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Topic # 198740 20-Jul-2016 22:25
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Hi guys,


I hope some people have done similar trip in the past and would like to share advice.


Your help and advice is much appreciated. I've been digging google and tripadvisor to fill coming holiday. Long story short: we arrive in LA in November and leaving back home from San Francisco (17 days in total), thanks to cheap airfares at the moment.


So far:


- LA - 3 Nights (visiting Universal studio for a day + hollywood sign, fame walk, beach)


 - Las Vegas for 2 nights


 - from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon for 2 nights


 - from Grand Canyon to Death Valley + Yosemite (1-2 nights)


 - from Yosemite to San Francisco


Things is, we don't want to spend over 5 days in San Francisco. Does 1-2 nights on the road from Grand Canyon to SF look alright or we should add 1-2 days to it? Is 2 days in Las Vegas enough? We don't gamble...


To make it even harder, missus birthday falls on Grand Canyon stay (I wanted to celebrate in LV with a fancy dinner out), it's not too bad, we could do heli flight in canyon or something.


Help geek in NEED!


Thanks :)





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  Reply # 1595925 20-Jul-2016 23:10
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You need more than 2 Nights in Las Vegas.  More like min 5. You'll want time to get to all the Casinos (you don't have to gamble)

 

Remember to walk on the right side of the Sidewalk (or you'll walk into people)

 

Entrees are called Starters, Mains are called Entrees (don't ask me why)

Advertised Prices don't include Taxes. (expect to get a LOT of change) $5.99 means %5.99 + Taxes

Tipping is interesting if you have not done it before. 

 

Don't talk to any other waiter except your own or they get upset)

 

Cash is King (no Eftpos) and not many places have Visa. When they do have Visa expect to have to Sign it  (and they will check your signature) (I believe more and more have NFC now in larger places)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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  Reply # 1595928 20-Jul-2016 23:16
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We did a road trip from SFO back to SFO via Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.

 

SFO hotels are expensive especially in the city, not so bad out near the airport around Milbrae and San Mateo areas.

 

There's a good public transport system in SFO called the BART. 

 

Things to do in SFO, seafood chowder at Fishermans Wharf, Bike the Bridge, Ride the Cable car and visit the cable car Museum (this is where all the underground cables that propel the cars are driven from). If you ride the cable car don't try and board them at the terminal (end) of the line, the queues can be horrendous at these places walk up the road about two or three stops, you will get on much quicker that way.

 

We didn't stay in Las Vagas but stayed at Boulder City which is very near by and close to the Hoover Dam, this is worth a visit. We stayed at the Hoover Dam Lodge, it's not 5 star but for the money is very good value and the room was more than adequate.  

 

On the way to the Grand Canyon we stayed at Williams AZ. It about an hours drive to the Grand Canyon, good accommodation there and there is a Wild West re-enactment every night in the main street.  We missed that as we didn't know about it till later. Another place to stay is Tusayan, this is on the way to the Grand Canyon from Williams.  It looked to be a nice place to stop though the accommodation was quite a bit more expensive there.

 

From Grand Canyon (South Rim) we then drove out towards Cameron and turned north to Marble Canyon, past the North Rim to Fredonia, Hurricane, and back thru Las Vegas to Jean.  It was a big days driving interspersed with looking at the Grand Canyon. There's also the Grand Canyon Skywalk which we didn't do.

 

Keep a look out for the solar power station on the way to/from Las Vegas. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivanpah_Solar_Power_Facility

 

We though about driving Death Valley but as it was the middle of summer we decided not to. From the little bit of research I did it wasn't the place to go that time of the year without some preparation.  You will likely drive past the Mojave Spaceport - where Spaceship 1 flies from and also the Edwards Airforce base though you cannot really get close to Edwards even though you can drive to the gate, the gate is miles from the main runway, that's if you're interested in that sort of thing.

 

 

Advertised Prices don't include Taxes. (expect to get a LOT of change) $5.99 means %5.99 + Taxes

Tipping is interesting if you have not done it before. 

 

Cash is King (no Eftpos) and not many places have Visa. When they do have Visa expect to have to Sign it  (and they will check your signature) (I believe more and more have NFC now in larger places)

 

 

 

For sure watch out for taxes on top of the advertised price, taxes vary state by state.

