Take an RV Trip Along the West Coast

Edited by Vanessa Alexandra Avisado, Nerissa Avisado, Graeme, Lynn and 8 others

Here is a common vacation scenario: People are sitting in the train station or airport, their luggage at their side, the children getting restless while they wait for their flight or train to be announced. This is a familiar situation that you yourself may have been through.

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If you've ever wanted to take a vacation that did not involve interminable periods of waiting in terminals and airports, or rushing to and fro with tour guides, you have probably wondered about taking an RV and just driving down the highway at your own relaxed pace. Imagine being able to take as much time as you want to enjoy breathtaking views, and discover the little diners that locals go to.

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If you do decide to hop on an RV for a vacation that is different from the ones you've taken in the past, know that you won't be alone on this journey. More than 7 million families in the US alone have an RV, a travel trailer, or some vehicle that allows them to take the family on road trips. Millions have joined clubs and registries that share knowledge and resources on RV travel, and thousands of those who have taken an RV through the west coast, plan to do so over and over again. As you learn more about what it's like to take this type of a break, you will have the experience of many seasoned RV travelers to draw from. You will find plenty of information to help you on your way as you go through RV friendly parks and tourist destinations dotted all along the west coast.

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Preparing for your RV adventure

The first thing you need to do in order to prepare for your RV adventure is to decide where you want to go, and match this with your vacation time. The number of places you'll be able to see depends on how long and when your break is. To make sure that your RV trip goes smoothly, here are some of the steps you need to take.

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  1. 1
    Decide on the places you'll be going.
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    Once you know how much time you have for your vacation, decide what places you simply must see. When you have the dates and the destination, you will have the basic ingredients of your travel itinerary.
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  2. 2
    Equip yourself with navigational tools.
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    Get yourself a good GPS, where you will input your destinations once your route is all set. Bookmark the online map of your travel plan. While you're at it, getting a big, old-fashioned map is actually an excellent idea. Put it up in the kitchen or family room, or wherever your family congregates. Cover it with a sheet of transparent plastic and use some markers to indicate the places you want to see.
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  3. 3
    Draft your travel plan.
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    Take a map of the area and mark the places where you will be going. Browse through RV travel guides and surf the internet to locate the most popular tourist spots and the campgrounds in their vicinity.  
    1. If you are traveling with kids, a big map is a good visual aid for them to have a comprehensive concept of the trip.
    2. You can even encourage them to do their own research on the different destinations; this will make the entire experience more meaningful for them.
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  4. 4
    Consult the experts.
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    Reinventing the wheel is always a bad idea, and it is the worst possible way to go if you are planning an RV trip. Talk to friends who have gone on this type of a vacation before, hook up with a club to get advice, and get yourself an RV trip planner.
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  5. 5
    Don't underestimate the usefulness of trip planners.
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    There are trip planners that will cover the most important features of the major routes that most RV travelers take. These planners will show you where to find the RV parks and accommodations you will need to camp or get your RV serviced. Most planners work pretty much like Mapquest or Yahoo Maps; you input your starting point and a destination, and then take note of places the trip planner will show you. Most planners allow you to customize your route by dragging it through the places you want to visit.
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  6. 6
    Plan what you need to pack.
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    If you are going on an RV trip for the first time, you will probably be tempted to bring your entire house with you. Plan what you need to pack. Knowing weather conditions in advance will help you decide which clothes (and how many pieces) to take with you.
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  7. 7
    Don't forget your first-aid kit.
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    A fully stocked RV first-aid kit is a must. This is a kit you must keep within reach, and it must have, at the very least, bandages, ointment, scissors, flashlights, batteries, a cellphone with an extra, fully charged battery, prescribed medications, doctor approved anti-allergy medicine and candles.
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  8. 8
    Plan activities to keep boredom and tension away.
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    Living in such confined quarters for days or weeks can be boring and stressful. Everyone wants to think of vacations as idyllic times when everything is fine with the world, but the reality is, children and adults do get bored and edgy, especially when they find themselves in cramped spaces. Plan parlor games, and bring books, cards, board games, magazines and DVDs. Most of all, make sure you stop now and then, just to stretch and walk around a bit.
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  9. 9
    Provide a realistic time frame for your vacation.
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    Make sure your schedule will allow you to stop when people are tired, or the driver needs to take a nap or stretch. Follow the most conservative time estimates for getting to point A, then B, then C. This way, you won't be pressured to keep driving beyond the point of exhaustion. Remember, a vacation is supposed to be a time to have fun with family and to relax not meet deadlines and reach a quota of places to see. Ultimately, as vacations and family trips unfold, it is sometimes not possible for everything to go as planned, but this doesn't mean the whole trip won't be the adventure you've always dreamed of.
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  10. 10
    Don't limit yourselves.
    I you meet someone in a diner who tells you about an old haunted hotel, or a ghost town, or some other fabulous-sounding adventure, don't be so rigid with your itinerary, that you can't take a few side trips on a whim.
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Some of the best destinations along the West Coast

When you talk about the West Coast of the United States, you are talking about one of the most traveled routes in the USA. The most popular coastal states for road travel in this part of the country include Washington, Oregon, and California. Here are the states and major cities around which you can build your RV trip:

