Planning southern California trip. Is this itinerary do-able?

3littlecuties

Mouseketeer
Joined
Jun 4, 2011
We are planning our 1st southern California trip with kids. Our kids will be 14, 12, and 10 at the time of travel with our 12 year old daughter having Down syndrome. She will require a medical stroller for long distances. Here is my tentative itinerary. Please let me know if you think this is do-able or too much for our family. Anything that you would change?

Sat: arrive (long flight from NC). Head to Santa Monica Pier in afternoon/evening

Sun: LA sights - maybe Hollywood Blvd, Grauman's Chinese Theater, Griffith Observatory, a studio tour

Mon: go to a beach or something else in LA in the morning. Then drive to Anaheim. Check into hotel. Hit Downtown Disney for dinner.

Tue: Disneyland

Wed: Disney California Adventure

Thur: Drive to San Diego

Fri: San Diego Zoo, La Jolla in the evening

Sat: Sea World or San Diego exploring

Sun: fly home

One thing that we haven't decided is whether to fly in or out of LAX or SAN. The price is comparable; however, we need to fly out of the same city that we fly into because the rental care rates pretty much doubles if we return it at a different city. Would you fly into LAX and go from there? That would require driving back to LAX on Sat evening or Sun morning. Or would you fly into SAN and drive up to LA the 1st day to start our trip?
 

StageTek

It's kind of fun to do the impossible.
Joined
Apr 20, 2007
To keep this itinerary you need to fly to LAX. Driving from SD to LAX Sunday won't be too bad traffic-wise and should take about 3 hours.

It's a packed schedule but can be done. Stay in the Hollywood area Sat/Sun nights.
 
  • theluckyrabbit

    Moderator
    Moderator
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    Jul 23, 2012
    Can you add an extra day at DLR? It will not take you all day to drive to SD from Anaheim, so you could easily spend the day at the parks, then drive down to SD in the evening after rush hour. A 3 day ticket purchased in advance (not at the ticket booths) would give you a Magic Morning (one hour early entry to DL, FL & TL only, on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday). That one extra hour can really help you get a lot done with the FL rides that don't have FP. And what are your trip dates? That can make a big difference with crowds at DLR.
     
    Last edited:

    Fred M

    DIS Dad #860
    Joined
    Jul 1, 2019
    To keep this itinerary you need to fly to LAX. Driving from SD to LAX Sunday won't be too bad traffic-wise and should take about 3 hours.

    It's a packed schedule but can be done. Stay in the Hollywood area Sat/Sun nights.
    I agree with flying into LAX. I lived in San Diego for 12 years and Orange County (CA) for 5 years and the San Diego to LA drive on a Saturday is notoriously finicky. You could have light traffic and it’s not a problem at all. Or you can have a very light rain and it takes 3 hours to go from Irvine to Santa Monica. After a long flight, driving from San Diego to LA isn’t a lot of fun.
     

    Fred M

    DIS Dad #860
    Joined
    Jul 1, 2019
    Mon: go to a beach or something else in LA in the morning. Then drive to Anaheim. Check into hotel. Hit Downtown Disney for dinner.
    I think your trip is very doable.

    For Monday, you could also drive to Anaheim first, leave the luggage at the hotel, and then take it from there. For beaches, you could go to either Laguna Beach or Huntington Beach. Huntington is great because it has tons of parking. Laguna is a bigger pain to park at but I really like the beach.

    Also, in San Diego, the USS Midway is Downtown and one of the best museums there is. Absolutely wonderful.
     

    VandVsmama

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 28, 2011
    Here is my tentative itinerary. Please let me know if you think this is do-able or too much for our family. Anything that you would change?

    Sat: arrive (long flight from NC). Head to Santa Monica Pier in afternoon/evening

    Sun: LA sights - maybe Hollywood Blvd, Grauman's Chinese Theater, Griffith Observatory, a studio tour

    Mon: go to a beach or something else in LA in the morning. Then drive to Anaheim. Check into hotel. Hit Downtown Disney for dinner.

