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Old 03-03-2013, 04:22 AM   #1
lyssabrittany
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West Coast Road Trip

Background - my family cannot decide what we want to do. Have been discussing WDW and Aspen, Europe etc. We have a budget and since we are coming from Australia, I thought maybe the West Coast would be nice and relatively cheap. I would like to plan/budget to present to the family when we have our discussion in two weeks.

We will be flying in on the 7th December and flying out 27th December. There will six people - Mum, Dad, Myself (23), Sis1 (21), Sis2 (18) and Sis3 (14).

I need help with the destinations. This is what I'm thinking:

Disneyland - Las Vegas - Grand Canyon - Yosemite - San Francisco

Is that doable in three weeks? (Keep in mind that I have driven from LA to NY in three weeks, so I don't really have any reliable concept of doable). We would only be spending a few days in each place. I would love to do more places and we definitely would like to do things/see places that are different or off the beaten track. We will be driving. Would love to have Christmas somewhere with at least a hint of snow (big ask I know)

So, I guess I'm asking for help with:

- any different sites to see
- interesting accommodation
- is this even doable

Thanks in advance.
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Old 03-05-2013, 05:49 PM   #2
RSWA2
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For 3 weeks that should be enough time. If you share the driving, it'll be easier. However, I have some warnings in terms of driving.

In December, it is very possible that the roads to Yosemite will be dangerous and some may be closed due to snow. You'll want to check out the road conditions before heading here there. If you can get through to it, it's very beautiful in the winter.

Grand Canyon may have some snow, it shouldn't affect driving, but it will make for a very nice view.

SF won't snow in the winter.

LA won't snow, either, or if it does, it'll be near the mountains, I'm not entirely sure.

Most of the snow will be in eastern CA and western NV.


For Accommodations
In LA, you may want to stay near Disneyland. If that is your main destination and if you go elsewhere, you can move. Popular ones seem to be Howard Johnson, Fairfield Inn, Ramada Maingate, any of the Disney Hotels.
In Vegas, most people like to stay on a hotel on the strip. I've stayed at MGM, Ballys, Bellagio, TI, Mirage, the new one is Aria (I think?). All are nice...you may be paying a higher price during the later part of December though.
Grand Canyon, you can get to it back and forth from Vegas in a day if you leave early and come back late. You'll see the Hoover dam along the way.
San Francisco, I think it depends on what you want to see. Tourists like to stay in the city, but it's expensive and parking is not cheap. Others will stay in a suburb and drive in, but then again you'll have to pay for parking and bridge toll.

Not sure what your route is, but you may be passing through Sacramento or Tahoe, in LA there is Hollywood and the beaches to see.

Last edited by RSWA2; 03-05-2013 at 05:57 PM.
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Old 03-06-2013, 11:15 PM   #3
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If you want snow for Christmas consider a stop at a ski resort, like Tahoe, Mammoth or Big Bear. It might be crowded and pricey during that time, but you don't have to ski. Other posters might tell you it's not worth the time or expense, but I completely understand waiting to experience Christmas in the winter. We don't exactly get a lot of "winter" weather in So Cal. I would also consider if you go to Mammoth or Big Bear starting the day on the mountain and then driving to the beach to say you did both on the same day. If you do go I would definitely plan to be back in LA/SF (depending on where you're flying from) on the 26th, just in case the road down the mountain is closed, you'll have an extra day to make a flight on the 27th.

I'm not a skier, so hopefully someone else will have some info on a Nor Cal ski resort. I've personally only been to Big Bear.
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Old 03-06-2013, 11:37 PM   #4
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During the winter there's a good chance you need chains in Yosemite, and your rental agreement might not allow for it.
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Old 03-07-2013, 12:18 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bcla
During the winter there's a good chance you need chains in Yosemite, and your rental agreement might not allow for it.
Isn't part of the road subject to complete closure in winter?
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Old 03-07-2013, 12:44 PM   #6
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Isn't part of the road subject to complete closure in winter?
Tioga Road almost always closes down (Nov to Dec usually) and reopens (May to maybe July). 2011-12 was interesting as it was open until late January. It was cold but there was barely any snow. There were people driving to Tenaya Lake to (I kid you not) go ice skating. When they finally closed it down, I don't believe it was because there was enough snow, but that they didn't have enough law enforcement personnel to patrol the area (they hire seasonal rangers during the summer).

