4-Day Tour

4-Day Yosemite, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon Tour

You know, living in a place is so different from traveling because of settlement. So technically, moving to San Francisco doesn’t count as traveling. With that said, it’s been 9 months since last time we were on a trip. (See our epic Thailand trip.) From our perspective, it’s been a little too long.

The other day, we received a call from my parents in law out of blue. Over the 90-minute phone call, there were two important points we got out of it.

  1. They are coming to San Francisco from Florida to visit us from November 2 to November 8.
  2. We are going on a tour together to Yosemite, Las Vegas and Grand Canyon from November 5 to November 8.

The next thing we received was an email with a link of where to book this tour.

We don’t normally attend any travel tours, especially those involve several destinations within a few days via buses. Having no control of time and freedom is the exact opposite of our adventural travel style. On top of that, to someone like me who gets car sick easily if I try reading while the vehicle is moving, spending hours and hours on a bus is just a total waste of time.

However, traveling with parents is an exception, especially to somewhere we haven’t been before. The way we explore the world most likely isn’t suitable for our folks. Let’s just try to hide our wildness and conservatively be a good boy and a good girl this time. :P After all, hello! It’s Yosemite, Las Vegas and Grand Canyon!!!

In this post, except for our destinations (will get to them one by one later), what I am going to share with you is our entire experience of the tour including the itinerary, our guide, the places we stopped by on the road and so forth and so on.

Here’s a quick summary.

  • The tour: not recommended.
  • The price: cheap. ($288 per person)
  • The service: mediocre.
  • The service fee (tips for the tour guide and the driver): $6/day/person. It’s a flat rate – no wonder the service isn’t good.
  • The language: bilingual Mandarin Chinese and English. Cantonese tour guide speaks OK Mandarin and crappy English.
  • Total time on the bus out of 4 days with the tour: 33 hours! (Average 8.25 hours per day.)
  • The destinations: Absolutely shouldn’t miss! Put these places on your must-see list right now if you haven’t visited. But don’t visit them all at once. Spend more time at each place please!

[WARNING] You might find us complaining or even cursing here as you continue reading. I apologize for our bad languages in advance. Just want to clarify that all the opinions mentioned here are from our personal point of view. Hope they are helpful to you in some way. OK, ready to read on? Let’s dive in.

THE ITINERARY

This 4-day tour is organized by Taketours.com. Transportations, accommodations, entrance fees and taxes are included in the package price ($288 per person). All meals and drinks, tips for tour guide and driver, optional activities are excluded from the price.

Here’s the 4-day bus route. Click the image below to view the map in Google Maps.

Itinerary route

Day 1:
San Francisco – Yosemite National Park (7 hours drive)
Actual time in Yosemite: 2 hours (so precious!)
Yosemite National Park – Fresno (2 hours drive)
Accommodation: a budget hotel in Fresno (We forgot the name of the hotel but we remembered that the carpet in our room smelt really funny.)

Here’s how we spent November 5, 2013 on the road.

We punctually arrived at the meet-up location in San Francisco (391 Sutter Street) at 7:45 in the morning. Thankfully it’s not far from where we live.

We were directed to a bus waiting across the street. Our folks picked a front row seats for us to settle down and we waited for all other tour mates to arrive. That’s when we realized that approximately 70% of the tourists on the same bus were Chinese. The couple sitting behind us were speaking Shanghainese all the time. It felt nice yet weird to hear so much Shanghainese within just one day in the States, considering that we barely go to Chinatown here.

If you take a look at the about page on Taketours.com, you will notice that their tours are operated by Chinese. Aha! Make sense now?! It makes more sense for my parents in law as they still prefer to use Chinese, despite of the fact that they have been living in the States for over 20 years.

If we drive straight to Yosemite, it should take about 4-5 hours to get there. The reason it took us 7 hours was because the bus stopped by a few other locations to pick up more passengers who booked other tours through Taketours. San Jose was the stop to transfer all the tourists onto right buses based on different tours that they signed up. Luckily, we didn’t have to switch buses. The total tourist headcount on our bus was 35.

A little before noon, we stopped for lunch at…I did’t really know exactly where since what we cared the most was our destinations. There were not too many options, only fast food like McDonald’s, Burger King, Starbucks, etc were available. Funny that it turned out to be my first McDonald meal in the States ever since we moved here from China 6 months ago.

Around 3pm, the bus finally drove us into Yosemite National Park. How do I describe this place? Just be prepared with breathtakingly beautiful views everywhere. 2 hours was way too short to fully enjoy the park. All we could do there was just to take a few photos and hop onto the bus to the next spot. Took a few more photos and requested to get back on the bus again. But that’s definitely not the only thing you can do if you plan to visit. I will have an in-depth post about Yosemite soon. Stay tuned.

