I'm from New Zealand travelling with 2 children ages 16 and 12. Planning our trip to Los Angeles on Dec. 22 and driving to San Francisco . Any tips on which route to take ? Is it safe to travel during this holiday season ? Any rent-a car pickup location in L.A. and drop-off in San Francisco ?
We are first-timers here in L.A. /or San Francisco
Most large rental companies should allow drop-off in SF from LA. We did the trip from Arizona to SF quite a while back now and it was great
Driving along the coast is very nice. Towns like Santa Barbara are nice to have a look at. The drive along the Big Sur is beautiful. Depending on available time, you could then go inland to Yosemite before hitting SF as well. Imagine it would be chilly around then though!
I haven't been that time of year, so can't comment on the relative safety. I have found that Californian drivers are quite courteous compared to some other parts of the US. Particularly when you're not near a major city. Aside from driving on the other side of the road, the stop signs took some getting used to for me. Makes me appreciate the usefulness of roundabouts all the more
You need to know that if you want to save money, it is much cheaper normally to pick-up and drop-off your rental car in the same location. Drop-off fees often run $200-500 extra--and you can actually do this trip (the short, fast, ugly way) in about 6-7 hours (via Interstate 5 through the central valley).
The scenic route--and the one to take going to San Francisco would be as follows:
Take the Santa Monica Freeway (Interstate 10) from Los Angeles to Santa Monica where it becomes state Highway 1. Stay on this until it merges with US Highway 101 (near Oxnard).
Stay on US Highway 101 (stopping in Santa Barbara on the way and seeing the downtown area, the beach, and the beautiful mission, then getting back on 101) until you reach the city of Buellton. Get off here and go 4 miles east to visit the city of Solvang--a Danish town with lots of small shops and bakeries and windmeals and wineries (and also where Michael Jackson used to live).
Continue north on US 101 until you reach San Luis Obispo, where you get off again on state highway 1 and head towards Morro Bay. Continue north on this road and spend the night in a motel in Cambria (preferably on Moonstone Beach). The next day, get up and take a tour of Hearst Castle (buy your tickets early before coming to the US, since these sell out weeks early in the summertime (same advise for booking your hotel--since they also book up way early). After visiting Hearst Castle in the morning, drive on north on Highway 1 to Carmel and spend a night in either Carmel or Monterey. (For those with the big bucks, stay at Pepple Beach Inn--the site of the best golf courses in the US and the most beautiful spot perhaps in the country). Visit the Monterey Aquarium the next morning, then drive on north to Santa Cruz and visit the redwoods in Big Basin Park (or visit the ones near Big Sur if it was still light out when you drove that route). Continue north through Saratoga and visit the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose near the largest shopping malls in the area. Drive on from here the one hour it takes to get to San Francisco via Interstate 280, keeping in mind that the road might be foggy at night (especially during the summer months late at night).
Some people like to go north this route, then cut east to Yosemite on the route back south (which takes 2 days, not one day, to do). What you do really depends on how much time you have available (P.S. If going through Yosemite, you don't need to visit Big Basin on the way north).
You will need a few Valiums if you're picking up that car in LA! Seriously, for a first timer LA is a terrible place to start driving on the opposite side of the car. Just imagine if you pick up the car at rush hour, trying to read road signs to this freeway or that Interstate and you don't even recognize the names of destinations (while traveling at 75mph in the slow lane!) LA is serious driving even for experienced Americans used to our complex Interstate system. I warned you!
Yeah, I'd be a little anxious about picking up in LA as well
As an alternative, you could perhaps take the Amtrak north a bit and pick up somewhere a bit further out of town. I've only taken the train south to San Diego, which was great, but I know it's possible to travel north as well and it certainly would be a less stressful way to get you out of the big city. Maybe as far as Santa Barbara and then get a car there (assuming there are suitable rental car locations of course).
Great ideas from Daawgon and Peter--and this would also make it easier to loop back and save on the drop-off fees.
great idea,I really appreciate this idea