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Itinery help for an Aussie family please

Little River...
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Itinery help for an Aussie family please

Hi Everyone

We are planning a family trip (2 adults, 2 kids, 11 & 9) to California next year. Our plan is to arrive around the 6th of April and travel to a few destinations before returning home at the end of April.

After much discussion and help from the helpful people here I think we are getting very close to our 'perfect' itinerary.

I am hoping we can get some specific help regarding the Cambria part of our trip but have posted the whole trip so you have an idea of our plans. Will be posting this in other forums to to get specific help for the other parts of the holiday.

We'd appreciate any advice re: hotels and things to do .

Fly Melbourne to LAX (arrive early morning 7 am)

Stay in Santa Monica (Oceanview Hotel) for 3 nights (plan to do the 'Hop on Hop off' bus tour in LA, ,Hollywood homes tour and Universal Studios - at this point we'd be there on Easter Sunday will it be crazy there or should we be ok? We could add an extra day in Santa Monica and then go there on the Monday if that would be better or go a day earlier on the Saturday??)

Drive the coast road staying at Cambria for 1 night (not sure where to stay yet, suggestions welcome) visiting whatever takes our fancy along the way. is there anything we shouldn't miss? Looked at Hearst castle but was put off by a few reviews saying it wasnt really worth the cost happy to hear other viewpoints.)

Drive the coast road staying at Monteray for 2 nights (not sure where to stay yet,suggestions welcome) visiting whatever takes our fancy along the way.

Drive to Yosemite staying for 2 nights (not sure where to stay yet, suggestions welcome)

Drive to San Francisco (Holiday Inn Suites at Fishermans Wharf or Club Donatello or Suites at Fishermans Wharf ?) for 3 nights (plan to do Alcatraz tour, Golden Gate bridge, evening Chinatown dinner tour, ride the cable cars, Walt Disney museum, a bay cruise perhaps?)

Fly from San Fran to Las Vegas (Mandalay Bay - is it too far out? Is Circus Circus better for kids??) for 3 nights. (maybe see a show - a shame The Lion King will be over, is the shopping good there? Neon Lights Tour??)

Drive to Grand Canyon for 1 night (not sure where to stay yet, suggestions welcome) We plan to do a sunset tour the day we arrive and then a sunrise tour the next morning. We will probably spend quite a bit of time there before heading to Phoenix.

Drive to Phoenix and fly to San Diego (Hotel Indigo Gaslamp quarter) for 2 nights (San Diego Zoo)

Drive to Legoland for the day then on to Anaheim (Would the kids prefer Knotts Berry do you think??)

Anaheim (HoJo or Park Vue Inn - will it be warm enough for the kids to swim at HoJo's in late April?) for 5 nights (Disneyland (2 or 3 days) and California Adventureland, Medievel Times??, we think we can also have a recovery day in there somewhere between theme parks )

Our flight out from LAX is at 11.30pm so we will drive slowly back to LA and spend the day there or another day at Disney perhaps?

Fly home with smiles on our faces!!

I look forward to receiving your advice, thanks :) Sue

Alamo, CA
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1. Re: Itinery help for an Aussie family please

Re: The Grand Canyon portion If you want to stay in the Park you will need to make reservations in advance.

Shell Beach...
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2. Re: Itinery help for an Aussie family please

You will get varying opinions on Hearst Castle, but only you can decide whether it's "worth it" based on your expectations for the trip. Hearst Castle is certainly the biggest single tourist attraction on the central coast, and millions of people have enjoyed the experience.

For me, the chief draw is the sheer oddness and middle-of-nowhere nature of the place, and the megalomania of Hearst himself in building what's essentially a self-contained city (its own power plant, airport, movie theater, aqueducts). It has a stunning setting on a hill with an amazing view for miles down to the Pacific.

Just so you know, the tour and the bus trip up and down the hill will take about two hours.

Also, be sure and budget sufficient time for the drive between Cambria and Monterey. This area is known as Big Sur, and it has some of the finest scenery in the world. Without stops it's about three hours, but I recommend doubling that. You'll want to get out, take pictures, and visit a park or two - especially the spectacular McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Here's a link with suggestions of things to do and see.


Edited: 15 November 2011, 17:39
Visalia, CA
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3. Re: Itinery help for an Aussie family please

If I were you I would Google it to learn more and decide for yourself. Personally I think it is worth it. I've been several times over the years and every time I have to fight the urge to dive into the outdoor pool. (lol) The indoor Roman Pool is pretty awesome too.

