The Ultimate Guide to a 12 Day West Coast USA Trip – Part 3

Death Valley to Las Vegas

Las Vegas! Also known as Sin City or the City of Lights, even the Gambling Capital of the World – whatever you’d like to call it, a West Coast road trip would not be complete without a stop in the famous city. Whether you’re big into party or not – Vegas really does have something for everyone, so don’t let its reputation deter you!

Here we are – Part 3 of the Ultimate Guide to a 12 Day West Coast USA Trip. I’m so glad you’ve stuck around for the ride ??. This final post will detail our trip from Yosemite to Las Vegas, via (the very, very hot & dry) Death Valley National Park.

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley was not a place that I particularly had my heart set on seeing, however it was relatively easy to include in our route from Yosemite to Vegas to break up the long journey for a night.

Plus, we were interested to experience the feel of the wide open desert road that seems to carry on straight as an arrow for ever and ever ?.

Where to Stay?

It took us about 6 hours to get from Yosemite Valley to the town of Olancha, where we spent the night in a super random motel on the side of the highway, that had a real Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibe to it ? (because of the surroundings, not the hosts!).

You can spend the night in Death Valley, however, similar to Yosemite, the accommodation options are not really budget friendly and there’s not a whole lot of them. If you’ve got the room in your budget to stay in the park, I’d recommend booking well in advance.

From Olancha, it was an easy and beautiful 90-minute drive into Furnace Creek (the heart of Death Valley). 

The Highlights of Death Valley

I had done some research on the highlights of Death Valley, and we tried to cover off on as many of these spots as possible. These sites included the Devil’s Golf Course, Badwater Basin, Artist’s Drive and Artist’s Palette, and Zabriskie’s Point.

Hot Tip – Don’t underestimate how spread out everything is. Only these few sights took us over 2 hours to cover in the car. 

Very Hot Tip – As its name would suggest, Death Valley is incredibly hot and dry. I had found a few other places I wanted us to see that morning that involved short 3-km walks, and there was no way we could manage them. Even walking 300m out onto the salt flats had us dying ?.

Were we just being soft? Maybe. But don’t forget, we had not had proper summer temperatures in over 10 months, so we struggled big time.

If you’ve got the time, and it’s somewhat on your way towards your next destination, Death Valley is worth a visit. I would highly recommend starting early in the day, take lots of water, and don’t run out of petrol out there ?.

Death Valley Specifics
  • Where we Stayed: Rustic Oasis Motel, Olancha – $60 USD in total for 1 night
  • Spend per Day: $50 USD each including accommodation*.

* Once again, we didn’t have to pay for a NP pass due to National Parks week! You can pay your park pass at the Park’s office in Furnace Creek if you haven’t got one already.

Las Vegas

Our last stop! Vegas ???

Las Vegas is an easy 2-hour drive from Furnace Creek. We had been looking forward to reaching Las Vegas for the most part of our trip – I guess Vegas has this air about it, the feeling that regular rules don’t apply here, which would make anyone excited right!? ??‍♀️

Where to Stay?

I think it’s pretty safe to say, if you’re not from this side of the world, you’ll most probably only visit Vegas once in your life… so make sure you do it right! While I don’t have experience with what it would be like staying anywhere other than the Strip, I wouldn’t recommend it. There is such a range of accommodation types and prices along the 6km strip, that you’re bound to find the right place for you.

We decided we would ‘splurge’ on accommodation and stayed at the Luxor.

Story Time…

 Now, I’d like to share a funny story about this stay, which really is the epitome of my boyfriend, Brandon ??‍♂️.

As I’ve eluded to previously, we were on a pretty tight budget for this trip (thanks Canadian ski season ?) and the fact that we were already splurging on a nicer hotel was making me quite anxious.

We arrived at Luxor and as we are standing in line to check in – I’m stressing big time… saying things like, ‘I can’t believe we are spending so much on this hotel’, ‘I wish we had saved more money, like, we’re in VEGAS babe!’… absolutely freaking out about the fact that we are finally in Vegas, with so little money to enjoy it to its full potential.

Anyway, Brandon reassures me, ‘It’s fine Dani – it will still be awesome to be here, and we worked so hard the last 6 months, we deserve this’.

Eventually, we get to the check-in counter and the lady finds our booking and straight away offers us an upgrade for an additional cost ?. Without missing a beat, my darling boyfriend blurts out…

“Yes please!”

Can you imagine my face? ??

I can’t even remember what the price difference was now, so it really wasn’t important, and I’m used to this kind of behaviour from him ?. I did come around to the upgrade – our room was really nice. We had a huge bed, with a view of the Strip and it was another way for us to ensure we really enjoyed Vegas!

The Highlights of Vegas

We didn’t really have certain expectations of our time in Las Vegas. We knew we wanted to spend some time relaxing by the pool, shopping at the Outlets, exploring the Strip, and I really wanted to see a Cirque du Soleil show, and we did all of that.

Just being in this city felt cool and fun – the vibe is amazing and just wandering the Strip, exploring the themed casino’s and people watching was fun in itself.

One of the highlights of Las Vegas for me was seeing a Cirque du Soleil show – it was amazing! The Bellagio fountain performances every night were also really cool. I would love to stay in one of those grand hotels one day ??‍♀️. 

Our biggest lowlight of Vegas, was getting majorly stitched up by time share advocates, which literally wasted almost our whole last day. That’s a story for another time, but let me tell you this – if someone promises you free concert tickets for just 1 hour of your time – DON’T BELIEVE THEM! ?.

Finally, I want to point out that we didn’t gamble or party once – Las Vegas really is a place for everybody to enjoy! That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t love to head back one day with all of our closest friends and experience the typical daytime Pool Parties ? or book a table at a premium nightclub ?. But for now, my time in Vegas was enough for me.

Las Vegas Specifics
  • Where we Stayed: Luxor $450 USD in total for 3 nights (plus daily resort fee of about $25 USD per day).
  • Spend per Day: $110 USD each per day including accommodation and Cirque du Soleil tickets.

That’s a Wrap!

Our final day and a half of our 12 day road trip was spent driving back to Los Angeles, and being completely and utterly exhausted (and penniless) from the last jam-packed 11 days.

We spent our last day in L.A. sleeping in, grabbing food from Hooters and seeing a movie – very normal stuff, in a very abnormal place. Considering we still had a week in Hawaii to explore, we were happy to have a down day.

Thanks so much for sticking around you guys ?! 

Some key takeaway’s from this trip that I’d love to leave with you are:

  • Our average spend sat around $50 USD daily, which included accommodation, food and gas!

I think most people would agree that this is pretty good, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow suit! There were times on the trip that I felt completely frustrated by our tight budget. Things like not being able to go out to a nice restaurant, and not being able to manage Universal Studios back in L.A. or for Brandon to drive a supercar in Vegas, really got to me.

At the end of the day, these things are just that – things! And we were still super lucky to be able to tick off these amazing spots.

  • This route can be done in less than 2 weeks, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

If you’ve only got 10 or 12 days to manage this route – you can do it! But if you do have the extra few days, slow it down – take the extra day in San Francisco, spend some time wandering Yosemite, plan the holiday so that you feel you’ve adequately covered all bases. Sometimes in the world of travel, less really is more. ?

Have you done this road trip before? How long did you spend on the trip? I would love to hear what your favourite part was in the comments below.

Now that this series is over, keep an eye out for my future posts on Hawaii ?? Coming soon!

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