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California dreaming (and maybe a little bit of Vegas)

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chooms

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OK, so I might be getting this started a little early... but can't contain the excitement. It is also my very first detailed TR.

After a few weeks agonising about it, I finally booked the flights to begin what will be an almost-two week California (and Las Vegas) adventure in September.

When I say agonising, we had decided to do the trip... but were we going to stump up the extra $$$ to go QF J or save the $7k or so and go PE?

We were always going to go via SYD anyway to enjoy some FLounging before the long flight as Ms Chooms enjoyed the experience immensely last time we were there. I have a little over 120k QFF points and we were going to either use to upgrade from J -> F on the A380 from SYD-LAX or upgrade from PE -> J LAX-BNE.

In the end, I just went screw it... sprung for the J fare and look forward to (hopefully) enjoying F for the very first time.

So, the itinerary as it stands at the moment:

Day 1: The long day - BNE-SYD-LAX - including QF Dom J, SYD FLounge and Int'l J
Day 2: LA - including Sofitel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills
Day 3: LA
Day 4: LA
Day 5: Road trip - LA to Monterey - including The Clement Intercontinental Monterey
Day 6: Road trip - Monterey to San Francisco - including The Prescott San Francisco
Day 7: San Francisco
Day 8: San Francisco
Day 9: SFO-LAS - including UA or VX Y and Wynn Resort
Day 10: The Grand Canyon
Day 11: Vegas shopping
Day 12: Road trip - Las Vegas to LAX (may or may not include the drive via Death Valley)
Day 13: LAX-BNE - including new QF LAX JLounge and Int'l J

Any suggestions of activities, sights etc at any of these stops are most welcome.

I look forward to kick starting this off in September!
 

Homer

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I've just come back from a similar trip. I spent 7 days in Vegas on this trip and it wasn't my first time there. The most obvious thing that sticks out for me in your itinerary is that you aren't spending very long in any place. While the PCH is a nice drive (though I prefer to do it in the other direction) I'm not sure it's worth taking two days out of your itinerary when you don't have very many days. Personally I'd just do SoCal and Nevada and forget about PCH and SFO in a 12-day trip but these are all personal choices.
 

ABC1

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LA to Monterey.. big drive that one.. Coast Road all the way would take about 7/8 hours.. Up the middle about 6 hours up the 5.. Hearst Castle is worth a look. Its on the coast road about 3 hours south of Monterey.. Carmel just south is nice. The aquarium in Monterey which right next to the intercontinental is great. In SFO visit the California Academy of Sciences.. I know that may sound odd but its great.
 

blackcat20

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LA to Monterey.. big drive that one.. Coast Road all the way would take about 7/8 hours.. Up the middle about 6 hours up the 5.. Hearst Castle is worth a look. Its on the coast road about 3 hours south of Monterey.. Carmel just south is nice. The aquarium in Monterey which right next to the intercontinental is great. In SFO visit the California Academy of Sciences.. I know that may sound odd but its great.
I was going to say the same thing about the drive. We managed Monterey to Santa Barbara in one day, and that was long enough.
 

Demon_fan

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Looks like too much driving for my liking. 3 days worth of driving + a domestic flight. That's a lot of travel over 11 days that are sandwiched in between long flights.
 

Bolthead

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Day 1: The long day - BNE-SYD-LAX - including QF Dom J, SYD FLounge and Int'l J
Day 2: LA - including Sofitel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills
Day 3: LA
Day 4: LA
Day 5: Road trip - LA to Monterey - including The Clement Intercontinental Monterey
Day 6: Road trip - Monterey to San Francisco - including The Prescott San Francisco
Day 7: San Francisco
Day 8: San Francisco
Day 9: SFO-LAS - including UA or VX Y and Wynn Resort
Day 10: The Grand Canyon
Day 11: Vegas shopping
Day 12: Road trip - Las Vegas to LAX (may or may not include the drive via Death Valley)
Day 13: LAX-BNE - including new QF LAX JLounge and Int'l J

Any suggestions of activities, sights etc at any of these stops are most welcome.

I look forward to kick starting this off in September!
As others have mentioned this is a pretty ambitious itinerary.