 

Tipping is expected to be 15 to 20 %. 

 

Once you add taxes and tips, what seems like a very reasonably priced meal starts to look a bit expensive.

 

Cash is King, keep plenty of small notes for tips. However we never found anywhere where we couldn't use a Visa card, though in most cases had to sign. The only exception was at one brand of petrol station, Chevron I think it was. They accepted cards but for some reason our cards wouldn't work in their system. they worked everywhere else. Other than Chevron we used Visa everywhere, hotels, restaurants, petrol stations, shops, etc.

 

It's always a good idea to have enough cash in case your card isn't accepted though.

 

Any other questions just ask.





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  Reply # 1595932 20-Jul-2016 23:32
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Thanks guys.

 

Damn these taxes and tips.





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  Reply # 1595950 21-Jul-2016 04:49
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We did an almost identical road trip about about 10 years ago and have been to SF several times. Another time did a road trip from SF out and around Lake Tahoe and back. IMO your itinerary looks pretty good.

 

A few misc comments:

 

Depending on your interests, I think two days in LV is easily enough. On a 17 day trip you certainly wouldn't want to spend five days there - in fact not on any trip IMO.

 

Driving between LV and GC, take the time to go down off the freeway to visit Hoover Dam. Very interesting and consider taking the tour down inside the dam - it's great.

 

Death Valley is fascinating and really worth the effort - not as dangerous as some writers would have you believe so long as common sense prevails. Any risk comes mainly from heat and that shouldn't be an issue in November.

 

Yosemite is also great but going that way you are probably ruling out the fantastic coastal drive from LA to SF via Big Sur etc. Tough choice - we've done both and it would be a 50/50 call for me. The coastal drive is a bit better in the north > south direction because then you're on the RH/coast side of the road.

 

SF is great as I'm sure you know. Five days sounds good. Some good things to do include:

 

- Alcatraz (book well ahead online)
- Rent a bike from Blazing Saddles down near the waterfront and ride over GG bridge to Sausalito for lunch - ride back or catch the ferry with your bikes.
- We found the Cable Car Museum really interesting - also contains the central powerhouse drive mechanism for the whole system.
- Maybe drive or take a tour to Muir Woods over in the Marin Headlands (not far from Sausalito but probably to far to ride). Stunningly beautiful - A National Park forest with giant Redwoods and walkways and hiking tracks.

 

Have fun.


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  Reply # 1595954 21-Jul-2016 07:12
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When you say "Grand Canyon" exactly where are you visiting/staying? It's a very big canyon. :)

 

Vegas is a place you'll either love or hate, and I don't think it's really possible to sit on the fence. Most hotels (even the expensive ones) are very average. The $20 trick when you're checking in works wonders for upgrades. A couple of days in Vegas is enough to get the vibe and walk around if you're just wanting to see things rather than gamble. Make sure you check out what shows are on if you're interested in going to any.

 

I really like SF as a city now despite not really enjoying it the first few times I went. If you've got time it's worth heading down to the Palo Alto / Mountain View area which is easily accessible on the Caltrain and very different to SF itself.

 

I'm not sure if you've booked accommodation yet but particularly during summer prices are crazy and can be double what they are off-peak. In November you will probably be OK.

 

 


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  Reply # 1595989 21-Jul-2016 08:36
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@kobiak -- please post feedback after you return... I'm looking at a SF-LV road trip via Yosemite, Death Valley next year.

 

One thing to be aware of -- you can't rent a car until you've been in the USA for 24 hours... probably a very sensible rule IMHO.

 

If you like the outdoors, I'd say (from the brochures) that you could happily spend a couple of days at Yosemite.

 

@sbiddle -- What's the $20 trick?

 

 




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  Reply # 1595991 21-Jul-2016 08:38
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@eracode, thank you! yeah we also discussed trade off coastal drive, something to do next time I guess...

 

@sbiddle, in GCNP we booked 2 nights at GC Village. and also booked LA and LV accommodation. Nothing else as we can't decide on how long for Death Valley and Yosemite Valley. 

 

A lot of people suggest that we stay 1 night at Death Valley and 2 nights at Yosemite Valley (drive to Reno for 1 night and SFO for the rest of the holiday)

 

Thanks.





