Family Vacation to the West Coast of USA

How to make the most of your 2-3 weeks on the West Coast of USA


Visiting the West Coast of USA

Here is our 2-3 week itinerary for the West Coast of the USA.  This itinerary should provide your family with the flexibility to discover new adventures and the security of knowing you will be seeing as much as you possibly can on your trip of a life time.

The highlights of your trip to the West Coast will be:

  • Los Angeles 4-5days including a travel day to Anaheim
  • Disneyland 4-5days including a travel day to Death Valley
  • Death Valley 1 day including a travel day to Las Vegas
  • Las Vegas 3 days flight to San Francisco
  • San Francisco 4-5days including a travel day to the Scenic Highway 1
  • Scenic Highway 1 2 days to complete the drive
  • San Diego 2 days a trip from LA


LOS ANGELES -LA {4-5 days}

Most travellers will land in Los Angeles which is the perfect starting point for your West Coast Adventure.  Our family absolutely love LA as the variety of art, sports, beach and culture really appeal to us.  We love riding bikes along the ocean paths from Santa Monica to Venice Beach, watching a game of Ice Hockey at the Staples Centre or visiting the Art Galleries of LA.  We have found that the sunsets in Los Angeles to be fabulous and the Griffith Observatory is one of the perfect places to view the end of an LA day.  To read all about our LA tips and to find the slightly quirky and different LA things to do read here.  We have compiled all our LA tips into the Ultimate Guide to LA.

When you are in Los Angeles you will need a car as public transport is restrictive and you will waste a lot of time waiting for the bus! Trust us with this tip as we have been to LA without a car and it was frustrating.


Sunset from the LA Dodgers car park

Accommodation can be expensive but keep looking there are great finds.  We have styed in the Venice area – away from the beach, in Ocean Park, Melrose and Hollywood.  Since you will have a car one area is not better than the other, it depends on what activities you are planning to do.  We have used Airbnb, VRBO and also  Our Airbnb discount code is here.

Plan to spend 4-5 days in LA which includes a travelling day to Anaheim for Disneyland.

DISNEYLAND {4-5 days}

It is true that Disneyland is the Happiest Place on Earth, it is also the place where a lot of your money will disappear.  We have been to Disneyland many times and we have never ever regretted the memories that we have made there.  Disneyland can be experienced in 3 full days at the parks depending on the time of year you visited.  Early December and Mid January are perfect for low crowds.  We have always stayed off site but within walking distance of the parks.  There are so many options for Disneyland Accommodation.  Be prepared to be at the park gates 30mins before they open and spend until close at the parks each day.  The tickets are expensive so being organised and prepared will make the most of your Disney Days.  Read all about our Disneyland Tips here.  There are two parks at Anaheim Disneyland and California Adventure Park. Your Park Ticket will allow access to both parks depending on what you purchase.


Toy Story Mania- California Adventure Park

Having a car in Anaheim is not necessary as you will be in Disneyland for the majority of your stay.  Drive your rental to Anaheim then leave it with the rental car company.  Before dropping off your car consider completing a grocery shop and also heading to Target to buy Disney t-shirts at a fraction of the costs of inside Disneyland.  Everyone wears Disney shirts whilst in Disneyland.  Uber or Lyft is easy to access in the case that you need a car after you have left your at the rental car place.


After being in Anaheim your family will need a break from walking and walking.  Pick up your rental car again and drive to Death Valley.  Instead of driving the whole way and staying inside the Death Valley National Park which can be a 6 hour drive, consider driving and staying in Barstow (approx. 3 hour trip).  Staying in Barstow is a cheaper option and is a great starting point to begin the drive to Death Valley the next morning.  Death Valley is too hot to visit in the Summer months but during Winter it is spectacular.  Our tips on what you will see in Death Valley are here.


Badwater Basin- Death Valley

LAS VEGAS {3 days}

It is no secret that we have a close connection to Las Vegas.  We were married in the Tropicana Casino and we have visited again many times with the whole family.  It is true that Las Vegas is fun without the kids in tow but there are so many activities to do with the whole family.  Las Vegas is truly like no other place on Earth.  We have found the best things for your family to do while in Las Vegas here. And then when you have ticked all the regular things to do in Las Vegas here is a list of all the Unusual Activities to find in Las Vegas.  With a seemingly endless choice of accommodation it will be a hard selection for your LV stay.  Keep in mind that on the weekends the prices for hotels can more than double.  Try to avoid Las Vegas from Friday to Sunday. We have stayed in the Tropicana, Monte Carlo, Excalibur and the Mirage.  Our biggest tip is to stay on the Strip and aim for the middle.  Circus Circus and Stratosphere may be a cheap option but both are so far from the Strip that it outweighs the price that you will then spend on Ubers.


Welcome to Las Vegas

SAN FRANCISCO {4-5 days}

There are two options to get from Las Vegas to San Francisco. To drive is approximately 8-10 hours.  This could be combined with a trip to Yosemite National Park.  If you are on a tighter schedule look at flying from LV to SFO.  Flights can vary enormously depending on the day of the week and the holiday periods.  Flights can be as low as $150 with a budget airline.

San Francisco is a fantastic city that you will not need a car for.  The public transport is cheap, accessible and reliable.  Accommodation can be expensive, especially if there is a conference on.  Be flexible with your dates for San Francisco as this could save you a lot of money.  When choosing a place to stay, consider the proximity to public transport.


Riding the Trams in San Francisco

San Francisco is a city that you can experience museums, large open parks, riding a tram and eating the most amazing food.  The Golden Gate Bridge is so iconic and will be a huge one to tick off your list of must do’s.

Read all about what we have experienced in SF here.



When leaving San Francisco to best way to return to LA is via the most scenic route on the West Coast – Highway 1.  Head to Half Moon Bay for a coffee and the beginning of spectacular views.  This drive is best split into at least 2 days with an overnight stop at San Luis Obispo or Monterey or Carmel.  The beginning of the trip highlight is the Bixby Creek Bridge.  Make sure to stop here and take in the views.  Fog can be an issue along the Highway, so fingers crossed it has lifted before your drive.  We have completed this drive before and seen nothing but fog for over half of the trip.  So keep this in mind that the weather is not in your control.  Other trip highlights along the scenic highway are:

  • Pebble Beach Area ($10.25 entrance fee)
  • Carmel by the Sea
  • Monterey Aquarium (expensive but well worth the money)
  • Hearst Castle
  • Sea Lions – near Hearst Castle
  • Tri-tip sandwich in San Luis Obispo
  • Santa Barbara
  • Driving into Malibu


SAN DIEGO {2 days}

A fantastic two day trip from Los Angeles is San Diego.  We love stopping at Carlsbad and at La Jolla to smell the salty fresh air.  San Diego has fantastic beaches, Mexican food and the San Diego Zoo.  Read about our trip to San Diego here.



We have had great success in booking reasonable flights for our family when travelling from Australia to the USA.  I am very passionate about getting a good price and to achieve this you will need to be constantly checking SkyScanner  Be flexible with dates as changing your departure by a day or two can mean the savings of thousands of dollars.

When booking cars for the USA I have found that using RentalCars to be the most affordable.  This is a search engine that will search all the car companies and give you the cheapest price.  Also the prices are all inclusive and in Australian Dollars.


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