SF to DLR, Flying vs. Driving?

PlutoIsTheBest

Earning My Ears
Joined
Dec 31, 2018
We're heading to Disneyland in February (me, wife, DS5, DS2) for a Tuesday-Friday trip. My parents and my sister's family are flying from the east cost into LA on Monday and out on Saturday or Sunday; they have other friends to see in SoCal on the shoulder days. Our plan is for the eleven of us to have a partial park day Tuesday, full days Wednesday and Thursday, and a partial day Friday.

My family lives in San Francisco, and we're trying to figure out driving vs flying, and if we drive, whether it makes sense to stay overnight somewhere between SF and Anaheim or just do the whole drive in one shot. Any advice would be appreciated.

Driving details: 6 hours and 23 minutes door-to-door, according to google maps, via I-5. 407 miles. It ain't the scenic route, but that's fine by me. The coast is amazing, but the central valley has its own charm. We'd be driving our 2014 Corolla (The Least Exciting Car In The World). Gas should be just under $100 round-trip. Parking at DLR will be another $75 (staying on property).

Flying details: we're looking at flights from SFO or OAK to LGB or SNA. The best flights would cost about $800 for the family, and get us into SNA at 9:17 AM Tuesday and departing at 8 PM Friday. We'd be tied to the airlines' schedule, and we'd need to arrange transportation on either end.

We're not all that averse to spending money, but we're leaning toward driving for the schedule flexibility it affords us. The major downside to driving is that we expect the parks to take a lot out of us, and a drive on either end could take a fair bit more energy, so we're looking for an overnight stop along the way.

In summary, two questions:
1. If you were in our shoes, would you drive, or would you fly?
2. If we're driving, where should we stay overnight?
 

Carrie in AZ

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 18, 2003
We're heading to Disneyland in February (me, wife, DS5, DS2) for a Tuesday-Friday trip. My parents and my sister's family are flying from the east cost into LA on Monday and out on Saturday or Sunday; they have other friends to see in SoCal on the shoulder days. Our plan is for the eleven of us to have a partial park day Tuesday, full days Wednesday and Thursday, and a partial day Friday.

My family lives in San Francisco, and we're trying to figure out driving vs flying, and if we drive, whether it makes sense to stay overnight somewhere between SF and Anaheim or just do the whole drive in one shot. Any advice would be appreciated.

Driving details: 6 hours and 23 minutes door-to-door, according to google maps, via I-5. 407 miles. It ain't the scenic route, but that's fine by me. The coast is amazing, but the central valley has its own charm. We'd be driving our 2014 Corolla (The Least Exciting Car In The World). Gas should be just under $100 round-trip. Parking at DLR will be another $75 (staying on property).

Flying details: we're looking at flights from SFO or OAK to LGB or SNA. The best flights would cost about $800 for the family, and get us into SNA at 9:17 AM Tuesday and departing at 8 PM Friday. We'd be tied to the airlines' schedule, and we'd need to arrange transportation on either end.

We're not all that averse to spending money, but we're leaning toward driving for the schedule flexibility it affords us. The major downside to driving is that we expect the parks to take a lot out of us, and a drive on either end could take a fair bit more energy, so we're looking for an overnight stop along the way.

In summary, two questions:
1. If you were in our shoes, would you drive, or would you fly?
2. If we're driving, where should we stay overnight?
My first choice is to fly. We live about 6.5 hours away by car and we prefer to fly. Flying in and out of SNA is a breeze. Hop in a cab/Uber/Lyft and you are there. Driving and staying overnight enroute makes little sense to me unless you have all the time in the world to spare. I do agree, though, being able to come and go on your own schedule is attractive rather than being tied to an airline schedule. Good luck!
 


azdisneylover

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jul 23, 2008
In summary, two questions:
1. If you were in our shoes, would you drive, or would you fly?
2. If we're driving, where should we stay overnight?


Since your trip is in February, I would fly because of the risk of the Grapevine being closed because of bad weather and/or accidents. If it was summertime, I would say drive.
 
  • tsumgirl

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jul 27, 2019
    In summary, two questions:
    1. If you were in our shoes, would you drive, or would you fly?
    2. If we're driving, where should we stay overnight?


