Trip idea / USA

Classic California

Road Trip

The coastal journey from San Francisco to Los Angeles down Highway 1 is the classic California family road trip.

Jaw-dropping ocean scenery. Miles of beaches. Cable cars and Hollywood stars. A plethora of theme parks, galleries and museums. California has so much to see and do for all ages that keeping everyone entertained is a breeze. Throw in a brief inland detour to explore Yosemite National Park’s mountains and waterfalls, and every box will be well and truly ticked

The lowdown

  • When to go

    Summer Holidays (July - September) are most popular, although it’s worth booking flights well in advance. The Easter Holidays are cooler and quieter.

  • Child age

    California has almost universal appeal, there’s something for all ages.

  • Bear in mind

    Interconnecting rooms can be hard to find in the USA, but many hotels can provide extra beds.

Whatever your priorities, we can plan you the perfect USA driving holiday, staying in some of our favourite hand-picked hideaways. Here’s just a taster of what you can do.

  • Cycle the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
  • Hike to waterfalls in Yosemite National Park
  • Drive Big Sur’s dramatic coastal road
  • Surfing and sea kayaking in Santa Barbara
  • Visit one of LA’s family friendly theme parks

    The City By The Bay

    Your adventure begins in San Fran, unquestionably one of the USA’s most rewarding cities. Ride the iconic cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf, a great place to get your bearings and sample the famous clam chowder. A visit to infamous Alcatraz is another must (be sure to book your tickets in advance), as are visits to the largest Chinatown outside of Asia and a cycle ride across the Golden Gate Bridge to picturesque Sausalito. Escape the bustle at the Golden Gate Park, where the California Academy of Sciences’ mixture of aquarium and planetarium is a winner for kids.

    Yosemite National Park

    Now it’s time to hit road, first heading inland to Yosemite, one of the USA’s first national parks famed for its crashing cascades, granite peaks and green meadows. Both the short Lower Yosemite Falls and Glacier Point loops comprise easy hikes for all ages, culminating in strikingly beautiful views of the Upper and Lower Falls and Yosemite Valley respectively. There are plenty of more strenuous hikes suitable for older children, along with perfect picnic spots aplenty. Dodge the traffic by hiring bikes and cycling around the valley floor, or take in the scenery from a rafting trip along the Merced River.

    Coastal Cruising

    Drive back to the coast to pick up Highway 1 and base yourself in Monterey for a couple of nights, ample time to visit Cannery Row and its spectacular indoor-outdoor aquarium. Not only that, but a cruise down the scenic ’17 Mile Drive’ toll-road – past rugged beaches, cypress trees and millionaire homes – to famous Pebble Beach, and onto quaint, colourful Carmel-by-the-Sea. Just south of here is Point Lobos Natural Reserve, a stunning park of nature trails and coastal walks where sea otters and seals frolic in the waters.

    Big Sur & Surf

    Head south to arrive at this road trip’s most dramatic section: the twisting coastal road of steep cliff-faces and unforgettable vistas that is Big Sur. After gasping at the views of McWay Falls from inside Julia Burns Pfeiffer State Park, rejoin Highway 1 at San Simeon and continue down the coast to Santa Barbara. Stearns Wharf is the place to hit the beach and watch local surfers while, depending on their age, juniors will welcome a visit to Santa Barbara’s Sea Center or kayaking trips around the harbour.

    City of Angels

    L.A. has plenty to offer children of all ages. Although touristy, it would be a crime not to visit the Hollywood Walk of Fame to search for handprints of movie stars. Universal Studios Hollywood is a fun day out, with iconic film sets and themed rides sure to entertain the whole family. You could also saunter along sun-kissed Santa Monica Pier and see the colourful characters of Venice Beach, while further south the beaches of Huntington and Newport provide a range of superior family-resort options close to all-conquering Disneyland Park.