Uden, The...
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4. Re: Itinery help for an Aussie family please

We already visited Hearst Castle 20 years ago and took tour 1. Certainly worth a visit imo but we never felt the urge to do other tours.

Studio City
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5. Re: Itinery help for an Aussie family please

A few things to consider:

* Santa Monica. Great place to stay but pricey. Wonderful views/beaches/restaurants/shops but quite a few homeless. You referenced Hollywood/Universal and I would suggest that you might want to stay closer to these areas. Universal has 2 hotels on-site and the Beverly Garland in Studio City is a close (<10 minutes to Universal, <20 to Hollywood). Once you have your reservation Easter shouldn't be a problem. Remember that you're only going to "see" security walls and bushes on most of the star home tours and your odds of actually seeing someone famous there are pretty much 0! Rent a car, see the sights, go for a drive on Muholland Drive and its various outlooks. The Getty Museum is also pretty good with stunning views.

* Cambria. Moonstone beach accomodations will be much more expensive than staying a few miles inland. You can easily drive to the beach areas. The Cambria Pines lodge runs MANY specials (Travel Zoo,etc.) that you could check. You will drive right past Paso Robles ( 20 miles or so inland (east from Cambria) which has many, many nice wineries if you are so inclined.

* Hearst Castle. I completely agree with ScooterBoss on this thread. I've been 3 times and enjoyed each of them but I'm done! Well worth it though. Take the main tour and you'll get get a great feel for the place. It's pretty strange.

* Cambria to Monterrey. A stunning drive. One of the best you'll ever experience. Be VERY careful driving though. Not much of a road shoulder and it is easy to get distracted. Budget at least 1/2 day.

* Monterrey. The acquarium is a must and the 17 mile drive in Carmel is well worth the time, about 20 minutes south of Monterrey. Regarding lodging, hotels near the acquarium area (their main tourist area) are quite expensive. I've stayed at several places near their small airport but they are all pretty basic (3 star at best) but clean and safe. They're about 10 minutes to town.

* Yosemite. One of the natural wonders of the world. You MUST make reservations in advance. In fact do this ASAP. Quite expensive and basic but the only "game in town" unless you stay outside of the park and drive in each day (about 30 minutes one way).

* San Francisco. I amost always book thru HotWire for accomodations in SF. Their rating are spot on and the prices can't be beat. I'm not a huge fan of Fishernman's Wharf by the way. Very touristy but this is the area you'll catch the boat to Alcatraz (another must see). As the father of a 12 year old boy I can almost guarantee your children will fall in love with the Exploritorium. It's incredible for kids. On final piece of SF advice: Absolutely purchase a City Pass when you're there. It will save you a lot of money and covers everything you'll really want to see. The bonus is it covers all pubic transporattion in the city, including the cable cars. They're $5.00/person 1 way without the pass. Absolutely DO NOT plan on driving in SF other than parking your car until you leave. Check around for parking garages as most hotels charge $50.00/day to park.

* Las Vegas. No matter what you read about Vegas it's still a town 95% geared to adults, NOT children. Circus Circus is a loud dump full of noisy children and their equally loud parents. You can find a number of contrived things for children to do and night time is for adults and children really aren't welcome anywhere then. Great for adults though! Rooms are plentiful and cheap everywhere regardless of rating, just do a little research.

* Grand Canyon. Another one of the great wonders of the world. Reservations are a must as far in advance aspossible. Hotels outside of the main areas are about a 20 minute drive at best each way. Pretty basic accomodations in the park (I've stayed in the cabins, basic but fun, and their 2nd tier "hotel", again basic.

* Lego Land/Knott's Berry. My son used to love Legos but could care less about Lego Land now. We were pretty bored when we took hime there when he was 8. Knott's is very much an amusement park with pretty decent rides. Unless your kids LOVE legos you might want to pass.

* Anaheim. I take the family there on occasion and always use Hot Wire to find a room. Great values to be had. For the record I'm absolutely NOT associated with Hot Wire in any way! Just like the site.

Enjoy your trip .You're going to be exhausted upon your return home but you will have covered a lot of ground.