    Since your trip is in February, I would fly because of the risk of the Grapevine being closed because of bad weather and/or accidents. If it was summertime, I would say drive.
    I agree...Grapevine is a risk that could have you stuck for over 24 hrs in either direction. I live in SF, as well, and usually will only drive in the summer.
     

    jkips

    Mouseketeer
    DVC Gold
    Joined
    Sep 15, 2019
    My family lives in San Francisco, and we're trying to figure out driving vs flying, and if we drive, whether it makes sense to stay overnight somewhere between SF and Anaheim or just do the whole drive in one shot. Any advice would be appreciated.
    I live in the Bay Area and have done both - flown and driven - and hands down driving is easier for a family. By the time you drive to the airport, get there an hour plus early for your flight, fly, then rent a car or Uber to get from the airport to your destination you aren’t really saving that much time vs driving and the amount of steps and money is that much more. Six hours is pretty easy to power through driving with one stop for a meal somewhere along the way.
     

    goooof1

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 23, 2013
    FLY...… fly into and out of SNA or LGB (or even into 1 and out the other.). much easier than driving IMO and stopping for the night is just a huge time suck ! then there are traffic patterns to deal with..... fly ~~~~
     

    jfk4

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Mar 8, 2011
    My family lives in San Francisco, and we're trying to figure out driving vs flying, and if we drive, whether it makes sense to stay overnight somewhere between SF and Anaheim or just do the whole drive in one shot. Any advice would be appreciated.
    Flying doesn't really save that much time door-to-door, but as you point out it is considerably less fatiguing than driving. That said, if you and your spouse can switch off it really isn't that bad and you'll save a considerable amount of money. With kids, though, I think your idea of spending the night somewhere makes sense. As to your second question, I'd probably try and stay somewhere along I-5 Monday night and stay an additional night in the DLR on Friday, driving home on Saturday. I've heard decent reviews of Harris Ranch Inn as a place to stay along I-5, but I have never stayed there myself.
     
  • Sunclytie

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jun 20, 2017
    We've driven and flown from the Bay Area. The last time we drove we got stuck in traffic around Pacheco Pass and it turned a 6 hour drive into a 12 hour drive. But if you can avoid that, it definitely saves money.
     

    Lumpy1106

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 2, 2010
    The coast is amazing, but the central valley has its own charm.
    Um, yeah - gonna agree to disagree on that one. We just did the drive - went north on the coast and south on the 99. I guess I missed the "charm" part on the return because that was not fun. We stopped driving the 5 years ago - just got tired of the rude drivers racing to get around trucks. If you can stretch the trip and drive the coast then there are tons of great places to stay (partial to SLO myself). There are some nice-ish places to stay in Fresno that we use when we head to Yosemite, but I wouldn't stay anywhere on the 5. Honestly though, if you are planning to stop along the way I see no reason to go through the central valley.
     

    China Expat

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Oct 29, 2014
    I do the Ontario to San Fran and back drive quite often, six to seven hours. I prefer the San Jose to Ontario, or John Wayne airport flight as it is one hour, but it depends on the cost of flight and how much time one has. No need to stop between San Fran and Anaheim.
     

    mel2014

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Nov 26, 2014
    Since you need car seats for transportation, I would absolutely drive in this situation. The other alternatives are schlepping car seats and likely a stroller to and through the airport and installing in an Uber/Lyft or rental car or using a car service that provides seats, which is an expensive proposition. Plus add to that airport parking costs. Also, a flight that gets to SNA at 9:17 probably means you're leaving your house at 6:00 am or earlier to get to the airport.

    My suggestion would be to leave the Bay area around 2 pm on Monday and drive straight down, with a dinner stop in Wheeler Ridge before the Grapevine to wait out some of the rush hour traffic. You can sleep in on Tuesday if you are only planning a partial day. If you stop overnight midway, you'll hit morning rush hour. On the way back, I'd either wait to leave until late Friday (like 7 or 8 to miss traffic), go as far as the Wheeler Ridge (we like the Microtel there) and finish the drive Saturday or just stay Friday night in Anaheim and do the whole drive back on Saturday.

    I do think people undervalue wear and tear on their vehicle when comparing the cost of flying and driving. I figure if the miserly IRS sets the mileage reimbursement rate at 57.5 cents per mile, that's probably a fair estimate of the costs, which puts your driving cost at more like $460.
     
