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California in Spring break 2016

California in Spring break 2016

Old Sep 19, 15, 8:35 am
  #1  
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California in Spring break 2016

Hello,

I've booked a flight BRU-ZRH-SFO from 26th of March until 10th of april.
Had a great price with Swissair: 461 euro!!!

We like to visit San francisco, Yosemite, death valley, Las vegas, Brice canyon, Zion, Grand canyon, LA and back via the coast line.

I think it is a bit too ambitious. Therefore I was considering to take a flight from Page/Las vegas or what ever back to LA (and by doing this avoid a long ride).

Can anyone comment on the feasibility of the road trip starting from SFO?

Furthermore how much time to spend in SF, Yosemite and las vegas and LA?

We're 2 adults and 2 kids of 7 and 10 years old.
kr,
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Old Sep 19, 15, 8:44 am
  #2  
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Way too ambitious. You need four weeks to run your itinerary properly.

Originally Posted by freddyfingers View Post
Hello,

I've booked a flight BRU-ZRH-SFO from 26th of March until 10th of april.
Had a great price with Swissair: 461 euro!!!

We like to visit San francisco, Yosemite, death valley, Las vegas, Brice canyon, Zion, Grand canyon, LA and back via the coast line.

I think it is a bit too ambitious. Therefore I was considering to take a flight from Page/Las vegas or what ever back to LA (and by doing this avoid a long ride).

Can anyone comment on the feasibility of the road trip starting from SFO?

Furthermore how much time to spend in SF, Yosemite and las vegas and LA?

We're 2 adults and 2 kids of 7 and 10 years old.
kr,
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Old Sep 19, 15, 9:22 am
  #3  
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I'll just add that most of Yosemite National Park is still likely to be inaccessible by car that time of year ((Seasons)). The Tioga Pass historically does not reopen till May or June. That will make the drive to Death Valley and Las Vegas considerably longer.
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Old Sep 19, 15, 10:03 am
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I've done these except for the Grand Canyon/Death Valley stuff, but not all at once. But if you're up to it and have a car for a month, here's how you could do it, assuming you are departing from SFO at the end.

On arrival you'll want at least a week around San Francisco. With kids that age they'll need at least that long to adjust to jetlag, they can rest while you walk Union Square and the Ferry building. If you plan to visit the Exploratorium pier (and you should), get the International yearly family membership as your kids will be begging to go back many times. You can easily drive around Golden Gate park and the Marina area near the famous bridge, but if you're driving across to the Marin country side this early you'll want to register your car's plates and pay the online fee on the Golden Gate Bridge's toll website. Otherwise you will have to detour to a toll booth before crossing.

It's likely too early in the year as TWA884 said, but otherwise Yosemite is best as an overnight stay coming from the SF Bay Area. Especially if you are lucky to book a room in the park's Yosemite Lodge many months ahead. It's at least four hours by car from the city. Some say the chain hotels at Oakhurst an hour from the the park's south exit are fine. The central valley itself takes about an hour to drive to/from the main exits, so factor that. The good thing is there is a modern food court and supermarket in the park's village center, so you don't have to bring in so much food. I haven't tried this plan as I've only done a few day trips. From the south exit it's a 6-7 hour drive with stopovers down the I-5, to Disneyland Anaheim.

Disneyland and Universal plus Santa Monica and the beach cities with kids your age would need at least five active days to do right, so another week. After a rest day, the drive to Las Vegas will consume almost a day if you guys are passing by Cabazon outlet shops. If it's your first time, you'll want to stay least 2 nights on the Strip's center, near the Bellagio and Paris casino-hotels if possible. Other than the night sights there's nothing much for your kids but shows like the Knights chivalry thing at the Excalibur hotel-casino.

Brice/Zion/Grand Canyon is at least a 2 or 3-day from Las Vegas, plus one last night on the Strip to rest. That's about 3 weeks already. You'd have seen a lot of hot desert, and Death Valley might not seem so exciting at this point. I think you'd be better off driving south to spend 2-3 days at the San Diego Wild Animal park plus maybe Lego park at Carlsbad, all of which your kids will surely like.

Alternately, you could spend your last week driving north from L.A. on the coastal PCH past Simi Valley and Malibu, stay a night in Santa Barbara and visit their nice zoo and pierside, another night in San Luis Obispo to visit the vineyards and seaside towns like Avila Beach.