Day 5: I would get a very early start and call in and visit The Hearst Castle. Home - Hearst Castle (as previously suggested)
Stay overnight near the castle. Also consider a night tour as that is supposed to be great.
Day 6: Early start again and go to Monterey, Santa Cruz and then onto San Francisco. (skip San Jose - there are things to see there but no time)
Day 12: Skip the road trip to LAX and stay an extra day in Loss Wages...
Day 13: Fly to LAX (lots of cheap flights) and connect with your flight going home.

Also when you are in San Francisco I assume you are planning to go to Alcatraz. It may be a good idea to book in advance. Plan Your Visit - Alcatraz Island (U.S. National Park Service)

You will have fun so enjoy yourself, however because of the limited time I would try and minimise the road trips and focus on the destinations this time.
 

ozbeachbabe

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OK, so I might be getting this started a little early... but can't contain the excitement. It is also my very first detailed TR.

After a few weeks agonising about it, I finally booked the flights to begin what will be an almost-two week California (and Las Vegas) adventure in September.

When I say agonising, we had decided to do the trip... but were we going to stump up the extra $$$ to go QF J or save the $7k or so and go PE?

We were always going to go via SYD anyway to enjoy some FLounging before the long flight as Ms Chooms enjoyed the experience immensely last time we were there. I have a little over 120k QFF points and we were going to either use to upgrade from J -> F on the A380 from SYD-LAX or upgrade from PE -> J LAX-BNE.

In the end, I just went screw it... sprung for the J fare and look forward to (hopefully) enjoying F for the very first time.

So, the itinerary as it stands at the moment:

Day 1: The long day - BNE-SYD-LAX - including QF Dom J, SYD FLounge and Int'l J
Day 2: LA - including Sofitel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills
Day 3: LA
Day 4: LA
Day 5: Road trip - LA to Monterey - including The Clement Intercontinental Monterey
Day 6: Road trip - Monterey to San Francisco - including The Prescott San Francisco
Day 7: San Francisco
Day 8: San Francisco
Day 9: SFO-LAS - including UA or VX Y and Wynn Resort
Day 10: The Grand Canyon
Day 11: Vegas shopping
Day 12: Road trip - Las Vegas to LAX (may or may not include the drive via Death Valley)
Day 13: LAX-BNE - including new QF LAX JLounge and Int'l J

Any suggestions of activities, sights etc at any of these stops are most welcome.

I look forward to kick starting this off in September!
a) I'm not holding a gun to your head but I would probably elect to continue on to SFO on day 1 - just buy a cheap one way airfare LAX/SFO on the USA site of AA.com. Your bags can still be through checked to SFO from BNE but of course you need to clear customs first in LAX with your bags. Then you've got the AA Flagship Lounge to hang out at in T4 before your flight.

b) Re the coast drive LAX/SFO I haven't done the drive myself however feedback from others recommends driving from SFO down to LAX as driving on the right hand side of the road you get uninterrupted views of the coast. Possible have another night en-route between Monterey & LAX.

c) After a few days in LAX maybe take a rental car LA to Vegas.

d) Not sure if you plan to overnight in LAX prior to flying out to BNE but I wouldn't want to drive LAS/LAX then fly out same day. If you're hell bent on driving you could overnight at the Sheraton Four Points LAX on the 24/24 rate giving your a 24 hour stay from whatever time you checkin which needs to be prearranged at least 48 hours in advance. If you checkin at 1800 then that's your checkout time the next day so if you're out and about sightseeing during the day you can come back to the hotel (guest parking is free) have a shower then head off the the airport to checkin & some R & R in the F Lounge at LAX.

e) If you aren't stopping in LAX on the way home I would just buy a cheap one way airfare on AA LAS/LAX as they can through check your bags to BNE. If you have an Amex Plat charge or Centurion card you can use the new Centurion Lounge gratis at LAS Airport. If you have any other kind of Amex card the entry fee is USD50.00.

f) If you do still drive LAX to SFO then fly SFO/LAS there is an Amex Centurion Lounge opening in SFO in the (US) Summer 2014 which will be in concourse F opposite gate 75 so I'd book whichever airline who uses the departure gates closest to this.

