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West Coast & East Coast trip itineraries
Old 12-14-2019, 02:11 PM   #1
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West Coast & East Coast trip itineraries

I am trying to convince DH that after our current dog passes on that it will give us the opportunity to take a couple of long trips. I need a starting point at this stage. Pooch will be with us for awhile longer but DH needs a few years for ideas to set hold so I'm planning ahead.

I'd like to do two extended trips of 4 weeks each - one west coast and one east coast trip. I'd also like do to do third 4 week trip through the Western National Parks (Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, etc).

I have no idea how to start planning such an adventure but I know my trusty friends here will have reliable sources to help me start planning an itinerary.

I don't want to do a true "road trip" where you continuously drive. I want to hop from city to city and spend a few days in each "must see" place.
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Old 12-14-2019, 02:58 PM   #2
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I can only address the Western National Parks trip. Some parks get very crowded in the summer while Zion and Arches at the lower elevations are too hot in those months. Some parks close or have major roads closed prior to June or by mid October due to snow. So it is a balancing act on what park to visit at what time of year.

For my trips, I searched on the internet (articles, Frommers, etc.) to come up with best times to visit and suggested itineraries for each NP. Sept/early Oct and maybe early June (earlier for Grand Canyon South Rim) is a nice time to visit the northern and higher elevation NPs. The individual NP websites have lots of information on visitor centers, museums, hiking trails, ranger programs, etc. Each season the NPS puts out a brochure/newsletter on what is happening that time of year and any special warnings for the individual park. Current and past issues are available on their website.

If you want to stay at a lodge or cabin within the park which is usually expensive, start making reservations 8-12 months early. There are government contractor websites for each NP that describe the lodgings and allow you to search for availability. For example Xanterra handles the Grand Canyon lodging. The deposit for the reservation is refundable in case you cancel. I prefer to stay in the park because most people leave at dinner time and it is less crowded and more wildlife come out. Also the ranger programs at night within the park are usually the best. I planned my NP trips mostly around weather and when I could get a reservation to stay in the historical lodges/cabins. Probably need campsite reservations well in advance too for those within the NP.

Since some of the major NPs are grouped in Northern AZ/Southern Utah, NE Utah, and Grand Teton/Yellowstone with Glacier a few hours north and Rocky Mountain NP a few hours south, you should be able to plan a trip without too much driving in between. But the scenery along the way in some of these areas is also beautiful with many nearby scenic byways, less popular NPs, and National Monuments so the extra driving is not a waste of time if you stay off the Interstates.
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Old 12-14-2019, 03:09 PM   #3
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So you are interested in urban areas ... I am not familiar with the west coast. But one approach to planning for the east coast is to pick a month. May is great almost everywhere, up and down. Or you could start in April if you start further south. An added benefit of this timeframe is that most schools are still in session.

Then I'd ask myself if there is a "must event" like a particular play or art exhibit or sporting event which would dictate the rest of the timetable. If not, is there a theme - food, history, public gardens? If not, then you are free to take the cities in line and grab whatever is happening at the time.

The NY Times has a long running series called "36 hours in .... CITY NAME" that hits a lot of lodging and food highlights.
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Old 12-14-2019, 03:40 PM   #4
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My starting point for this sort of trip is always research. If you have Amazon Prime, you can borrow a lot of the Lonely Planet books through Prime Reading. I also check out the various e-book options from the public library and get anything that looks interesting.

Next I start looking online for suggested itineraries. State tourism bureaus, like Discover California, usually have some. Websites for Fodor's, Frommer's, Sunset Magazine, AAA will also have plans.

Then I take our list of interests and the various plans and mash them together to come up with something that works for us.

Here's a plan that could let you see a lot of the west coast. You decide how many nights for each stop and leave out the places that don't interest you. Sometimes we do 3 or 4 one-night stays followed by a 5-night stay; other times we do a bunch of 2-night stays in a row -- whatever works for you and allows you to best enjoy the places you're visiting.
- fly to San Diego and pick up a rental car
- Los Angeles
- Santa Barbara
- Hwy 1 through Big Sur
- Monterey
- Yosemite National Park
- Lake Tahoe
- San Francisco
- Napa / wine country
- Lassen National Park
- Crater Lake National Park
- Portland
- Seattle, drop off the car and fly home
I'd also recommend Vancouver, but you can't drop off a one-way car rental there, so you have to back track to Seattle, or take the train north from Seattle and fly home from Canada.

Go South to North if you start in the spring, or North to South in the Fall. Yosemite, Lassen and Crater Lake are partly or mostly closed in the winter due to snow, so you have to check their historic opening and closing dates if they're on your list.
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Old 12-15-2019, 10:39 AM   #5
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Here is one idea for maybe early May.

Take a flight to Las Vegas and rent a car. Drive to the canyon lands parks: Zion, Bryce, Capital Reefs, Arches & Canyonlands Park. Then head back to Las Vegas and take a flight to one of the west coast cities like San Diego, LA, or SF. Note it is too cold at this time of year for the Sierras and the west coast is a nice counterpoint to Utah canyon lands.

