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Dream 16 day USA road trip itinerary

Dream 16 day USA road trip itinerary

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Ah, military life; it comes with plenty of ups and downs. One up that we’ve been considering recently is that it might soon give us a chance for some travel beyond Europe. Specifically the USA road trip itinerary that has, so far, been an unachievable goal on our bucket list. 

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Now, the planets may have to align for this one to come off: Mr Tin Box’s being in the right place at the right time; the school holidays; and dog sitter availability. But all that hadn’t stopped using the Visit The USA trip planner tool to compile the ideal American road trip.

Read on to find out the route and sights that made our USA road trip itinerary.

Our dream USA road trip and flying holiday

We love a road trip and have enjoyed a few in the UK, Europe and Oman. But the USA road trip is the big one.

I hadn’t dared plan for such an expedition until Mr Tin Box said we might be able to squeeze in a couple of weeks State side in-between deployments.

Mr Tin Box and kids

We wouldn’t have as much time as we’d like but I’ll take a few weeks over nothing. Who knows when another opportunity might come up?

The road trip plan we have come up with is for the girls and I to fly out and meet Mr TB in Norfolk, Virginia. There are direct flights to Charlotte, North Carolina, from London Heathrow and Mr TB could take an internal transfer to meet us there.

So what would the following 16 days have in store?

Our USA road trip destinations

The dream itinerary would tick boxes for both us adults and the girls.

We would:

  • pick up part of the country music trail for Mr Tin Box
  • satisfy the space geek in me with visits to space centers
  • see friends in New Orleans
  • and squeeze in some fun days for the girls.

But with just over two weeks in which to achieve it all, we couldn’t spend all our time on the road. I’ve sacrificed some of the longer road trip sections for flights to speed things up.

Want to stick to the road? Here’s a LA to Santa Cruz road trip that will keep your wheels firmly planted on the highway.

Here’s our 16 day USA road trip and flying holiday itinerary:

Day one – fly to Charlotte, North Carolina

The girls and I would board a flight from London Heathrow to Charlotte and arrive mid-afternoon.

Days two to four – Charlotte, North Carolina

NASCAR Hall of Fame - USA road trip
Editorial credit: one line man /

We’d give ourselves a couple of days to readjust before travelling again. This would be the girls’ first long-haul flight and I have no idea how they’d cope with the time difference.

So a few days of gentle sightseeing would work best for us all.

A visit to the NASCAR Hall of Fame for Mr Tin Box and the Discovery Place Science Museum for children will easily fill a day.

We could then tick off our first national monuments at Kings Mountain National Military Park, which was where the first major patriot victory was won during the American War of Independence. 

Day five – fly to Nashville, Tennessee

The following morning would start with an early flight to Nashville where we’d pick up a hire car for a road trip to Memphis the following day.

This is Mr Tin Box’s dream USA road trip. He loves country music and would spend days exploring.

This time he’d have 24 hours to see the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and soak up the Nashville atmosphere.

Days six to seven – drive to Memphis, Tennessee

You can’t visit Memphis without seeing Graceland and the legendary Sun Studio.

But I’d also like to make time for a ride on the Main Street Trolley and a walk through the historic Beale Street District, which was a hub for Memphis’ civil rights movement.

Days eight to nine – fly to Houston, Texas

Houston Space Center - USA road trip
Editorial credit: John_Silver /

An early morning flight would take us to Houston, Texas where we’d spend some time exploring the city.

The Water Wall looks like a piece of architecture the girls would enjoy, plus they’d get a chance to run off some steam in the park in front of it.

They’d also enjoy Houston Zoo which is home to more than 6,000 animals. The following day we’d make a 30 minute trip outside the city to Houston Space Centre where I could engross myself in space exploration for a few hours.

Days 10 to 12 – drive to New Orleans, Mississippi

We’d continue our America road trip east along Route 10 towards New Orleans.

We have family friends in New Orleans so we’d leave ourselves plenty of time during the next fews days to see them as well as the city’s French Quarter and Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve for some time in the countryside.

Days 13 to 16 – fly to Orlando, Florida

After an evening flight we’d wake up in Orlando for the grand finale of our American holiday.

I’m not the biggest Disney fan but I think I’d die a little inside if we didn’t visit Disney World with the girls while they are at that magic age.

Saying that, I’m very aware that there’s more to Orlando than Disney. We’d want to make the most of the non theme park things to do in Orlando too.

