We are travelling as a family from Las Vegas to LA and up the Coast to Seattle for all of December. I would like to know how diverse the weather is going to be and what type of clothes to pack. I would also like to know travelling time between the major cities and approx how long we should spend in one place (We must me in Seattle by the 22nd Dec) Also, should i book any accomodation at this time. What dates are your holidays at this time? Is accommodation hard to get at this time? Lastly, what places are an absolute must see for kids and adults. And one last thing, where should we eat when on the road - we are worried about falling into the junk food trap of travelling. Thanks for any advise.
Here's the lowdown on the west coast in December.
North to south the main thing you'll probably run into is rain--though you could hit snowstorms in the northern part of California and southern part of Oregon. The distances are vast--but since you are from Australia you're probably used to that. It's about 400 miles from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, around 430 miles from Los Angeles to San Francisco, around 550 miles from San Francisco to Portland and around 350 miles from Portland to Seattle.
The weather will be worse the farther north you go--so Las Vegas and Los Angeles will be in the 60s and 70s, San Francisco in the 50s to 60s and Portland and Seattle in the 40s to 50s--but probably no freezing weather except in the mountains as already mentioned. The main road north to south is Interstate 5, but there are prettier roads when you are south of the California--Oregon State line (take U.S. 101 and State Hwy 1)--and you'll take Interstate 15 to go from Las Vegas to the Los Angeles area. You should take I-5 when travelling through Oregon and Washington, unless you plan to go east to see Crater Lake--which is kind of worth it.
As far as crowds, this is the best time to come out to avoid them--since the weather is bad and it's right before the Christmas break, places like Disneyland have zero lines--versus 40 minutes to 1 hour lines (per ride!) in the summertime. Same for hotels--you can pick and choose most everyplace--Las Vegas might be the only exception--so I'd book that ahead.
Time to spend in places depends on what you like to do. Generally, I'd say 3-4 days Vegas, 4-5 days in Los Angeles area--including Anaheim where Disneyland is, maybe 1-2 days in San Diego if you have the time (though summer is much better here), 4-5 days in San Francisco (including Napa Valley and Monterey), 1-2 days in Portland, and 3-4 days in Seattle. I'd also spend a day in the Santa Barbara/Solvang area, and 1 day out by Cambria/San Simeon in California and visit Hearst Castle. If you have the time go east to the National Parks in California (Yosemite and Sequoia--but there may be snow already), and also Highway 101 north of San Francisco goes through the Redwood National Park and Muir Woods. In Oregon there is Crater Lake, and in Washington there is Mt. Saint Helens, Mount Rainier, and Olympia National Park. Which of these you visit is up to you.
Must see places--Disneyland (Anaheim, CA), Space Needle (Seattle), Fisherman's Wharf (San Francisco), Hearst Castle (San Simeon, CA), Huntington Library (San Marino, CA), San Juan Islands (Washington), Trees of Mystery (near Arcata, CA), Cable Cars (San Francisco), Winchester Mystery House (San Jose, CA), Solvang (Solvang, CA), 17-Mile Drive (Monterey, CA), Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco)--and for you wine lovers at least one winery--I suggest Taittinger (Domaine Carneros). The web site is www.domaine.com or for those who prefer reds, any place in either the Napa or Sonoma Valley (sonoma is more on the way of your trip, by the way)--I suggest Ledson Winery or Gloria Ferrer--here is a website with pictures http://www.inetours.com/Prints/WCprints/SVw/SnmaValWine_Gal4.html
Also, when in this area walk around the main plaza in Sonoma--it's beautiful and there are lots of interesting things including a fort, a cheese factory, two wine shops, three restaurants, and wine tasting places.
Under must see places, I forgot to include the Experience Music Project (at the base of the Space Needle in Seattle) and Snoqualmie Falls (about 15 miles east of Seattle)
when on the road i always live off of sandwiches. bring a cooler and when near a grocery store or deli get some different cheeses, veggies, spreads, peanut butter (and meats if your not a vegetarian like me) etc.if you have a lot of variety you won't get sick of them.also get fruits like apples and oranges that will last a while, and maybe some cookies or chips. i also like to go to a bulk food store and get nuts, dried fruit, granola bars, trail mix, ect. and of course some candy. these make great snacks that you can just pass to your kids in the backseat.and lots of water or juice boxes for the kids. this will not only keep you out of the "fast food trap" but save you a lot of money. and be sure to stop by any farmers markets or whatever that city famous places to eat are and try that regions specialty.
and i had a friend who would buy thoses soups where you just add boiling water when she was camping, and her kids loved them. thats another idea.
I think you're going to be hitting a lot of diverse weather. I took a similar trip up the coast, but I started in San Francisco. I would make sure that you pack for rain and cold. The further north you get, the colder and wetter it will be. Las Vegas and LA are very temperate in the winter, so you may need a t-shirt too.