Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: My prescription for a birthday treat starting in Vancouver

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Q I am planning a trip for my wife's and my 50th birthdays at the end of August for just over two weeks. We want to visit Vancouver, Yellowstone National Park and Santa Barbara. We plan to start in Vancouver but can be flexible as to where we start and finish. Are there any direct flights to Yellowstone? We were also thinking of travelling by train to Santa Barbara vie Seattle and San Francisco.

Tim Vigeon, Harpenden

A Congratulations to you both on your joint century. Here is my prescription - and if you like the look of it, I recommend you get booking as soon as possible, because it is peak season.

Plan an open-jaw trip on British Airways or Virgin Atlantic out to Vancouver and back from Los Angeles (if the fare is too painfully high, then try US airlines or Air Canada with intermediate stops).

From Vancouver, take the Cascades train south to Seattle - the very best stretch of rail on the entire west coast. Rent a car for the astonish drive across Washington State and Montana to Yellowstone. Drop down to Salt Lake City and bite the bullet with the one-way drop-off fee. Then board the California Zephyr for the best stretch of the journey to San Francisco.

From the Bay Area, take another train to Santa Barbara - where, older travellers may recall, the film The Graduate was located. Stay for a special birthday treat just south of town at the Biltmore, said to be the model for the Eagles' Hotel California. (If the overnight rate is daunting, at least pop in at happy hour for sunset and hors d'oeuvres.) Then take the Ventura Freeway - or another train - to Los Angeles for a Pacific farewell.

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