This post has been a long time coming so huge apologies to all of you who have waited so patiently. If you hadn’t guessed from my Instagram posts and stories we spent last summer road tripping across West Coast America and it was the total trip of a lifetime. Normal holidays will resume this year but 2018 was definitely the year of the splurge. Neil applied for the month of August off work (and they said yes!!) so we just went for it thinking life is too short! Obviously we saved and saved as this kind of trip doesn’t come cheap but it was worth every penny. Sometimes when I’m feeling crappy I watch my story highlights from start to finish remembering how amazing everything was, if I could go back and relive it all again I would in a heartbeat….definitely money well spent!
If you are planning or thinking this may be for you in the future then I hope our holiday run down helps. It’s going to be a long one so grab a coffee or a glass of wine and get comfy.
We flew in and out of San Francisco with British Airways and also booked our car hire as part of the package as they offered unlimited milage, we went for an SUV as larger cars are safer on the American roads and we also needed space in the boot for 4 cases.
- Look at flights into Oakland as it’s a smaller airport and the distance into San Fran is not far at all, it may end up saving you some money. You could ask start and finish in LA if the flights are cheaper.
- We packed three cases of clothes and one of toiletries, this made things slightly more organised when stopping.
- If you have little ones, make a pit stop at Bed, Bath an Beyond and grab some pillows. This may make it easier for them to sleep on the longer drives.
- Buy a Sat Nav in the UK before you leave. We picked up an American one from Amazon for £30 which was much cheaper than getting the in car extra from the hire company.
- Make sure you book accommodation at all the hotspots before you leave. If you want to wing a couple of nights you can always find a motel, they always have two Queen beds in the rooms so this trip is perfect for a family of 4 like ours.
San Francisco 1st – 4th August
This was a great first stop, the weather is not too hot so it gives you time to adjust. Even on a sunny day the wind chill can catch you so a jacket is always needed. It’s such a beautiful city with lots to see and do but be prepared for the hills!
- We booked an Airbnb just outside the city, I would highly recommend this as parking is sooo expensive in SF and is not included in hotel rates, it’s usually between $40 and $65 a day! We would get an Uber into the centre from our apartment which was never more than $15 and it meant we could both have a drink with lunch. Parking was free and our accommodation was clean and well equipped (it even had a 3D tv, not that we used it) the host was super friendly and lived in the apartment above – 675 Silver Avenue
- Book Alcatraz tickets from the UK as it gets booked up way in advance, we used Alcatraz Cruises who are the official seller. This is such an incredible experience one not to be missed, the night tour is supposed to be amazing but we thought it may be too eery for the kids.
- Pier 39 is a must just to visit the Seals, I could have watched them all day. The pier itself is a little crowded and not my cup of tea, a tad too touristy.
- Drive (or walk) up to the Coit Tower, the city views from the top are incredible.
- Ride the tram – it will save your legs from the hills
- Drive down Lombard Street – Massively steep with 8 hairpin turns!
- Wander through bustling Chinatown
- Park up by the Golden Gate Bridge for the all important holiday snap, I would go in the afternoon as the mornings can be misty which hides the bridge (it was in fact painted International Orange so that ships could see it in the fog!) If driving use the Hamilton Street parking area and walk along the coast on Marnie Drive, the views are breathtaking. You can also hire bikes and cycle across the bridge to Sausalito for lunch, it’s a quaint town with views of the bay.
