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Old 08-21-2010, 06:49 PM   #1
Mom2Elliot
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First trip West! Itinerary Advice needed!!

We are heading west for the first time next July and I am trying to come up with a budget for myself to know how much I have to save before then Can't do that until I have figured out where we are going!

We are a family of 5 - myself, DH, and kids who will be 13, 10, and 3. I am open ended on time, but my DH will only be able to come for part of the time. We are limited mostly just by $$ and my patience! I know this will be a pretty darn expensive trip, so I don't want to spend too much time lingering, but I don't want to kill myself (or the kids!) either.

So, here is my initial plan which is about 2 weeks. Does this look doable in terms of time in each place?

7/23 Sat. Fly to San Francisco
7/24 Sun - in SF (Alcatraz)
7/25 Mon - in SF
7/26 Tue - pick up car and drive down Rt 1, spend night somewhere
7/27 Wed. - continue drive, spend night somewhere
7/28 Thu. - Arrive in LA
7/29 Fri. - in LA
7/30 Sat. - in LA (Universal)
7/31 Sun. - drive to San Diego (DH flies home?)
8/1 Mon. - in SD (zoo)
8/2 Tue. - in SD (Sea World)
8/3 Wed. - Drive to DisneyLand
8/4 Thu. - in DL
8/5 Friday - in DL
8/6 Sat. - in DL
8/7 Sun. - Drive up I5 to SFO.
8/8 Mon. - Fly home

Does this seem too rushed?

If our budget allows, we would like to see the Grand Canyon. So we would have to pencil in a trip to Las Vegas as well, and I know it is 5 hrs further on from there so we would have to do at least an overnight trip. Adding the Grand Canyon part makes my head spin! This is the itinerary I came up with to include the GC. Can anyone figure out an easier time or way to do it? It seems like a lot of rental car picking up/dropping off and flights, especially compared to my first itinerary.

7/22 Fri. Fly to Los Angeles
7/24 Sat - in LA
7/25 Sun. - in LA
7/26 Mon. - Fly to Las Vegas
7/27 Tue. - Drive to Grand Canyon, spend night
7/28 Wed. - Back to Vegas
7/29 Thu. - Fly to San Francisco
7/30 Fri. - in SF
7/31 Sat. - in SF
8/1 Sun - drive 1/2 way down Rt 1
8/2 Mon. - arrive in LA
8/3 Tue. - Universal (DH flies home)
8/4 Wed. - drive to San Diego
8/5 Thu - Sea World
8/6 Fri. - San Diego Zoo
8/7 Sat. - drive to Disneyland
8/8 Sun. - in DL
8/9 Mon. - in DL
8/10 Tue. - in DL
8/11 Wed. - fly home

The only caveat is that the kids and I have to fly into/out the same city as we have complimentary return tickets on AirTran, but my DH can fly in/out of different cities.

Thanks in advance for any help!!
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Old 08-21-2010, 09:03 PM   #2
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I like a combo of the two, SF is really nice to see as is the drive down highway 1.

LV I would give a day, since the kids are young you can see some fun things and pack it into a day. GC can take a day too. The driving will take some time.

The one thing I'm not sure about is the days in LA. I would see Hollywood that's about a half day of fun. Santa Monica/ Venice Beach another half and there are some smaller site. Unless you are visiting family that may be what to trim.


Also have you been to a Seaworld? Maybe something to pass up.
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Old 08-22-2010, 01:57 AM   #3
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Not sure if you are wedded to spending the night @ the grand canyon - but you can take a helicopter tour from Vegas to the Grand Canyon.
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Old 08-23-2010, 02:25 AM   #4
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Me too like a combo of the two
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Old 08-23-2010, 06:05 PM   #5
Mom2Elliot
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Thanks! I have reworked the itinerary to make it a combination of the two.

