Eugene on Sept. 6th is by far the most attractive game (Oregon vs. Michigan State) of those that are happening during those 4 weeks in the west coast area, that's why I asked.

Seeing that game would give me 12 days for California. That would be plenty of time for the stuff Dan P posted, assuming I cut out the 10 days in Utah/Arizona and Vegas.

I must admit, those haven't been on my radar anyways. I'm not super keen on Vegas and I have no clue what to see in Arizona other than Grand Canyon.

Originally I was planning to spend most of the time in the larger cities (LA, SF) and on the coast. With possible detours to Yosemite and Nappa Valley.

Edited: 15 July 2014, 19:55
Vancouver, Canada
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5. Re: Yet another west coast roadtrip

I have lots of thoughts here, but I think its probably best to just stick to your questions. You'll ask more as you uncover them. So...

1. SWT has done an excellent job of mapping out the car rental issues. We usually do road trips in our own car, so I'm probably not the best person to advise, but you need to look at 1. The rental cost. and 2. The drop off cost. In general, your per day cost goes down when you rent for a longer time. BUT...your one-way drop fee will go up the further away you drop off the car. I think you have a situation where you might save money on the daily rental cost when you rent one car for the entire trip, but your one-way drop fee will increase when you drop the car further away from your starting point. SWT has given you some pointers to see if you can find a rental without a drop fee, so that will impact your final decision. In the end, you will have to do the grunt work and figure it out.

As an alternative, there is a pretty good train service by Amtrak. You could easily combine short train legs with loop car rentals all the way up to Vancouver.

2. You will have no problem getting to Eugene by Sept. 6th if that's what you want to do. Travel planning is always about trade offs and so if you want to be in Eugene by Sept. 6th, then you will plan your itinerary accordingly. There is far more to see and do through this area that you possibly have time for, so you will be making tough choices all the way up. Best way to approach this is exactly how you are doing it: Point to point and how many nights in between. Sort out maximum number of hours you care to drive in one day and any priority sights or activities. If you have more time north of Eugene than south, then you will see more of OR/WA/BC and less of CA. Its all fantastic, so you can't really go too far wrong.

3. There's two main routes between Eugene and Seattle. They are far enough apart that yo-yoing back and forth between them isn't really practical, although you can plan a route that takes in a little of both, just not all of both.

Route A takes you up the coast. This area is beautiful and stunning and you can't really say that, because you've seen the CA coast that you don't need to see the OR coast. You could take it all the way up to Olympic National Park in WA, and then if you wanted, you could cross from Port Angeles to Victoria and see some of Vancouver Island (google images for Tofino) before heading to Vancouver.

Route B takes you through the mountains and possibly a little into the dry, desert interior that sits east of the Cascades. Main features include Crater Lake, Mt. Hood, Columbia River Gorge, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier.

Either way, just make a choice and then post on the individual state forums for advice on how to plan each section of the route. People will appreciate an overview of the complete trip, but will help you with the day to day plan for each section.

Sounds fantastic! Happy planning.

6. Re: Yet another west coast roadtrip

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