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  • Rhonda Gammon
  • "14 days to travel in CA...need advice on an itinerary please"

Rhonda Gammon

Gretna, Virginia

14 days to travel in CA...need advice on an itinerary please

Hi...I'm new on this site and hoping I can get some straight forward answers. My husband and I hope to fly to CA (from VA) for about 14 days.  (In Sept.) We want to see all we can in this time frame but don't want to be driving too much or feel rushed. Is it best to stay in one area (we would chose northern) or could we see the "high spots" from one end to the other simply sight-seeing?

Interested in redwoods, Big Sur, San Francisco, perhaps Tahoe, etc. -Only time out West was Vegas and AZ a few years ago. Want to see all we can but relaxation too. Please advise! I need to move on this I know..need answers and itinerary asap to do reservations and flight. ..please help..thank you!

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  • John Sappington

    top answer by

    Welcome to Trippy, Rhonda.

    I would suggest you fly into San Francisco and stay in the city for at least 3 or 4 days at the beginning of your trip. A car is more of a burden than a benefit there, so rent the car when you leave. San Francisco has a lot to see. San FranciscoFrom there, rent a car and head north. If you are interested in visiting wineries, stay 2 or 3 nights in the wine country. I prefer Sonoma County and Mendocino County over Napa Valley because they are more laid back, but that is just my opinion. Take a look at all of them. Healdsburg Healdsburgis a charming place to stay a few nights with a nice assortment of good restaurants, hotels, and B&B's. From there, I'd recommend driving through the Anderson Valley to the Mendocino Coast. The Anderson Valley is an underdeveloped wine area, very scenic, and you will drive through redwoods just before you reach the coast. Take a look at the Albion River Inn,Albion River Innfor great views, a relaxed atmosphere and a very good restaurant. I've stayed in their least to most expensive rooms and thought they were all wonderful. It is not inexpensive, but excellent breakfasts are included and the setting is simply magnificent. The town of Mendocino just to the north is charming. From there, you can drive up the coast on Highway 1 and cut over on the windy road to Highway 101 near Leggett , where you can do a quick drive through a giant redwood at Drive-Thru Tree Park. Drive-Thru Tree ParkThe 101 in this area is known as the Redwood Highway and there are numerous opportunities to see Redwoods. I would recommend you drive up to the Avenue of the Giants Southern Entrance Avenue of the Giants Southern Entranceand along the avenue for the best views of the giant redwoods. After that, it depends on how many nights you have left and how much you want to drive. If you have time left, you could drive to Lake Tahoe, which is certainly worthwhile. Lake TahoeYou could probably fly back from Reno-Tahoe International Airport. If you have taken it slow, return to San Francisco to fly home from there.

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    • Rhonda G.

      Rhonda G.

      Thank you, John!! I appreciate so much your detailed information and pics. This helps me tremendously! Did you list all attractions/places in the order we would travel? Remember, we don't have a clue! 😕 I wondered if we needed to make reservations everywhere we may stay along the way. .??..also, noticed you didn't include Yosemite National Park. .your thoughts? And..wondered if we should land in SF and perhaps leave out of Reno airport if that's our last stop..? · (0 likelikes)

    • John S.

      John S.

      I did list the attractions/places in an order that will work. We took a trip like that a couple summers ago. I would make reservations for all hotels before you go. I think you will find flying into San Francisco International or Oakland the nest. Both have good access into San Francisco. If you end the trip in Reno, definitely fly home from there if you can get a good deal. It will save you a lot of having to drive back to San Francisco to fly home. Yosemite is beautiful and worth a couple days it you have time to add it to the end of the trip. Accommodations in the park fill up very early, so see if anything is available before you think about adding it on. I would suggest you take a look at Google Maps to plan your trip. It allows you to get distances and driving time between destinations so you can plan how far you want to drive between stops. A lot of attractions, hotels, and restaurants are marked on the maps as you zoom way in. Also, each Hotel in San Francisco will vary in price from week to week. If your dates aren't yet set, you might save some money checking dates there before booking your flights. When I make hotel reservations, I usually begin with Priceline or Orbitz and check out prices for various dates. Once I pick out hotels I am interested in, I check the websites for the specific hotel to see if they have the same or better price. I think you may sometimes get a better room if you book directly with the hotel. Let me know if you have any other questions. If you want, I'm happy to check flights and hotels for you and make suggestions. Just send me the dates of travel and what airport you would be flying from. · (0 likelikes)

    Mentioned in this answer:

    1. San Francisco (city)
    2. Sonoma County (region)
    3. Mendocino County (metro area)
    4. Napa Valley (attraction)
    5. Healdsburg (city)
    6. Anderson Valley (attraction)
    7. Albion River Inn (restaurant)
    8. Mendocino (city)
    9. Leggett (city)
    10. Drive-Thru Tree Park (attraction)
    11. Avenue of the Giants Southern Entrance (attraction)
    12. Lake Tahoe (attraction)
    13. Reno-Tahoe International Airport (attraction)

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  • Polly Beam

    answered first by

    Hi Rhonda - welcome to trippy!

    The American west is the perfect place for a road trip and what constitutes too much time in the car varies greatly from person to person. I'd look at several options and decide what you guys feel would be right for you!

    I don't know if I'd advise day-tripping from one location - presumably San Francisco - as the Bay area is rather expensive for a long stay, and it's nice not to have to turn around and head back the same day. Instead, I'd do one of two things...

