Nov 10, 2015

Making Travel Plans

Planning vacations is one of my favorite things to do. I'm typically that person who's planning their next trip on the plane or car ride home from the previous trip. However, that hasn't been the case this year for some reason. Our last trip was in May and until recently we haven't started planning another one yet! So unlike us. Jared and I have bounced around a lot of ideas so far about what we'd like our 2016 vacation to be and we think we've finally settled on heading out WEST!

The only problem? There is so much to see out West we almost don't know where to begin. The loose plan we're thinking about involves the Grand Canyon, a night in Vegas (convincing Jared I need to see Celine Dion in my lifetime) and then exploring southern parts of California. Neither of us have seen any of those things. There are just so many options and variations of this trip that we kick around weekly... we need help! 
For those of you who have been to California, what was your favorite part or must-do's? I'd love to be touristy and see Hollywood and L.A. and such, but possibly sneak down to Anaheim for a day of Disneyland fun as well. (Are you surprised?) I also really want to get to the coast since I've never set eyes on the Pacific Ocean.

It's tough, because I'd love to spend about 3 weeks out west exploring and seeing everything, but that's just not realistic. We're looking at next Spring but have no set dates and we're thinking our trip will be roughly 10 days. We're honestly just in the beginning stages of plans but I want to make them more concrete. Since my window to travel is so limited due to work, I want to request my time off as soon as possible.

Is our plan terrible? Is that a good time of year to visit or does it matter? Should we skip Vegas and travel somewhere else? Do we just need one day at the Grand Canyon? The floor is open- suggestions welcome :)

45 comments:

  1. You definitely should go to Vegas! And San Diego - SO pretty! If you do go to SD, you'll have to venture over to Coronado too!

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  2. I think y'all would have a blast in Vegas, especially if you seen Celine Dion! Plus there's so many great places to eat in Vegas too!
    The coast in California is some of the prettiest stretches of land in the USA in my opinion and I think y'all would have a blast! LA is fun with a lot to do and see, but I would also add San Diego to your list. It's a lot more laid back and chill than LA is and you would probably enjoy the beaches there a lot!
    And a big vote yes to visiting Disneyland while you're there! I haven't been and all of my friends say that it's smaller than Disney Workd is, but it's still Disney!
    Can't wait to hear what y'all decide on!

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  3. Definitely do SoCal! I'm much more of an expert on the central coast, but there are gorgeous beaches down there, and driving through Hollywood and Beverly Hills and Malibu is so fun. Just be prepared to need therapy after driving in LA traffic. Also, I'm NOT a fan of Vegas, but the Reno/Tahoe area is stunning. You can't go wrong when Lake Tahoe, though it is much farther north. San Diego is also great!

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  4. This is so exciting! I vote yes to Vegas. We've been there a couple times and really enjoyed it. We saw a cirque du soleil show and loved it. I also vote for San Diego. I went in college for a basketball tournament so didn't get to see a lot but what we did see, was beautiful. Definitely a place I went to go back to. I liked LA, but it wasn't my favorite. We did a touristy tour up in the Hollywood hills which was kind of cool. But I didn't think the city itself was that great. Maybe it was the traffic. Or the smog :)

    Sounds like fun! Can't wait to hear what you decide. I think Wisconsin is right on your way home too ;)

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    1. A show and good food is our main reason for wanting to stop in Vegas! ;) And I've heard so many good things about San Diego- it's definitely been on our radar as well.

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  5. I must say, I think Vegas is totally overrated, overpriced, and not necessarily worth your time. That said, if you're planning on driving from Grand Canyon to L.A, a stop in Vegas is kinda on the way. If you can get cheap/easy Southwest flights, I'd skip Vegas and maybe add in Santa Fe NM. It is so magical and the best food!

    I think one or 1.5 days in Grand Canyon is plenty-- especially if you are not trying to hike around. There is *nothing* to do in the town near the park. I'd recommend timing it so that you can see either the sun rise or sun set and you'll feel like you've had the ultimate experience. I remember being completely awestruck by the views but then after stopping at a few of the vistas kind feeling like, "oh, yeah, i already saw this. still awesome but pretty much the same as the last one."