    Tue: Disneyland

    Wed: Disney California Adventure

    Thur: Drive to San Diego

    Fri: San Diego Zoo, La Jolla in the evening

    Sat: Sea World or San Diego exploring

    Sun: fly home

    One thing that we haven't decided is whether to fly in or out of LAX or SAN. The price is comparable; however, we need to fly out of the same city that we fly into because the rental care rates pretty much doubles if we return it at a different city. Would you fly into LAX and go from there? That would require driving back to LAX on Sat evening or Sun morning. Or would you fly into SAN and drive up to LA the 1st day to start our trip?
    I think your trip sounds like a lot of fun! Here's my random thoughts about your questions in no particular order:
    1. Which airport (LAX or SAN) can depend on time of day you arrive/depart. For example, if you want to go to Santa Monica pier in the evening of day 1 (Sat) and your flight doesn't arrive in San Diego until like 4-5 pm, once you collect your bags, get your rental car, hit the road, and get to Santa Monica, you might end up with not much time. Sort of depends on how much Santa Monica pier time you want.
    2. With Santa Monica being a destination for arrival day, the best place to arrive in terms of airports would be LAX.
    3. The drive from San Diego to LAX could be a pain time-wise on your departure/fly home day.
    4. If it was me, I'd consider putting the Disneyland portion of the trip at the END, not the middle of the trip.
    5. On the other hand, mid-week is always an ideal time of the week to go to DL.
    6. I'd change the Monday plans to beach in a.m., drive to Anaheim, check into hotel early (they'll hold your luggage for you) and spend afternoon/evening at DL. Target to be in the parks by 3 pm. So check into your Anaheim hotel around 2:30 pm.
    7. Then on Tues a.m., you can use EMH @ DL.
     
  • 3littlecuties

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jun 4, 2011
    To keep this itinerary you need to fly to LAX. Driving from SD to LAX Sunday won't be too bad traffic-wise and should take about 3 hours.

    It's a packed schedule but can be done. Stay in the Hollywood area Sat/Sun nights.
    Just so I understand...why wouldn't flying into SD and driving to the LA area on Saturday work?
     

    3littlecuties

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jun 4, 2011
    Can you add an extra day at DLR? It will not take you all day to drive to SD from Anaheim, so you could easily spend the day at the parks, then drive down to SD in the evening after rush hour. A 3 day ticket purchased in advance (not at the ticket booths) would give you a Magic Morning (one hour early entry to DL, FL & TL only, on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday). That one extra hour can really help you get a lot done with the FL rides that don't have FP. And what are your trip dates? That can make a big difference with crowds at DLR.
    We didn't really plan to make any more of the trip about Disneyland and we don't really want to pay the expense for a 3rd park day. I think we can see what we want to see in 2 days.

    Trips dates are checking in Mon July 20 and checking out Thur July 23. The 21st (Tue) and 22nd (Wed) would be our park days.
     

    3littlecuties

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jun 4, 2011
    I agree with flying into LAX. I lived in San Diego for 12 years and Orange County (CA) for 5 years and the San Diego to LA drive on a Saturday is notoriously finicky. You could have light traffic and it’s not a problem at all. Or you can have a very light rain and it takes 3 hours to go from Irvine to Santa Monica. After a long flight, driving from San Diego to LA isn’t a lot of fun.
    So do you think we would be ok driving from San Diego to LAX on Sunday morning to fly out? Or would it be better to drive up on Saturday evening and stay at the airport?
     
  • 3littlecuties

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jun 4, 2011
    I have another follow up question - my SIL said when they went to Santa Monica pier that it was not nice. She said they saw a lot of sketchy stuff (people doing drugs) and she wasn't comfortable there with her kids. Is this common? Should we plan something else?
     

    ImDMous

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Dec 1, 2011
    Comic Con is in San Diego July 22 - 26. Be sure you look at hotel prices and availability before you start making any plans. You might have trouble finding anything near downtown, airport, Mission Valley, Old Town areas.
     

    3littlecuties

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jun 4, 2011
    Comic Con is in San Diego July 22 - 26. Be sure you look at hotel prices and availability before you start making any plans. You might have trouble finding anything near downtown, airport, Mission Valley, Old Town areas.
    I don’t know anything about comic con as far as crowds. Is it something that we should consider rescheduling our dates? We could go the week prior but I do already have our Disney hotel booked.
     

