US breaks that are fun for all the family

Expedition Cruises
By Neal Baldwin
Home » US breaks that are fun for all the family

It’s big, it’s brash… and it’s totally daunting! Agents new to selling the US might rightly feel a degree of trepidation when it comes to putting together the perfect family holiday itinerary.

Having clients with children certainly ramps up the pressure – after all, you don’t want to mess things up for everyone. But there’s really no need for fear… this is a land of opportunity where just about any vacation choice can be adapted for visitors young and old.

In search of inspiration? Here a few of our go-to favourites:

Fun in the sun

Florida is an obvious choice for families for plenty of reasons. Great weather, fabulous beaches, an almost limitless supply of reasonably priced accommodation and loads of child-friendly activities.

Orlando typically grabs the headlines thanks to its concentration of theme parks and that’s a great place to begin a trip to the Sunshine State. The thing is, clients shouldn’t limit their ambitions to Mickey, Harry Potter and the Marvel gang. Touring the likes of Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld can be a full-time job and become a grind that sends mum and dad home in need of a holiday.

Instead, try to limit the parks to a maximum of four days and send clients on a road trip further afield to get closer to nature. Specialists such as Ocean Florida are great for multi-centre itineraries and have experts with lots of knowledge. We like Clearwater, near Tampa, which offers beachside bars and seafood restaurants to complement miles of snow-white sandy beach. Alternatively, Sanibel Island to the southwest has an even more relaxed, otherworldly vibe.

For something a bit more lively, consider the Florida Everglades – walking, kayaking and zooming through wetlands on an airboat in search of alligators will put a smile on the grumpiest teens and is easy to combine with a stay in glitzy Miami or as part of a journey into the Florida Keys.

California dreamin’

Thanks to Hollywood, pretty much everyone thinks they know California. But the Golden State is full of undiscovered riches for families with an adventurous spirit.

A coastal road trip is a great way to explore, starting off in San Francisco. Maybe it’s the sea air, or perhaps the city’s long history of attracting migrants, but this is a place that is just, well, different. Take a few days to explore the many sites of interest – ride the cable cars, visit Alcatraz, scoff clam chowder at Fisherman’s Wharf, weave the vibrant streets of Chinatown and take a bike ride over the Golden Gate Bridge – all are perfect for families.

Then it’s into a car and time to head up along the winding Highway 1, through picturesque towns including Monterey, Carmel and Big Sur with their boutiques and beaches, to Santa Barbara. The historic Spanish-built town is worthy of a stay, especially when combined with the outdoor fun to be had in the nearby Los Padres National Forest. Spot deer, coyotes and raccoons among the pine trees.

Clients will finish up in Los Angeles, naturally, where theme parks and movie tours are an obvious choice. Alternatively, suggest a more relaxed stay further north in laid-back beach community of Huntington Beach or artist playground of Laguna Beach.

New beginning

Most agents tend to only think of New England when it comes to guests in search of the spectacular Fall foliage, but the region really comes alive in the warmer months.

There’s a reason America’s most well-heeled families all have summer houses here – stunning scenery, quaint coastal towns and bucket loads of history make for an enviable break, and there’s variety aplenty for guests willing to combine Boston with Cape Cod or Maine.

In America’s oldest city, an amphibious Duck tour is an irreverent way to learn about history, followed by taking the Freedom Trail back into the revolutionary era.

Keeping youngsters busy is always the secret to a quiet life, so consider whale watching, before heading south to the windswept beaches of Cape Cod that offer ample opportunities for swimming, paddleboarding and cycling. Alternatively, make your way north to the White Mountains for incredible outdoor recreation – including rock climbing and swimming in natural pools beneath the Arethusa Falls – or call in to the historic city of Portsmouth for a well-deserved session of tax-free retail therapy.

Sky’s the limit

Family holidays usually mean summer, but New York is a rare exception and should be on every agent’s ‘suggestions’ list outside of the hottest months. The city gets stifling hot and humid in July and August, and combined with crowds can make for an uncomfortable visit.

That said, what a fantastic place it is when the sun isn’t blazing. There’s more than enough to keep everyone happy and days are easily filled zooming between attractions on the excellent subway system. 

A great way to start any visit is head up one of New York’s high spots (The Empire State, The Edge, Top of the Rock and SUMMIT One Vanderbilt all offer vertiginous views) before heading out for a day planned in advance.

Small children will love the Children’s Museum of Manhattan and the classic carousels in Central Park, while older ones might fancy the park’s zoo before a blast along the Hudson in The Beast speedboat. Grab something fancy to eat at Chelsea Market, tackle the giant pastrami sandwich at Katz’s Deli, or search out some (certainly fake) designer bargains in Canal Street.

For longer adventures, grab a ferry to Governors Island for a ride on the four-seater Surrey bikes, become a secret agent at the brilliant Spyscape attraction or venture out to Coney Island’s famous boardwalk, beach and amusement park for a taste of old-fashioned exhilaration.

And remember, whatever client’s fancy, don’t forget to add New York City Passes to the booking. The tickets offer great savings and earn you bumper commission.

Buffalo soldiers

Nothing brings a family together more than an adventure, so what could be better than turning your clients into Wild West pioneers?

To experience the US in all of its natural glory, consider a trip that combines the wilderness states of Utah, Wyoming and South Dakota. All three are big on wide, open spaces, and boast the wonders of perhaps the country’s two finest National Parks – Yellowstone and Grand Teton. In the first, visitors can marvel at geothermal wonders including the famous Old Faithful geyser and bubbling mud pools, while the second features soaring snow-capped peaks and incredible mirror-like lakes.

The mountain town of Jackson and bright lights of Salt Lake City offer a taste of civilisation, though clients will more often insist on sticking with the outdoors. Don’t miss carved marvels Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota, before chucking in time in Utah Valley’s rugged ‘Dinosaurland’ region, where a host of museums celebrate the areas’s incredible fossil finds.