    Another alternative idea that I recommend (x100,000) is doing Grand Canyon and flying to San Fran or LA and then driving along the coast on route 1. It is cliche and touristy but there are so many great sights to see along the way and you'll get so much of the beautiful Pacific Coast. I'm such a sucker for San Fran (way better than LA) and there are so many great things to do in the Bay Area http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/road-trips/california-pacific-coast-road-trip/#/motorcycle-pacific-coast-highway_89956_600x450.jpg

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    1. If we stop in Vegas it would likely only be for one night. I really just want to see an awesome show there and eat some good food- but now you have me looking at Santa Fe, too! Thanks for that recommendation :) I'm excited to see the Pacific Coast!!

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  6. That sounds like so much fun! I've been trying to convince all my friends to do something like this but no luck so far :( haha

    As a Vegas lover I say definitely don't skip it!

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  7. Oh, Grand Canyon is a YES. A day hike isn't nearly enough to see or experience everything, but it'll make you feel things you've never felt before (in awesome, incredible ways)! A walk around any of the rims will have plenty of great pictures and sights. And if you have end up going out to the Palm Springs area of Cali (which is sort of far away, but insanely pretty) there are mountain views and a cute downtown with lots to eat... and do. ALSO - Tahoe. It's the best. Makes you feel small and great and grateful.

    Also, take me with you please and thank you :)

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  8. yay for travelling!! Grand Canyon in on my list... some day lol

    www.confessionsofafrumpymommy.com

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  9. I just want to go everywhere and see it all, I totally hear you. Always planning some trip, no matter how far away it might be! I can't wait to really go west, but so far all I've done in that direction is a few days in San Diego a few years ago when my friend lived there for a bit. I don't know if that's geographically logical for this trip, but it is a GORGEOUS place and should be seen at least once!

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  10. I don't think you'd need a lot of time in L.A.... you could see the coast in Santa Monica for 1/2 day then spend the the other half and the next day exploring L.A., Beverly Hills, etc. I actually wasn't a big fan... the touristy spots were a little trashy and the rest of the city wasn't nearly as glitz and glam as I thought!

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  11. I think your plan is wonderful, even if it is "unrealistic" {days traveling}. I highly recommend the Grand Canyon!

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  12. I would love to go out west some day! The farthest west I've ever been is West Virginia hahaha. My sister went on a long trip out west a few years ago with her school, and she said Zion National Park was the most gorgeous place she'd ever seen in her life. Even the pictures were breathtaking. Although the most exciting part of your trip might be seeing Celine - that's on my bucket list! :)

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  13. I just got back from the Grand Canyon last week! My husband and I had 1.5 days there, but spent 1 full day hiking 3100 feet below the rim and back up. If you aren't going to do any big hikes, I think 1 day is enough time to drive to the viewpoints and still feel like you got a good experience. We only did the South Rim, and everyone kept telling us the North Rim is better/less touristy, but it's like a 5 hour drive between them. We also did Bryce and Zion, and Zion is my new favorite National Park. Especially if you want to be active, there is a ton to do in Zion.
    Vegas is something everyone should experience once. And I second the recommendation to drive on the Pacific Coast Highway...and drive South on it so you can look right out at the ocean the whole time!
    I'm jealous of you guys already...you can't go wrong with California or the National Parks, so you will have a great trip!!

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  14. Celine Dion!!!!! So much yes. I think you can't go wrong with the West coast - it just looks so gorgeous!!! :)

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  15. Besides Celine Dion, I would say skip Vegas. BUT it is something to see once, just to say you have. I don't think you would need a night there though besides the show. If it's possible, try and see an early show and then make the drive (are you driving? if not you can get a cheap flight or a bus ride to LA). I highly recommend San Diego if you can make it there, La Jolla is gorgeous, drive up and down the pacific if you go to SD. Anaheim is totally worth it, California Adventure is my favorite of all time. The last time I went, we decided to spend one night in different areas of Southern California. We did Huntington, La Jolla, West Hollywood, Santa Monica, and a few others, but they were my favorites. Also, Universal Studios is pretty great! I can't wait to read about your trip!

