Cali Road Trip Summer 2013

Discussion in 'California & the West' started by mickeyfanz, Oct 30, 2012.

  1. mickeyfanz

    mickeyfanz Mouseketeer

    Oct 24, 2001
    I wanted to share my rough itinerary for our Summer 2013 California Road Trip. We will have 9-10 people (including 3 boys ages 13, 10, and 6 and 2 sets of grandparents). Please critique/offer suggestions for any of it as far as fun things to see with kids, fun places to stay and eat as well.

    Day 1: Fly into SFO - pick-up rental van - drive to Monterey
    Day 2: Monterey - maybe do a whale watching tour and aquarium
    Day 3: Monterey area touring all day then head to Big Sur - stay at Treebones resort
    Day 4: Big Sur area sights
    Day 5: Check out of Treebones and drive to see Hearst Castle - continue PCH - stay somewhere near Santa Barbara or Santa Ynez area?
    Day 6: Drive to Anaheim - check-in somewhere maybe HoJo Anaheim?
    Day 7: DL/CA parks
    Day 8: DL/CA parks
    Day 9: Check-out from Anaheim - drive to Sequoia National Park - stay at Wuksachi Lodge
    Day 10: Drive to Yosemite - check into rental home in Yosemite West
    Day 11: Yosemite
    Day 12: Yosemite
    Day 13: Yosemite
    Day 14: Check out of rental home - drive to San Francisco - return rental van - need ideas for places to stay - this day is also July 4th so wondering what to do for fireworks and how this will affect us and where we stay
    Day 15: San Francisco touring during day - Alcatraz Night Tour
    Day 16: San Francisco touring all day - take red-eye flight home at night

    Thanks for your help!
  2. KCmike

    KCmike Never have fallen asleep on any

    Jul 4, 2007
    Sounds fun and like alot of traveling and packing/unpacking. I check out the Treebones and that seems very interesting. Can't wait to hear how it goes. We love Yosemite but I probably would have added an extra day in Disneyland and taken a day away from YNP.
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  4. bamagirl@hrt

    bamagirl@hrt DIS Veteran

    Jul 2, 2004
    My family of four stayed at the Argonaut Hotel in San Francisco last month. It's a bit pricey, but the location and service were fabulous! We did the night tour of Alcatraz and really enjoyed it. The views of the city at night are beautiful! I also highly recommend Dylan's Tours for a comprehensive overview of the city sites.
  5. sasywtch

    sasywtch DIS Veteran

    May 16, 2008
    That was exactly my first thought!
  6. 3princesshome

    3princesshome Mouseketeer

    Jan 31, 2008
    We did a somewhat similar road trip this past summer (August) with our family of 5 (included 3 girls aged 13, 11 and 8) and a mother in law who joined us for our last week. For perspective, our itinerary went like this:
    Day 1: arrive in LA
    Day 2-3: Marina Del Rey/Santa Monica Pier/Venice Beach/Beach days
    Day 4-9: Disneyland (yep, 5 full days - we loved not having to rush through everything and it gave as 2 days per park plus one extra day lounge around our Disneyland hotel)
    Day 10: drive to Las Vegas
    Day 11: Las Vegas (saw a Cirque Du Soleil show Mystere at night and kids loved it)
    Day 12: Drive to Grand Canyon
    Day 13: got up early, toured Grand Canyon (there's only so much scenery kids are willing to look at) and by 1:00, headed towards Page,Arizona
    Day 14: smooth river rafting in Page (kids loved it) and a Hummer tour through the desert to secret slot canyons (kids still talk about the four wheeling adventure in the Hummer!)
    Day 15: drove to Death Valley and stayed in the Valley overnight (kids thought it was amazing to stay in a place where it was 126 degrees! - no worries though, our hotel room was air conditioned)
    Day 16: Drove to Yosemite through Tioga Pass - awesome scenery!
    Day 17: Yosemite Valley (horseback riding in the am - kids loved it)
    Day 18: Drove to SF - met up with MIL who flew out that day - visited Fishermans Wharf, etc
    Day 19: SF - double decker bus tour (our kids love these tours on the buses- we've done it in NYC too), Lombard St, GG bridge, etc
    Day 20: Drove to Monterey (stopped in Santa Cruz and had lunch on the boardwalk) - visited the aquarium once we arrived in Monterey (mind you, this was a quick tour - maybe spent 3 hrs at aquarium)
    Day 21: went sea kayaking in Monterey - kids loved this - even 75 yr old mother in law did it - got to get up close to seals, otters, sea lions - definitely one of their highlights) - got in car about 2:00 and drove straight through to Hollywood - this was a long drive along CA1 the whole way and we stopped along the way to take pictures - got into Hollywood about 11pm that night
    Day 22: Warner Bros Tour - if your kids love Harry Potter, there is a lot of movie memoriabilia and a museum - you can have the sorting hat put on your head and it really talks - kids loved this
    Day 23: We had ordered tickets online to see the taping of two Disney shows (Jesse and Austin & Ally) but both got cancelled at the last minute, so we ended up with tickets to see the taping of Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition (like a So You Think You Can Dance for kids) - this was totally a highlight for my kids as well because they felt like they really saw what Hollywood was all about

