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Old 08-05-2008, 04:35 AM
 
Location: in my mind
2,745 posts, read 13,114,322 times
Reputation: 1605

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Okay, here's a challenge for y'all!

We're planning a rather ambitious road trip for next year, probably Spring or Summer 2009.

It will be 2 adults (30's), 3 kids (16, 11, and 6 at the time of travel)..

We know where we want to go and how long (approximately) we want the trip to last but other things are still up in the air. Oh, and none of us have ever been to California.

We plan on about 14 days total (not set in stone) and the itinerary is something like this;

Leave our city (San Antonio, TX) and head for Anaheim, CA (Disney!). Google maps says 19 hours and we figure with 2 drivers we can do this in 2 days, staying overnight half way (where ever half way is from here to Anaheim? ).

We planned on 3 days at Disney (is this enough? I've been told it should be but I'd like other opinions), and are considering a package deal with hotel and food and park tickets all in one. Could we do Disney in 2 days??

Leave Anaheim for a day (??) sightseeing in Los Angeles (Hollywood). I think a day is enough for that but I don't know, that's why I'm here. Probably spend the night somewhere around there unless it's too expensive? Next day drive to Big Sur, spend one day and perhaps the night.

From Big Sur head to San Francisco. NO idea what to do or see, just know we want to go. Could spend 2 days but not sure if it's needed.

From San Francisco we'd head home but we'd like to take a different route to get to see the Grand Canyon, maybe spend the day, and from there home to San Antonio.

So, that's the plan. So far we've calculated it to be about 4000 miles round trip (not including any driving around sightseeing) and about $700-800 in gas (for our own vehicle). Obviously Disney will suck up a lot of our budget so we have to watch it on the rest of the trip.

The decisions we have to make:

Should we use our own vehicle? We have an older but well maintained minivan that gets decent mileage and is roomy enough to provide comfort for the kids. Of course we'd have a TOTAL checkup by our mechanic before going anywhere, plus we have road service, plus we'd have some sort of back-up plan should the worst happen (a major breakdown) with money set aside for the back-up plan. Need to work on the back-up plan details though! Rent something else if something goes wrong? Buy some Greyhound tickets to get us where we need to go? (ugh, bus phobia!)

We have considered the possibility of purchasing a used pop-up camper to pull behind our van. Need to check towing limits with the van of course, but while this would slow us down and increase gas use a little, it would save us a LOT in hotel costs. Even when you consider the costs of RV parks at around $50 a night. Unless you think we could find hotels cheap enough to balance it all out? But then again if we go with this option we'd own the pop up for future trips...

We also talked about renting a SMALL RV but the few sites I've checked rates on, well, it looks like at least a couple grand, plus gas and mileage. I think that option is going to make it too pricey even with the savings on hotels.

If it turns out we don't feel totally secure driving our own van (it is older)... I wonder how much it would cost to rent a minivan for such a trip?

So those are our options and questions. I figure we have 8 months or more to figure it all out so there's time. We would like to do this as economically as possible though.

I just want some feedback as we've never done anything like this before. We are not opposed to flying but just figured it would be cheaper and much more interesting to drive, even with gas prices the way they are. We could be wrong though. The older kids are really into the whole "seeing the country" thing and a road trip seems more memorable.

I also have no clue about California... are there other "must see" places and things I might have missed?

How to cut costs for hotels... without resorting to driving while tired (we won't do that!)... we aren't picky, honestly, and have stayed in some ratty places, and consider it an adventure for the most part. As long as it's fairly clean (I'll bring my own bedding if needed!) and has working a/c and a shower, we're good. We stayed at a few cheapie places on our last weekend road trip, in a double room and with a blowup bed for the 5 year old. No big deal. It does NOT have to be the Hilton!

Thanks in advance for your input. I'm excited, but my head is spinning with possibilities!
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Old 08-05-2008, 09:46 AM
 
Location: Kailua, Oahu, HI and San Diego, CA
1,178 posts, read 5,387,199 times
Reputation: 770
We own an RV, live in San Diego, and have been to all the places you talk about.

I think your biggest decision is whether towing the pop top will be the right decision economically, and I think that depends on whether you can find places to camp, in all, or almost all, the places you want to stop. I just looked on my camping map for southern california, and there are three commercial campgrounds near Anaheim, fairly expensive. - no campgrounds in Hollywood, but some on the coast (maybe ten miles).

Camping at Big Sur is GREAT! If you don't bring the pop top, there aren't many motels (if any) in that area, but there may be cabins you can rent in the campgrounds.

When we visited San Francisco in our RV the nearest campground to downtown was at Candlestick Park, near the airport.

Do you belong to AAA? If so you should get all the California camping information right away, because it has lots of phone numbers you can use to help plan and to make reservations. If not, I'd consider joining.

Hank
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Old 08-05-2008, 01:31 PM
 
Location: Southeast Idaho
4,659 posts, read 15,775,199 times
Reputation: 2515
First off for other neat places in CA there is Yosemite Nat'l Park. Near S.F. in San Jose is Winchester Mystery House and just hoards of other places.

Check with you and your spouse/partner to see if either of your places of employment have a Disney package, if you're with a credit union check with them. Also if you're military (active or reserve) I believe they still give military discounts.
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Old 08-05-2008, 02:25 PM
 
Location: in my mind
2,745 posts, read 13,114,322 times
Reputation: 1605
Quote:
Originally Posted by HankDfrmSD View Post
We own an RV, live in San Diego, and have been to all the places you talk about.

I think your biggest decision is whether towing the pop top will be the right decision economically, and I think that depends on whether you can find places to camp, in all, or almost all, the places you want to stop. I just looked on my camping map for southern california, and there are three commercial campgrounds near Anaheim, fairly expensive. - no campgrounds in Hollywood, but some on the coast (maybe ten miles).