- Have a photo outside the Mrs Doubtfire house – 2640 Steiner Street
- Watch a ballgame at the AT&T Stadium. If you’re lucky one will be on while you’re there
- One of my favourite areas for Brunch was The Castro, it’s a vibrant and eccentric area which is synonymous with gay culture. From here you are close to Dolores Park which is great for the kids as it has a play area, the city views are insane and lining the park are the infamous painted lady houses (first photo above)
- Food wise we started with In and Out (felt like we had to) other than that we kept the costs down by grabbing a pizza slice or cooking in the apartment. One area we loved to sit outside and have drinks in was Old North Beach, great for people watching. We also ended our trip in San Fran and went to a brilliant place which served the best meatballs, it’s a little outside the city (I think it was $10 in an Uber) but this place came highly recommended and didn’t disappoint – Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack
- If you want to shop head to Union Square
Yosemite National Park – 4th – 6th August
Although sadly we couldn’t stay here and had to cancel our accommodation (and stay in a random motel) the morning we were due to arrive because of the devastating wildfires in the area. The whole park was closed and the town we had booked was evacuated. Be aware that in the summer months this isn’t uncommon so be prepared. We booked an Inn through booking.com and luckily we were able to cancel with no charge, we also had not booked our park entry tickets as we had heard it is easy to pay at the gate. When booking accommodation near Yosemite make sure you research the distance to the park entrances as some can be miles away and a couple of hours to drive! We were going to be staying in a town called Mariposa at the 5th Street Inn. If you are hoping to stay in the park itself you will need to book a long way in advance as they get booked up quickly. A couple that were recommended to us were, Evergreen Lodge and Rush Creek
Sequoia National Park. 6th – 7th August
I loved this stop the accommodation was incredible but the drive to reach it was a little hairy. The resort is located 21 miles up a single lane dirt road which winds around a cliff face with no crash barrier!!!! If you can handle that then definatly book – Silver City Mountain Resort.The resort is made up of extremely cute wooden lodges, ours was called creek side, the kids slept well but I must admit that the adult bed was too short for us and our feet hung off the end! That aside the setting is just perfect, you are surrounded by wildlife and we even saw four bears (apparently this is very rare) I may have been a little bit petrified, thank god we had just got back to our car after a hike ( watch my saved stories in my Instagram highlights to see the footage) The resort has a restaurant but if you fancy cooking and enjoying your cabin they all have kitchens and bbq’s.
Death Valley (day stop) then on to Vegas 7th – 9th August
I have previously stayed in Death Valley so thought this time we would just pass through, it is an experience and if you do want a night there you will need to book early as there are only a few places to stay. My recommendation is Stovepipe Wells it has been renovated since I stayed when I was 15. Is in the heart of the Valley, it has a swimming pool, shop, restaurant and views of the sand dunes. The temperatures are mental, we were there at 7pm and it was still 121 degrees!!
We arrived in Las Vegas at night which was perfect as it doesn’t have the same wow factor during the day, the kids were sooo excited when they saw the bright lights. There are too many hotels to choose from but as it was my birthday while we were there we wanted to stay in one on the main strip. We went for the Venetian and found an incredible deal for two nights. When we checked in they upgraded us to a suite which had a view of the strip, the room was such a luxury after the log cabin we had to force ourselves to go out for dinner!
- Check multiple websites before you leave as the hotel prices vary by hundreds of pounds
- If you are travelling with children the nights in Vegas can be eye opening, be prepared! (we saw lots of very very drunk people and one even fell into Aidan)
- Eating out in Vegas is expensive if you want good food, research using trip adviser before you go. A good place for pizza is Secret Pizza in the Cosmopolitan hotel or for more of a feast try the Bellagio Buffet or for healthy but delicious organic food try Eat
- If like us you want to see the Grand Canyon by helicopter I would depart from Vegas as companies collect from most hotels. We booked this for my birthday before we left and I would 100% find budget for it as it is a once in a lifetime experience – Papillon Helicopters
- Ask for an upgrade at check in as you never know, you may get lucky. We didn’t ask but were given a massive suite.
- The Strip may only be 4 miles long but it takes forever to walk anywhere as you have to constantly go through hotels, over walkways and people dodge.
- Take a photo by the Las Vegas sign which is the near the Mandalay Bay hotel. It gets busy and you may need to queue but there’s usually a guy there to help take your photo, which means you can get the whole group in one shot. He does it for free too, so leave that selfie stick at home.
- You can shop until you drop in designer stores in Vegas or head to the outlets for a bargain.
- Obviously a show would be amazing but they are very expensive so maybe try and book before leaving the UK. For cheaper activities head Downtown and check out Little White Wedding Chapel, The mob Museum and The Neon Museum
- Two days with children is more than enough time here, we were happy to be leaving if I’m honest as it wasn’t the boys favourite.
There are still sooo many stops to add but I don’t want to overload you with information so the second instalment will be up next week. If you have any questions at all, please do let me know as there may be something I’ve missed.
As always thanks for reading xx
This post has not been written in collaboration with any brands or companies, all views are my own and the holiday was paid for by us.