    ImDMous

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Dec 1, 2011
    I don’t know anything about comic con as far as crowds. Is it something that we should consider rescheduling our dates? We could go the week prior but I do already have our Disney hotel booked.
    Comic Con brings in about 170,000 people to San Diego that weekend. It's basically the weekend where all the downtown businesses go from Red to Black for the year. If you will be only going to tourist locations like Sea World and the Zoo, you should be fine. If you want to go anywhere near downtown/gaslamp to eat or stay it will be very very crowded. Your kids might have a lot of fun watching all the crowds in costume though. If I go to Hilton's site right now, everything in the areas I listed above are sold out. It really depends on where you are planning to stay if you'll be effected. The traffic coming south from LA to San Diego can be pretty terrible Wednesday and Thursday with all the studio people coming down from Hollywood also.
     

    Fred M

    DIS Dad #860
    Joined
    Jul 1, 2019
    So do you think we would be ok driving from San Diego to LAX on Sunday morning to fly out? Or would it be better to drive up on Saturday evening and stay at the airport?
    If depends on when your Sunday flight is. If your departure is anytime before 1 pm, I'd drive up Saturday evening and stay close to LAX. If you're taking off later in the day on Sunday, then leaving San Diego Sunday morning* will be fine.

    * Regular Sunday morning, not like my wonderful wife who considers 11:30 am still "morning."
     

    3littlecuties

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jun 4, 2011
    Comic Con brings in about 170,000 people to San Diego that weekend. It's basically the weekend where all the downtown businesses go from Red to Black for the year. If you will be only going to tourist locations like Sea World and the Zoo, you should be fine. If you want to go anywhere near downtown/gaslamp to eat or stay it will be very very crowded. Your kids might have a lot of fun watching all the crowds in costume though. If I go to Hilton's site right now, everything in the areas I listed above are sold out. It really depends on where you are planning to stay if you'll be effected. The traffic coming south from LA to San Diego can be pretty terrible Wednesday and Thursday with all the studio people coming down from Hollywood also.
    Yikes!
     

    3littlecuties

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jun 4, 2011
    If depends on when your Sunday flight is. If your departure is anytime before 1 pm, I'd drive up Saturday evening and stay close to LAX. If you're taking off later in the day on Sunday, then leaving San Diego Sunday morning* will be fine.

    * Regular Sunday morning, not like my wonderful wife who considers 11:30 am still "morning."
    We would need to fly out in the am because of the time change. My kids won’t do well with getting to NC super late eastern time.
     

    Fred M

    DIS Dad #860
    Joined
    Jul 1, 2019
    I have another follow up question - my SIL said when they went to Santa Monica pier that it was not nice. She said they saw a lot of sketchy stuff (people doing drugs) and she wasn't comfortable there with her kids. Is this common? Should we plan something else?
    Although Santa Monica is at the beach and a separate city from L.A., you need to look at L.A. and most of Southern California as one giant urban area. With that comes some grittiness that you'd expect in a big city. If you're coming in from one of the five boroughs in New York City, you probably won't even notice it. If you're coming from a rural community, you might question the decision to visit the pier.

    I will say that the pier has a lot of vendors selling tacky touristy junk. There is also a large homeless population near the pier. And the pier is a lot smaller than it looks on tv and it always seems to have crowds.

    If you're going to the pier to say you've been to the pier, then that's reason enough to go. But if you are going for the rides, you can find better rides at your local county or state fair. If you're going for the food, you can find better food elsewhere. If you're going for the beach, there are better beaches and better locations in Santa Monica than the pier.
     

    3littlecuties

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jun 4, 2011
    Although Santa Monica is at the beach and a separate city from L.A., you need to look at L.A. and most of Southern California as one giant urban area. With that comes some grittiness that you'd expect in a big city. If you're coming in from one of the five boroughs in New York City, you probably won't even notice it. If you're coming from a rural community, you might question the decision to visit the pier.

    I will say that the pier has a lot of vendors selling tacky touristy junk. There is also a large homeless population near the pier. And the pier is a lot smaller than it looks on tv and it always seems to have crowds.

    If you're going to the pier to say you've been to the pier, then that's reason enough to go. But if you are going for the rides, you can find better rides at your local county or state fair. If you're going for the food, you can find better food elsewhere. If you're going for the beach, there are better beaches and better locations in Santa Monica than the pier.
    Hmm...it was more to say we’ve been there and because it was recommended in travel books. Should we do something else? We’re coming from Charlotte, NC. Not a huge city but not rural either.
     

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