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Road Trip: Vancouver, BC, Canada to LA, California

Vancouver
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Road Trip: Vancouver, BC, Canada to LA, California

First post, so be nice to me, please. :)

3 of my friends and I currently reside in Vancouver, BC, Canada. We're planning a road trip down to Los Angeles at the end of August.

Before answering the questions, please be advised that most of us have never done a long distance road trip like this before. Well, at least I haven't and I think I'm one of the principle drivers, haha.

An additional bit of info: I think we only have 7 or 8 days to spare at maximum.

Questions:

1. Is it more advisable to drive down to Los Angeles and fly back to Vancouver or should we fly down to LA and then drive back to Vancouver? Or neither (i.e. drive both ways)?

2. Knowing that we might only have a maximum of 7 or 8 days, is that enough time to sightsee and have a bit of fun, as opposed to driving for most of the time? That is, is it possible to drive down from Vancouver to LA (or from LA to Vancouver) and have a respectable time?

Answer the following only if your answer to #2 is 'yes':

3. Are there Canadian/American car rental companies that allow you to rent a car in one country and drop it off in the other country (particularly California State and the province of British Columbia)? Worse comes to worst, I assume we can pick up a car in Washington State and drop it off in California, or vice versa.

4. What sites do you do you suggest we see on the trip? Honestly, I have no clue about the Pacific coast or even the Pacific American states. Any 'can't miss' things we should see or places we'll regret not seeing? I've heard something about red forest or some redwood thing.

5. Is it advisable to book hotels/motels ahead of time or is it possible to find places along the way? Any you recommend personally that's fairly cheap (three of us are students and one of us is a recent graduate who recently got a job)?

6. How much gas money should be budgeted?

7. Should we buy a GPS device or is that unnecessary?

8. Anything else I should think about before a trip is planned?

I greatly greatly appreciate any help you can provide. You don't know how much of a blessing it is to have a message board like this. Thank you so very much for your hospitality!

Park City, Utah
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1. Re: Road Trip: Vancouver, BC, Canada to LA, California

Sounds like a great trip. A few thoughts for you.

Either direction would be fine. You probably have enough time, but it will still be a quick itinerary. The biggest challenge and expense will be figuring out the car. Just do some research online and put the itinerary into the car rental reservation engines and see what comes out. In any case, you will likely pay a pretty large fee for the one-way. You might also look into the companies that specialize in one-way RV rentals like Cruise America, etc. Are you 25? That will also be a factor.

Major stops along the route would include Seattle, the mountains between Seattle and Portland, Portland, Oregon coast, northern California coast with inland stops in Napa, San Fran, down the coast to Santa Cruz, Monterey, Big Sur, and on down to LA. San Diego would be nice if you had time, but I don't think that you do.

I would suggest having at least a few base hotels lined up.

Figure gas in neighborhood of US$3.00/gallon on that route. Figure you do 2,000 miles @ 20MPG and that would be around $300 in gas.

You wouldn't NEED a GPS, but they're so cheap now that it would be nice to buy one.

Have fun, sounds like a great trip.

Washington State
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2. Re: Road Trip: Vancouver, BC, Canada to LA, California

With only 7 or 8 days, I recommend that you decide just what is important to you for this trip, and focus on that. For example, Washington has Mt Rainier (hikes, flowers, camping, photography), Mt St Helens (geology, etc), Olympic Nat'l Park, tons of salt water & fresh water activities, Seattle (& its nightlife). Oregon has Portland (Powell's bookstore!, nightlife), lots of coastal vacation type destinations (beach activities, kites), and more. California is huge and could take you several weeks to hit all the "best" spots including the Redwoods, Lava Tubes, Mendocino County, San Francisco, Monterey/Carmel, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, LA, themeparks, San Diego.... and the list goes on!

If you really want to visit Southern California/LA, I think you'd enjoy your time more by flying in, renting a car, and visiting some of the fun spots in that area for a week.

Motel 6 is often the cheapest choice for "on the road" trips, but it isn't always the best choice in a larger city. If you are staying in a big city, go to that forum. Read about the hotels there (left side of TA.) Read the FAQ's; LA forumites have done a great job describing the numerous options. Then post your question.

As students & recent grads, you are probably young. Car rental companies charge a premium to rent to those under 25.

Have fun planning this great trip!

St. Louis
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3. Re: Road Trip: Vancouver, BC, Canada to LA, California

First and foremost: Post this on the Road Trip forum. You'll get lots more help there (California Forum moves too quickly).