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  Reply # 1595997 21-Jul-2016 08:53
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frankv:

 

One thing to be aware of -- you can't rent a car until you've been in the USA for 24 hours... probably a very sensible rule IMHO.

 

 

 

 

I always grab my rental straight after landing. 

 

What do you mean? 

 

 

 

 


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  Reply # 1596004 21-Jul-2016 08:57
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I don't know whether this will help with your itinerary but... the first time I went to the US was for a business trip where I had three weeks in Los Angeles (based in Anaheim) followed by two weeks in San Francisco (Sunnyvale). I negotiated with my employer to organise the work schedule so that I had a week off between engagements in the two cities.

 

The first weekend in LA I spent doing local tourist things; One day at Disneyland and one day around Hollywood/Beverly Hills/Santa Monica, but I didn't really like LA much. And I didn't see anyone famous. The second weekend I drove to Las Vegas. I don't gamble (I did spend about $20 on a poker machine, just to say I had) but Vegas is visual overload; there is so much to see and do and a weekend is nowhere near enough.

 

With my week's leave I drove from LA to SF, staying on California State Highway 1 as much as possible as it follows the coast. A quick google tells me it was about 450 miles door to door (720 km) so you could probably do it in a day, but I split it up over three days, staying one night in San Luis Obispo and one night in Monterey. This gave me plenty of time to stop wherever I wanted (or wherever looked interesting) to take in some local character and amazing Pacific coast scenery. I didn't see Clint Eastwood in Carmel (his time as Mayor finished about a year before I was there). Totally worth the drive though and I would do this again if I'm ever back in that part of the world.

 

There was plenty to do in SF for a few days before starting work again. I could probably have spent a couple of weeks there.


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  Reply # 1596008 21-Jul-2016 09:10
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Grand canyon is obviously epic but may not require multiple nights. I'd recommend doing a day trip (leaving at dawn from LV) and then going back to stay in LV before moving into Death Valley. I'd recommend at least two days in Death Valley, it's amazing and the desert experience is something you just can't get in NZ. As mentioned, heat won't be an issue in November. I went there at this time of year and it got up to 54 deg C :) I last stayed at Stovepipe Wells which was great but Furnace Creek is a bit flasher, both are great options. The drive from DV to Yosemite will take most of a day but is amazing.

 

Yosemite is  absolutely stunning but will be getting cold in November. Be aware that the Tioga pass (the way in from the east through Lee Vining which exceeds 10,000ft elevation) may be closed or at the least snowing and potentially hazardous at that time of year, chains may be needed. Some of the other highlights (such as Glacier Point) may be closed depending on weather but go there if you can. There will still be some short hikes you can do and they are very much worth it. Need minimum 2 days here IMO.

 

Don't underestimate the driving times, especially when mountains are involved, and there are many of those in Cali. If you want to see one of the best aquariums in the world, do a night in Monterrey on the way from Yosemite to SFO. You can do the drive in half a day if you leave Yosemite after breakfast, short stop at the Mariposa grove to see the giant sequoias and then a few pit/food stops on the way. There is a behind the scenes tour there which is very good but the latest you could arrive is 3pm. Monterrey waterfront is cool and great food, etc.

 

SFO is great but probably don't need 5 days there as you say. You could easily as there is a lot to see but so much else to do and see in California, it's an amazing place.

 

So something like LA 3 nights, LV 3 nights, DV 2 nights, Yosemite 2 nights, Monterrey 1 night, SFO 3 nights. It's a s!$% load of driving but if you're up for it, well worth it. Get a comfy car with cruise control or even consider flying from LA to LV to reduce the driving. Only thing is there are usually bigger charges to hire a car in one state and drop it off in another.

 

 

 

I know you've already booked some stuff but my 0.02 anyway having done this before :)


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  Reply # 1596009 21-Jul-2016 09:10
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frankv:

 

@sbiddle -- What's the $20 trick?

 

 

 

Basically slip the check-in staff $20 (or another figure) with your credit card/passport when checking in and casually ask if any upgrades are available.

 

You'll find a lot out about this if you Google it as it's basically reached urban legend status. I've had room upgrades as a result but clearly YMMV.

