3 Epic Itineraries For Family Trips Around The US
SOUTHWEST NATIONAL PARK EXPERIENCE
The trip: A 12-night tour of the southwest USA National Parks.
Price: From £17,500 per person.
This trip is all about taking in the beauty and wilderness of some of the main National Parks in America – think Badlands, Arches, Canyonlands, Captain Reef and Zion. Starting off at the Four Seasons in Scottsdale and ending with two nights in Las Vegas, the experience offers a mix of vast expanses of scenery and bucket-list destinations such as the Grand Canyon, but you’ve also got access to the history and heritage of the communities who live there – from Wild West folklore to the Navajo Nation. This trip really appeals to active families – it can encompass everything from rafting to 4x4 experiences and hiking – so it’s suggested that children should be aged ten or over to really get the most out of the trip.
Navajo Nation: Scott Dunn can arrange for guests to visit the Navajo Nation and meet a Navajo elder who can talk about their history, do demonstrations and talk them through the incredible rock formations. This opportunity gives guests a more authentic overview of the area and culture.
Amangiri: This super high-end hotel in the middle of the desert offers several family experiences, including riding a suspension bridge across a canyon – called The Staircase in the Sky – and going on a cruise around Lake Powell, which includes beaches, bays and canyons. For total relaxation, chill by the pool, head to the spa and soak up the desert views at sunset.
Colorado: Guests can ride the Colorado rapids and backcountry trails in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park.
The Expert Says…
Rob Holmes, Senior Travel Consultant & USA specialist at Scott Dunn
One of the best things about the trip is canyoneering. Guests will get the chance to out with a guide to climb down canyon walls and traverse through them.
The Amangiri really is special. And by nature, the team offers plenty of one-off experiences to accompany your stay. If money is no object, you could hire a private guide to take you down into Antelope Canyon in Arizona, where the walls envelop around you in vivid red and orange. The hotel has unique access to a particular part of that canyon that other tours can’t get to. It’s well worth seeing and they can also organise helicopter trips to see all the amazing scenery from another perspective.
It can get really hot in the summer, which means it can sometimes limit what you do outside. But it’s still very possible – there’s not really a bad time to go. Because of the challenges the heat can present, this trip perhaps makes a bit more sense over the Easter holidays or October half term.
Outside of the spectacular scenery, what makes this part of the US so special is it’s a taste of true America. Especially at the start of the trip onwards from Sedona, there are cool and quirky places where you can stop off from the main itinerary. You drive through a short stretch of Route 66 where you can see abandoned gas stations and stop in for lunch at a traditional diner. It gives you a glimpse of America not all tourists get to see.
What a lot of people forget is that time on the road is part of the joy of an American road trip. You’re not just driving from A to B. We always recommend hiring a large SUV for these trips and that’s something we can sort out for you.
We’re all about enhancing a trip and getting to know our clients so we can work out what’s important to them before we suggest any extras. I’ve been and done these trips myself, so I’m talking from personal experience, even down to suggesting lunch spots along the way. If you wanted to set up private tented accommodation on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for the night, for example, we can sort that.
The trip: A next-level cruise along the East Coast of the US and Canada.
Price: From £8,900 per guest.
Explora Journeys is a new company that allows guests the opportunity to explore the East Coast of the United States and Canada. The trip begins in New York and includes a lovely stretch of New England, where families can meet Nasa astronauts in Port Canaveral and try a variety of world-famous delicacies before ending the trip with a seaplane tour in La Baie, Canada. The itinerary includes a mix of urban experiences in New York, Boston, Halifax and Quebec City as well as the opportunity to witness the beauty of snow-covered peaks, dramatic coasts, evergreen forests and preserved landscapes. Guests will travel up the coast on Explora I, a state-of-the-art ship. North American journeys take place from September to November – ideal for half term – which is the best time to see New England in its full autumn splendour.
New York: Guests have the chance to be led through the Museum of Modern Art on a private tour before opening hours by an expert art historian. Making the most of the city’s theatre district, guests will also be invited to go behind the curtain of Broadway for an exclusive encounter with a stage star and a private performance of musical favourites. For something a little different, forest bathing sessions in the centre of the city can be arranged.
Boston: A trip to Boston wouldn’t be complete without a tour of Fenway Park – home of the Boston Red Sox – before guests embark on an afternoon of arts and academia at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, followed by a traditional afternoon tea (with a New England twist), surrounded by the classic art inside the 1895 Beaux Arts public library on Boston’s Copley Square.
Port Canaveral: From the port, guests can be taken to the Kennedy Space Center from where every American human space mission has been launched. A private encounter with a Nasa astronaut will bring 21st-century space travel a step further into focus for Explora Journeys’ guests. Elsewhere, Cocoa Beach is just the place for guests to enjoy a two-hour surfing lesson.