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  • Seattle.
  • Washington.
  • Portland, Oregon.
  • San Francisco.
  • California.
  • Los Angeles.
  • San Diego.
  • California.
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Driving down Pacific Coast Highway. The serpentine Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most epochal American routes. Aside from being one of the most beautiful, it is a road that can be traveled almost any time of the year. Also referred to as Highway 1, this route weaves through the Pacific's shores and takes you through places like San Francisco, Big Sur National Park, Malibu, and Santa Barbara. Here are some of the places you might want to see:

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  1. 1
    Morro Bay and Morro Rock:
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    A nice, laid back town, nestled in a protected harbor, with a view of the rock that is actually an ancient volcano.
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  2. 2
    There's a winery, a pottery shop. You might want to stretch your legs and walk around and investigate this charming place.
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  3. 3
    Hearst Castle:
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    Built by Randolph Hearst, this castle has 165 rooms and sits on a 127-acre estate with gardens, terraces, pools, and three large guest houses. This is a good place for a bite to eat, restroom break, and a view of Spanish and Italian antiques.
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  4. 4
    Big Sur:
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    The beach, dining, and events that a lot of Californians take time to attend. You might be interested in a beach bonfire in Carmel, a horseback tour in Andrew Molera State Park, and a tour of the Pfeiffer lighthouse.
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  5. 5
    Santa Cruz:
    This is a pretty, ocean side city with a classic amusement park by the beach. You will find plenty of local art as you walk around the lively downtown area.
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  6. 6
    San Francisco:
    Most people treat San Francisco as the apex of their tour. It is a city that has such a lot to offer, you can easily spend three days there and feel like time has gone by too fast at the end of the day. You can walk the entire span of the Golden Gate Bridge, take time to eat clam chowder at the fisherman's wharf, ride a double-decker bus and a cable car, drive down the crooked road, see the Painted Ladies, and the Aquarium of the Bay.
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North of San Francisco along the Pacific Coast Highway you have Oregon and Seattle, two beautiful states that have a charm all their own.

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    Beautiful Oregon:
    Being in Oregon means having the privilege of enjoying nature while having access to cosmopolitan living. If the time of year is right, while your RV is conveniently and safely parked, you can try skiing along the slopes of Mt. Bachelor, take in a play during the Oregon Shakespeare festival, visit the Oregon Coast Aquarium, and walk through Portland's Pearl District and Nob Hill, where you will find galleries, artists' lofts, gourmet restaurants, and the chicest shops.
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  2. 2
    Unforgettable Seattle:
    You can spend time at the Pike Place Market, where you can find fresh fish and produce, ethnic groceries, vintage clothing, and international restaurants and cafes. Seattle has more than its share of historical sites, parks, and museums. You can take time for a boat excursion at the Blake Island Marine State Park, and ride a seaplane for a view from up in the sky of this great city.
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Tips, Tricks and Warnings:

The West Coast has such a lot to offer, it is impossible to enjoy all the destinations in one trip - unless you go against the very reason why you are opting for an RV trip - a leisurely, relaxed pace. To make the most of your adventure, consider the following tips:

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  • Don't try to see too many places in one vacation. Take time to enjoy each stop.
  • Know beforehand where you will be stopping to park. Choose only full service stops. These are usually safer, better lit, and less prone to be visited by criminals.
  • Always know your exact location. You need to be able to direct people accurately, should there be a need to do so.
  • Make sure you have a good smoke alarm and a carbon monoxide detector. Get specific instructions on what precautions to take about the presence of carbon monoxide in the RV.
  • Never leave the generator on when you are sleeping.
  • Check and double check your vehicle paneling and check under your RV for any leaks. Do the same for your gas, oil, transmission fluid, coolant and wiper fluid, etc.
  • Before you take it to the open road, practice driving the RV. Get the feel of the vehicle and be familiar with the way you should maneuver it when you have to park, reverse, or take sharp corners.
  • Check the weather conditions along your route.

Questions and Answers

West coast RV rental how long do we need to get from LA to Seattle?

We would like to do a multi family (multi RV) trip for about 5-7 days up or down the west coast. We would like to do Big Sur, see the redwoods and make our way up to Portland and Seattle.

You should allocate 5 hours of driving time daily to complete the trip up the coast in 7 days. Make sure to consider time spent at tourist locations as well as research if the locations are RV compatible. Driving straight up the coast with no stops takes about 18 hours and the 5 hours should give you more than enough time to complete the trip in 7 days.

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I'm gathering info about RV in California & other neighboring states?

I'm gathering info about RV in CA because we want to make such a tour next year, approx May/June 2016. I have tried: Flight & RV booked. I think it was caused by: Again.... nothing special

Look for RV parks along the Pacific Coast Highway. Check out State/National Parks as they are not only affordable but are located in scenic areas like Big Sur. If you are planning on visiting Big Sur, a next location stop worth staying and seeing is Yosemite National Park, and from there onto San Francisco if you are traveling from the south. From the north, you would just reverse the itinerary. Be aware that many towns and cities in California are not equipped to handle large RVs on their roads.

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What is the best destination and route from Seattle to LA?

Hi, we (our family with kids) want to do an RV trip from Seattle to LA. What is the best route and the best destinations to visit in 6 days? We are fans of mountains. Thank you. I have tried: Went to Yosemite national park already

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Am traveling from LA to Seattle around New Years. Is it too cold to enjoy the sites?

We would like to do a family RV trip over the Christmas/New Year's holiday but I am concerned that the weather will be too cold. We aren't beach goers. We'd rather hike, fish, sight see. Timing might not be ideal - looking for an affordable RV trip over the upcoming holidays.

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