So my partner and I are visiting family in Vancouver at Christmas next year. We are from Australia and this will be our first time to Canada/America. We want to do a road trip from Vancouver to Los Angeles, stops we'd like to make are
3. San Francisco
4. Big Sur
5. Las Vegas
6. Grand Canyon
7. Los Angeles
These stops are not set in stone and we'd be keen to stop elsewhere or miss places depending on feedback. We're looking at 2 weeks for the whole road trip which will include a few days in LA Eexploring from there we'll fly home..
So my questions are
- Is this doable or should we cut out a few places and head straight down south?
- What are the roads like
- How long should we allow for travel between these place?
- must see places? Not overly crazy tourist places, we want to visit the hissed secrets and amazing places
- wanting a van/motor home for the trip, what rental companies would you recommend?
- As it will be winter would a motor home suffice?
We are quite adventurous so not to keen to just look at buildings.
Thanks in advance! ☺
Rachel, as long as you remember which side of the road we drive on over here you'll be just fine :-D
I wouldn't recommend a motor home ("RV" in Yankese) for a 2-week trip. They guzzle gas, they're not the most eco-friendly means of transport, and they're so expensive to rent and keep fueled that you won't end up saving much at all if you go with an RV over hotels. Not to mention the fact that RVs are not permitted in most national parks or on many narrow back roads. I'd go for a car or minivan instead.
For a 2-week road trip, you'll probably want to pare your itinerary down to 4-5 places as driving distances in the USA are great. For example, driving from Seattle to L.A. is about equivalent to driving from Sydney all the way up to the top of Cape York.
Roads in the USA vary from state to state, but for the most part they're well-maintained, and the "Interstate" highways have plenty of stops at decent intervals, even in uninhabited areas. Mobile phone coverage is also good, except on back roads in uninhabited areas.
As far as an itinerary goes, I'd recommend any combination of the following (each spot is about 6-10 hours drive apart):
The western USA has a mild winter climate, so weather won't be too big of an issue, unless you get caught in a rare blizzard in the mountains of Crater Lake or Lake Tahoe. And winter is off-season (except for ski areas) so you'll have places like Crater Lake, the Grand Canyon and Vegas mostly to yourselves. Accommodations will also likely be at discounted off-season rates.
Mentioned in this answer:
Bit more. It's about 20 hours van to LA. Break it up. I like The Mirage in Vegas. If you like beer visit some Oregon breweries on the way down.
This is an epic west coast road trip which is a thing of beauty. PortlandOregon is a food and craft beer mecca. Mt Hoodis about an hour from Portland and has wonderful skiing. Driving south from Oregon to California, you can take Route 5 (fast and boring) or Route 1, scenic and windy. Once you cross into California, I highly recommend you get on Route 1, the scenery is beautiful going through Mendocino County, Sonoma County, and Marin County. In Marin you have Point Reyes National Seashore, magnficient shoreline, hiking and oyster farms. It's very wild and rustic. Fog conditions are unpredictable in Dec/Jan, and you won't see much if it is too foggy.
Once you arrive in San Francisco, you will be in a compact urban environment and alternatives for sites and tours have been extensively documented on www.trippy.com
The portion of your trip from SF to LA via Big Sur has also been written about on www.trippy.com. In January the Elephant Seals are mating at Año Nuevo State Park and it is quite a spectacle. You can either take a whale watching cruise or see otters at Elkhorn Slough, visit 17 Mile Dr see Point Lobos State Reserve, and drive through Big Sur down to Santa Barbara. This section of route 1 is subject to landslides, but there is no way to know about road closures until you are approaching Big Sur.
In order to see Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon you will need to meke a lengthy detour to Nevada and Arizona. It is about a 5 hour drive from LA to Las Vegas. From Las Vegas you can take a flight into the Canyon. There is a lot of driving required to get to the Grand Canyon, and the drive itself is not very scenic.
Although I have never rented an RV, I see the "Cruise America" brand often.
This is the kind of trip you want to keep loose so you can extend your stay someplace you love or leave another place that isn't interesting to you. Also weather cannot be predicted; I have had many friend enjoy perfect weather in December/January. Good luck.
Mentioned in this answer:
Via the most efficient route (http://tinyurl.com/zncw6e2), your drive time would be 37 hours.