Portland: Known for its lighthouses, lobsters and beautiful beaches, experiences in Portland revolve around its iconic food culture. Guests can sail on a lobster boat before being served fresh-from-the-boat seafood, and browsing coffee houses, bakeries and award-winning restaurants of the old port. For wine lovers, a trip a local winery will reflect the terroir of Maine.
The Expert Says...
Sacha Rougier, Head of Itinerary Planning & Destination Experiences at Explora Journeys
Each experience is designed to create a meaningful connection with the destination. Every voyage is tailored to small, intimate groups, from two to 25 guests and the emphasis is always on exclusive, off-the-beaten-path encounters focused on a slower pace of travel to allow guests to fully immerse themselves in wherever they are.
We pride ourselves on providing exceptional experiences for families. We’ve created many itineraries that multiple generations can enjoy together. One of our most exciting experiences on the East Coast is the opportunity to meet an astronaut from Nasa at Port Canaveral. This will captivate both children and adults, as they get to hear first-hand accounts of life in space and learn about the thrilling journey to becoming an astronaut. Another special encounter is a whale watching tour with a marine biologist.
If money is no object, look at booking our Beyond Boundaries activities. For adults, one of the highlights on the North America tour is a private tasting in caviar founder Cornel Ceapa’s living room in Saint John. This unique, interactive experience offers a cooking demonstration featuring world-renowned sturgeon caviar. It’s a priceless experience.
Our ‘Journey To Dream Islands In The Stream’ voyage will sail over the October half-term break. This is a 14-night trip from New York City to Miami. Guests will sail from New York to the mid-Atlantic archipelago of Bermuda to see peach-sand beaches and beautiful shallow reefs. From here to the Caribbean, Explora I will trace a horseshoe of tropical islands: from volcanic Virgin Gorda to Antigua for maritime history and fine restaurants, Curacao in the Dutch West Indies and the Dominican Republic for less-travelled Samana’s waterfalls and whale skeletons. The final stop is at a private marine reserve in the Bahamas before arriving into Miami.
The trip: A 14-night trip along the West Coast of the USA.
Price: From £12,000 per person, excluding flights.
If cruising along Highway 1 in a Cadillac sounds like your dream luxury holiday, read on. Black Tomato’s North America travel experts have created an all-encompassing Californian trip that will have families exploring like locals and experiencing striking landscapes. Setting off from San Francisco, the trip involves wine tastings – and family activities – in Napa Valley before going on to experience the wilderness of Yosemite. From there, you’ll cruise south on Highway 1 towards Santa Barbara and LA. The team will give you the inside scoop on the best roads to turn down for the best views and the must-see pitstops, and you’ll stay in the best properties on the West Coast.
Napa Valley: A few hours before sunrise, you’ll set off for a sunrise hot air balloon flight over Napa Valley. Watch as the sun rises over the pine-laden valleys below.
Yosemite: Part of the itinerary includes two nights at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel. Formerly known as the Ahwahnee, this rustic but elegant lodge offers sweeping views and is in just the right location for exploring this extraordinary National Park. Yosemite offers spectacular scenery, rich history and towering granite carved out by glaciers. Guests can choose to spend a few days hiking alongside a Conservancy ranger by day and stargazing by night.
The Expert Says...
Carolyn Addison, Head of Product at Black Tomato
California is mainly geared towards the outdoors. Some of the elite experiences we offer for this trip include whale watching aboard a private zodiac with a marine biologist, trekking through Yosemite National Park with a ranger, riding by horseback to the Hollywood sign and kayaking in Santa Barbara, which are all fantastic options for families. Doing a surf lesson with a pro surfer is an iconic LA experience.
Helicopter tours and travelling in a classic Cadillac convertible are great ways to see LA. For fun excursions for high-budget clients, San Francisco is among the best cities to see from the sky by helicopter or seaplane, with an impressive mix of sightseeing including the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as beautiful coastlines and forests. Anywhere in the Big Sur/Carmel/Monterey region is home to great marine life so a private whale watching trip is a must. Families often want to do something around LA's film culture, so we can arrange VIP experiences watching something being filmed, going behind the scenes in Hollywood, along with meeting stars. For sports fans, we can arrange courtside tickets at an LA Lakers game. A couple of next-level ideas include a chauffeur guide to take the stress of navigating and driving out of the equation, plus helicopters and private plane charters to shorten journey times.
The region offers a fantastic diversity of landscapes, activities and experiences as well as temperate weather year-round, so it's inherently family friendly and appeals to all ages and interests – from amusement parks to world-class museums, surfing to rock-climbing, fine dining to roadside taco stands. It’s one of the few great road trips that can be done in a two-week window, without having hour upon hour on the road. Finally, it acts as a fabulous gateway to more far-flung destinations, including Mexico, Hawaii and the South Pacific.
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