 

 


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  Reply # 1596011 21-Jul-2016 09:15
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Looking at the historical closing times for the Tioga pass, you may or may not get through in November. It's a major to go around the park and come in from the other side but doable

 

http://www.monobasinresearch.org/data/tiogapass.php


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  Reply # 1596107 21-Jul-2016 11:57
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kobiak:

 

Thanks guys.

 

Damn these taxes and tips.

 

 

You get used to it.  The worst is that it doesn't result in better service, just an expectation for the tip even if they screwed up.  And if you plan on eating again there, do you really want the staff to feel you shorted them on their entitlements? Not I.  But as I said, you get used to it being part of the price.

 

The worst part of the American dining experience in restaurants is not the tipping or taxes.  You can't leave until you paid the bill, but good luck flagging down the waiter to get the check in a timely fashion, and then them going away and getting it paid and eventually coming back.  So what could be a half hour meal, turns into half an hour and them maybe another half an hour.

 

Why do they make it so hard for themselves?


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  Reply # 1596123 21-Jul-2016 12:06
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It's been mentioned the US is big and your planned trip coveres some big distances.

 

The trip I mentioned above took us 5-6 days, (5 days rental car hire) and we did 3093 km (1922 miles) in a Nissan Rogue (X-Trail/Qashqai).  SFO - Bakersfield - Hoover Dam - Williams - Grand Canyon - Marble Canyon, Hurricane - Jean - Fresno SFO, The car hire cost USD$180.  

 

17 days will give you plenty of time to have a good look in the area you've chosen. Depending on your tastes I would spend less time in Vegas. Once you've seen one casino you've seen them all so far as I'm concerned. Likewise pick Disneyland or one of the other theme parks and do it, but I wouldn't bother with doing more than one. It's probably no so bad in November but at the busier times of the year you waste a lot of time queuing for rides.

 

The distances are big BUT you can cover long distances in a good time on the freeways and interstates.  The speed limits are 60 or 70 miles per hour but most cars travel at 10 MPH above the speed limit. Unlike New Zealand you can rack up long distances quite quickly as the traffic flows really well, unless of course you end up on a minor route in California on a long weekend then it can be akin to Auckland traffic.  

 

On the last day (Saturday) we drove from Fresno to SFO via Gilroy then down to Castroville then up the coast via Half Moon Bay to San Meteo.  Some of the secondary roads linking out to the coast were slow going.

 

If it's your first time there I'd recommend driving, you will see a lot of different/interesting things along the way. You'll get the chance to stop along the way and see what the US is like outside of the big centres. 

 

We used Here Maps on our phones when we needed help with finding a route. Download the maps before you leave home, then there's no need to have a data connection while your'e on the road.

 

We also tracked where we drove using the Sports Tracker app on our phones. Any tracking app will do. This is a really good way to help remember where you went and when you went there at a later date.





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  Reply # 1596136 21-Jul-2016 12:24
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rmt38:

 

You get used to it.  The worst is that it doesn't result in better service, just an expectation for the tip even if they screwed up.  And if you plan on eating again there, do you really want the staff to feel you shorted them on their entitlements? Not I.  But as I said, you get used to it being part of the price.

 

The worst part of the American dining experience in restaurants is not the tipping or taxes.  You can't leave until you paid the bill, but good luck flagging down the waiter to get the check in a timely fashion, and then them going away and getting it paid and eventually coming back.  So what could be a half hour meal, turns into half an hour and them maybe another half an hour.

 

Why do they make it so hard for themselves?

 

 

Yep service is no better than here. I always thought a tip was your appreciation of good service. Not in the US, you are expected to tip, no matter how good the service is.  When we had some friends out from the US recently we told them tipping wasn't the done thing in New Zealand they then asked how do you ensure you get good service. They found it hard to accept good service could be provided even though tips weren't the norm.

 

In the US the tips make up a significant portion of the waiter earnings.

 

We also experienced the pain in paying the bill. It's not like here where when you are finished you go to the counter/reception and pay. Over there you have to wait for the waiter to bring the bill (check, in US parlance) they go away with the credit card to start the process, bring the chit back for you to add the tip and sign. The process certainly adds some time. It's a almost as if you're paying the waiter rather than the restaurant.

 

Have to agree why do they make it so hard.

 

I read recently that in some parts of the US where there is a push to do away with tipping and pay the staff a proper wage.





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