Edited: 17 November 2011, 06:06
Boise, Idaho
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6. Re: Itinery help for an Aussie family please

The Cambria portion of the trip: sunset at the Fiscallini Ranch Park, walking on the path along the cliffs; an hour or more collecting moonstones on the Cambria beaches; Sebastian's (San Simeon) for sandwiches for lunch (closed Mondays, some Tuesdays); wineries in the area, including Castoro, Nadeau Family; Pasolivio, olive oil tasting (Paso Robles)...

In California, be sure to stop at one of the many Trader Joe's.

Grand Canyon to Phoenix, drive south from Flagstaff area on Highway 89, down through Oak Creek Canyon/Sedona. Then the Verde Valley and up to Jerome, and/or to Montezuma Castle. If you need to get in a day hike: try Sycamore Canyon in the Verde Valley.

San Diego: Wild Animal Park (part of the SD Zoological); tour the aircraft carrier in the SD bay; the beaches, including La Jolla and Del Mar; drive out to Cabrillo National Monument Lighthouse.

Good maps: California and Arizona Atlas and Gazette be DeLorme.

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7. Re: Itinery help for an Aussie family please

In Cambria, I have stayed on Moonstone beach at the Best western Fireside Inn and thought it was great. I have heard most hotels along Moonstone beach are about the same, a little expensive. I ahve also stayed at the Best Western cavalier in San Simeon, right up the road and loved it. Make sure you visit the Elephant seals if they are in season while nearby. I have been to Hearst catsle and had a great time. It's quite amazing and I felt it was worth the money, I also like the movie they play before the tour.

In Monterey, definatly do the aquarium (one of the best in the world and they have a great white shark!) and 17 mile drive, lots of beautiful stops along the way.

Las vegas is great, great food and shopping. Mandalay bay is a little far out but there are a lot of trams/ trollys to take you. Circus Cirsus is fun but also a little ways out on the strip and the older side of the strip. If those are your two choices, you might want to stay at Mandaly bay, but maby consider Plante Hollywood or New York New York. All casinos will have arcades t entertain the kiddos.

I personally have not been to leggoLand however had friends with kids complain. More for 4 year olds. I would hit Knotts Berry farm.

Also for Disneyland and California adventure. Both are great but very different. Plan on spending more time at Disneyland as there are not as many attractions yet at California adventure. Make sure you see the Alladin show at California adventure, It is fantastic!

It may be warm enough to swim, but when did cool weather ever stop a child from swimming.

Sounds like a great trip.

have fun!

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8. Re: Itinery help for an Aussie family please


we have just returned and my comments are:

Santa monica is a great place to stay. I thought Universal Studios pretty lame compared to Movie World here or Disneyland etc. But your kids are younger so maybe they will like it.

We stayed at the Sea Otter inn on Moonstone Beach Cambria which was fantastic value at $79 a night with breakfast and was much nicer than you would expect (much better than the Radisson Fisherman's Wharf in SF which is a bit of a dump). Hearst Castle at night was great. But naturally more interesting for adults-teh sea elephants and squirrels along the beach are great for the kids to see.

Big Sur is a great drive north with lots of photo ops.

In Monterey look to see if you can get the Intercontinental (The Clement) which is right on the water on Cannery row-we got a good deal through Flight Centre on that one and the hotel was the best of the trip. 2 nights in Monterey would be good to explore the area.

Grand Canyon is fantastic. We stayed at El tovar in one room and loved it. Blue Angel Lodge would be good too and the food is great there. We just walked around ourselves -dont know about any tours. Consider doing 2 nights if you are driving there as you will arrive late.

In Vegas we stayed at PH Towers in a 2 bed suite which is well located but I found Vegas a bit underwhelming and it does not have much to interest kids or teens except the magic shows, cirque de soleil and a couple of rides (which are a very long way apart). Its pretty trashy and crowded and you might not want to stay 3 nights unless you go shopping at the outlet malls or you love the pokies.

We stayed at the Sheraton Park near Disneyland which was a 10 minute walk and excellent with a nice pool area. I am sure your kids will like Disney land but personally 5 days seems long unless you want to see other theme parks or want to hang around the pool. It was hotter than Sydney when we were there last week and definitely swimming weather. Maybe wait until you get there to decide on ticket purchases.

We had a great time -I am sure you will too- my final suggestion is dont cram too much in as the biggest headache is getting the kids up, dressed and packed each day! Plan plenty of "sleep in" or do nothing days.

9. Re: Itinery help for an Aussie family please

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