Then head up inland on the US101 and maybe stay a night in Marina or Palm Grove, to visit the Monterey Bay/ Santa Cruz for the aquarium and steam trains and redwoods. When you get back to San Francisco, after a rest day you could do easy day trips to nearby Coyote Point park or Marin headlands or Mt. Tamalpais/Muir Woods for a restful end to your CA vacation.

This itinerary will fit in four weeks as Moderator2 mentioned, but just about. You may be up to the drive, but will your kids?

Last edited by FlitBen; Sep 19, 15 at 10:40 am
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Old Sep 19, 15, 10:45 am
  #5  
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THx for fast reply!!! Useful information.

btw, a suggestion with squeeze a domestic flight? Las vegas-SFO? or Lax-las vegas?
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Old Sep 19, 15, 10:55 am
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Originally Posted by freddyfingers View Post
btw, a suggestion with squeeze a domestic flight? Las vegas-SFO? or Lax-las vegas?
LAS-SFO will save you considerably more driving time than LAX-LAS, but then you won't get to drive PCH between Los Angeles and San Francisco, which in my opinion is not to be missed on a trip to California.
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Old Sep 19, 15, 11:05 am
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You will probably save yourselves a lot of stress if you leave off Bryce Canyon and Zion, as those are far away from SFO. You need to think about what are your family's priorities instead of trying to do it all.
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Old Sep 19, 15, 12:04 pm
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Depends if you're renting cars on a budget. It's usually cheaper to rent by the month than by incremental weeks. With some agencies it's also $hundreds more to return the car to a distant city, like say from San Francisco then return LAX.

You could just rent cars at SFO and LAX upon arrival. But the hassle of going to the airport and the DHS security lines and THEN the car rental lines (unless you're got membership), with kids and baggage and all that won't add to your trip. While a long-term car rental with all waiver and insurance cover means freedom to flex plans and stop-and-go however you want, if you're up to the driving.

But if you insist you can fly SFO or OAK (Oakland) to LAX. BART commuter trains from San Francisco run directly to airport station. If returning a car, from the rental agency building the airport shuttle train will bring you to the SFO terminals around its loop.

From LAX or BUR (Burbank) it might make sense to fly to LAS if you find a really cheap flight/strip hotel promo package. There's a monorail with stops at the rear entrances of the huge MGM and Paris casinos complexes, but it's still a walk through the huge game floors of these mega complexes. So you're likely better off renting a cheap car at LAS to bring your family around, as casino-hotel parking is free for guests anyway and the day heat can be gruelling.

To get to the Las Vegas Fremont Street Experience or whatever it is now, IIRC you can park nearby then walk to the old town. Fry's Electronics and the Fashion and the two major outlet malls as well as many of the cheaper but decent buffets are all a short drive away.

But don't miss the central coast drive up the PCH/101 via SLO to the Monterey and SF Bay areas. For the kids, make food stops at L.A. places like Tommy's burgers and In-N-Out and also Pink's hotdog stand. On the coast drive, try Brophy Bros. seafood at Ventura or Santa Barbara, Firestone Grill and the Thursday night street market at SLO, Elvis at McDonalds Paso Robles, even Pilot and TA highway truck stops, etc.

In San Francisco Bay Area, try Golden Gate Meat Co. at the Ferry Bldg, Super Duper burgers, Pancho Villa and La Corneta mexican taquerias, BJ's Tanforan for ribs, Ike's Place and Pluto's sandwiches, Cordon Bleu vietnamese, Crissy Field Beach Hut cafe, Peet's and Philz for coffee, Bi-Rite and Humphrey Slocombe for ice cream.

Last edited by FlitBen; Sep 19, 15 at 12:46 pm
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Old Sep 19, 15, 12:28 pm
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Originally Posted by FlitBen View Post
But don't miss the coast drive up the PCH/101 via SLO to the Monterey and SF Bay areas . For the kids, make food stops at places like Brophy Bros. seafood at Ventura or Santa Barbara, the Thursday night street market at SLO, Elvis at McDonalds Paso Robles, etc.
I'm going to be a contrarian here. Before considering driving up the PCH, ask yourself:
How much do I like driving?
How much do I like driving on unfamiliar, winding roads?
How much do the kids like car trips?
Do the kids care about scenery, or will they be bored and whiny?

The PCH is a challenging drive. It will be a challenging drive in an unfamiliar rental car. If you attempt it on a weekend, you will spend large portions of it trying not to rear-end the person in front of you rather than enjoying the scenery, possibly with bored kids in the back demanding to know if you're there yet.