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  • bcla

    On our rugged Eastern foothills.....
    Joined
    Nov 28, 2012
    I do think people undervalue wear and tear on their vehicle when comparing the cost of flying and driving. I figure if the miserly IRS sets the mileage reimbursement rate at 57.5 cents per mile, that's probably a fair estimate of the costs, which puts your driving cost at more like $460.
    Not sure how that really factors in to actual wear. The GSA mileage rate is one size fits all and doesn't account for differences in vehicles, fuel economy, freeway vs local, etc. It's also supposed to factor in fuel usage. 800 freeway miles is extremely easy on a car, although it probably wouldn't matter if it's about residual value of a car.

    That being said, we rented a car for our last trip, but mostly because our cars are kind of old. We got about a $200 weekly rate including all taxes/fees and spent less than $100 on gas.

    Also - there's a certain stress about making it to the airport. Maybe you're late compared to your plans, but being late when driving is far different than being late to the airport. On certain road trips, we've even showed up a half day to a full day late.
     

    bcla

    On our rugged Eastern foothills.....
    Joined
    Nov 28, 2012
    Driving details: 6 hours and 23 minutes door-to-door, according to google maps, via I-5. 407 miles. It ain't the scenic route, but that's fine by me. The coast is amazing, but the central valley has its own charm. We'd be driving our 2014 Corolla (The Least Exciting Car In The World). Gas should be just under $100 round-trip. Parking at DLR will be another $75 (staying on property).
    We just got back. I was kind of surprised when we got out around Coalinga for a food stop and it smelled pretty normal. But then we got gas in Buttonwillow and the smell of cattle urine was just wretched.
     

    RedVines2001

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jun 14, 2018
    I live in the Bay Area and have done both - flown and driven - and hands down driving is easier for a family. By the time you drive to the airport, get there an hour plus early for your flight, fly, then rent a car or Uber to get from the airport to your destination you aren’t really saving that much time vs driving and the amount of steps and money is that much more. Six hours is pretty easy to power through driving with one stop for a meal somewhere along the way.
    I agree with this. I live in the East Bay and flying took me four and half hours from my house to the hotel. Four and half hours driving gets me past Santa Clarita. So it's at most two extra hours. Considering pack up the kids, getting to an airport, lugging them through two airports and a plane ride, and hopefully your flight won't be delayed. Ive had that happen. No thanks. A car is just load and go. Granted i think that depends heavily on how your kids do in the car, especially the two year old. If you drive I recommend getting up EARLY and driving while the kids are hopefully still sleeping.

    I do think the idea of stopping for a night on the way back is good idea. that way you will get more out of your partial Friday.
     

    ninergrl6

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 12, 2018
    1. If you were in our shoes, would you drive, or would you fly?
    2. If we're driving, where should we stay overnight?
    I also live in the Bay Area, and time is the main factor in whether I fly or drive to SoCal.

    If you have time and don't mind spending a day to get there and a day to get back, then driving is fine. (Don't plan a stop over somewhere along the way unless your kids can't handle the 7ish hour drive. Stopping in central CA is a waste of time IMO) Since you're going in February, there's always a chance that I-5 could be closed due to snow. Definitely something to take into consideration.

    If maximizing your time is a priority and money isn't an issue, then flying is a better option. In the past year I've flown down there 4 times and driven once.
     

    Stitch7911

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Jun 17, 2014
    i say if you have the funds fly. if you want to save on funds drive. as long as you get there have fun.
     

    PiratesMansion

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jun 14, 2013
    I would typically drive. However, I found driving I-5 between the Bay area and LA to be a dull, ugly, and monotonous drive with nothing resembling excitement in any capacity.

    If I had the choice, I would either fly or drive a more scenic, coastal route.
     

    bcla

    On our rugged Eastern foothills.....
    Joined
    Nov 28, 2012
    I would typically drive. However, I found driving I-5 between the Bay area and LA to be a dull, ugly, and monotonous drive with nothing resembling excitement in any capacity.

    If I had the choice, I would either fly or drive a more scenic, coastal route.
    Sure it's boring. However, it's pretty much a straight shot, fairly well maintained, and avoids much of the traffic issues driving through more populated areas. I don't know how exciting it is getting to an airport early, waiting in long lines at the airport, and picking up a rental car or waiting for ground transportation at the airport. Flying requires tighter schedules, which can get really crazy with a master procrastinator like my wife.

    I drove through CA-99 a few times down to Bakersfield , which was a bit more interesting than I-5 and had more populated cities. But I got stuck in rush hour traffic a few times and it's not that much better than I-5.
     

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