Is a roadtrip with two under two an utterly stupid idea? Many people like to keep things as simple as possible but here are some tips for enjoying a holiday across the USA.
We are fresh back from a three week trip around the USA and thought that it was worth sharing a few tips after our holiday for anyone else brave enough to try it! We had a great holiday and covered a lot of miles as shown in the map.
We started in Washington DC before heading up through Pennsylvania to finish in Rhode Island. We caught some great sights - The White House, Lincoln Memorial, Crayola Factory, Gettysburg, Newport, Pocono Mountains etc etc) and would encourage others to do the same.
A child-friendly holiday doesn't just have to be a hotel in Spain if you want to see the world.
OK. So I will admit now that the flight was the worst bit. I've flown transatlantic with kids before and there are some ages that are fine (0-1 and 4+) but doing it with a 2yo is ambitious. That's not to say that I would actively discourage people from doing it, but it isn't easy.
Book your seat in advance if possible and use something like Seatguru to pick the best space. If you have a baby, request a crib and try to bag a bulkhead seat as there will be more legroom (ie. crawling space!)
Every inch counts, so check how wide the seats are on the airline
If you book with British Airways then try to fly out before the child's second birthday and fly back after the birthday - that way they get their own seat on the way back but still only pay the infant fare!
Don't assume anything with airlines. BA kept losing the baby's reservation and then didn't have a seat allocated on the way back for the toddler
Check in early. It gives you a chance to relax before boarding the plane and if your flight is oversold then you are less likely to get bumped off
Take your buggy to the aircraft steps rather than checking it... but still assume that it will disappear for hours at the other end (this has happened on two of my last three trips with BA)
Take little gifts with you for the kids. Assume one small toy or comic per hour that they can open. It will help to entertain them during the flight and worked great with our two
Remember that the USA isn't actually that far.... five to eight hours on a plane
We love the USA because the average hotel is a better standard and cheaper than the UK equivalent. There's always rooms available out of peak season and hopefully the following tips will help you have confidence in hitting the open road.
Always have your next night booked so that you know that you have somewhere to stay. We messed this up once and had the car journey from hell!
Many hotel chains specialise in family suites where there is a separate bedroom and living room. This lets you put the kids to sleep and still have time together over a glass of wine in the evening. We thought that Homewood Suites by Hilton and Comfort Inn in particular were very good. Obviously costs vary depending on location and time of year but we were paying between $169 for a one bedroom suite to $299 (£170) for a huge (800 sq foot) 2 bedroom suite that accommodated all four of us easily
If your kids like swimming then find hotels with swimming pools as it is a great way to unwind after a drive
We stayed at a great family chain called Great Wolf Lodge with huge indoor water parks that our toddler loved. Not our cheapest night but worth the money
Parking charges in cities can be huge so beware of hidden hotel charges
Get off the interstate and enjoy the drive. The back roads are much more scenic and people are universally friendly. There's lots to discover!
Pick up leaflets in your hotel and use Tripadvisor to find fun things to do. Don't just head to the main attractions
Tourist information offices are hard to find but all of the states have websites showing attractions, as do most towns
Rent a car with plenty of space in it to make packing and unpacking easier
Check out the children's museums in the US such as the one in Boston. They are more like activity centres than museums and great for entertaining children.