    The more packed schedule would be a big loop. You'd spend a few days in San Francisco and a day in Napa before heading north to Humboldt Redwoods State Park or Redwood National Park. Then I'd cut across to Tahoe, maybe stopping for a night near Lassen Volcanic National Park. After a few days in Lake Tahoe, I'd cut down to Yosemite National Park, then across to Big Sur. This would be a busy schedule (only about two days per place), but very doable.

    If the above makes you feel tired just reading it, the other option would be to save Lake Tahoe for another trip and stick to the coast this time around. I'd split the trip in thirds - about four days in the San Francisco area, four days along the northern coast, and four days around Big Sur. There's enough to see to keep you occupied, and it would be a much more relaxing pace.

    Whatever you decide, have a great trip and have fun travel-planning!

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    • Rhonda G.

      Rhonda G.

      Thank you for your reply. I'm sorry bUT more questions..first of all, honestly what are your thoughts on Tahoe? Secondly, is it doable to add southern California at all or is it better to stay northern only? Tks. · (0 likelikes)

    • Polly B.

      Polly B.

      I haven't been to Tahoe, so I can't really give you advice there. Hopefully, someone else who sees this question can! As for Southern California, that's definitely another option - doing a week in San Francisco and points north, then catching Big Sur on your way down the coast. You could spend the last few days of your trip exploring Los Angeles and/or San Diego. · (1 likelikes)

    • Dee B.

      Dee B.

      Hi Rhonda, Lake Tahoe is phenomenal! If you want a beautiful, relaxing time definitely keep it on your list. The same with Yosemite if it's after Labor Day and the crowds have diminished. As to John's suggestion, with all due respect John, unless you're into wine (as I am and apparently he is), that's too much of your time taken up in that area. Of course a drive-through in the wine country is obligatory if you want to say you've been there, but that's all I'd do--drive through and stop at a winery or two on my way up the coast to the Redwoods. That being said, the "cut across" to Tahoe as was suggested is not an easy one. It's all mountains with small, twisty roads and will probably take you 2 days. So if you go to the Redwoods, you'll just have to double back the same way. As alternative would be to go to Tahoe up Hiway 80 from SF area and then either back down Hiway 50 and then on 49 to Yosemite (also through one of our lesser wine areas) or over the mts (1/2 hour drive) the other direction and down Hiway 395 past Mono Lake and into Yosemite that way. It's an area few experience and I guarantee you haven't seen anything like it before. From Yosemite (and be SURE and go to Glacier Point!) take the hour drive south to Sequoia National Park for redwoods and the largest redwood tree in the world. From there you can head west over to the coast and come up Hiway 1. If you're a "wino", our 2nd most popular wine area is Paso Robles which you can go right through. Come up the coast through Big Sur, Monterey and Carmel before heading back to SF. Or, you can do that entire trip in reverse, heading south first. As you can tell, I left SoCal out of this trip. That's a whole separate experience and is worthy of 2 weeks itself. Besides, it's different enough to be in effect another state. Please come back and let us know what you decided on, or ask more questions if you have them. · (1 likelikes)

    • Rhonda G.

      Rhonda G.

      Hi Dee..thank you so much for your information. --First of all, you are so right..we aren't into wine at all (I know..some don't get it, but we just don't like it), but we're still good with seeing the wine country..have heard it's amazing! I understand we need 3 days in San Francisco but have been told we should stay outside the city near Redwood National Forest, since the hotels will be sky high in s.f. -your thoughts? Also, someone please tell me do we need reservations for all the places we hope to stay? (Besides S.F area, Yosemite and Tahoe) Although, I would love to get an itinerary fixed up asap to make definite plans. I've got to decide especially where to fly into and fly home from, if perhaps they are Reno and SF airports. This is weighing on me..I just want to make the right decisions. .from the right date to start this trip, airports, best attractions to see, best affordable hotels, etc. Any and all advice I welcome and appreciate so much, folks. ..lay it on me!! Thanks in advance. · (0 likelikes)

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    6. Lake Tahoe (attraction)
    7. Yosemite National Park (park)
    8. Big Sur (city)

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  • Sonya Kewley

    answered by

    I was there last year, we were doing a road trip around CA, we stayed at Livermore/Dublin (California) area, east of Oakland which allowed us to leave the car and hop on the train into San Francisco. We saw the city from a hop on hop off tourist bus, great way to see everything including the golden gate.

    This way we were able to see other things in the area, Sequoia National Park was a good alternative to redwoods that are much further north.

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  • Laurie Parres

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    California is gorgeous! I've lived here thirty years and still marvel at the diversity of its landscape. Some scattershot suggestions: the hop on/hop off bus in San Francisco is a fantastic way to see the city. Alcatraz requires advance reservations. If Hearst Castle is still doing night tours in September and you happen to be driving through, definitely check it out. Docents in period dress stroll from room-to-room throughout the tour, discussing issues of the day. Santa Barbara has Spanish architecture in a beautiful setting and their ban on billboards + their rule that no building be taller than the highest church steeple has kept the town's original character. If you like outlet shopping, there are many outlets for any CA roadtripper. In wine country, Ventura County, and near Palm Springs. If you get out to Palm Springs, Joshua Tree National Park is amazing, just to be somewhere that like looks exactly as it did millions of years ago (minus the road through.) Enjoy!


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