Thinking of taking your family to tour the west coast of the USA? Here’s the route we took for an absolutely fantastic fly-drive holiday.
The idea of this trip was to show the kids a bit of the USA, things that they wouldn’t have experienced before, as well as take in some sights Mum and Dad wanted to see too.
Things to see on our combined list was:
- San Francisco
- Yosemite & the giant redwoods
- The Pacific Coast Highway
- And Disney. Though that changed!
- Some rest and beach time. Travelling every day with a family can be tiring!
One of the great things about visiting California is that there are a lot of very different things to see.
The Pacific Coast Highway – North to South, or South to North?
The Pacific Coast Highway, also known as the PCH, is Highway 1 that twists and turns around the dramatic coastline on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.
Although you can take the freeway when travelling between North and South California, the slower Highway 1 is much more scenic and was definitely going to be part of our route.
The important thing to consider though is which way you are going to travel. Are you going to start in the South and head North, or start North and head South? This will determine which airports you fly in and out of.
For us the answer was simple: travelling from the North to the South would give you better views as you’ll be on the right-hand side of the road, right next to the Pacific Ocean.
San Francisco and Yosemite
It’s certainly possible to fly to San Francisco, hire a car, drive out to Yosemite, and then double back to the PCH. This was an option we considered, but rejected.
There’s a lot of driving between the city and Yosemite, and you would have to retrace your steps if you wanted to start the PCH from San Francisco.
Instead, there’s a much better option, and that’s not to fly to San Francisco at all…
Viva the Dessert
There’s plenty to see on the eastern side of the Sierra Mountains.
Travel a bit further south-east and you’re into the California desert and Death Valley. Travel a bit further SE again (avoiding Area 51!) and you’re in Vegas.
Remember that a big part of this trip was to let the kids see some very different aspects to the USA, and by starting in Las Vegas, we certainly were going to do that!
- Fly to Las Vegas. Spend a few days there to recover from jet lag and take in the sights.
- Drive out through the dessert and visit Death Valley, then carry on up into the Sierra Mountains.
- Drive over the top of the Sierra Mountains in Yosemite National Park.
- Stay for a few days in Yosemite.
- Drive from Yosemite to San Francisco.
- Stay in San Francisco for a few days to see the sights.
- Drive down the Pacific Coast Highway.
- Stay for a few days on the PCH.
- Travel the rest of the PCH to Los Angeles.
- Stay for a few days in Los Angeles to visit Disney Land and some R&R on the beach before flying home.
We had 16 days off work to fit it all in, and we saw a lot more things than that list above. In fact, the trip far exceeded our expectations.
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