West Coast USA Family Roadtrip Route

December 30, 2017

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.

West Coast USA Fly Drive Route

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?

Bixby bridge on the PCH

The much-photographed Bixby Bridge on the Pacific Coast Highway.

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

We took this picture of the Golden Gate Bridget from the rec yard on Alcatraz

We took this picture of the Golden Gate Bridget from the rec yard on Alcatraz

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

Welcome to Death Valley

What a scorcher! Death Valley certainly was HOT!


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!

The Route

West Coast USA Roadtrip Route

West Coast USA Roadtrip Route (via Google Maps)

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.

USA West Coast Fly-Drive Series

Continue reading; click on the next article in the series.
  • Why you should do a family road trip

    A family road trip is a great way for your kids to see a bit more of the world. Though it's not always easy... Read more >

  • Booking a Fly-Drive Holiday

    Tips on booking a Fly-Drive family holiday. Read more >

  • Our Route

    The route and itinary for our family road trip in the USA. Read more >

  • Airport Hacks

    Airport hotels, airport parking, and flight delays. Read more >

  • Vegas, Desert, and Mountains

    Our first few days saw us acclimatise in Las Vegas, before heading out through the desert and Death Valley, before eventually reaching the Sierra Nevada mountains. Read more >

  • Mammoth Lakes

    We step out of our hotel and are taken by the magnificent beauty of the Sierra Mountains. Read more >

  • Tioga Pass

    The views over the Sierras could have been taken straight out of a copy of National Geographic Read more >

  • The Giant Redwoods

    These trees are immense. You feel as if you have shrunk when walking among them! Read more >

  • Yosemite Valley

    Yosemite is beautiful. Stunningly beautiful. Read more >

  • Welcome to San Francisco

    Arriving in San Francisco was.... interesting Read more >

  • Alcatraz

    A visit to 'The Rock' is a must when visiting San Francisco Read more >

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Gav Grayston
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Gav Grayston Contributor

Father to 3 kids, who loves getting out and about (hiking, running, camping, cycling, canoeing...) Co-founded Get Out With The Kids to help other parents enjoy the outdoors with their family.

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  1. Brilliant article, thanks for making the effort, gave us many valuable trips and also a new route to take!

  2. Fab thank you I’ll look forward to reading it. I don’t blame you the weather has been great.

  3. Hi ,

    I am thinking to do this trip in mont of September. Would that be good?

  4. Hi I’ve really enjoyed reading about your family west coast road trip it sounds amazing. I’ve just started planning our trip for next Summer. I was was just wondering if the rest of the trip is available as I can only find up to Yosemite Valkey? Thanks

    • Hi Kerri, 

      Yes, I have been meaning to get the next in the series out.  Got distracted with the nice weather 🙂 

      Hope to get it out in a few weeks though.

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