Yosemite Village

Our dinner was at a buffet place called “King Buffet” in Fresco. Didn’t get offered with any other options. Spent 14 bucks per person on very mediocre food. Maybe we are already spoiled by the good food in SF. Plus, in case you haven’t heard, I cook.

Food at King Buffet

King Buffet

Day 2:
Fresno – Las Vegas (6 hours drive)
Accommodation: Excalibur Hotel and Casino

Not too much going on during the day. Our first stop on the way to Las Vegas was Murry Farmers Market for breakfast, fruits, snacks and drinks.

Murry Farmers Market

Second stop was an outlet called “Tanger Outlet”, which is specifically for Chinese tourists because they label everything in Chinese in every single store. Wow! We didn’t buy anything. Grabbed renowned In-N-Out Burgers there for lunch.

I slept on the bus with a very uncomfortable position for most of the time. Han, on the contrary, was able to read by staring at his 4.7-inch phone screen for hours! I was jealous.

According to our tour guide, Taketours offers an optional Las Vegas night tour with an additional charge of $25 per adult and $15 per child from 2 to 12 years old. They can make arrangements for you if you want to watch any shows in Vegas as well.

We skipped the night tour. Instead, we teamed up with our folks after checking in to the Excalibur Hotel late in the afternoon and wandered around on Las Vegas Boulevard (aka “The Strip”) by ourselves. More on this later.

Excalibur Hotel and Casino Night View

Excalibur Hotel

Day 3:
Las Vegas – Grand Canyon South Rim (4.5 hours drive)
Actual time in Grand Canyon (only 1 hour)
Grand Canyon – Las Vegas (4.5 hours drive)

Does it really worth it to spend 9 f*cking hours sitting on my ass and doing nothing for only an hour of visit in Grand Canyon? That’s what I was thinking in the back of my head when our tour guide told us the itinerary for the day. At that point, I couldn’t wait for this tour to be over.

Oh, by the way, T-mobile doesn’t really provide good reception in suburban areas, which made my time on the bus even more boring.

We were actually given the option to go to the West Rim of Grand Canyon with 4 hours of duration (total 4.5 hours on the road). Compare to South Rim, there are definitely more stuff to do at West Rim. However, you will have to pay for everything out of your pocket.

  • $80 per person including transportation, admission fee and lunch
  • Skywalk Glass Bridge: $35 for 20 minutes
  • Helicopter and boat tour: $190 for 1 hour

If going to the West Rim, departure time with the tour is 5:20 IN THE MORNING. Sweet Jesus! Have fun guys!

Well, other than enjoying the view, it’s not like that there’s absolutely no activities at the South Rim at all. A 32-minute IMAX movie covering the entire Grand Canyon history is offered at the visitor center. You can certainly spend $13 to watch that if you want to see the whole canyon during your visit. I can’t tell you what’s the movie look like or if it’s worth watching because we were there for the real thing, not movies.

Back to the question – is it worth it for the 9-hour bus drive? YES! Grand Canyon worth it! The view is freaking sick! Stay tuned with more photos.

Grand Canyon

Day 4:
Las Vegas – San Francisco (9 hours drive)

Going back to San Francisco by bus absolutely will not be a pleasant experience. 9 hours? Hell no! We certainly didn’t let that happen.

Our folks were flying back to Florida the next day morning. we ended the tour by purchasing two flight tickets back to SF at night from Vegas via Virgin Airline. (Guess how much was the tickets? Less than 150 bucks for two in total. Yep! Great deal from KAYAK.com) By doing so, four of us got an extra full day in Vegas. What did we get out of it?

FREEDOM. PEACE. FAMILY TIME ALONE. LAS VEGAS!

Las Vegas

THE TOUR GUIDE

Lack of sleep and long hours on the bus made us very tired and easily get irritated. Plus I forgot to bring my headsets. Damn it!

We understand how a tour guide should do his basic job – make arrangements and talk. We didn’t have any problem with our tour guide’s capability of arranging things. In fact, this tour went pretty smooth overall. We were grateful that he bought “Ocean’s Thirteen” to play on the bus and keep our long way to Vegas less boring.

However, listening to his talk, especially in English, was something that irritated us more. His sentences were broken. Sometimes he didn’t even finish his sentences and didn’t bother to. The level of the badness got to the point that we wanted to punch him in the face so that he could shut the f* up.

The information he gave in Chinese were clearly not quite the same as it’s in English. We felt bad for those people who couldn’t understand Chinese on the same bus.

We might be too demanding here since we can understand Chinese perfectly well. Just letting you know that the so-called bilingual service is going to disappoint you deeply.

All right, my friend. Enough about the tour. We will take you to the gorgeous Yosemite National Park soon. Thanks for reading!

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