Thinking of jetting away to the USA? The West Coast is now more accessible than ever by air, and when you fly with Air New Zealand to Los Angeles, the whole family can jet in comfort and ease with the innovative Economy Skycouch. With a whole row of Economy seats that fold down into a couch after takeoff, which is perfect for families flying with small kids in tow to spread out and relax, play games or watch the inflight entertainment. Too easy!
And when you arrive in Los Angeles, there's so much to do in and around California! Why not go La La Land in LA, put it all on red in Vegas or become a kid again in Disneyland? There’s something for everyone! We just returned from the sunny West Coast and did all this in 10 days - yes, it can be done and it was amazing. However, if you can, I recommend staying in the US for at least two weeks so you don’t need a holiday from the holiday! Especially if you have kids in tow. For the ultimate US family holiday in California and Las Vegas, here's my top tips and things to know before you go.
Looking for a funky boutique hotel with a Hollywood Hills view? Look no further than Mama Shelter Los Angeles. This hidden gem can be found just a few blocks away from the Hollywood Walk of Fame. With uber-cool but extremely friendly staff, rooms adorned with Star Wars lampshades and a rooftop bar that offers a near 360-degree view, this is the place to stay and play in LA.
Top tip: Fancy a breakfast, old-school diner style? Go to The 101 Coffee Shop in Hollywood. Here you can enjoy authentic home-style cooking, pop a dollar in the jukebox and take a step back to the 1960s.
With Vegas only a four-hour drive from LA, a last-minute detour put the city of lights in our sights. Hotels are plentiful in Las Vegas so if you do decide to go, the rooms won’t break the bank (even if the casinos do). Old-school hotels illuminated with lights and theming are what Vegas is all about – stay at Luxor Las Vegas, Excalibur Hotel & Casino or Caesars Palace Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, to name a few, and you will feel like you have stepped into a supersized playground.
Top tip: Most casinos offer free drinks when sitting at the gambling machines – but don’t forget to tip! At least US$1 a drink is the standard.
Next stop on our trip was Palm Springs and it certainly does what it says on the tin – palm trees dotted everywhere. We didn’t get to mingle with the rich and famous at Coachella but Palm Spring was still as fabulous. Known for its hot springs, stylish hotels, golf courses and spas, there’s so much to do here even when the famous music festival is not on. For the shoppers, downtown Palm Springs is lined with great boutiques at surprisingly affordable prices.
Top tip: Brunch is by far the most popular meal of the day in Palm Springs. Experience it by the pool at the trendy Ace Hotel & Swim Club or at local favourite Lulu California Bistro.
Disneyland Resort, Anaheim
Disneyland needs no introduction. We spent three days at the 'Happiest Place on Earth' and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The rides, the food, the magic – it was truly incredible. If there's one thing to take away from this blog, make it FASTPASS! Some rides have FASTPASS machines at them (they are detailed on the park info leaflet). When you get to the theme park, scan your ticket at the FASTPASS machine and you’ll be allocated a time to go back to the ride. When your time slot arrives, go to the ride, show your ticket and skip the queue. Gold! Seriously, this is possibly the best invention for parents with kids who can’t wait longer than two minutes for anything...
Top tip: If your child is like ours (i.e. a three-year-old night owl), try and go to the Disneyland Park later at night. We did the morning shift, took a break and then went back in the early evening. From 9pm onwards, we had the park to ourselves. It was truly magical!
Our all-time favourite West Coast city is Santa Monica. To take in the sights, you must hire a bicycle as it’s truly the ultimate bike-friendly city. Riding (with our little one on the back) from Santa Monica to Venice Beach is one of the best things we did on our holiday. We got to experience the diversity between the two cities, miles of sandy beach, Marina del Rey and the Venice canals, all with a bit of exercise thrown in.
Top tip: Need a restaurant to cater for all tastes? The Cheesecake Factory does just that. There's lots to choose from and it's all delicious.