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  16. To maximize your time, I'd maybe pick a starting point and fly there, rent a car then fly from an ending point. I've considered that for doing a Cali trip - I'd start in San Fran/napa then work my way down the coast and leave from San Diego.

    If you've not been to Wyoming or Colorado those are must see also.

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  17. I have not been to California or the Grand Canyon but I have been to Vegas & I loved it there - the shows are the best part, I think. One of these days, I too would like to make it out to California but the hubby isn't as keen on the idea as I am. :\

    Good luck with your planning!

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  18. Definitely have to go to Disney!! I went there once on my birthday and it was so fun! Yellowstone and mt Rushmore are always great too. Although kind of opposite directions I think!

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  19. So exciting!!! The only reason we went to LA was to check the baseball stadia off our list. I'd say don't bother, but given your love of Disney, if you're going to be out there you might want to swing it so you can hit Disneyland. I kind of wanted to go just to see what it was all about, but we didn't build it into our schedule (I didn't realize we were literally going to be right next to it at the Angels stadium until we actually got there). We saw their fireworks as we were leaving the Angels game so I guess that's close enough, haha.
    The one thing we did in LA that was awesome and actually one of my favorite things we did on the whole trip was hike up to the Hollywood Sign (I've had a post about it sitting in my drafts, thanks for reminding me :)). We had breakfast at a place in Hollywood that morning and we walked around for like 10 minutes, then drove down Rodeo Drive and through Beverly Hills on the way to go hiking, and that was plenty for me! The hike was AMAZING! You get great views of the whole city from there. It only takes a few hours and is definitely worth doing.
    I liked San Francisco much better than LA, and we did some fun stuff and the Golden Gate Bridge was cool, but I'm not dying to go back. My favorite place we went was Big Sur. So unbelievably beautiful, you just have to see it with your own eyes.
    We wanted to get down to San Diego too but since we started so far north, we just didn't have time on this trip. But it worked out because now I think we're going to save it for a future trip where we'll do a big loop of southern California, Arizona (since we have to hit Phoenix for Chase Field), the Grand Canyon, and maybe Vegas for like 5 minutes just to say we did it.

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  20. I would probably skip Vegas - that's a quick weekend trip you can do anytime. :) Just my 2 cents.

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  21. A trip out west sounds so fun!!! If I were in vegas, not only would I need to see Celine....I would need to see Britney out there too! Hahaha! So much to see in CA, it would be hard to narrow down!!!

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  22. Oh how fun! So I haven't traveled west much, but I did go to Anaheim when I was in high school for a DECA trip. We did Disney and to be completely honest, I was so underwhelmed. I had (and still haven't) been to Disneyland so my expectations were SO HIGH. When we saw the castle I kept asking if that was the real one because it looked so small... so, being the big Disney fans you guys are you may still love it or you may be disappointed since its not as amazing as I've heard Disneyworld is! That's really my only tidbit since I haven't been too many places but you guys are going to have a blast no matter what you do!!

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  23. I love Vegas, so I definitely don't think you should skip it. It's not all gambling and drinking. It can be, but I have been 3 times and the most gambling I did was put $5 in the pokies (slot machines). I love the shows, the shopping, the pools. I also don't mind a drink or two lol. But, like anywhere, it can be what you make it. I love love love Disneyland. I went there first, before WDW, so it is kind of my favourite for that reason, though a lot of people prefer WDW. I like that Disneyland is smaller, and that the parks are so close. I spent like 1 day in LA though, so no opinions / advice there. we saw a few LA type things and the Hollywood sign from afar and that was enough for me. The grand canyon is gorgeous though. can't wait to hear all about it!

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  24. One of the things I hate the most about Trip Advisor is when people say "that's too much - you can't fit that in." If you map it out and know yourselves and what you can do / how long you can be in a car in a day, I say go for it.

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  25. Personally, I would skip Vegas (or spend only one night max there) unless you are really into gambling/drinking/etc. The show aspect would be about the only thing worth it there in my opinion! We just came back from 10 days in California. I think you saw most of those recaps - but I can't really express how amazing that Hwy 1 drive was for us. SOOOO beautiful!! It was my favorite part...easily! We really enjoyed San Fran as well, but I would suggest either northern or southern CA if you are going to spend time in a couple of other cities (AZ, Vegas) as well. It was really tough for us to fit in San Fran, San Diego, and LA in the 10 days we had even though we weren't driving the entire time. We flew from San Diego up to San Jose to cut out about a days worth of driving. I can been on a Hollywood/Disneyland vacation with my family that was fun when we were a bit younger. Focusing on that area would give you PLENTY to do. California is certainly not a place lacking in the what should we do next category! Happy to give you my thoughts on various cities/areas as you continue to plan!! Whatever you do out there...it will be awesome!! Going west is a great idea!!! :)

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  26. I've lived in San Diego my whole life and you have to make it a must see on your list! Vegas is fun but one day is plenty! Disneyland is awesome and I totally think you can fit it all in. I'm not a huge Hollywood fan because to me the traffic is a nightmare! For me, that would be last priority. Let me know if you need any help! I just planned a trip up the entire coast of California with my family and we had the best time! Good luck!

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  27. Idaho is out west too you know.. haha just kidding. California would definitely be a better destination for vacation! If you do the Grand Canyon area I would definitely recommend Lake Powell. It is a beautiful turquoise blue lake in what looks like the Grand Canyon ( I think it might be an extension of it). Such a pretty place and you might be able to do a boat tour or something! Google Lake Powell for pictures, you'll see what I mean!

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  28. I like your plan! If neither of you have been to Vegas I think you should do a night there. Walk up & down the strip, watch the free fountain/pirate shows, & check out Fremont street. I've never been to the Grand Canyon or California so I can't really speak on either of those.

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  29. Oooooh. I love reading about vacation plans and vacation recaps from real people with real budgets :) Travel bloggers make me jealous. I think that sounds like a wonderful idea!!! I've been to Vegas and it's a little crazy, but it's fun.

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  30. We really wanted to do the WEST for our honeymoon but there is soooo much to do, we were kind of lost. You definitely should do Vegas, it's fun to experience. If you stay between tues-thurs hotels are mega cheap!!

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  31. Of your list, I've only been to Vegas. We actually did our honeymoon there- which quite honestly was too long- but a night there would be perfect! Definitely find a good show- we saw Love- the Cirque du Soleil Beatles show...it was AMAZING!!

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  32. This is an amazing plan! Admittedly, I've never seen the Grand Canyon, but I will stress that you should not skip Vegas. I'm not a gambler or a drinker, but I still LOVE Vegas. You can find plenty to do there (and honestly it's mostly free) and I highly recommend seeing a show, particularly Beatles' Love. My family has a timeshare in Vegas, so I have about one million suggestions if you're interested. Also, southern California is a great choice. I'm not going to lie - if you skip anything, I'd suggest skipping downtown LA. It's so touristy and actually quite disappointing...it didn't live up to my expectations at all. However, you could get free tickets to a live taping and make it worth the stop. San Diego is gorgeous, as are all the other little beach towns in Southern California (La Jolla, in particular). I've never been to Disneyland, but knowing you, I think you should definitely include that in the itinerary. ;) Can't wait to see what you choose to do! Let me know if you want any suggestions about Vegas/Southern Cali (my brother used to live there). You're going to have a BLAST!

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  33. I've only been out to San Diego, but I loved it! Definitely recommend. It's gorgeous. I've heard mixed reviews if Vegas. It might one of those things you do to say you did it but it really spend a bunch of time there. I would love to see the Grand Canyon! That's on my list. Sounds like a fun trip, whatever you decide!

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  34. I was born and raised (and still live) in Southern California - Orange County to be exact :) And I've been to the Grand Canyon a few times & Vegas lots of times since it's only a 4 hour drive from SoCal. So here are thoughts from a SoCal native.

    Personally, I think you only need one day at the Grand Canyon, unless you want to do lots of hiking and exploring. It's a beautiful place, but I think it can be done in one full day - you can go on some great hikes, go for a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon, kayak in the Colorado River, etc. Then you can have more time for other things!

    Regarding Vegas, you HAVE to go! I've been about a dozen times & still love going. Awesome shows & the best food! It's such a fun, vibrant place. I've heard amazing things about the show O by Cirque du Soleil. But of course, there's also Britney Spears and Celine Dion in Vegas ;) There is an endless supply of amazing restaurants in Vegas, so I definitely suggest using Yelp to find some great places. And you CAN’T miss out on a buffet! Vegas is also famous for its amazing, amazing buffets at the different hotels. The best ones are Wicked Spoon buffet in the Cosmopolitan, Bacchanal buffet in Caesar’s Palace, and Paris Le Village buffet in the Paris hotel. The best time to go is probably brunch or dinner! Aside from the food, walking the strip at night and seeing the Bellagio Fountain Show at night are also fun things to do!

    And about SoCal, Disneyland is of course a must  You can spend two or three days just at the Disneyland/California Adventure parks (right across from each other). But if you only have one day, start early! Los Angeles and all the touristy things there is also a good idea. You can go to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, take a Starline tour, visit the amazing restaurants, etc. You can also tour the stadiums/arenas (Staples Center where the Lakers/Clippers/Kings play; Dodgers Stadium) or actually go to a game. If you go to a Dodgers game, you have to get a Dodger dog (hotdog) and their yummy garlic fries! There’s also the Anaheim Stadium where the Angels play. It’s right next to Disneyland! And there’s the Honda Center where the Anaheim Ducks. Lots of choices!

    [continued in comment below...]

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  35. Aside from LA though…I think there’s a lot cooler stuff you can do & a lot prettier stuff you can see away from LA  As far as beaches in SoCal go, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, and Laguna Beach are all beautiful. There’s also a lot to do near those beaches as well. In Huntington (which is the biggest/has the most space), there’s Main Street which is fun to explore. In Newport, there’s lots of restaurants/bars/shopping to do (Mama D’s Italian Kitchen is a must to eat at if you go to Newport). If in Laguna Beach, there’s also lots of restaurants/shopping to do. But… my FAVORITE part of SoCal is San Diego.  San Diego is amazing. There’s so much to see, do, and explore. Aside from Qualcomm Stadium where the Charger’s play and Petco Park where the Padres play, there’s Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach, and Mission Beach (parts of San Diego) just to a new a few. My favorite is Pacific Beach. There’s also La Jolla and Coronado Island to explore. All amazing!!! Balboa Park is awesome, there’s also the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park which are both beautiful/fun places to visit. There’s Seaport Village to explore, Hotel del Coronado (on Coronado Island), the Gaslamp Quarter district (downtown San Diego), etc. So much to do! As far as food goes…everything. Just everything ;) But really, Phil’s BBQ is a must, as is Hodad’s, and Extraordinary Desserts. Bike riding around San Diego, kayaking, and paddle boarding are also options.

    And one last thing! You can take the train from LA down to Anaheim and down to San Diego. SoCal traffic is absolutely horrible between the hours of 2:30 and 7:30 pm during the weekdays. Stay away from it! Take the train when possible. So sorry for this novel post, but I had so much to say!  Have an amazing trip and feel free to contact me if you have any questions!

    P.S. - Spring is the PERFECT time to visit the West!

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  36. We did a trip out west this year! We followed the Reds and started in Phoenix, and rented a car and went all the way from PHX to San Diego, then up the California coast and ended up in Seattle!
    I've been to Vegas but I made that a separate trip.

    Definitely do San Diego. It's gorgeous and there is a TON to do. LA didn't impress me much. WAAAAAY too much traffic and it just stressed us out. We decided *if* we ever go back, that we will do public transportation.
    I have TONS of things that we did, well, besides baseball of course. San Diego we did the USS Midway, spent an afternoon out at Coronado and went to Cabrillo. There is a little spot just a bit north of SD called La Jolla- sea lions just bathe right on the rocks and you can walk right up to them! It was so neat!!
    Los Angeles- I am SO sad that we didn't have time for Disney. But, we did studio tours of Sony and Warner Brothers. DEFINITELY do WB. I can't begin to tell you how awesome that tour was. We did the touristy stuff like walk the Walk of Fame-- which, unless you're looking for a particular star, it's kinda boring. We did a tour of the TCL Chinese Theatre which was super awesome! We went to Beverly Hills and Rodeo- not for us. haha!!
    And from there, we went to San Francisco, Portland and Seattle!!
    It was a fun trip and I am sure you'll have a blast over there!

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  37. Ahhhhh you're coming to my home!! AZ!! :) And believe it or not... I've never been to the grand canyon haha obviously I need to fix that! But everything sounds like it will be amazing!! In Vegas, go to the coke a cola factory and try all the cokes from around the world! As far as cali, bring lots of spending money because the beach boutiques are my FAVORITE ever!! They're full of the cutest clothes that you can literally find no where else! Beach hop and for sure check out Santa Monica Pier if you are in that area at all! SD is AMAZING!! I love California and the beaches never disappoint. You have an amazing trip planned!! I'll try to think of more fun things :) Hollywood + LA (as you mentioned) are amazing and have so many fun touristy things to do!! Yay for fun trips!!
    xo C

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  38. I literally have a post tomorrow talking about NYE travels plans so you are a girl after my own heart!! :) I think this sounds like a fabulous trip! We haven't seen enough of out west and are actually considering doing a Pacific Coast Highway trip for NYE. Which is in like a few weeks so we really need to get planning, ha!

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  39. Ooh 10 days out west - so fun! We did Grand Canyon a couple of years ago as a little side trip when going to visit my sister in Phoenix, and it was amazing. I think we were there only a day and a half or so, but it was November and a little cold for hiking, or we would have stayed longer. But definitely it's a place I would recommend seeing, even if just a day trip. You think you kind of know what the Grand Canyon is from seeing a million photos and think it'll be cool, but then you get there and it is so much more amazing than anticipated.

    Also, my sister and her husband used to drive to Vegas occasionally when they lived in Phoenix. They are artsy vegans so not typically someone who I'd think of in Vegas, but they always thought it was fun to wander through the hotels and see a Circque de Soliel show and get some good food. Plus hotels usually give you good upgrades and such in Vegas (trying to entice people to casinos) so they usually got decent deals. I've never been, but it does sound like a place that might be fun to see for one night of your life.

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  40. What an AWESOME idea for a trip!! We used to live in Phx and now live in Charlotte! I've actually never been to the Grand Canyon and I've lived in Phx basically my whole life, haha, but I've heard it's gorgeous!!!

    Vegas is so fun - do that for sure!!! And SoCal is really beautiful too! It might be easier to just do two of those three things depending on time. Hope you have a wonderful time!!! :)

    - Sarah www.thefrugalmillionaireblog.com

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  41. We aaaaaaalmost did Grand Canyon and Vegas when we went out West, but decided to just make it a Cali only trip instead. If I ever go to Vegas I MUST SEE Celine Dion. MUST. I squealed when I read you said that up there. Haha!

    Disney is also a must, obviously.

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  42. I agree with some people above who say that apart from Disney, nothing much else to enjoy in Los Angeles. The surrounding areas like Oxnard and Santa Barbara are nice. LA and Santa Monica are just way to busy for my taste. I constantly go to San Diego so I am biased into saying that is the nicest part of California. (I have general recaps of those trips on my blog)

    Seeing as I live in Arizona, you would think I have been to the Grand Canyon, but nope...still on my list! Same with Vegas...but oh Celine! She is an idol!

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  43. Having lived in southern CA for 10 years, I feel like I'm fairly qualified to answer :) Actually, if you want, feel free to send me an email with specific questions and things to do!

    Overall, I would recommend driving up 1 to Santa Barbara and then up to Big Sur - absolutely beautiful!

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