Friday, September 16, 2011

California coast (and Mexico!) with Teenagers?

Hi Jamie

Just found your website, we are travelling from Ireland to San Francisco, staying 3 nights there before travelling to LA.

We have allowed 3 days for this, we stay in LA for 3 nights and have allowed 4 days before we reach Las Vegas. We stay there 3 more nights and have 4 days before we fly back from San Francisco.

We have pre-booked our hotels in the large cities but are free to do whatever in between, we have hired a rental min-van. We are 2 adults and 3 kids: 18,16 and 14.

I would like to visit Mexico but if we do that we probably will have to cut short some travel time in Arizona.

Do you have any recommendations? Your site is a wonderful and a great help.

Thank you



Hey John --

Thanks for writing in to Road Trip USA.

Three weeks is an enviable amount of time for your tour, and three days is an ideal time for the SF to LA run -- I do the 400 miles with my family every November, and we usually break the trip up with a first night in Monterey/Carmel (gorgeous coastline, fantastic Monterey Bay Aquarium, and world-famous golf courses too...) It's only about 2 hours from SF, so Monterey could be an easy start to your road trip.

Next day we drive the breathtaking Hwy-1 route, south thru Big Sur. Stop at nature reserves like Point Lobos, or a half-dozen others, and get out of the car as often as you can, to take in the views (I have a pretty full tour in my Pacific Coast Highway book, parts of which are also "up" on the website...)

Make your next overnight stop near Hearst Castle, maybe in the nice nearby town of San Luis Obispo. Hearst Castle is a hoot -- a massive mansion full of European art treasures looted by William R Hearst, the Rupert Murdoch of his day. It used to be surrounded by a live menagerie of lions and tigers and bears, but it's still a beautiful setting -- allow half a day for Hearst Castle, if you choose. If not, there are miles of nice beaches, acres of wineries -- lots of possibilities.

For the 3rd day I'd make my way to Santa Barbara, an upscale but very attractive resort community, with more great beaches (with teenagers in tow, I'm thinking beaches are a big attraction for you...) Rent surfboards, go fishing, or take a "whale watching" trip out to the offshore Channel Islands National Park.

Alas, Santa Barbara hotels are pretty pricey, so be prepared for a dent in your budget.

After LA, you mentioned wanting to go to Mexico -- I should warn you that the parts along the California border are pretty grim, but there is a gorgeous spot on the Sea of Cortez, called Puerto Penasco, which you can reach from near Phoenix . (Yankees sometimes call Puerto Penasco "Rocky Point"...)

If you do brave the trip to Mexico, make 100% sure your tourist visa will allow you back into the USA -- this is very serious, and US border guards have no sense of humor!

From Arizona you could loop up to Sedona and the Grand Canyon, and then to get to Las Vegas I'd recommend taking the long way, looping east around the Grand Canyon via the Navajo Indian lands (like Monument Valley, as seen in all those John Ford Western movies, and/or RoadRunner cartoons...)

After Vegas I'd say head across Death Valley (it'll be hot, but it makes a good story!), then make your way to Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park (give Yosemite a full day at least, and stay over night if you can -- it's fabulous, one of the prettiest places on Earth!)

From Yosemite you can get to SF airport in less than 5 hours. Then another 12 hours in the air, and you're landing in Dublin.


Happy Trails,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA


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