    So..... here is my advice:
    1) everyone has different preferences, but I highlighted above the activities that really had my kids excited - just thought I would throw them out there even though some are not on your route, but maybe you'd consider them
    2) Yosemite in August was extremely hot and EXTREMELY busy. Mind you, we stayed right in Curry Village in the valley, but it really took away from enjoying nature when it was so crowded, bumper to bumper cars on the road, etc - we had had enough after 1 day :)
    3) our route was a lot of driving - I think we put about 3000 miles on our rental vehicle - but our kids are really good travellers - we brought portable video game players and a portable DVD player with about 25 movies that they hadn't seen before (2nd hand store is great to get these cheaply)
    4) even with your shorter route, I HIGHLY recommend getting a large premium SUV. We rented from Alamo and it was a GMC Yukon. I seriously questioned spending the extra $$ vs a minivan (the 3 weeks cost us about $2100 - unlimited mileage vs $1200 for a minivan) but my husband was concerned about having a loaded vehicle going through the August heat and the changes in elevation and how the vehicle would handle it. This SUV was a dream - it was so spacious for all of us and all our stuff for 3 weeks (and we don't pack lightly :)) and there were several times when we were driving where we passed signs that said "avoid engine overheating - turn off A/C for next 40 miles) which we never had to do and we passed plenty of vehicles on the side of the road overheated - in my mind, this decision to upgrade to the premium was totally worth the money
    5) Disneyland in 2 days would be rushed. The parks are smaller in area but the Disneyland park has more rides than MK in Florida and the California Adventure park now has Carsland. We stayed at the Disneyland Hotel which at the time, were allowing early entry every day for hotel guests (I think it was because of the new opening of Carsland, so not sure if that will be true next summer) and although that meant the parks opened at 7am for us, we were troopers and showed up at 7am every day (just a quick 5 min walk from our hotel) and totally had the park to ourselves for many hours. It was well worth the $$ to stay on Disney property for that perk. Rides that had 90 min waits later were ones that we just walked on multiple times in the early morning.
    6) one full day of touring in SF is enough - but again, it's a personal preference - we didn't do the Alcatraz tour so maybe that would require more time -
  7. asunutgirl

    asunutgirl Mouseketeer

    Aug 11, 2012
    You'll need reservations at Hearst Castle.
  8. PrincessInOz

    PrincessInOz Thanks for my avatar, Mary Jo!

    Feb 8, 2010
    If you're considering staying in the Santa Ynez area, check out Solvang as a possibility for the night's stay.
  9. danaesacto

    danaesacto DIS Veteran

    Oct 25, 2012
    Okay my advice- your arrival day is a lot of sitting- not sure what time you will get into SF but be prepared for traffic and a 2+ hour drive to Monterey. Do not do the whale watching and the aquarium the same day. Each one needs a good portion of the day to enjoy. There is enough time after either one to enjoy Fisherman's wharf. Unless Disney is not a big deal for you- 2 days near the beginning of July will not give you time to see and do everything in both parks so be prepared to prioritize.

    Yosemite during the 4th of July week is very, very crowded. You will stand in line to walk up the path to see the waterfalls. Just as long as you know what to expect you won't be disappointed. The park has transit buses that make the loop to all the sights. Parking is very limited in different sections- you will want to avoid driving if you can. Also be aware that you can no longer drive to many of the trailheads off the main roads- they are really limiting the cars so if you are driving yourself you will be doing more walking than if you take the buses because they get back into areas the public can't go. However be aware the buses will be crowded, and it will be a lot of standing room only. Again prioritize what you want to see.

    The city has beautiful hotels, all very, very expensive. There are a number of hotels however that are not outrageous. It looks like you will be touristing in SF without your rental car- so you will need to pick a hotel that is close to where you want to be- Alcatraz leaves out of the Piers. Make sure you buy your Alcatraz tickets MONTHS in advance. The night tour will sell out. I don't know how far in advance you can buy- but you need to buy THE DAY your date is available. It is a national park, you can only buy I think 8 tickets. You will need to make 2 separate purchases for your group- or you will need to request a group application- this takes weeks to get processed- if you go this route, don't wait. If you don't tell them you are a group- they will question you at the ticket counter if you all go up together and try to get all 9- much better plan is to have half the group just act like they don't know the other half until you are on the boat.

    4th of July in the city is insane- in a fun chaotic way. Personally I would keep the rental that night, and check into a hotel in Half Moon bay and just stay outside the craziness- but that is just me.

    Sounds like a fun but exhausting trip~ you will need a vacation to rest up from your vacation :lmao:
  10. junmatno

    junmatno DIS Veteran

    Oct 26, 2012
    I grew up in Monterey and live 30 minutes from there...GO TO AQUARIUM FIRST!! It gets packed during the summer. If u can buy tix online do it cause the line gets ridiculous. Also be aware that the Whale watching is a 3 hour ride. But do your research as far as if there would be any to see. I say that because we were in Cabo and out your guide told us they leave there in wondering if ours are also seasonal, I never went whale watching so not sure. Have Fun!!! Check out 17 mile drive in Pebble Beach, Carmel, Lovers Point, it's all beautiful!
  11. Plutofan

    Plutofan DIS Veteran

    Nov 14, 2005
    Wow. It is amazing how similar our trips are going to be. Here is our trip planned for June 2013 for 10 of US

    Day 1 Grand Canyon Maswik Lodge Sunset Tour and day tour
    Day 2 LA - Magic Castle (go to Magic Castle brunch and see shows)
    Day 3 LA - Paramount and Warner Brothers tour
    Day 4 - Safari sleep over at Safari West (safari, behind scences and BBQ)
    Day 5 - 12 Rent RV (Monterey, Big Sur, San Simeon, Sequoia and Yosemite)
    Monterey Whale watch, Big Sur Horseback Ride, Hearst Castle, Yosemite hike & mule ride
    Walt Museum
    Day 13 & 14 - SF academy of sciense, SF tour and Alcatraz night tour
    Day 15 -18 Disneyland
    Day 19 SD zoo

  12. Maleficent59

    Maleficent59 Mouseketeer

    Aug 26, 2000
    4th of July in SF is very crowded, but there is a lot to see and do that weekend. Please plan accordingly. I echo the recommendation that you book the Alcatraz tickets as soon as you can - they sell out fast! If you do have a rental car, it is much less expensive to stay outside the City. Also, if you haven't already, take a look at the information for Muir Woods and Sausalito as they are nice places to visit north (via the Golden Gate Bridge) of SF.

    We went whale watching in Monterey last summer. We went with Monterey Bay Whale Watch and it was amazing! We saw lots of whales, dolphins and sea lions! At one point, the captain had the boat idling in one location for about 20 minutes and the whales swam around the boat. One actually swam up and down a few times and did a (rare) out of the water breach. Definitely a worthwhile excursion!

    Have fun! You'll have a great time here in California!
  13. KCmike

    KCmike Never have fallen asleep on any

    Jul 4, 2007
    What are the odds of getting seasick? How far do they take you for the whale watching?
  14. danaesacto

    danaesacto DIS Veteran

    Oct 25, 2012
    Odds are good you will get sea sick if you are prone to motion sickness. Wear those bands, eat a light breakfast, and drink lots of water. If you do not normally get motion sickness you will be fine. You may also get lucky and it be as smooth as just never know :)

    I found this: "Because the distribution of whales and dolphins in the Monterey Bay depends on their migration route or where their food is located we may have to travel between 2 and 16 miles (3 and 26 km) from the harbor."

    Remember whale watching is seasonal, wildlife viewing can happen all year round- check your dates to see if that is migration time.
  15. GrandBob

    GrandBob Grand events should not go unnoticed

    Oct 30, 2007
    Hi Mike. I work for an oceanographic research institute ( ) and go out on the ship periodically. Definitely, go out in the morning. Typically, mornings are flat calm, and then the wind kicks up around noon or early afternoon. Odds are low on getting seasick in the AM, but much higher in the PM. Bonine works well for me, and is generally non-drowsy.

    Usually the trips are fairly close to shore. Anywhere from a mile to around 10 miles offshore. Have fun!


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