Here are some answers

1. Is it more advisable to drive down to Los Angeles and fly back to Vancouver or should we fly down to LA and then drive back to Vancouver? Or neither (i.e. drive both ways)?

I think you'll have issues with a one-way rental between countries. Call Hertz to find out if it's even possible. Flying to LA, then driving up would be best, for sure if you can't drop in Canada. You're last leg might need to be by bus. The drop-off fee will likely be $500 or so. You will also have a surcharge for being under 25.

2. Knowing that we might only have a maximum of 7 or 8 days, is that enough time to sightsee and have a bit of fun, as opposed to driving for most of the time? That is, is it possible to drive down from Vancouver to LA (or from LA to Vancouver) and have a respectable time?

Not really much time for sightseeeing with 7 nights. I'd see the trip going something like this:

2 nights - LA

1 night - Cambria

2 nights - San Francisco

1 night - Eureka

1 night - Seattle

This allows for just two days of sightseeing - one in LA and one in San Francisco. The other days will be mostly driving. If you fly to San Francisco instead, I'd add a night there and a night in Seattle. I think that would be a better trip.

Answer the following only if your answer to #2 is 'yes':

4. What sites do you do you suggest we see on the trip? Honestly, I have no clue about the Pacific coast or even the Pacific American states. Any 'can't miss' things we should see or places we'll regret not seeing? I've heard something about red forest or some redwood thing.

You can learn a lot about San Francisco by reading Trip Advisor articles and the FAQ's on the San Francisco main page. In San Francisco, see Alcatraz, Ride a bike from Fisherman's Wharf across the Golden Gate to Sausalito, then return via ferry. Stop at Muir Woods on your way out of town. Take a couple of free guided tours - see www.sfcityguides.com

5. Is it advisable to book hotels/motels ahead of time or is it possible to find places along the way? Any you recommend personally that's fairly cheap (three of us are students and one of us is a recent graduate who recently got a job)?

You can save a little $$ by not renting a car until you leave SF. If you stay in small towns or suburbs, you can save a lot on hotels, but you'll be commuting to attractions and paying big $$ for parking.

6. How much gas money should be budgeted?

$200 should cover gas.

7. Should we buy a GPS device or is that unnecessary?

Get a map.

8. Anything else I should think about before a trip is planned?

I hope the cost of renting a car isn't a deal-breaker.

Gig Harbor...
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4. Re: Road Trip: Vancouver, BC, Canada to LA, California

1. We have rented from Hertz at Seattle twice and left the car in Vancouver. It was not a problem. Your ages might be a problem if you aren't 25 yet.

2. I would suggest you start in LA and drive north. This is safer since the driver will be seeing on-coming traffic as he / she also sees the Pacific Ocean.

3. I think your time frame is adequate if you don't mind changing hotels every night. That's the logical thing to do with such a linear trip.

4. Assuming you are all good at reading maps, I don't think you need a GPS. Highway one mostly follows the coast, so it isn't too easy to get lost!

St. Louis
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5. Re: Road Trip: Vancouver, BC, Canada to LA, California

Assuming the cost of car rental and gas are a deal-breaker, which I expect may be the case, here are a couple of ideas;

1) Spend your vacation in the Bay Area and Napa Valley. There is so much to see and do, I promise you won't get bored. A car really isn't necessary due to the many public transportation options.

You could also include a couple of nights in NAPA - there are lots of shuttle services to bring you there and back, then you could rent bikes to visit the wineries. (assuming you're all 21).

2) If you're set on a road trip, is to pile in one of your own cars and road trip down to the Oregon Coast and back. Again, there is a lot to see and do in the area. Go to the Oregon Coast, Portland and Seattle forums for more ideas.

Oregon Coast
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6. Re: Road Trip: Vancouver, BC, Canada to LA, California

Hi ccl1, welcome to TripAdvisor.

My DH and I spend quite a bit of time in our RV and have driven all around the west. We frequently drive around Oregon as well as the length of the Oregon coast.

In my opinion, you do not have anywhere near enough time to drive even one-way, unless you want to take I-5 straight down and put in some long days. And I-5 in California is one of the most boring roads in America.

You will be doing nothing but driving!

I like the above suggestion to fly to LA and spend your 7 days there. Check on flights out of Seattle as they may be cheaper, and you can take a bus to there.

You can organize a fun road trip at another time, maybe seeing some of WA and OR :-)

7. Re: Road Trip: Vancouver, BC, Canada to LA, California

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