Camping at Big Sur is GREAT! If you don't bring the pop top, there aren't many motels (if any) in that area, but there may be cabins you can rent in the campgrounds.

When we visited San Francisco in our RV the nearest campground to downtown was at Candlestick Park, near the airport.

Do you belong to AAA? If so you should get all the California camping information right away, because it has lots of phone numbers you can use to help plan and to make reservations. If not, I'd consider joining.

Hank
Hi;

Nope, no AAA membership. I just have road service via my insurance (USAA). As for campgrounds, I only did a quick preliminary search but isn't it around $50 per night? That's a lot less than a hotel for 5 of us right?

Quote:
Originally Posted by cleosmom View Post
First off for other neat places in CA there is Yosemite Nat'l Park. Near S.F. in San Jose is Winchester Mystery House and just hoards of other places.

Check with you and your spouse/partner to see if either of your places of employment have a Disney package, if you're with a credit union check with them. Also if you're military (active or reserve) I believe they still give military discounts.
I wonder if there's some discount for USAA members? Other than that, I'm not qualified for a military discount. I was an AF brat but I'm 37 now.

Thanks for the reminder about the Winchester Mystery House! I'd forgotten what it was called, just had a vague memory of it from some show on the Discovery Channel or Travel channel or something.

Thanks for the suggestion to check for employee related discounts, too.

I have been doing more research and I am thinking we're going to want to spend a bit more time in San Francisco, lots to see/do there from what I've read and I think we'd need 2 days!

Any thoughts on how many days we "need" at Disney? I have heard that Disney Orlando takes much more time to see and do it all... vs California.
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Old 08-05-2008, 03:31 PM
 
Location: Minnysoda
8,622 posts, read 8,526,373 times
Reputation: 5176
Take a portable DVD or VHS player. It helps on the long runs between stops! IF you tell them "I'm going to pull over if you don't cut it out".... MAKE SURE YOU DO!!!!

Have fun!!!! and GOOD LUCK
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Old 08-05-2008, 03:35 PM
 
Location: oregon
895 posts, read 2,548,833 times
Reputation: 665
My two cents worth as a former full time rver and native northern californian
First join triple a for a year just for planning and hotel purposes, skip the rv idea there are few places in the greater SF area to park one..We had to use Fam Camp at Travis afb (retired navy) when went home to Fairfield ..Drive a car that you and your family are comfortable with and in...
A must in northern cal is the the Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield, its right of I-80 and highway 12 and one of the best factory tours we were ever on..The tours are free.
From fairfield you can stay on 12 to I-5 and across to yosimite...Or stay on 80 and see Tahoe..
what time of year are you coming out in..Northern cal is a lot cooler than southern cal so bring layers..
Have fun planning this adventure...
thanks for listening to my two cents worth.
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Old 08-05-2008, 03:38 PM
 
Location: Minnysoda
8,622 posts, read 8,526,373 times
Reputation: 5176
Just reread your potential route. If you go up the coast from Big Sur to SF You should plan a stop in Monteray (sp) The whole John Steinbeck thing is pretty cool plus they have the greatest aquarium in the world. You can even put on dry-suits and swim with the sea otters and stuff! too cool!! After that hit Santa Cruz and the Boardwalk park. The one and only thing I miss about living in Cal. (16yrs) was the ocean and the suff to do near it......
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Old 08-05-2008, 07:59 PM
 
Location: Somewhere in Texas
5,230 posts, read 11,670,708 times
Reputation: 2642
Quote:
Originally Posted by my54ford View Post
Take a portable DVD or VHS player. It helps on the long runs between stops! IF you tell them "I'm going to pull over if you don't cut it out".... MAKE SURE YOU DO!!!!

Have fun!!!! and GOOD LUCK
You know, years ago when we traveled from California to Texas, we didn't have DVDs or VHS players. Kids knew how to make their own fun, even in the car. My kids always did wonderfully well playing games like hangman or even "out loud" games with us such as "I spy", looking for out-of-state license plates, thinking of different things that started with A - Z, and the list was endless. Reading was also a great way to make the time go faster. I'm sure all that is too lame for the teenager, but he or she can do something educational and the young ones can "play." Even the play CAN be educational. It's a shame kids nowadays have to be entertained with technology. Oh well. It's just all they know.
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Old 08-06-2008, 09:34 AM
 
Location: Kailua, Oahu, HI and San Diego, CA
1,178 posts, read 5,387,199 times
Reputation: 770
Quote:
Originally Posted by fierce_flawless View Post
Hi;
Nope, no AAA membership. I just have road service via my insurance (USAA). As for campgrounds, I only did a quick preliminary search but isn't it around $50 per night? That's a lot less than a hotel for 5 of us right?
Campgrounds can run the gamut from about $15 for Forest Service sites to $50-$75 for commercial campgrounds with all the bells and whistles. Go to a Camping World store where you live, and look at, or buy, a campground directory. Or join AAA. If you go into a AAA office and say you are considering joining, they might let you look at one of their directories or maps.
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Old 08-10-2008, 01:30 AM
 
Location: Assisi, Italy
1,845 posts, read 3,888,349 times
Reputation: 353
Take the existing vehicle. Buy a nice big tent at Costco for 50 bucks along with a nice camp stove and Coleman fridge. The public campsites in Calif are not bad. Most do have showers etc.

You can get deals on nicer hotels in Cal on Priceline and Hotwire. Because you have 5, it is an issue. If you book at the Mega Hotels with hundreds of rooms, book for you and the YOUNGER kids and the 16 year old can jus stroll by.

What about Vegas? Grand Canyon and the Monument Parks in S. Utah?
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