West Coast USA Fly Drive holidays - advice.

Littlejimmy

Well-known member
I fancy a good holiday this year to somewhere a bit different and the West Coast of the US has been suggested. I'd be solo travelling most probably. I'm sure someone on here has done it before. Is it easy to arrange? Is it best to use a travel agent or arrange it all individually? I have googled and there's a bewildering array of options from 100 companies. Also, I'm guessing I'd need at least 2 weeks to do it justice.

I'd like to see San Francisco, Grand Canyon, maybe Vegas, San Diego, maybe Hollywood, the coast, Redwood forest, etc.

Any advice would be appreciated.
 

Subbuteo_171

Well-known member
We did it in 2019, all sorted individually which is easy to do if you have the time and inclination.

California is massive and you have a large list to see including stuff in other states. We had nearly 3 weeks and had the following:

Santa Monica 3 nights
Big Bear Lake 1 night
Death Valley 2 nights
Mammoth Lakes 2 nights
Yosemite 3 nights
Monterey 2 nights
Santa Rosa 2 nights
San Francisco 4 nights

Driving very easy, built for the car.

Id focus on 4 or 5 of those places in a 2 week period max, even then you'll spend a fair amount of time travelling. LA to SF is about 375 miles/6 hours ( that's on the inland boring route) so a full day really.

You can always go back later to see the rest.

Fantastic place by the way.
 

Littlejimmy

Well-known member
We did it in 2019, all sorted individually which is easy to do if you have the time and inclination.

California is massive and you have a large list to see including stuff in other states. We had nearly 3 weeks and had the following:

Santa Monica 3 nights
Big Bear Lake 1 night
Death Valley 2 nights
Mammoth Lakes 2 nights
Yosemite 3 nights
Monterey 2 nights
Santa Rosa 2 nights
San Francisco 4 nights

Driving very easy, built for the car.

Id focus on 4 or 5 of those places in a 2 week period max, even then you'll spend a fair amount of time travelling. LA to SF is about 375 miles/6 hours ( that's on the inland boring route) so a full day really.

You can always go back later to see the rest.

Fantastic place by the way.
Thanks man.
 

Norfolkred1

Well-known member
Me and the old trout have done a number of USA road trip, sadly not the West Coast but mainly in the South. We book everything separately, flights, car hire and the 1st stop at the airport or around 30 minutes out. The beauty of the USA is that you can book as you go when it comes to hotels. That means if we like the place we can stay another night without having a deadline. Someway through our drive we find an extended stay Motel which will have a washing machine and drying facilities. We stay off the beaten track and see the real America where we see the have and the have nots of the USA.
 

indeedido

Well-known member
We tried far too much in our two and a half weeks many years ago.
SF, Carmel, Big Sur, Santa B, LA, San Diego, Palm Springs, PhoenixScottsdale, Flagstaff, Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, Las Vegas, fly out of LA.
FAR TOO MUCH!!
Too much time driving. Overly ambitious and needed a holiday afterwards.
Have been back to places and spent longer and enjoyed each more exc LA (dreadful place)
 

Norfolkred1

Well-known member
We tried far too much in our two and a half weeks many years ago.
SF, Carmel, Big Sur, Santa B, LA, San Diego, Palm Springs, PhoenixScottsdale, Flagstaff, Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, Las Vegas, fly out of LA.
FAR TOO MUCH!!
Too much time driving. Overly ambitious and needed a holiday afterwards.
Have been back to places and spent longer and enjoyed each more exc LA (dreadful place)
We tend to do short and medium days. We may find an unusual event to attend but that maybe sometime into the trip so we may have 400 miles to do in 6 days and stop as and when en-route.

 

newyddion

Well-known member
Fly to Vegas Return from LA, drive thru Death Valley, stay at Yosemite, stay near half done.. check out the laser guided star tour,

San Francisco is mint.. but also freezing, Big Sur, Santa Cruz.. stick to route 1, the drive thru LA is an experience in itself!

The driving is ok because everywhere is like a movie!
 

futureboy

Well-known member
Have used these guys at least twice - https://www.theamericanroadtripcompany.co.uk/

You tell them what sort of thing you want and they do all the legwork. They communicate with you throughout the process to make sure they're on the right lines. You can be as specific or as vague as you want with your requests. They're very friendly and efficient, and they also helped us out from the UK when we had a massive crisis upon arriving in the US for one of our trips. Would fully recommend.
 

Brewtal

Member
We went a few years ago but only had 12 days and we were warned off driving too much before we went by a friend. We flew to San Francisco with return from Vegas. Had 3 days there and then flew to San Diego with a another 3 days there before flying to Vegas for 6 days. Internal flights were so easy to book and so cheap. If I did the trip again and had longer probably would have driven to Vegas from San Diego and stayed a night in Palm Springs and explored a bit around there. I really loved San Francisco could have done with a couple of extra days there. Muir Woods, Sausalito were nice to visit, couple of nice museums too. If you plan on going to Alcatraz that isn't part of a city tour then make sure you book it well in advance. They only allow a limited amount each day and when we went it was fully booked for the next 5 days. Luckily we had ours through a tour.
Loved San Diego too, the zoo is massive and one of the best in the world. USS Midway was excellent, Navy week was on too when we went October time and was loads of displays flypasts and had a look around USS Anchorage. If you like museums Balboa park has several. The air and space museum and natural history museum well worth a visit.
 