There are oodles of things to do on the west coast so you want to be selective depending on your tastes. For instance, in SF you could see the city and the de Young Museum and/or the Palace of the Legion of Honor. Then go up towards Point Reyes and take a hike on the coast beaches. Go over to Napa or Sonoma County for winery tours and wine country scenery. Check out places like Jack London State Park. Lots to do.
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Old 12-15-2019, 10:49 AM   #6
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Something I learned about on ER.org is https://roadtrippers.com/ You put in your route and it will show you what there is to see and do along that route within a radius that you specify.
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Old 12-15-2019, 12:28 PM   #7
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We found out that even if you have a RV if you want to be in a national park you need to book a site a year in advance.
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Old 12-15-2019, 03:41 PM   #8
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Here's a tip we have used for years; I hope I don't blow my MO nationwide. DW and I use this on the east coast, and I don't know if works on the west, but I'm sure it does. In November, rental car companies re-position cars to the South and in the spring, they re-position them up north. For a nominal fee, you can re-position a car for them. I'm talking $80 for 2 weeks use, unlimited miles, depending on car size. We took a Impala down this November, $80 for rental, $110 in taxes, for two weeks, from SW PA to Ft. Meyers, side trips on the way, visited family, then flew back free on miles. In spring, we will do opposite, side trips on the way.

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Old 12-15-2019, 04:46 PM   #9
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Something I learned about on ER.org is https://roadtrippers.com/ You put in your route and it will show you what there is to see and do along that route within a radius that you specify.

I missed that one (Roadtrippers), thanks for mentioning. I just learned from it that there’s a Biltmore Hotel in Greensboro and am thinking of trying it in January.
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Old 12-15-2019, 06:12 PM   #10
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Air Alaska flies to Seattle nonstop from Tampa. And Frontier flies back to Tampa from San Diego through Denver.

While you're in Seattle, take the ferry over to Victoria, and another ferry over to Vancouver--a great city. That's a 1 week detour.

Then head down the coast Hwy 1 all the way to San Diego--stopping along the way.

A great East Coast trip is from Florida north in April/May when all the car rental companies will rent cars for $5 to $10 a day if you transport them one way north. And that's anywhere north of Florida. And you could fly home inexpensively from Manchester, NH after visiting coastal Maine on Southwest Airlines..
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Old 12-15-2019, 09:09 PM   #11
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I’ve done a west coast trip and the az, ut, wy National Parks trip.

On the west coast trip, we flew to Seattle, rented a car, and drove to LA with a few day side trip to Yosemite. Many recommend driving this route north to south to be able to see the coast better and to access scenic pullover places from the lane closest to the ocean. We went in June and Yosemite was very crowded. Stayed at a B&B in west Yosemite. Otherwise stayed in hotels.

Our trips through Az, Ut, and Wy were done as part of our Il to Az snowbird trips over several years. Mainly fall and spring. Yellowstone still had snow end of May.

Lots of info online to help plan these trips. TripAdvisor, travel books, etc. the national parks are crowded June July and August when school is out. The thing that I learned in these trips is to not plan trips that are too short. Take an extra few days here and there.
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Old 12-16-2019, 06:01 AM   #12
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Quote:
Here is one idea.

Take a flight to Las Vegas and rent a car. Drive to the canyon lands parks: Zion, Bryce, Capital Reefs, Arches & Canyonlands Park. Then head back to Las Vegas and take a flight to one of the west coast cities.
We did the Utah national parks a few years ago and loved it. You can add Grand Staircase Escalante National Moonument, Natural Bridges, Monument Valley, and at least the north rim of the Grand Canyon.
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Old 12-17-2019, 10:59 AM   #13
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I missed that one (Roadtrippers), thanks for mentioning. I just learned from it that there’s a Biltmore Hotel in Greensboro and am thinking of trying it in January.

A little research turned up the discovery that this hotel has nothing to do with Biltmore (the ones most people think of, anyway). More important: no room service, frightening for coffee lovers!

So I’ll take a pass, but keep roadtrippers which looks useful.
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Old 12-23-2019, 11:02 AM   #14
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awesome ideas everyone ! thanks I needed help knowing where to start my research and as always you guys provided exactly what I needed
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Old 12-27-2019, 08:18 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by cathy63 View Post
- fly to San Diego and pick up a rental car
- Los Angeles
- Santa Barbara
- Hwy 1 through Big Sur
I would insert Hearst Castle here
- Monterey
- Yosemite National Park
- Lake Tahoe
- San Francisco
- Napa / wine country
- Lassen National Park
- Crater Lake National Park
- Portland
- Seattle, drop off the car and fly home
I'd also recommend Vancouver, but you can't drop off a one-way car rental there, so you have to back track to Seattle, or take the train north from Seattle and fly home from Canada.

Go South to North if you start in the spring, or North to South in the Fall. Yosemite, Lassen and Crater Lake are partly or mostly closed in the winter due to snow, so you have to check their historic opening and closing dates if they're on your list.
Great trip itinerary!
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Old 12-27-2019, 08:20 PM   #16
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Eyewitness Travel guides have the most cultural content of the travel tour books.

Lots more information than other guides re museums, architecture, music, dance, and restaurants.

They have several on West Coast destinations.
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