I would nix Forks. It’s not going to be that interesting; if you go to the Olympic Peninsula at all then you’ll see what you’ll see in Forks. However, if it’s something you really want to see, I would suggest considering the ferry to Vancouver Island, then going down to Port Angeles, and going from there.
Vancouver has several mountains within close proximity if you’d like to try skiing, snowboarding, or even just sledding! Try ice skating or curling while you’re in Canada. You’ll have to work your way up to hockey. ;)
Any rentals are going to cost A LOT more if you’re taking them across the border. You may not even be able to do a one way rental across the border (i.e. rent in Vancouver and drop it off in LA). Get your family to take you across the border and rent a vehicle in Washington (either Bellingham or Port Angeles). Whale watching is a good time, especially in winter weather it could be adventurous! (There are boats that are completely enclosed.)
Regarding crossing the border: Go online and fill out your visa info ahead of time. This will make things go faster. Have your documents out and ready to show to the officer. Do not attempt to bring illegal things across the border. This will also make things go faster. :)
Drive down the Oregon coast when you’re going south—it’s beautiful. I don’t know that it will be open in winter, but riding the sand dunes on the southern Oregon coast is awesome! Deep sea fishing is fun, but I imagine it’ll be too stormy for that.
The roads can be quite variable. Sometimes we get snow in December, sometimes we don’t. The places snow would most likely be are just south of Bellingham in the hills (a ‘pass’ of sorts), and southern Oregon/Northern California—definitely near Mt. Shasta and the pass there. Another good reason to take the road along the coast. It may be stormy, but chances of snow are slim, even in the winter, along the ocean.
A motor home will suffice in the winter, though many camp grounds will be closed for the season. Check ahead of time. There’s always a Wal-Mart parking lot! Doesn’t sound nice, but it’s safe and free. (They allow and encourage people to park there overnight in RV’s.)
Oh yeah, and remember to drive on the RIGHT side of the road. My uncle from Perth totaled my grandparents’ car when he had to drive off the road to avoid hitting someone.
I'm not aware of any van rental companies that allow one way rentals. We've looked into renting a camper van one time and they were REALLY expensive and had to be returned to point of rental. It's possible that there's you could find a larger RV/Camper rental company that has one way rentals...but there would be a "one way" drop off charge.
If you want to do a "circle trip" where you can return a van rental to Vancouver/Seattle etc then I think you are trying to do too much in two weeks. I would cut out Los Angeles for sure.
Also, I would never even think of taking a large camper or RV into San Francisco...parking is a challenge for cars. (A VW van type vehicle would be okay). To my knowledge there isn't anywhere to rent an overnight space within the city, so you'd end up having to stay in a hotel and overnight parking for a "tall vehicle" could be an issue.
Also, we've looked at renting a small Camper/RV for trips exploring the the wide open spaces of the West (we live in Florida) and we're always struck at how expensive the rentals are. When you add in the cost of RV campground rental spaces and gas...we always just end up renting a car and staying at one of the myriad of decent basic hotels along the way (or renting a cabin in more remote spots).
I grew up in California and lived 10 years in Seattle before moving to the east coast. If you have more questions...feel free to ask.
Done it a few times. It's ambitious but doable. Forks is a bit out of the way though as it requires a sort of double back. I would go freeway to Portland. Drive Oregon coast and California redwoods. Then San Francisco Then coast to Los Angeles This is windy and slow. After LA it's 4 hours to Las Vegas. Grand Canyon National Park is also a bit of a drive from Vegas. Come back via Utah. Or do Death Valley.
Mentioned in this answer:
You can go to the West rim of the Grand Canyon National Park from Las Vegas. The Vegas trip is a little out of your way, but the Grand Canyon is pretty great. However you might try adding or substituting Yosemite. If you are really into nature you will want to see some of the Redwood Forests http://community.savetheredwoods.org/site/PageNavigator/CSP_RedwoodStateParks_Guide.html?gclid=CjwKEAjwudW9BRDcrd30kovf8GkSJAB3hTxFnLBkIX8-z8wXBVInSUxmkpYLTsQMTmDoWyy0Ob9oYBoCo2Hw_wcB
Road should be good, but sometimes they are closed around the parks due to bad weather or rockslides. If you decide not to go to Las Vegas, then you might try driving down the California coast. It is beautiful and there are lots of sights to see between Big Sur and Los Angeles.
Mentioned in this answer: