Where to stay and how much to pay on the West Coast?
August 15, 2007 5:22 PM   Subscribe

Have I got the right budget for my LA->SF drive? What are the hotels / motels really like? Are there any "bargain" towns or price blackspots?

My wife and I are planning to fly to Los Angeles, hire a convertible, and do the clich├ęd drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco over a period of about a week with stays in LA and SF at each end. There are 12 total "nights" to budget for. Dates are approximately Oct 30 -> Nov 11.

I've budgeted $2800 ($233.33 per night) for the accommodations. But.. looking around the net, all I can find is marketing bumph and hot air (and overpriced "luxury" hotels). Is it practical to drive the coast, and find a reasonably comfortable non-seedy place each night without bookings and spend $233.33 per night on average? If we can spend far less than that, all the better, and we'll spend the difference on better hotels in LA and SF.

Basically, if you know these areas, or have done this trip before, we're looking for any and all advice on the accommodation front that you can give :) Thanks in advance!

(Note: We have no particular places we want to stay at on the drive, other than Santa Cruz for at least one night.. so your suggestions could shape our whole trip)
posted by wackybrit to Travel & Transportation around California (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'd book in advance, if at all possible. I was once in a similar situation (driving from LA to San Diego late at night, one of us got sick and the car became unbearable so we decided to stop as we still had 2 hours to go) and we stopped at several motels before finding one that would give us a room. And it turned out to be the smoking room, which was arguably worse-smelling than the barf car.

That said, I think your budget seems pretty reasonable. Although with 7 days to drive, you'll be driving about 1 hour per day on average, unless you drive really slow...why not go faster and spend more time on either end, or in the middle?
posted by crinklebat at 5:31 PM on August 15, 2007

Best answer: Your budget for accomodations seems pretty reasonable for an average.

Just make ABSOLUTELY sure that you stay at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo. I suggest the Caveman Room, but there are many others to choose from if the Caveman Room's not to your taste.
posted by dersins at 5:45 PM on August 15, 2007

The Madonna Inn?
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:45 PM on August 15, 2007

Best answer: If you don't require fancy amenitites, you might enjoy Ripplewood Resort in Big Sur. Try to get one of the cabins down by the river!
posted by scody at 5:48 PM on August 15, 2007

If you're here on a Friday or Saturday, do not count on getting a room in Santa Cruz without a reservation. I've worked the front desk at a couple and it was a rare night when the place didn't fill up by 5 or 6 PM. Your chances on weekdays are better, but still not guaranteed.

Also, keep in mind that hotels lower their walk-in rates as it gets later, since they're motivated not to leave any rooms empty if they can help it, even if it means selling them at half the "rack" rate. One other tip: ask for the rate for 2 people nonsmoking etc., and then, after they answer, ask them what their Triple-A discount is. Usually they'll knock 10% off the rate with no haggling at all, and nobody ever actually asks for your AAA card. And if you're a haggler, go to town; the hotel industry is one of the few places where it's expected, and the desk clerk is often also the franchise owner, meaning they'll be motivated to make you a deal.

Once you've got your plans firmed up you should let me know when you're gonna be in town, we can put together a little meetup.

And also: everyone's right, the Madonna Inn is a must. Even if you decide it's too expensive to stay, stop and have a drink or just use their restrooms. You won't be sorry.
posted by contraption at 6:04 PM on August 15, 2007

You can definitely do the Madonna Inn for less than two hundred bucks. Last Thanksgiving, we had a little two-room suite (one queen and two twins) for $180.

You'd be a fool not to at least visit it, it's insane.
posted by padraigin at 6:13 PM on August 15, 2007

The easy answer to all US hotel questions: Priceline. Go to their hotels page, pull up "name your own price" for the Central Coast area, and consult Better Bidding's forum on that area for bidding tips and expected prices. You can probably find something for $50 per night if you don't want super high quality, and certainly less than $100 for a really good place (heck, even in NYC you can get a good room for less than $100).
posted by rxrfrx at 6:25 PM on August 15, 2007

Treebones Resort
posted by hortense at 6:27 PM on August 15, 2007

While in San Francisco, I had good luck at the relatively seed-free, inexpensive Holiday Inn Golden Gateway.
posted by charmston at 8:52 PM on August 15, 2007

If you want to spend a night or two in Big Sur, I can recommend the spectacular views of the Lucia Lodge, perched on cliffs high above the Pacific. Skip dinner at the tiny restaurant there, though, in favor of dinner at Nepenthe, which is a fantastic restaurant.

I do suggest reserving in advance.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:55 PM on August 15, 2007

I also recommend booking in advance, at least for the major cities - you will have a better chance of finding decent lodging under your budget. Maybe you can wing it on the drive in between. I think your budget sounds reasonable. Don't forget to factor in tax and parking, which can add a lot. I think the hotel tax is 14%.

Use Trip Adviser for a listing of favorite hotels and B&Bs (as rated by site users) and average cost for each city you consider - here's San Francisco and here's Los Angeles. You can shop by price/favorites, and then read reviews. You can see maps of locations, get quotes or book from major travel services, and read reviews. Many users are now posting their own photos too. It's a great research tool!

When I last stayed in the L.A. area, I used Santa Monica as a base. I stayed at the The Georgian which I got for about $170 a night on a package price - a nice stay. Much more economically, I tried to stay at the Sea Shore Motel - great location, a funky place, and a great bargain! Alas, they were full.
posted by madamjujujive at 11:24 PM on August 15, 2007

If you're here on a Friday or Saturday, do not count on getting a room in Santa Cruz without a reservation.

Yes. SC can be packed on the weekends!

I'd suggest the Coast Santa Cruz . Not overly expensive. Really nice views, great rooms.
posted by radioamy at 8:43 AM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the answers guys! I started to mark best answers, but then I realized all of them are great, so didn't want to litter the page ;-)

The Madonna Inn looks like a must-see, and we'll probably take the advice regarding booking places. Will probably try Cambria too. Also looking at Priceline and all of the other hotels and motels suggested.. thanks! Might try that Sea Shore Motel for a day while in LA!

If there's anyone on Route 1 around that time who doesn't mind getting dinner with a young English couple with a penchant for Americana, diners, and travel in general, do leave a comment! I'll drop you a note later contraption, from what I've read of Santa Cruz it sounds like we'll love it.
posted by wackybrit at 3:42 AM on August 17, 2007

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