We did it! We were finally brave enough to tackle the West Coast iconic road trip — Vancouver to San Diego and Back! (I received some hotel stays and activities in order to write about them. All such posts will be identified as sponsored in my detailed articles to come.)
It was 5450 KM, and two weeks in the car with a family of five! ACK!
Here is the overview of our trip. I will be adding links to this post this week as I write about ALL of the cities and hotels and activities we enjoyed this past two weeks!
DISTANCE DRIVEN: 5450 KM | 3386 Miles
FUEL COSTS: $610 USD (approx $793 CAD)
WHAT WE DROVE: 2017 GMC Yukon XL
HOURS DRIVEN (APPROX): 24 there and 24 back
FAVOURITE STOP: San Diego, California
NOT TO BE MISSED IF YOU DO THIS: Redwood Forest, Disneyland, San Diego Hornblower Harbor Cruise
RELATED POSTS TO THIS TRIP:
1 – 13 APPS YOU NEED FOR YOUR NEXT TRIP
2 – NORTH BEND/COOS BAY, OREGON
3 – HILTON SAN FRANSISCO UNION SQUARE
4 – KID-FRIENDLY SAN FRANSISCO
5 – ROAD TRIP PACKING TIPS
6 – HOLLYWOOD WITH KIDS
7 – KID-FRIENDLY SAN DIEGO
8 – LA JOLLA SHORES HOTEL, SAN DIEGO
South Surrey, BC to North Bend, Oregon
819KM ~ an 8.5 hr drive including several coffees + fast food stops.
We took the I-5 all the way past Salem, Oregon and then broke away to drive West to the Coast from there.
North Bend, OR to San Fransisco, CA
854km ~ 10-hour drive including several sight-seeing stops and coffee + fast food stops.
We took the 101 Highway on this incredibly scenic drive and stopped at Bandon Dunes golf course, several beaches along the coast, and in the Redwood Forests (there are several State and National Redwood Forest Parks). This drive is mostly single lane highway and can be quite slow at times. Definitely stop at the Avenue of the Giants and drive through the massive Redwood trees! We even encountered a family of Elk on the roadside.
Driving into San Fransisco coming in on the 101 means you get to cross the iconic Golden Gate Bridge as you enter the city.
San Fransisco, CA to North Hollywood, CA
596 KM ~ 5.5-hour drive (depending on traffic, expect traffic in these two cities)
Come check out my Hollywood With Kids post!
As you leave San Fransisco, you will cross the Bay Bridge, another massive metal suspension bridge. This is an easy single lane highway drive, mostly through beautiful vineyards, farmland, and orchards. Expect traffic in both of these bustling cities!
We stayed at The Garland hotel because it’s a hip property, on the smaller side (I prefer low rise over high rise hotels) and had a free shuttle to Universal Studios which was 5 minutes away. I will write a full post about Hollywood with kids.
A note about Universal Studios versus Disneyland and California Adventure Park:
I asked my daughters (age 9, 12 and 14) if they would like to do Disneyland on this trip. We have visited Disneyland several times in the past but never Universal Studios. They all decided they would rather do Universal Studios this time if they had to choose just one. After our visit, however, we all came to the conclusion that we prefer Disneyland, and especially California Adventure Park for those with older children for its rides. We all enjoyed Universal Studios but the biggest downfall is its high number of 3D rides.
(we spent two nights in Hollywood)
North Hollywood to San Diego, CA
247 km ~ 3-hour drive
Expect traffic in both cities and along the way, there is almost always heavy traffic in Los Angeles and around San Diego.
We spent two nights at my sister’s home in San Diego so that we could spend time as a family! Then we wanted to stay beachfront in La Jolla, so we moved to the La Jolla Shores hotel for four nights.
San Diego was our end game, so we spent the most time in this amazing city. I will write a full post about kid-friendly San Diego and particularly the La Jolla Shores beachfront hotel. Hint: we LOVED it!
(we spent 6 nights in San Diego)
San Diego, CA to Las Vegas, NV
533 KM ~ 5-hour drive
We had originally planned to head back straight north through California again but decided while in San Diego that it would be fun to show the girls Las Vegas and go home a different route. Going East through Nevada and Idaho meant that we skipped all of the bad California traffic that can mar the I-5 throughout the State. I would highly recommend this route!
We encountered traffic in Riverside, but otherwise, it was a very easy drive. It’s a large highway the whole way, and it’s so interesting the way the landscape changes completely to desert on the way into Las Vegas. The drive is right through the Mojave Desert, over a few mountain ranges and into the flat desert of Las Vegas.
It was our very first time bringing the kids to Las Vegas. We have always told them that ‘kids aren’t allowed in Las Vegas’ when we go for our getaways as a couple. But we figured we’d swing by for one night on our trek home to show them the Strip and stay in a grand Las Vegas hotel. I’ll write more about this too! We stayed at the Delano at Mandalay Bay.
Las Vegas, NV to Boise, ID
1004 KM ~ 9.5-hour drive
It is such a unique drive, as you’re driving through flat desert, mountains, rock formations and then you start to come into the cornfields of Idaho. It was a long day, but worth it to make it halfway home from Las Vegas. It was mostly single lane until the last few hours where it was a large freeway with a 130km/hr speed limit. (80 M/hr)
Boise, ID to HOME!
989 KM ~ 9.5-hour drive
Driving out of the cornfields of Idaho into some hills, all with a wide freeway at 130 km/hour was an easy quick drive all the way to the Oregon border and then into Washington. We drove through the beautiful wine country of Washington State, where I spotted more vineyards than I have ever seen before. Driving through the Cascade Mountains is a full four-lane highway and a beautiful drive. The evergreens are tall and the scenery is now completely mountainous and more like what we’re used to in British Columbia.
I highly recommend doing this road trip with your family! We waited until the girls were old enough to cope with 10 hour car days. I could have spent a lot of time coming up with car games, podcasts for us all to listen to together and find other activities for us, but I didn’t. I made sure everyone had their devices, downloaded movies/shows, music, snacks, and tech prepped, but otherwise, they were fending for themselves on the road and they did just fine. Read my full post on Road Trip Packing!