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How to book a Family Fly Drive holiday to the USA

Posted by Gav Grayston.
First Published Nov 2014; updated May 2023.

Wanting to book a fly drive holiday for your family? We look at different options and reveal the one one we chose for a fantastic trip in the USA.

How do you go about booking a fly-drive holiday for the USA? We looked at a few options for our road trip...

A fly drive holiday is quite simple:

  1. You fly to a destination.
  2. Hire a car.
  3. Travel around staying at different places.
  4. Then you fly back home, which may not be from the same airport you flew into.

All elements that are easy to book yourself, and certainly things we've booked ourselves before, but not for this holiday.

Fly Drive Package Deals and why we avoided them

Booking a Fly Drive Package tour

A few companies can create a 'package deal' for you. You can find these from companies such as Virgin Holidays.

they don't always have accommodation where you want to go

They book the flights and the car, and you can choose from a brochure the accommodation you wish to stay in.

After much research (and a few phone calls to Fly Drive companies), we decided it wasn't for us.

  • On our fly drive, we wanted to see certain things and go on a particular route. The package companies don't always have accommodation where you want to go, which can mean you miss the very things you want to go on the trip for.
  • Advice on where was 'safe' to take the kids, and driving distances when you have a family, was vague or sketchy. I wasn't going to spend that amount of money on a big family road trip without knowing it would be good. The person on the other end of the phone (often a young adult who has never been to your destination) will look at a map and think a 380-mile non-stop journey between accommodations is not a problem. They clearly haven't travelled anywhere with kids!!
  • Compared to booking it ourselves, many car hire and accommodation appeared much more expensive when going through these Fly Drive package deals. Now I don't mind paying for a service that puts everything together for me, but the package deals we looked at did very little for us; they just wanted my money.

The trouble with creating your own Fly Drive road trip

With the package deals turning out to be a bit of a disappointment, creating our own fly-drive holiday was the obvious choice. However, some big questions remained: where was it safe to take the kids (several people had warned me about no-go areas in LA), and what are the driving distances?

Using Roadtrippers app to work out the route and places to visit

Using Roadtrippers app to work out the route and places to visit

We worked out driving distances and times from Google maps, and then from a great app called Roadtrippers, which had the added advantage of showing points of interest on route. When travelling with kids, it's great to know you can stop at places to break up the journey.

there was a lot involved, and it needed to be done right

However, despite reading a lot of guides and information, it became apparent that to book this trip, which would take a few years of savings, a lot was involved, and it needed to be done right.

This left us with only one course of action...

Using (a real) Travel Agent

this sort of dilemma is exactly what a real travel agent is for

Fortunately, this dilemma is exactly what a travel agent is for. Not one of many high street chains that book things out of a holiday brochure for you, but an agent that will create your custom trip and take care of all the details for you.

Yes, doing it this way can cost more than doing it yourself, but as I said before, I don't mind paying for a service that does something for you.

We are lucky that we have such a local travel agent at Peakes Travel Elite, and Claire Moore took care of everything for us. Not only had she made the trip before herself, but she also has kids and understood the limits on family travel.

So with an understanding of our budget and the places we wanted to see, Claire proposed some itineraries, and after a few tweaks, we sorted out our road trip. They even helped with the admin for the electronic visas required for entry into the USA (which I had completely missed in my 'DIY' research - oops!).

And when we did run into a bit of difficulty (more on that in a later post), they were there to help sort things out.

Our recommendations for choosing a travel agent

  • Find a smaller local firm with good recommendations from friends and families. Make sure it is an agent that can create bespoke holidays rather than book something from a catalogue.
  • Ask the agent if they have personally visited the place you want to visit. Ask how many people they've sent to that region. They may even have some testimonials.
  • Make sure you are clear about what you want to visit, the type of holiday, and the amount of travelling that would be acceptable to your family.
  • If you ask questions about things, they should be able to answer or go and find out and get back to you.
  • Ask what would happen if you run into difficulties. For example, you are checking into many different places on a fly-drive holiday. What if something was wrong with your booking, such as the hotel double-booking you? Is there a service they have to support you?