Friday - Fly into San Francisco
Sat. - in SF
Sun. - in SF
Mon. - drive 1/2 down to LA
Tue. - stay night in LA
Wed. - Universal Studios
Thu. - Fly to Las Vegas (we don't plan on doing much here, just the hotel pool!)
Fri. - Drive to Grand Canyon, spend night
Sat. - Drive back to Las Vegas, spend night
Sun. - Fly to LA and drive to San Diego
Mon. - Zoo
Tue. - SeaWorld
Wed. - drive to DL
Thu. - DL
Fri. - DL
Sat. - DL
Sun. - drive to SFO
Mon. - Fly home

Does this look better? Alternatively, I considered just driving to Las Vegas then the Grand Canyon and then drive directly to San Diego.

I looked at the helicopter rides from Vegas to the Canyon, but I wasn't sure if they were appropriate for a 3 1/2 yr old? If we were to do the helicopter ride, I would definitely just drive to Vegas and then down to San Diego.

I am planning on getting the pass that covers Universal, SeaWorld, the Zoo, and 3 days at DL.

Thanks for any and all suggestions!!
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Old 08-23-2010, 10:24 PM   #7
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we just returned from our California trip. We started in SF, then Monterey, LA then Coronado beach.. way to busy!

You could probably spend a week in all of these cities. I would try to narrow it down to 2.. Good luck.
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Old 08-23-2010, 10:27 PM   #8
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In Vegas, I would plan on more than the hotel pool. See the fountain at the Bellagio, the lions in the MGM. The tigers in the Mirage. The Pirate show at TI. The fire+water show in Ceasar's Forum Shops. Also after dark the Freemont Street Experience. And there is other interesting things to see while walking into some of the hotels. Maybe some of you will want to do some of the rides that you will see there.



I do second the idea of flying to SD. The drive takes you almost back to LA so it would save time. Try looking at SW and see if it makes sense. Though I understand that 5 tickets will add up.

The drives between LA and LV, or LV and SD are 3 to 4 hours. So consider if it would be easier to drive or fly them all. Time in security lines getting to and from airports. Also if you will hit traffic driving can add up, and be painful when you are 100 miles into the desert with not a building in site.
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Old 08-24-2010, 06:43 AM   #9
Mom2Elliot
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Quote:
Originally Posted by disneyfaninaz View Post
Why don't you just fly from Vegas to San Diego? And, why are you driving all the way back to SFO instead of flying home from LA?
I was thinking we would keep our original rental car from SFO for the whole trip, so we would have to fly back to LA to pick it up. I also thought we could leave some of our baggage in the rental car parked at LAX. But you are right, it doesn't make much sense! I hope one way car rentals are not too much of an issue, I have never done one. We have comped "return" airfare tickets to use, so I assume that means we have to fly in/out of the same city. When we book the flights, I will try to fly out of LA for sure! Thanks for your advice.

Quote:
Originally Posted by photomama View Post
we just returned from our California trip. We started in SF, then Monterey, LA then Coronado beach.. way to busy!

You could probably spend a week in all of these cities. I would try to narrow it down to 2.. Good luck.
How long was your trip? I am definitely thinking our schedule looks too hectic for the kids. My very first trip idea didn't include San Diego, maybe I should think more about that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by skiingfast View Post
In Vegas, I would plan on more than the hotel pool. See the fountain at the Bellagio, the lions in the MGM. The tigers in the Mirage. The Pirate show at TI. The fire+water show in Ceasar's Forum Shops. Also after dark the Freemont Street Experience. And there is other interesting things to see while walking into some of the hotels. Maybe some of you will want to do some of the rides that you will see there.

I do second the idea of flying to SD. The drive takes you almost back to LA so it would save time. Try looking at SW and see if it makes sense. Though I understand that 5 tickets will add up.

The drives between LA and LV, or LV and SD are 3 to 4 hours. So consider if it would be easier to drive or fly them all. Time in security lines getting to and from airports. Also if you will hit traffic driving can add up, and be painful when you are 100 miles into the desert with not a building in site.
Thanks!! Having never been to Las Vegas, I just wasn't sure how comfortable I would be with my DS(13), DD(10) and DS(3) walking around. But I will definitely look into the things you suggested. I was looking at Mandalay Bay as our hotel.