Firmly on our itinerary for this part of our USA road trip is a day at Kennedy Space Center, an air boat tour and some down time at one of Florida’s beaches.

Days 16 to 17 – fly to London

There’s nothing else for it but a red eye flight home from the USA.

Fingers crossed the girls would be suitably exhausted and sleep most of the way. That may be wishful thinking after all the excitement of the past fortnight in America?

However, having Mr TB free for the return journey would mean I might get a little shut eye myself.

But even if the return transportation to the UK is free with Mr TB, I might need another way to transport the US goods I bought to the United Kingdom.

Generally, importing goods from the US to the UK requires the submission of some paperwork and the payment of certain custom taxes. Failing to do so could mean the goods might not be legally sent to the U.K. 

Moreover, settling the custom taxes imposed on goods coming from the US to the UK may be costly on the part of the shipper. Thankfully, there are reliable international shipping companies like UPakWeShip UK and other similar options that provide shipping services at a reasonable cost.

They can also help shippers like me on how to reduce or avoid custom charges associated with the goods shipped from the US to the UK. 

On the other hand, if you’d prefer a trip that includes more of the South West then check out this Southwest USA road trip itinerary.

How I planned my dream American road trip and flying holiday 

Planning an American road trip can be challenging if you don’t know what to do and where to start. But since an American road trip is a dream for me and my girls, doing so has become an easy experience for us.

Well, aside from our budget, we also pack some essential stuff to make our adventure more comfortable and convenient. These can include sets of clothing, electronic gadgets, chargers, important documents, and other items crucial for a US road trip. 

But on top of these things, I also use a great planning tool to streamline our itinerary. Basically, Visit the USA have an awesome planning tool for international visitors to use to plan their holiday. 

Visit USA trip planner tool - USA road trip

I blinking loved using it to create our trip. You start by adding your destinations, the dates for your trip, the type of experiences you want to have and what kind of pace you’d like to keep.

The planner comes up with a customisable route and day by day plan including activities that fit your preferences. You can view your day to day itinerary as a timeline, on a calendar or a map with plenty of clickable points to give you more detail.

I have to admit that I made quite a lot of tweaks to the suggested plan, playing with the route, modes of transport, what we would do at each destination and building in some much needed down time. But it was all so easy to do. 

With a few clicks you can see whether flights, a bus or a road trip might be better for parts of your route and select activities that might appeal more to your travel companions. 

Things I really like about the Visit the USA planning tool are:

  • it tells you how long it will take to get between sights and how long you should allow when you are there. This is all meaty information that’s essential when planning a personalised itinerary, especially with kids.
  • it tells you if there’s a better way to organise your trip to save time.
  • it introduces you to off the beaten track attractions and sights as well as the must-see points of interest.
  • you can add in your exact travel plans, like flight details.

It’s a bit addictive but I’m sure saves a lot of time trying to plan everything on paper or a spreadsheet. 

Disclosure: This post has been written in conjunction with VisitTheUSA but all thoughts are my own.

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hafeez dawodu

Monday 22nd of October 2018

27 days in the USA

New York, Jersey, Washington too, a trip to Philly where Ill eat Buffalo stew!

Amy Jo McLellan

Monday 22nd of October 2018

#WanderlustWish I'm going to Nashville for 4 nights before flying to Los Angeles and then going on a roadtrip that takes me to San Simeon and Avila Beach. I'll then fly to San Francisco before finishing up in Las Vegas. I would absolute love that trip! I'd most look forward to walking along Santa Monica State Beach and seeing the Elephant Seal Rockery.

Deborah McGreavey

Monday 22nd of October 2018

I have always wanted to do Route 66, my friend did it this year on the back of a motor bike and it sounded amazing, however, I would prefer to ride the route in an open top car, tad more comfy. Here's to planning :) #WanderLustWishlist

Claire Austin

Monday 22nd of October 2018

#WunderLustWish What an amazing trip. Florida has so many special memories for me. Family holidays with my lovely sisters, a pre kids, pre wedding carefree time with my then boyfriend now husband and a very special two weeks in Key West and Miami for our honeymoon. I would love to take my children and share with them all of those very special memories as well as creating new ones of our own in an incredible part of the world.

Carol Phile

Monday 22nd of October 2018 this would be the trip I would have loved to take with my Dad, who was from the US. #WanderLustWishlist

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