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Need help for major decision

Eastern Connecticut
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Need help for major decision

Here's what I want to do: Fly from the East Coast to see the King Tut exhibit in LA, see some highlights of LA and drive the scenic coastline.

Here's some background info: We plan to visit in mid Sept. We have about a week and luckily can be flexible with the timeline if we need to add a day or two. Our budget does not include expensive resort lodging on the coast. We are not interested in the theme parks for this trip nor in shopping or wine tasting (sadly wine does not agree with me.) We enjoy nature and the outdoors, easy to moderate hikes, scenic vistas, walking along the beach, an occasional museum, and wouldn't mind seeing some gorgeous homes in the LA area. We'll probably do one of the city tours in LA. We've been to SF and driven as far south as Monterey/Carmel but that was many years ago. We've been to San Diego and as far north as Torrey Pines.

Here's my dilemma:

Should we fly roundtrip to LA, see the sights in LA then rent a car and drive south to Huntington Beach then north as far as Hwy 1 allows (probably Ragged Point) then turn back. Maybe overnight stays along the drive in Santa Barbara, Cambria and Pismo Beach. This is probably the most economical proposal but misses Big Sur.

OR should we fly into SFO (the airfare will be higher for a multi-city route), rent a car (knowing we will have a drop fee in LA) and stay our first night in Carmel, drive as far south along Big Sur as possible then backtrack to Salinas and down the 101 to Pasa Robles where we head back to the coast and on to LA. I'm not sure where we should overnight along this route. I've heard about nightmare traffic returning from Big Sur which doesn't sound like fun. Also not sure how long this route will take.

I'm hoping the TA community can point out some pros and cons to the different itineraries and some must-see stops. I welcome your thoughts, opinions, suggestions. Thanks!

Mentioned in this post
Monterey
Monterey
Monterey County, CA
Carmel
Carmel
Monterey County, CA
San Diego
San Diego
California
Huntington Beach
Huntington Beach
Orange County, CA
Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara
California
Cambria
Cambria
San Luis Obispo County, CA
Pismo Beach
Pismo Beach
San Luis Obispo County, CA
Big Sur
Big Sur
California
Salinas
Salinas
California
8 replies to this topic
Marina, California
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for Tucson
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1. Re: Need help for major decision

With such a short amount of time (I'm not clear on how much time, but it sounds short), a limited budget (I'm not clear on how limited), and a clear primary objective for the trip, why are you so eager to do a roadtrip?

California lodging is expensive as it is, but gets worse as you go up the coast. And mid-September is still busy and expensive.

Why not go to LA, get jammed into the Tut exhibit, then either do something else in LA, or take the train to San Diego, all without renting a car? There's more than enough in LA to fill time beyond theme parks. I've been many times, have never been to Universal or Magic Mountain, and still could not count the things I'd like to see down there on two hands.

If you really want to drive up the coast and only have one night and a hundred dollars or so to spare, go to Pismo or Morro Bay. They're a bit cheaper and close enough to LA to make it a nice overnight trip that's not too rushed.

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San Diego
San Diego
California
Pismo Beach
Pismo Beach
San Luis Obispo County, CA
Morro Bay
Morro Bay
San Luis Obispo County, CA
Grover Beach...
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for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
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2. Re: Need help for major decision

What would you prefer to see/do?

I don't think the traffic issues will be a big deal by mid Sept. The road work at Highway 1 and Rio Road in Carmel is slated to be complete by August, so those traffic nightmares you've read about shouldn't be an issue for you.

It's also "possible" that Highway 1 on the south end of Big Sur will be completely open by mid September if all goes well with the construction timeline and there aren't any further slides/delays.

You can fly to SF via Southwest Airlines for a reasonable price and I think they still offer 1 or 2 free checked bags. Check their website for more info.

You could do 1 night Monterey, 1 night Cambria and 1 night Santa Barbara if Highway 1 is fully open. Or 2 nights Monterey and one night Santa Barbara if not.