I appreciate the advice, I'm going to go think about it all some more!
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Old 08-24-2010, 07:28 AM   #10
Mom2Elliot
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Okay, reworked things to make it less hectic. Which option would you choose traveling with 3 kids, but probably the only time to CA for many many years to come?

Option 1 (5 hotels, 17 days):

Thursday - Fly into San Francisco (hotel#1)
Sat. - in SF
Sun. - in SF
Mon. - In SF
Tue. - Fly to Las Vegas early in AM, rent car (hotel #2)
Wed. - Drive to Grand Canyon (drive back to LV or spend night?)
Thu. - in Las Vegas
Fri. - Fly to LAX, rent car (hotel #3)
Sat. - Tour LA
Sun. - drive to San Diego (hotel #4)
Mon. - Zoo
Tue. - SeaWorld
Wed. - Drive to DisneyLand (hotel #5)
Thu. - Disneyland
Fri. - Disneyland
Sat. - Disneyland
Sun. - Fly home from LAX or SFO

Option 2 (3-4 hotels, 13 days)

Thursday - Fly into San Francisco (hotel#1)
Sat. - in SF
Sun. - in SF
Mon. - In SF
Tue. - Fly to Las Vegas early in AM, rent car (hotel #2)
Wed. - Drive to Grand Canyon (drive back to LV or spend night?)
Thu. - in Las Vegas
Fri. - Fly to LAX, rent car (hotel #3)
Sat. - Tour LA
Sun. - Disneyland
Mon. - Disneyland
Tue. - Disneyland
Wed. - Fly home from LAX or SFO

Thanks for everyone's help!!
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Old 08-24-2010, 09:52 AM   #11
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Just my 2 cents worth. I really don't think Las Vegas has a lot to offer to kids. They really aren't family friendly. I know you want to see the Grand Canyon, but driving down in a day really isn't going to offer you a lot of time to see it like it deserves.

May I suggest, reworking your trip to include just CA and not LV. I think your kids would enjoy SD a lot more than LV.

Maybe in the future, you can come back out to the Southwest to enjoy the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and other great national parks in Utah.
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Old 08-24-2010, 10:19 AM   #12
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Cool

Just a note. If you plan on doing Alcatraz, buy the tickets online before you go - at least a couple of months ahead. We were in SF last year and went to buy our Alcatraz tickets and they weren't available as they were already sold out for a couple weeks after when we were there.
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Old 08-24-2010, 12:08 PM   #13
skiingfast
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Quote:
Originally Posted by splash5 View Post
Just a note. If you plan on doing Alcatraz, buy the tickets online before you go - at least a couple of months ahead. We were in SF last year and went to buy our Alcatraz tickets and they weren't available as they were already sold out for a couple weeks after when we were there.
My dad just went to San Francisco about a week ago. He reported that Alcatraz tickets were sold out past the end of the year. Almost 6 months.

I think you can get a citypass option that includes Alcatraz. But I haven't look into citypass for a while.
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Old 08-24-2010, 12:45 PM   #14
skiingfast
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mom2Elliot View Post
Okay, reworked things to make it less hectic. Which option would you choose traveling with 3 kids, but probably the only time to CA for many many years to come?

Option 1 (5 hotels, 17 days):

Thursday - Fly into San Francisco (hotel#1)
Sat. - in SF
Sun. - in SF
Mon. - In SF
Tue. - Fly to Las Vegas early in AM, rent car (hotel #2)
Wed. - Drive to Grand Canyon (drive back to LV or spend night?)
Thu. - in Las Vegas
Fri. - Fly to LAX, rent car (hotel #3)
Sat. - Tour LA
Sun. - drive to San Diego (hotel #4)
Mon. - Zoo
Tue. - SeaWorld
Wed. - Drive to DisneyLand (hotel #5)
Thu. - Disneyland
Fri. - Disneyland
Sat. - Disneyland
Sun. - Fly home from LAX or SFO
I like this option because it incorporates some of all the spots. In my opion I like SF for 2-3 minimum days and LV for 2-3 days maximum.