The_Lizards_Jumpers

Well-known member
As an ex resident of California, I've never done a actual roadtrip but there's some great advice on here, but a few more things off the top of my head.....

* If you're not adverse to "camping" (it's really not camping) then check out Autocamp both in Russian River and Yosemite


* Assuming you'll be visiting SF, then be very careful about hotels. Most tourists stay around Union Square, which is bordered by the Tenderloin the cities biggest ghetto with a great deal of deprivation and drug use. If your budget will stretch then one of the Nob Hill hotels like Fairmount or Mark Hopkins then do so, otherwise there's other hotels that I can recommend that are a little out of the tourist traps.

* On the subject of homelessness, you'll need to get used to it wherever you go in CA as well as open use of hard drugs on the streets

* Give me a shout before you go to SF and I can give you much more info about exploring the city, it's not huge and living there for 4 years means you know it well and so happy to do a detailed post about places to eat, drink etc

* Depending on when you go to SF it will be either cold, or freezing, in at least one area - unless you get there for the 3 week summer which is normally around October. Also take a coat / jacket wherever you go, as just because it's sunny in the FiDi doesn't mean it'll be sunny when you get to the Outer Sunset a distance of a whole 3 or 4 miles. There's microclimates across the city, which you get used to.

* You say "west coast" but everyone is focusing on CA, Oregon and Washington states are also amazing, especially Portland and Seattle, but I wouldn't recommend driving down to CA from OR as there's not a great deal between say Portland and San Francisco.

* If you like wine, or even if you dont, then Napa and Sonoma valleys are great places to explore a few days, really relaxing and there's some great hotels I can recommend (although pricey)

* Stick to the Pacific Coast Highway when driving from SF to LA, there's some great towns to check out like Santa Barbara, Monterey, Carmel, SLO which you'll miss if you take the I-5-S which is the most direct route, and has a great deal of nothing through the central valley.

* I can probably give you hotel and restaurant recommendations for most places, as we used our time in CA to explore a lot so just shout.
 
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MolteniArcore

Well-known member
Me and the old trout have done a number of USA road trip, sadly not the West Coast but mainly in the South. We book everything separately, flights, car hire and the 1st stop at the airport or around 30 minutes out. The beauty of the USA is that you can book as you go when it comes to hotels. That means if we like the place we can stay another night without having a deadline. Someway through our drive we find an extended stay Motel which will have a washing machine and drying facilities. We stay off the beaten track and see the real America where we see the have and the have nots of the USA.

"Old trout" :ROFLMAO: Not heard that for a while!
 

Cardiffdaffs

Well-known member
First did the road trip in 1981. Started in Santa Monica LA. Up highway 1 to SF stopping at Hearst Castle and Monterrey Peninsular. Yosemite and then down to Vegas. Vegas to Grand Canyon and then back to LA. We stopped at least two days in each place and it took 3 1/2 weeks. I was 22 at the time so didn’t seem too much then.

What I do remember is that the driving was relaxing, easy and petrol then was dirt cheap. We stayed on spec in motels except for booking ourhotel for 3 or 4 nights in Vegas. It was Circus Circus (which in 1981 was one of the better ones in those days and had rooms despite the Vegas Grand Prix being in town).
 

jam69

Well-known member
Been to the West Coast a few times, but not for a good 20 years, fancy a trip back, what sort of cost excluding spending money for those trips above?
 

Air Resistance

Active member
My recommendation, depending on time, would be to focus on a few bits rather than trying to squeeze too much in. San Francisco is a good 7 hour drive from LA if you go the faster non-coast route, which is basically the best part of a day done. Where as San Diego is less that a two hour drive and can be done as a long day trip if needed.

It’s easy to underestimate how massive those states are in the area. Depending on your interests you could do two weeks just San Francisco and Yosemite easily.
 

Littlejimmy

Well-known member
As an ex resident of California, I've never done a actual roadtrip but there's some great advice on here, but a few more things off the top of my head.....

* If you're not adverse to "camping" (it's really not camping) then check out Autocamp both in Russian River and Yosemite


* Assuming you'll be visiting SF, then be very careful about hotels. Most tourists stay around Union Square, which is bordered by the Tenderloin the cities biggest ghetto with a great deal of deprivation and drug use. If your budget will stretch then one of the Nob Hill hotels like Fairmount or Mark Hopkins then do so, otherwise there's other hotels that I can recommend that are a little out of the tourist traps.

