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My Best Road Trip: a long-awaited family drive along the American Riviera

Driving the Pacific Coast Highway with the kids was a great alternative family holiday.

Source: Google Maps

  • Each week, TheJournal.ie/DoneDeal motoring mag will feature a reader’s best road trip. If you’d love to see your top trip featured, email us on bestroadtrip@thejournal.ie

MY BEST ROAD trip was driving the Pacific Coast Highway from San Fran to LA.

Who: Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert, Dublin, Ireland

Route: San Francisco to Los Angeles, California

Distance: 997km

Time: 17 days

When: March 2016

Vehicle: Nissan Pathfinder

Source: Sarah Slattery

Driving the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to Los Angeles is one of the world’s most iconic road trips and was something that had been on my bucket list for many years. I meant to drive it before the kids arrived. I had envisaged driving a convertible, cool wind in my hair, Tom Petty on the stereo and checking into motels in the ‘cool’ places I found along the way.

Like most things as you get older, you learn to stop regretting and start doing. At least that seems to be my latest motto. Having kids shouldn’t be an excuse not to take big adventurous journeys. They may not pan out the way you originally planned but that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Source: Sarah Slattery

Our California road trip was one of the best family holidays I have had. Ok, so we had to swap the convertible for a 4×4 and the stopping off wherever we felt like? Well – eh no, we planned and pre-booked everything! As mentioned though, that was not a bad thing.

We started in San Francisco and took the tour of Alcatraz, which incidentally, HAS to be pre-booked in advance. We also rented bikes and cycled across the Golden Gate Bridge, which was one of the best family experiences we have had throughout our travels. The look of pride on my kids’ faces when they made it to the other side is something I will never forget.

Source: Sarah Slattery

We then set off to drive the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) and took in some stunning scenery along the way. I would recommend driving north to south so you can easily pull in for all the photo opportunities without crossing the road. And of course you have the best views – from the passenger seat anyway!

Our first overnight stop was Monterey. This is a pretty yet modern town with one of America’s best aquariums – a nice treat for the kids after four days trekking around San Francisco. From there we continued along the coast, stopping in the stunning town of Carmel for lunch before arriving at our next overnight stop, Cambria.

Cambria is a small town on the central coast which is full of character. It also happens to be next door to the incredible Hearst Castle. We then drove down to Santa Barbara, which was one of my favourite coastal towns along the way. It has fantastic restaurants, plenty of hipster cafés and an amazing beach. I would suggest two nights here before you head towards LA.

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Source: Sarah Slattery

We stayed in Santa Monica and used it as a launchpad for LA. It is a great family town with a long pedestrianised promenade. The famous pier has a funfair for kids, if that takes your fancy. The hop-on hop-off bus tour goes from here into LA which we used to see Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Venice Beach. I really liked LA; there is so much to see and do and the kids had a ball. We spent a day in Universal Studios and the California Science Centre, where one of the feature exhibits is the now-retired space shuttle, Endeavour.

Source: Sarah Slattery

After all that sightseeing we decided on some well deserved beach time in San Diego. We did however, manage to fit in a day in Legoland and a day at the aircraft carrier, the USS Midway Museum too. Midway was something we all enjoyed. The kids were encouraged to climb into helicopters, fighter jet cockpits, the captain’s seat on the bridge and also press as many buttons as their little hearts desired!

Source: Sarah Slattery

There were no kids clubs or other friends to play with on this seventeen day road trip – we were together all day, every day. I have heard it said that ‘time is the new poverty’ and finding time to sit, listen and talk is not always easy, either at home or on a regular sun holiday. Sitting in a restaurant on our last night we asked Luke and Alex (aged eight and five) to write down their five favourite things about the trip. Their answers really surprised us. Second on the list for both was ‘family time’ (Legoland was number one by the way).

Source: Sarah Slattery

A California road trip is something I would highly recommend. Yes it is different with kids, but in a good way, and I’m glad I waited.

READ: Reader’s road trip – England and Wales

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About the author:

Melanie May  / https://www.melaniemay.com

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