Here's what I want to do: Fly from the East Coast to see the King Tut exhibit in LA, see some highlights of LA and drive the scenic coastline.
Here's some background info: We plan to visit in mid Sept. We have about a week and luckily can be flexible with the timeline if we need to add a day or two. Our budget does not include expensive resort lodging on the coast. We are not interested in the theme parks for this trip nor in shopping or wine tasting (sadly wine does not agree with me.) We enjoy nature and the outdoors, easy to moderate hikes, scenic vistas, walking along the beach, an occasional museum, and wouldn't mind seeing some gorgeous homes in the LA area. We'll probably do one of the city tours in LA. We've been to SF and driven as far south as Monterey/Carmel but that was many years ago. We've been to San Diego and as far north as Torrey Pines.
Here's my dilemma:
Should we fly roundtrip to LA, see the sights in LA then rent a car and drive south to Huntington Beach then north as far as Hwy 1 allows (probably Ragged Point) then turn back. Maybe overnight stays along the drive in Santa Barbara, Cambria and Pismo Beach. This is probably the most economical proposal but misses Big Sur.
OR should we fly into SFO (the airfare will be higher for a multi-city route), rent a car (knowing we will have a drop fee in LA) and stay our first night in Carmel, drive as far south along Big Sur as possible then backtrack to Salinas and down the 101 to Pasa Robles where we head back to the coast and on to LA. I'm not sure where we should overnight along this route. I've heard about nightmare traffic returning from Big Sur which doesn't sound like fun. Also not sure how long this route will take.
I'm hoping the TA community can point out some pros and cons to the different itineraries and some must-see stops. I welcome your thoughts, opinions, suggestions. Thanks!