* On the subject of homelessness, you'll need to get used to it wherever you go in CA as well as open use of hard drugs on the streets

* Give me a shout before you go to SF and I can give you much more info about exploring the city, it's not huge and living there for 4 years means you know it well and so happy to do a detailed post about places to eat, drink etc

* Depending on when you go to SF it will be either cold, or freezing, in at least one area - unless you get there for the 3 week summer which is normally around October. Also take a coat / jacket wherever you go, as just because it's sunny in the FiDi doesn't mean it'll be sunny when you get to the Outer Sunset a distance of a whole 3 or 4 miles. There's microclimates across the city, which you get used to.

* You say "west coast" but everyone is focusing on CA, Oregon and Washington states are also amazing, especially Portland and Seattle, but I wouldn't recommend driving down to CA from OR as there's not a great deal between say Portland and San Francisco.

* If you like wine, or even if you dont, then Napa and Sonoma valleys are great places to explore a few days, really relaxing and there's some great hotels I can recommend (although pricey)

* Stick to the Pacific Coast Highway when driving from SF to LA, there's some great towns to check out like Santa Barbara, Monterey, Carmel, SLO which you'll miss if you take the I-5-S which is the most direct route, and has a great deal of nothing through the central valley.

* I can probably give you hotel and restaurant recommendations for most places, as we used our time in CA to explore a lot so just shout.
Thanks for that. I'm not averse to the idea of "camping" or even using an RV, just want to be sure it would be safe. I've been to Minneapolis and NY and know it's not the Wild West, but still...

My brother did a trip starting and ending in LA and going to Vegas, Yosemite, San Fran, Monterey and Santa Barbara, returning to LA on the Pacific Highway in 2 weeks. That kind of thing sounds good to me. It sounds like hotels/motels are easy to sort as you travel, and maybe book hotels at the major places like Vegas and SF.

Anyway, some good info from everyone, so thanks. Will check out the link futureboy has posted.
 

Ziggy

Well-known member
Pop into Barney’s Beanery…the one in West Hollywood. Lots of difference beers, 40 on pump.
200 with the bottled stuff. Opened in 1920. We used phone ahead to get pre ordered bottled Guinness out and up to room temperature when we got there. They might do draught now?
Ok place.
 

stjohn

Well-known member
Me and the missus went in 2018. We did 2 nights in Vegas, 3 nights in SF and then crossed over to the east coast and did 4 nights in Boston. got to admit that 2 nights in Vegas was more than enough for me - just not my scene - but then again we only went there mainly to do a helecopter ride over the Grand Canyon which was absolutely amazing. Moving on to SF, I loved it there and know that 3 nights just was,nt enough time to do the place justice so if your going there I would say 4 nights minimum. The 2 real highlights for me were Alcatraz and visiting the Haight Asbury area of SF.
 

gramercy

Member
As an ex resident of California, I've never done a actual roadtrip but there's some great advice on here, but a few more things off the top of my head.....

* If you're not adverse to "camping" (it's really not camping) then check out Autocamp both in Russian River and Yosemite


* Assuming you'll be visiting SF, then be very careful about hotels. Most tourists stay around Union Square, which is bordered by the Tenderloin the cities biggest ghetto with a great deal of deprivation and drug use. If your budget will stretch then one of the Nob Hill hotels like Fairmount or Mark Hopkins then do so, otherwise there's other hotels that I can recommend that are a little out of the tourist traps.

* On the subject of homelessness, you'll need to get used to it wherever you go in CA as well as open use of hard drugs on the streets

* Give me a shout before you go to SF and I can give you much more info about exploring the city, it's not huge and living there for 4 years means you know it well and so happy to do a detailed post about places to eat, drink etc

* Depending on when you go to SF it will be either cold, or freezing, in at least one area - unless you get there for the 3 week summer which is normally around October. Also take a coat / jacket wherever you go, as just because it's sunny in the FiDi doesn't mean it'll be sunny when you get to the Outer Sunset a distance of a whole 3 or 4 miles. There's microclimates across the city, which you get used to.

* You say "west coast" but everyone is focusing on CA, Oregon and Washington states are also amazing, especially Portland and Seattle, but I wouldn't recommend driving down to CA from OR as there's not a great deal between say Portland and San Francisco.

* If you like wine, or even if you dont, then Napa and Sonoma valleys are great places to explore a few days, really relaxing and there's some great hotels I can recommend (although pricey)

* Stick to the Pacific Coast Highway when driving from SF to LA, there's some great towns to check out like Santa Barbara, Monterey, Carmel, SLO which you'll miss if you take the I-5-S which is the most direct route, and has a great deal of nothing through the central valley.

* I can probably give you hotel and restaurant recommendations for most places, as we used our time in CA to explore a lot so just shout.
I’ve visited most of the large US cities. But the Tenderloin in SF was by far the worst inner city “skid row” I’ve ever seen. Rows and rows of tents and sleeping bags with people sat on the pavement shooting up, smoking stuff and s***ting in the street.
 
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