The Grand Canyon is tough. Seeing as how you have a 3yo I'm guessing you won't be doing a lot of hiking because he/she will be slow walking on thier own over the trail and getting to heavy to carry. Because it's July the place will be crowded so driving will be slow parking difficult. So you might fit a lot in one day, you may want one and a half. I know this isn't helping you on weather to stay a night they or not. I wish it was easy to decide.

I also wanted to add in Excaliber there is a carnival areawith booth games, and in Circus Circus a bunch of rides some will accomodate all ages of your group. Not sure if you will want the rides since you are going to disney.

Madalay's pool is unbeatable, with the beach. I'd also suggest the MGM that has a lazy river, The Rio with its fun designed pool and mardi gras floats, or even the Gloden Nugget with a water slide through a shark tank. Just consider this and if you are flxible on where to stay this can give you some great pricing options.

You have to think of Vegas for kids like Disney for Seniors. There is some around but not a lot. Your 2 older kids will never forget it I am sure.

I'll tell this little story about Vegas. A while back I was there drinking with a friend. I stepped off the back of a little viewing platform. I fell right in front of a family. The mother was laughing at me while holding her kid's hand. The father though was not, he was pushing a stroller. I could tell he was jealous of the fun I was having.

Last edited by skiingfast; 08-25-2010 at 12:26 PM.
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Old 08-25-2010, 06:38 AM   #15
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Be sure to look @ Southwest airlines, they don't penalize people price wise, for flying into one city and out of another.
I have a strong Northern California bias, being a native. Your original itinerary had you driving down hwy 1 through Monterey and coastal California. IMO, this is some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. SF and the coast will be cool weather in the summer. There's Santa Cruz and the boardwalk, Monterey bay and the aquarium, Carmel, a little further south Big Sur, San Louis Obispo, Hearst Castle, Santa Barbara, and then the southern California beach towns.
Day 1 - arrive SF
Day 2 - Alcatraz, pier 39, ride a cable car, maybe drive over the Golden Gate bridge and back (just so you can say you've done it)
Day 3 - Golden Gate park visiting the Academy of Sciences & aquarium, the De Young museum and the Japanese garden - they're all in the park.
Day 4 - visit the Exploratorium then head south on Highway 1 to Santa Cruz. If you have time stop at one of the beaches near Pescadero. Spend the evening at the boardwalk in Santa Cruz.
Day 5 - Drive 40 minutes south to Monterey. Visit the aquarium, cannery row, 17 mile drive, the shops in Carmel, spend the night (eat at family friendly Gianni's pizza.)
Day 6 - drive south, stopping at Big Sur, touring Hearst castle, spending the night in Pismo Beach.
Day 7 - drive south - might as well stop @ the Long Beach aquarium and into LA.
Day 8 - LA
Day 9 - LA
Day 10 - San Diego
Day 11 - San Diego
Day 12 - San Diego to Anaheim in the evening.
Day 13 - Take a 2 day bus/airplane tour from Anaheim to Las Vegas/grand canyon (google it to check out operators.)
Day 14 - Vegas/Grand canyon tour back to Anaheim/DisneyLand.
Day 15 - Disneyland
Day 16 - Disneyland
Day 17 - fly out of LA
I suggest the bus/airplane tour for Las Vegas/Grand Canyon because you save wear and tear on yourself and don't have to spend so many hours driving through the desert.
Personally, I'd probably skip Las Vegas/grand canyon and add days elsewhere - but I'm biased towards spectacular scenery (and the ocean.) Vegas is lots of fun, but it will be hot in July.
Just offered as food for thought.
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