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5 week holiday to the US - Draft Itinerary - help!!!

Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
27 posts
5 week holiday to the US - Draft Itinerary - help!!!

We are planning a trip to the US next year for 5 weeks. 2 adults and 2 children (10 and 7yrs). I didn't know much about US geography until recently (and still don't really know very much).

Theme parks are high on the agenda as the trip is mostly about the kids, with a few things thrown in for me!

Any comments/suggestions on the draft plan would be much appreciated, including best places to stay/book etc ... Best way to book domestic flights. Only thing locked in so far are the flights to and from the US (San Francisco) so everything else can be fine tuned. We will do a combination of driving and flying.

8/09/2016 San Francisco Arrive 9.30am. Hire car. Facebook, Google, Lunch, Golden Gate

Bridge, Check in, Dinner

9/09/2016 San Francisco Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

10/09/2016 San Francisco Alcatraz, Lombard Street, Union Square

11/09/2016 Anaheim Depart San Francisco. Laguna Seca Mazda Raceway. Drive to Anaheim.

12/09/2016 Anaheim Knotts Berry Farm

13/09/2016 Anaheim Disneyland

14/09/2016 Anaheim Disneyland

15/09/2016 Anaheim California Adventure Park

16/09/2016 Anaheim California Adventure Park

17/09/2016 Valencia Six Flags Magic Mountain (weekend only)

18/09/2016 Valencia Six Flags Magic Mountain (weekend only)

19/09/2016 Los Angeles Universal Studios

20/09/2016 Los Angeles Hollywood

21/09/2016 Las Vegas Depart LA. Return car. Fly to Las Vegas. Hire car.

22/09/2016 Las Vegas Free choice/Explore

23/09/2016 Las Vegas Drive to Hoover Dam/ Grand Canyon and return

24/09/2016 Las Vegas Shopping/Shows

25/09/2016 Phoenix Depart Las Vegas. Return car. Fly to Phoenix. Hire car.

26/09/2016 Phoenix Drive to Tuscon. Boneyard and return

27/09/2016 Orlando Wood Wisperer, Rockla, Depart Phoenix. Fly to Orlando. Hire car.

28/09/2016 Orlando Free Choice exploring. Cape Carnaveral?

29/09/2016 Orlando Disney's Hollywood Studios

30/09/2016 Orlando Disney's Magic Kingdom

1/10/2016 Orlando Disney's Epcot

2/10/2016 Orlando Universal Studios

3/10/2016 Orlando Universal Islands of Adventure

4/10/2016 Orlando Wet n Wild

5/10/2016 Orlando Free Choice

6/10/2016 New York Depart Orlando. Fly to New York.

7/10/2016 New York Central Park, Times Square, Shopping, Check in, Dinner

8/10/2016 New York Statue of Liberty. World Trade Centre monument.

9/10/2016 New York Empire State Building, Rockafella

10/10/2016 New York Free Choice exploring

11/10/2016 New York New Jersey/Washington??

12/10/2016 Niagara Depart New York/Washington. Fly to Buffalo. Drive/Taxi to Niagara.

13/10/2016 Niagara Maiden of the Mist. Exploring. Dinner.

14/10/2016 San Francisco Depart Buffalo. Fly to San Francisco. Depart San Francisco.


Southwater, United...
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1,046 posts
111 reviews
1. Re: 5 week holiday to the US - Draft Itinerary - help!!!

I would pick up your hire car when you are ready to leave SF

Avoid three days/nights of car park fees, plus you don't need a car in SF IMO

Norwich, United...
Level Contributor
6,219 posts
2. Re: 5 week holiday to the US - Draft Itinerary - help!!!

Following on from comments in your original thread...

Here's some videos showing children having fun in the national parks - a good balance to the theme parks and the cities IMHO:

Yosemite https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgo3gf9_q8Y

Joshua Tree https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rL5yP98Ux8

Grand Canyon https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CRBlD3Rtas

Zion https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24m6A4NhXUo

Mesa Verde https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctfi6QiWWN4 (well off your route, so only included for interest)

Edited: 07 December 2015, 21:04
San Diego...
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for San Diego
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3. Re: 5 week holiday to the US - Draft Itinerary - help!!!

Hi Alison - I'm glad you posted on the Road Trip Forum.

But I'm still going to give you this same advise.

<< LA.

12/09/2016 Los Angeles Knotts Berry Farm - NOT in LA

13/09/2016 Los Angeles Disneyland - NOT in LA

14/09/2016 Los Angeles Disneyland - NOT in LA

15/09/2016 Los Angeles California Adventure Park - NOT in LA

16/09/2016 Los Angeles California Adventure Park - NOT in LA

ALL of the above are in Anaheim. About a 1 hr (IF no traffic) drive South of LA. Stay in Anaheim to be able to be at the Parks when they open. As well as having the freedom to go back to your hotel when tired. And you WILL get tired.

<<17/09/2016 Los Angeles Six Flags Magic Mountain (weekend only) - NOT in LA

18/09/2016 Los Angeles Six Flags Magic Mountain (weekend only) - NOT in LA

Six Flags is about a 1 hr drive North of LA in the City of Valencia

<<19/09/2016 Los Angeles Universal Studios - Whew, finally something in LA area

<<20/09/2016 Los Angeles Hollywood - LA

So out of 9 days you are only IN LA for 2 of them.

Obviously you know your kids. But at that age I would have been begging my parents for a break between visiting theme parks. It's just non stop ...

Melbourne, Australia
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for Melbourne, Victoria, Road Trips
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4. Re: 5 week holiday to the US - Draft Itinerary - help!!!

