This was not our first trip to the USA – we visited a few years back, but being limited to just a three-week stay, we barely scratched the surface of this amazing country! We were determined to see every possible inch we could this time around. Our holiday was 7 weeks this time, in the bold hope that we would somehow manage to cram in everything we desperately wanted to see! However, in the end, we still felt as if we barely started! The USA is one of those countries where the ‘more you see, the more you want to see’! So returning in the future is definitely on the cards. I did want to share my itinerary and planning process with you, though, to perhaps help you plan your own holiday to the United States.
I will post detailed blog posts about each destination over the next few weeks and link to them below.
- 10 days Anaheim (I’m a Disney freak, but we also used this as a base to explore local areas)
- 4 days San Diego
- 4 days Carnival Cruise Long Beach -Mexico
- 3 days Los Angeles
- 2 days Palm Springs
- 5 days Las Vegas
- 2 days Pismo Beach
- 2 days Monterey
- 5 days San Fransisco
- 7 days New York
I researched where I wanted to go first and for how long, then tracked down flights with the lowest price within my dates. It cost around $960 AUD return with Virgin Australia for flights from Brisbane to Los Angeles, San Fransisco to New York and New York to Brisbane. I found the flights online and asked Flight Centre to match the prices, which they did.
- Passport – Don’t forget to take a photocopy with you and leave a photocopy at home so that you have copies if you happen to lose yours while travelling.
- ESTA – Make sure you only apply for this via the official website! You need to apply for an ESTA for travel to America for under 90 days. There are lots of sites that charge 4 x the price for the same process. You should be paying around $15 USD per person through the official website.
- Photo ID – This includes your car licence if you are hiring a car.
- Paperwork – Print copies of all your hotel bookings, flights and any tours you have pre-booked.
I went with 1Cover annual cover since we were travelling to Thailand a few weeks before our USA trip. I paid around $600 for a family of six for the annual cover. Don’t even think of travelling to the USA without insurance! The cost of medical over there, should you need it, is outrageous.
- Cash – I found Travelex would do a better rate for a bulk amount if you phoned before exchanging, so that’s what I did most of the time.
- Pre-paid travel card – I used the Commonwealth Bank prepaid travel card for this trip and was really happy with it. Every week I loaded cash on it in AUD and when I was satisfied with the exchange rate, I changed it over to USD using the Commonwealth Bank app. I could use this card everywhere and track expenses via the app, which I liked.
I’m a huge fan of car hire when travelling, especially with a large family, so that we don’t always have to rely so heavily on the public transport systems. I hired our car from rentalcars.com because it included all the insurance required and was in AUD. I didn’t find driving on the opposite side in the States hard at all. The highways are a little crazy, but just stick to the slow lane and take your time. The only time I struggled was driving in car parks and forgetting what side I was meant to be on and when I returned home, I had to adjust back to the right side again.
We didn’t hire a car in New York because the traffic is NEXT LEVEL CRAZY and it’s gridlocked most of the time anyway. The subway system in NY is your best friend! We used shuttles to get from the airport to the hotel and back again.
Accommodation can be tricky when booking blindly from another country. To get a better feel for accommodation preferences, I made sure I read lots of reviews and ratings to ensure I was booking somewhere half decent. I’m not too picky but because there are 6 of us, we always need two rooms and that can add up very quickly! I used hotels.com to book all of our accommodation for the USA trip because it shows in AUD, had reviews on the site and gave you a bonus night for every 10 nights booked!
I like to book the popular ones before travelling so that we know they are paid for and we won’t miss out. Any other tours, I just wait until we arrive and book on the spot. Sometimes this is the best way, so you can check the weather and make sure you still want to go at the time.
Phone and Sim Cards
I took my iPhone and simply purchased an unlimited internet and phone package by T-Mobile from Sim Corner before leaving Australia. It was all set up to go when we arrived, so all I had to do was turn my phone on and use it. I never ran out of data, which was amazing for the amount of time I used the internet and the kids hot spotted off me. While I was in the USA, I looked at prepaid packages available over there and nothing compared to the price and value of the one I purchased from Sim corner in Australia, so I highly recommended you purchase here in Oz before you leave!
If you want to find out how I budgeted for this trip and others, you can read this post!
As always, I would love for you to share any super helpful itinerary tips and tricks you’ve picked up when planning your trips to the USA!