g) Keep in mind that as a QF WP/OWE you'll get free baggage allowance in whY when flying on AA & US OW member airlines. Not sure if your VA Velocity silver gives you free bags on VX (some others here may be able to verify this). I do like flying on VX as their A319 fleet is super modern and a slick set up.
 

drron

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Ozbeachbabe has come up with a good suggestion.If you fly on to SFO you can then drive the pacific coast to Hearst Castle,take 2 days.Definitely better to drive south.Then drive from there to Las Vegas.The most direct route will take you past the Mojave desert boneyard and not as great a deviation to go via Death Valley-though if you do that take 2 days so you can truly experience Death Valley.
This way your driving is all over 1 period.There are no oneway charges between California and Nevada.
 

chooms

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Thank you for the suggestions everyone.

Have decided to take your advice and skip the long-distance driving all together.

Our most likely itinerary is now:

Day 1: The long day - BNE-SYD-LAX-SFO - including QF Dom J, SYD FLounge, Int'l J, and Dom AA.
Day 2: San Francisco – including The Prescott San Francisco
Day 3: San Francisco
Day 4: San Francisco
Day 5: SFO-LAX – including Dom AA
Day 6: LA
Day 7: LA
Day 8: LA
Day 9: LAX-LAS including Dom AA and Wynn Resort
Day 10: The Grand Canyon
Day 11: Vegas shopping
Day 12: Vegas
Day 13: LAS-LAX-BNE - including Amex Centurion Lounge, Dom AA, new QF LAX JLounge and Int'l J

The hotels aren’t set in stone, and I would be open to great suggestions that wont blow the budget but, ones that you would recommend in SFO and LA. The Wynn is pretty much set in stone as I get free nights there.

We will be getting a rental car in LA only as that is where we have been recommended to get one.
 

Homer

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That is looking a whole lot better IMHO. Are you a Centurion cardmember (you mention the Centurion lounge at LAS)? Because, if so, you also get a free night and guaranteed room upgrade at time of booking at the excellent Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas. We stayed there in June and thought it wholly deserved its #1 ranking on Tripadvisor. The MO in SFO is also good but they don't do the free night and, like SFO hotels generally, it's pricey. I'm a big fan of the West Hollywood area in LA and I've stayed maybe three times at The London West Hollywood. It's pretty good value for money too.
 
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jastel

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If you still want to drive in the USA hire a Ferrari/Lambo etc at Exotics Racing (or other companies) whilst the Mrs is hitting the shops in Vegas.
You go out to the Las Vegas Speedway and drive around a track near it, not the actual banked NASCAR track. Check availability as it shuts sometimes.
Other non gambling boys stuff to do while she shops is shoot machine guns, working pinball museum, Hoover Dam inside tour, go on all the rides at the Stratosphere and other Casinos.
Are you taking a road trip to the Grand Canyon or the chopper trip, both are great. Going to the south rim and standing on the edge is the best view but.

You could even drop a day out of LA, 2 days is plenty to see Hollywood and the Santa Monica Beach which is the main attractions.
Might be able to squeeze in PCH, a nice drive but better over 2 days, Hearst Castle is about the middle and a popular spot, do tour next morning and then into LA or LV.
Don't really have much time to waste but, traffic can be a bi...

I enjoyed Death Valley but barely got out of the car, was packed full of RV's and grey nomads and nowhere to stay (was winging it) so kept driving. Beautiful drive but, like the Nullabor.
Left LAX at 9am via Vasquez Rocks, Mojave (plane boneyard), right thru Death Valley, stopping to watch sunset at Zabriske Point and stopped at the Armagosa Opera House about 9pm.
Next day headed Nth and went right around Nellis/Area 51 to Tonopah, across the top and back down the ET highway, lunch at Rachel, UFO place and into Vegas about 3pm.
I do like driving fast in a Mustang but...

No need for a car in San Fran (hire as you leave if you do the drive) see Pier 39, Alcatraz, Angel Island is nice, Segway tour, cable car hanging off the side, the city tour gives you a good overview as well.
Can walk over the Golden Gate, or just look at it from the tourist view spot...very limited parking.
 
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