Some of your planned driving days are a lot longer than you might think. For example, it's a 5 hour drive one way from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon, so not really feasible as a day trip. I highly recommend you stay overnight.

Driving the Interstate between San Francisco & Anaheim is like driving Sydney to Melbourne on the Hume...a long drive on a boring freeway. As you don't need a car in San Francisco, consider flying & collect your car in LA. If you want to drive, allow a couple of days to drive Highway 1. Also look into going to Yosemite. I know you want to focus on Theme Parks, but the National Parks in the USA are fantastic.

I'll also add that I was really disappointed with Niagara Falls, though it was quite a few years ago when I went there. It's a long way to go & I don't know that it's worth it.

Melbourne, Australia
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130 reviews
5. Re: 5 week holiday to the US - Draft Itinerary - help!!!

Awesome looking trip when you get to Orlando look into Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween Party it is held at Magic Kingdom it is a separate ticket event but I think the kids will enjoy it .

I see you haven't got Animal Kingdom on your list it's well worth I visit .Kennedy Space Centre is a must do took me 3 trips to Florida to fit it in .

It's cheaper in Vegas from a Sunday thru Thursday and it's only a 5 hr drive from LA something to consider when you factor in cost of 4 flights time to pack everything up return Rental car,checking in for flight etc you could almost be in Vegas.

Vegas to Grand Canyon and back in a day is a long one but do able

I have done 5 trips to USA since 2005 and will be back in Sept/Oct 2016 maybe even in Orlando when you guys are.

Lewes, United...
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for Road Trips
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6. Re: 5 week holiday to the US - Draft Itinerary - help!!!

I'm utterly confused by the trip plan and the many short car rentals and flights.

Just one example:

Why on earth would you dump a rental car in Vegas and then fly to Phoenix to pick one up again? It's only a 5 hour drive and with the faffing at the car rental desks and airport check in times, you could keep the car and drive to Phoenix - and it's a nice enough drive. With more time I could spell out some decent stops, too.

And you only really want the car in Phoenix to drive to Tucson for the boneyard?

Others have made many comments. Some I agree with, others I don't. However, overall I personally do not see this as a well planned trip, even if it is all about the kids.


Chapel Hill, North...
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7. Re: 5 week holiday to the US - Draft Itinerary - help!!!

I am not that familiar with Australia although I have a friend who moved there a couple of years ago and am often jealous when I see her beautiful spring and summer photos this time of year. Do you not have theme parks in Australia? 'Cause that's A LOT of theme parks.

I have kids a little older than yours (12 & 14) and that would be way overload for them. We went to Universal Orlando last year and had a great time over 2.5 days, but at the end of that time my youngest was clearly wiped out and ready to leave. She definitely did not beg to stay longer. She did love the manatees at Blue Spring State Park (they gather there in cold weather).

I'd take your kids to see some of the really special things about the US. I know in Australia you have some amazing natural beauty, but the US does too and some of it is pretty different from Aus. Consider taking your kids to see the giant Sequoia trees when you're in California. huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/26/yosemite-photo… There are many places to see them including Muir Woods just over the Golden Gate bridge from San Francisco.

I'm not sure you need to do Universal and Disney in both California and Orlando. Most folks agree that the Orlando parks are the biggest and best. The California versions and Florida versions do have a lot of the same things, so some of it would be a repeat. The Orlando forum is very knowledgable so worth asking there if anyone has been to both and can compare.

I'll have a think and post back if I can come up with more kid-friendly activities. Oooo, consider Yellowstone — "scenery that moves", geysers and bison and tons of wildlife. It would need to happen early in your trip or you'll run into bad weather.

Lewes, United...
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for Road Trips
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8. Re: 5 week holiday to the US - Draft Itinerary - help!!!

Thanks, panchopup, for putting some perspective on this trip plan. You have articulated several of my own thoughts and concerns. However, as I have no kids and I'm also a person who fails to get theme parks, I do not consider myself the right person to be saying stuff like that.

I am not aware of any big amusement parks on Oz - certainly none on the scale of those in the general area of Orlando or Anaheim/LA. I'd guess the geography of the populated parts of Oz and the relatively small total population of the country are among the reasons no major organisation has set up there. Yes, here are a few smaller and different theme or amusement parks in the country, we've passed them.

However, closer and cheaper to reach from some parts of Oz, Sydney included, are some Disney parks in China and Japan - and these seem very popular with a lot of Australia families. But of course, they don't combine well with a long road trip in an English speaking country.


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9. Re: 5 week holiday to the US - Draft Itinerary - help!!!

If you haven't done so, check out the trip reports in posts 73 and 193 in the trip report thread at the top of the fourm. Both have great activities for kids in San Francisco and elsewhere. This trip also IMO seems mega-overloaded on amusement parks, especially given the other options available; e.g., Palm Springs Aero Tramway and the Whirlpool jet boats at Niagara Falls just for non-amusement park adventure activities.

Do your kids like big coasters? Will the youngest meet the height requirements at the Six Flags' parks? With two, or even one, Six Flags' parks, consider skipping Knotts' Berry Farm.

Certainly consider allowing time in SF at the end of your trip before your flight home. Do you think combining a transcontinental and trans-Pacific flight in the same day is a good idea, especially as you may run into delays on the transcontinental flight?

Definitely consider posting the CA segment of your trip on the California destination forum.

Good planning!

Edited: 08 December 2015, 00:16
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10. Re: 5 week holiday to the US - Draft Itinerary - help!!!

Check out the Southwest Airlines website for domestic flights. Consider luggage charges for domestic flights.