When Tioga Road closes, it makes it difficult to get from Mammoth to the Bay Area. Most of the skiing business at Mammoth comes from Southern California.

The main roads inside Yosemite Valley and Wawona Road will be plowed. Glacier Point Road to Badger Pass will be plowed up to the end of the ski season. They might declare closures (R3 chain conditions are rare) if the snow is really bad but typically it's R2 conditions where chains or AWD/4WD with sufficient tread and at least all-season tires are sufficient. I've never had to put chains on since I have an AWD car, but you're still supposed to carry them even with R1 chain conditions.
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Old 03-07-2013, 01:56 PM   #7
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I'm not a skier, so hopefully someone else will have some info on a Nor Cal ski resort. I've personally only been to Big Bear.
If you want to go have some fun in the snow in N. California at a Ski and Sno Park, I would recommend Boreal, along US 80. Squaw Valley, location of the 1960 Olympics is there as well. 80 seems to be a much easier drive than highway 50 in the winter. Boreal is about 3.5 hours driving, west of SF with no traffic issues. But again, as a PP said about Yosemite, there will be a chance you needing chains or they may close the road at Donner's Pass, which would back up the traffic along 80. Pretty much most mountain roads in California may have a chain requirement or can close in the winter.

Or you can just drive west on 50 or 80 and go as far west as you can until chains are required. You'll probably reach enough snow to have some sledding, build a snowman or have a snowball fight.
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Old 03-07-2013, 03:25 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by RSWA2 View Post
If you want to go have some fun in the snow in N. California at a Ski and Sno Park, I would recommend Boreal, along US 80. Squaw Valley, location of the 1960 Olympics is there as well. 80 seems to be a much easier drive than highway 50 in the winter. Boreal is about 3.5 hours driving, west of SF with no traffic issues. But again, as a PP said about Yosemite, there will be a chance you needing chains or they may close the road at Donner's Pass, which would back up the traffic along 80. Pretty much most mountain roads in California may have a chain requirement or can close in the winter.

Or you can just drive west on 50 or 80 and go as far west as you can until chains are required. You'll probably reach enough snow to have some sledding, build a snowman or have a snowball fight.
Squaw is on CA-89 about 12 miles from I-80. I've driven that road during the winter. For some reason there were R2 chain controls, but hardly any snow. All I saw was a bit of leftover slush as well as one tire chain (cable-type) that got thrown off a wheel. It was frankly poor conditions for chains. If it's mostly bare wet pavement, that's really tough on chains. There has to be more slip (i.e. snow) or else they can get chewed up quickly.
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Old 03-07-2013, 07:17 PM   #9
lyssabrittany
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Thanks for the advice everyone. We have revised our itinerary and are thinking maybe Death Valley instead of Yosemite. Also thinking of flying to Portland for Christmas.

Our itinerary is looking like

Disneyland - San Diego - Phoenix - Grand Canyon - Las Vegas - Death Valley - San Francisco - Portland (fly) - LA(fly) - home
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Old 03-26-2013, 11:03 PM   #10
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If it was me I'd do Yosemite hands down. Nothing in Death Valley. At least Yosemite has beautiful surroundings. But that's my opinion.
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Old 03-29-2013, 12:48 AM   #11
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Death Valley is well worth a couple of days as far as I am concerned. I found it unique and fascinating. As with any national park, you must get out of the car and wander around on foot . . . That's after you wander to the interesting places by car.

Get you lodging there now, because you,really need to stay in the park and there are limited rooms.
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