I vote for flying between LA and SF, or SF and Vegas.
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Old Sep 19, 15, 1:12 pm
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Originally Posted by fwoomp View Post
...The PCH is a challenging drive. It will be a challenging drive in an unfamiliar rental car. If you attempt it on a weekend, you will spend large portions of it trying not to rear-end the person in front of you rather than enjoying the scenery, possibly with bored kids in the back demanding to know if you're there yet...
That's why he's better off driving this shorter stretch of the central coast going north on the PCH and as you say, best on a week day. The driving will mostly be on the side of the road away from the edge, moving inland on US101 past Morro Bay and through SLO, and a mostly straight shot from there until after King City. He'll be more acclimated to road rules and conditions by the time he's on this long drive back to the SF Bay Area.

Although the afternoon sun does get in the face at some stretches so sunglasses are advised. The problem is more the fast rush-hour traffic on the 101 around SFO airport if they get there by nightfall.


...I vote for flying between LA and SF, or SF and Vegas.
Or maybe, SFO to LAS, LAS to LAX, then LAX back to SFO, depending on the promo airfares. This way, if the kids pick up a flu in the Parks they'll be coming down with any symptoms 10 days later when they're departing or back home already.
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Old Sep 19, 15, 3:12 pm
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Maybe I should consider skipping LA this time....

Sf 3 days
Yosemite 2 day
Las Vegas 3 days
Grand Canyon, flagstaff, Lake Powell, Bruce Canyon, St George and fly back from Las Vegas to San Francisco...,
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Old Sep 19, 15, 6:46 pm
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Come to think of it...Vegas. What is there to entertain kids with in Vegas? I know, I know, now it's more than hookers, gambling, and booze, but that's still miles from "fun for kids." (Those of you with kids might have better ideas.)

I think if you were going to cut out a city, you would be better off axing Vegas over L.A. In L.A, you have Disney and other theme parks, plus all the Hollywood tourist things, which can be fun for both kids and adults, plus things more oriented to adults.

Also, if you're thinking Vegas as a gateway to Bryce/Grand Canyon/etc., you may find that those places are still snowy in late March/early April. Whether that matters depends on what your plans are, I suppose.

Come to think of it--tell us what your family is interested in. That will help us make recommendations.

Last edited by fwoomp; Sep 19, 15 at 7:02 pm
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Old Sep 20, 15, 2:28 am
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Originally Posted by freddyfingers View Post
Maybe I should consider skipping LA this time....

Sf 3 days
Yosemite 2 day
Las Vegas 3 days
Grand Canyon, flagstaff, Lake Powell, Bruce Canyon, St George and fly back from Las Vegas to San Francisco...,
You aren't arranging more than 15 days, and you seem intent on doing the Grand Canyon. So realistically it makes sense to get a connecting flight upon arrival at SFO and head straight for Las Vegas, which will be your nice base for the surrounding region.

This way your kids get to rest in the hotel while you guys take turns walking the Strip already, coming back for lunch and breaks. There's not much for kids other than the buffets and some PG-rated shows anyway. But it should be a great walk with them at night to the fountains and gardens at the Bellagio, and the mock-Eiffel tower at the Paris complex. This plan will work without need for a car just yet, but only if you're centrally located so that you can walk back-and-forth as needed.

Rent a car once everyone's ready to go around and take a 2-3 day trip to Grand Canyon /Bryce /Zion. Back in Las Vegas, fly to LAX for some rest and rent a car to do at least Disneyland and the beach walks over 3-4 days, plus maybe Hollywood & Vine /Griffith Observatory on your last night in L.A..

For the rest of the trip you could save a day by flying LAX-SFO, but then you'd be missing out on a memorable drive along the coast. I'd spend the last few days on the drive up the PCH/101 with an overnight at SLO as mentioned, ending with 3-4 days in San Francisco. There's just so much to see there and in the San Mateo, Berkeley, and Marin areas.

With kids you're still better off using a car to get around even in SF city. Just make sure your hotel provides parking on-site or nearby, or stay at one of the San Bruno /South San Francisco hotels close to the airport and 101 highway. Be wary of the Tenderloin area and its sleazy types, and avoid the high traffic Market and Mission street downtown areas.

If your family has any particular interests you should post them as fwoomp suggests.

