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Planning week-long trip to Irvine area

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Lancaster
posts: 77
reviews: 16
Planning week-long trip to Irvine area

I'm a Yankee from eastern Pennsylvania and we're planning a trip to the Irvine area in May - to coincide with the NCAA volleyball championships.

We are planning to fly child-less and spend a few extra days in Californa since we haven't taken a vacation by ourselves for over 10 years. You can read that we are not seasoned travelers and we're on a budget, so I'm looking to you guys for any advice you'd like to pass along to us.

The beach will be a "must" for at least one day. Otherwise, we'd like to stay away from amusement parks.

Thanks for your help!!

Orange County, CA
posts: 6
reviews: 3
1. Re: Planning week-long trip to Irvine area

Here's a few suggestions from someone that lives in Irvine.

Definitely drive to Laguna Beach and Balboa Island to see views of the ocean.

Although Orange County is known for it's amusement parks which can be pricey there are some local things that could be fun.

Open Market - Sundays from 8 - 12 ish at UC Irvine Campus shopping center. From fruit samples to vendors selling clothing, it's a fun time.

Great Park Balloon in Irvine - http://www.ocgp.org/gpb/default.asp which currently offering free rides up 250 feet, they may change to charging a fee in 2008.

Irvine is great for outdoor activities like hiking and biking. Here's a couple of links. http://www.irvineranchlandreserve.org/ https:/…

Irvine Spectrum/South Coast Plaza for shopping/people watching. Irvine Spectrum is an entertainment complex with shops/movie/IMAX/restaurants even a ferris wheel. South Coast Plaza is the extreme shoppers paradise but for those on a budget the people watching and window shopping is fun.

Ethnic foods - Irvine is heavily influenced by Asian cuisines. Most of the most reasonable eats are the hole in wall joints. Refer to http://www.yelp.com/find?location=Irvine%2C+CA for suggestions.

Last but not least you can use www.goldstar.com for half priced tickets for events in the LA/Orange county area. You'll need to enroll to see the events but other than some harmless e-mail it's okay. They have everything from theatre to sporting events.

I hope this helps. If you have more specific questions feel free to ask.

Lancaster
posts: 77
reviews: 16
2. Re: Planning week-long trip to Irvine area

Thank You! for all of the information.....I really appreciate it!

From what I understand by reading other travel posts, it's best to figure out our airline plans and be ready to buy when I see a special deal. Do major airlines fly into John Wayne Airport, or should I stick with flying into LA?

San Clemente...
Destination Expert
for Buenos Aires, Argentina
posts: 10,212
reviews: 5
3. Re: Planning week-long trip to Irvine area

All major national airlines fly to Orange County. Do not fly to LA. If you book in advance then you'll get some great deals on the tickets.

Start checking online search engines like Expedia, and SideStep right now.

Littleton, Colorado
posts: 108
reviews: 12
4. Re: Planning week-long trip to Irvine area

Way way way back in the day, it cost more to fly into Orange County than to LAX. I fly in and out of OC a lot and the prices are sometimes lower, sometimes higher, and lots of times just about the same. It seems to depend more on seat availability than anything else.

Agree if you're spending most of your time in Irvine, OC airport is way the best bet. It's like 5 min from UCI.

On the other hand, there isn't a more pleasant experience than flying in and out of Long Beach airport, if you ask me. Small airport, short lines, easy parking, very very mellow. It's about a half hour north of OC airport and JetBlue and American fly in and out of there. Maybe Amer West too? But JB and AA are the only ones in LB that I would ever choose.

Newport Beach...
posts: 197
reviews: 1
5. Re: Planning week-long trip to Irvine area

A few other words of advice:

During the months of April-June, coastal Orange County experiences a phenomenom known as "June Gloom," where areas near the beach can be covered in fog/low clouds in the mornings. It usually (but not always) clears up in the afternoon. Sometimes the fog will only extend a mile or less inland, sometimes it will blanket much of the county. Sometimes it will persist for a week straight, sometimes we won't see it for weeks on end.

What does this mean for you? It means that there is a fair chance that the mornings will be cool/cloudy and the afternoons will be warm/sunny. Plan accordingly.

I will add, also, that Irvine itself is not a great town for tourists. To see the best that the area has to offer, you should focus your time in Newport Beach and Laguna Beach, both adjacent to Irvine. Therefore, look at the Trip Advisor forums for "Newport Beach" and "Laguna Beach," and you will see lots of good advice on things to do there.