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Carmel
Carmel
Monterey County, CA
Big Sur
Big Sur
California
Monterey
Monterey
Monterey County, CA
Cambria
Cambria
San Luis Obispo County, CA
Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara
California
Long Beach...
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7,052 posts
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3. Re: Need help for major decision

I would do

LA > Sequoia/Kings Canyon NP > Cambria > Santa Barbara? > LA

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Sequoia Lodge
Sequoia Lodge
150 Reviews
Kernville, CA
Kings Canyon
Kings Canyon
835 Reviews
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, CA
Cambria
Cambria
San Luis Obispo County, CA
Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara
California
Eastern Connecticut
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4. Re: Need help for major decision

Thanks but we've been to Sequoia/Kings Canyon. We really want to do the coastal drive in addition to a short stay in LA - just not sure about the best way to do that.

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Sequoia Lodge
Sequoia Lodge
150 Reviews
Kernville, CA
Kings Canyon
Kings Canyon
835 Reviews
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, CA
Marina, California
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for Tucson
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5. Re: Need help for major decision

Price out the cost of a one way car rental from SF to LA. One way rentals tend to be very expensive so it may not be feasible for you. That will probably help you decide.

Long Beach...
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6. Re: Need help for major decision

Read up about the Mudslide/Road closure on Highway 1 and read about nacimiento fergusson road.

From LA, drive north on Hwy 101 to Morro Bay, Ragged Point, night in Cambria. Then detour to 101 and consider N-F Rd, to the coast again (many folks don't recommend...). Night in a cabin in Big Sur, under the Redwoods? Then Monterey Bay Area and back to Hwy 101, going south this time, with a night in Pismo Beach or lovely Santa Barbara. Next day enjoy Malibu and Santa Monica.

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Morro Bay
Morro Bay
San Luis Obispo County, CA
Ragged Point
Ragged Point
280 Reviews
Big Sur, CA
Cambria
Cambria
San Luis Obispo County, CA
Big Sur
Big Sur
California
Monterey Bay
Monterey Bay
2,505 Reviews
Monterey, CA
Pismo Beach
Pismo Beach
San Luis Obispo County, CA
Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara
California
Malibu
Malibu
California
Santa Monica
Santa Monica
California
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7 reviews
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7. Re: Need help for major decision

Airfare does not seem to be more expensive if booking a multi-city itinerary.

And there are no drop charges for car rentals in mid-September.

Currently driving northbound (picking up car LA and dropping SFO or OAK or SJC) looks cheaper than the other way around.

Mid -September brings lots of lodging bargains up the coast on weeknights ($99?) and L.A. is best visited on Sat & Sun when traffic is usually lighter. Since September can bring heat waves, you might want to stay near Santa Monica (SeaShore Motel, Seaview Hotel, Wilshire Motel) where the ocean breezes make it more pleasant. From SM you can just take the light rail ($1.75) to King Tut. You probably won't even need a car until you leave L.A., so can save on 2 or 3 days rental charges.

Yes there is a lot of great stuff up the coast so add 2 days to your trip since you can.

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Santa Monica
Santa Monica
California
Seaview Hotel
Seaview Hotel
502 Reviews
Santa Monica, CA
Wilshire Motel
Wilshire Motel
110 Reviews
Los Angeles, CA
Eastern Connecticut
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295 posts
61 reviews
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8. Re: Need help for major decision

Thanks for all the great tips! After doing a ton of research (especially here on TA) we have turned a one week trip into two LOL after learning that the road between Gorda and Ragged Point is scheduled to open ahead of schedule!!!

We found a decent (price & schedule) airfare BDL to SFO, LAX to BDL but the car rental in SFO was still pretty high as we opted not to consider Fox or Sixt due to poor reviews. Thank you CA though for outlawing additional driver fees!

Once I finish our itinerary hopefully the kind and knowledgeable people here on TA will help me tweak it.

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Ragged Point
Ragged Point
280 Reviews
Big Sur, CA
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