Last edited by FlitBen; Sep 20, 15 at 3:06 am
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Old Sep 20, 15, 7:24 am
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We should avoid Yosemite end of March, early April?

I m seriously considering to postpone Brice and Zion for this road trip.

By doing this we can free up time to visit SF, Las Vegas (+ hoover dam and grand Canyon) and LA.

We've already been several times to Disney world in Florida, so no need to visit Disney land. As Harry Potter will come to universal I think we will spend 1 day in universal studios.

By doing this I think we can rent a car for 14days and do it all by car.

If Yosemite is not worthwhile to do in spring yet, we indeed can take connection flight to Vegas and rent a car as of Las Vegas.

Would say the night in morro Bay in the way back to San Francisco.

I think I will use the car to drive around sf.

Any recommendations for hotels (neighborhoods) in LA, does not need to be in the center. Nevertheless I want to avoid traffic jams and I m.looking for a location from which it is easy to get a around

In vegas
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Old Sep 20, 15, 9:22 am
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Originally Posted by freddyfingers View Post
We should avoid Yosemite end of March, early April?
The advice is sound. I've only been to Yosemite late April or early May but that's what I hear, too.


...I m seriously considering to postpone Brice and Zion for this road trip. By doing this we can free up time to visit SF, Las Vegas (+ hoover dam and grand Canyon) and LA...
If you ask me I'll always free up time for San Francisco, but I've never been to those places. Then again Grand Canyon is the big must-see. I'm doing it on my next trip to Vegas. Hoover dam I think you could do in a morning from Las Vegas, never stopped there actually.


...We've already been several times to Disney world in Florida, so no need to visit Disney land. As Harry Potter will come to universal I think we will spend 1 day in universal studios...
It's not just Disneyland, it's California Adventure where it's at now. You feel your wings in Flying and the World of Colors is one of a kind, and then there's the virtual shooting gallery, etc.

From Universal I would head to the Fry's and Costco at Burbank. After the park you can dinner at the nearby mall, or go further south to Santa Monica Blvd /Melrose Ave /Vine St areas, plus maybe Griffith after dark if you're not too tired. Or maybe somewhere along Ventura Blvd, but keep off the very busy US101 whenever possible.

...By doing this I think we can rent a car for 14days and do it all by car.

If Yosemite is not worthwhile to do in spring yet, we indeed can take connection flight to Vegas and rent a car as of Las Vegas.

Would say the night in morro Bay in the way back to San Francisco

I think I will use the car to drive around sf...
Thats's what I would do, a connecting flight straight to Las Vegas then rent a car from Hertz at LAS for the rest of trip at exactly 2 weeks, return at SFO at the end.


...Any recommendations for hotels (neighborhoods) in LA, does not need to be in the center. Nevertheless I want to avoid traffic jams and I m.looking for a location from which it is easy to get a around In vegas
In the L.A. region I usually stay with relatives inland, but my advice is to find a room with 2 big queen beds close to the attraction's main gate. If I'm at Disneyland Anaheim I'd splurge on the Grand Californian since they have their own park entrance and kid-friendly policies. But the smaller places along S. Harbor Blvd should do.

For Universal I'd look for a hotel to the west along Ventura Blvd which parallels US101. From there you could also head west/north for the Getty museum if that's your thing, and there's lots of good breakfast places and delis along Ventura and its sidestreets. LAX airport hotels are a bit too far. Avoid staying in the downtown business district where there's nothing much after dark and some bad areas look like zonal ghettos in France.

In Las Vegas I've had good times at the Planet Hollywood, it's modern and not campy and very central. They have a new PH tower closer to the rear parking levels and yet adjacent to the resort's mall where you can find decent food and shopping options. But if there are ongoing conventions the rates can get pricey. A nice room in that area on the Strip with two single or queen beds usually goes for $90 or less per night during non-peak times.

Excalibur resort is usually a cheaper option and there are some things there for the kids like the (edit)Tournament of Kings show. I have a friend who stayed there with his college kids last May and they found it nice enough. But if you're walking you'll have to go out front on the long sidewalks and trek past New York New York and City Center/Aria to get to Bellagio. I prefer PH as it and the Paris are interconnected for pedestrians, and of course the fountains are on the other side of the crosswalk. There's an inexpensive but good sandwich place (Earl's) and a convenience store on the side nearer the front entrance.

Last edited by FlitBen; Sep 22, 15 at 1:17 am
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