A basic list would include the following:

Balboa Island in Newport Beach

Balboa Pennensula in Newport Beach

Main Beach in Laguna Beach

Crystal Cove State Park

South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa(for shopping)

Fashion Island in Newport Beach(for shopping)

Also, look into spending some time on Catalina Island, which is about an hour and a half boat ride from Newport Beach.

Mission Viejo, CA...
posts: 616
reviews: 22
6. Re: Planning week-long trip to Irvine area

John Wayne Airport is right in the heart of Orange County and is a great airport to fly out of.

Still, I would rather take one of the nonstop flights from Pennsylvania (Philadelphia) to Los Angeles than hassle with connecting flights just to be able to fly into Orange County. Why risk missing your flights at your connecting airport and dragging your baggage around another airport when you can get on a plane in Philadelphia and fly directly to Southern California into Los Angeles? Then you are an hour to two hour drive from Newport Beach and the touristy areas.

You can fly nonstop into Los Angeles from Philadelphia on US Airways or United Airlines.

Stay in the Newport Beach or Laguna Beach areas and relax and have a good time!

Lancaster
posts: 77
reviews: 16
7. Re: Planning week-long trip to Irvine area

Thanks everyone, for your help! Hopefully the June Gloom will be overshadowed by May merriment!

Lancaster
posts: 77
reviews: 16
8. Re: Planning week-long trip to Irvine area

Thanks to everyone for your advice. We're definitely going to check out some of the spots listed for Newport & Laguna Beach areas. I found what seems to be a decent and less expensive hotel in Huntington Beach -- the Best Western. Anyone know what it's like? (I checked some of the hotels in the Newport Beach area and they all seemed to be $200+ a night.)

And as a novice traveler, is it better to reserve rooms & car rental as a package deal (through Expedia or something similar) or separately through the actual hotel & rental agency?

Littleton, Colorado
posts: 108
reviews: 12
9. Re: Planning week-long trip to Irvine area

Re: packages. I have often found that you can do better hunting around for each component of your trip than you can get with a package deal. It really depends and as always, research and homework will provide the best answer.

Re: Irvine vs HB or LB or NB. I lived in Irvine for 33 years and agree completely that it doesn't have much to offer to tourists. I agree totally that the nearby tourist options are as listed above by another poster.

I would not, however, agree that *staying* in one of the beach cities is the best choice unless you're at one of the super snazzy places like The Island Hotel in NB. You'll run into a lot of run-down properties in areas that aren't particularly nice but which can still charge a hefty sum because of tourism.

I would say that there are lodgings in and around Irvine that would be a better value. Either cheaper than a beach property or nicer than a beach property or both.

There's an Embassy Suites (technically in Santa Ana, I think) that I think is referred to as the "Airport North" location and it's the one on Hotel Terrace near Grand Ave, Dyer Ave, and right on the 55 Fwy. It's really pretty nice, recently remodeled, and was quite reasonable when we stayed there in mid-Dec 2007. Convenient to all the areas you're going to see, assuming you have a car.

There's another ES near John Wayne that last I heard was undergoing lots of construction/renovation but maybe it's done by now? In general, the larger hotels near the airport are pretty good compared to a beachside Best Western.

The La Quinta near the Irvine Spectrum is a mixed bag, being located in an old grain mill or something like that. Charming rooms, sweet old timey-part of Irvine. If you get a room facing the train tracks, that can be noisy. If your room faces the parking lot, you won't hear the train. Sometimes there are issues of kids in their 20s renting rooms there for parties and then it can be a nightmare. I have had both awesome and horrible stays there.

Lots of other places generally west of UCI that are good reliable places located in the airport zone, though not right there on top of the airport.

Lancaster
posts: 77
reviews: 16
10. Re: Planning week-long trip to Irvine area

To all you helpful TripAdvisor folks out there....we just returned from our southern CA trip and had a great time!

We stayed at Bay Shores Peninsula in Newport Beach for a few very relaxing days and then moved inland to the Quality Inn/John Wayne since we had business at UCI.

We were able to see (mainly on foot or bike) many places you mentioned -- Balboa Peninsula, Balboa Island, Crystal Cove State Park in addition to various restaurants along the way. Oh...and the Balboa bar was wonderful! Our last day we spent time hiking on the horse path at a state park -- I think it was Orange County park.(?) Beautiful scenery!

Thank you!!