Car driving on South Carolina highway - USA road trip
Family travel

Planning the dream USA road trip – #WanderlustWish

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 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 current job coming to an end when his ship is in the States; the school holidays; and dog sitter availability. But all that didn’t stop me rushing to use the Visit The USA trip planner tool when they asked me to share my ideal American holiday.

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

Our dream USA road trip and flying holiday

We love a road trip and have enjoyed a few in the UK and Europe. 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 next winter. This is when he hopes his current ship draft will finish and he’ll have time off before his next Royal Navy commitment.

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 plan would be for the girls and I to fly out and meet Mr TB when he leaves his ship 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 TB
  • 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.

Here’s our 16 day American 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

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. 

NASCAR Hall of Fame - USA road trip

Editorial credit: one line man /

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 TB’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

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.

Houston Space Center - USA road trip

Editorial credit: John_Silver /

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. 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.

Daytona Beach - USA road trip

Days 16/17 – 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.

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 

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. 

NOW CLOSED!!! Competition: plan your ideal American holiday with Visit the USA

Fancy having a go at planning your own perfect American holiday? There’s a prize up for grabs if you do!

Now’s your chance to fulfil your #WanderlustWish with £200 in TUI Holiday Vouchers by entering the contest! Entries close at 23:59 on Monday 22 October 2018. NOW CLOSED!!!

How to enter – please read carefully!

Your entry must be posted in the comment section of this post, with a valid e-mail address associated to your comment and the hashtag #WanderlustWish.

To enter this contest, simply use the Visit The USA holiday planner tool and plan a trip to your top five USA destinations. Once your trip has been planned, please write a few words about your itinerary and how you’d spend your time there. Share it in the comments below along with the hashtag #WanderlustWish.

PLEASE NOTE: all comments are vetted manually for spam before they are published. If you have clicked ‘post comment’ before the deadline your entry has been received and counted but it may not appear below immediately. There’s no need to resubmit your comment/entry.

Terms and Conditions


  • The Wanderlust Wish Contest is open to entrants aged 18 and over, who are resident in the UK (Mainland).
  • Employees of the Promoter, its group companies or their family members, or anyone else connected with the Contest are not eligible to enter.
  • Entrants into the Contest shall be deemed to have accepted these terms and conditions.
  • Participation is permitted irrespective of purchase of a product/service. No purchase necessary.

How to Enter

  • Entries must be submitted between the dates stipulated by this post (“Entry Period”).
  • To successfully enter, a person (“Entrant”) must:
  • Use the Visit The USA Holiday planner tool and plan a trip to their top 5 USA destinations. The Entrant must then write a few words and submit their entry as a comment on this article with the hashtag #WanderlustWish
  • There is only one entry per person allowed.
  • There is one prize available for the Contest in this post.
  • The winner will be required to respond to the notification from the Promoter within 14 days, confirming where their prize should be sent. The winner will receive their prize within 28 days of providing such postal address (mainland UK only). The Promoter accepts no responsibility in the event that a winner does not respond to the Promoter’s notification or where a prize is not received by a winner as a result of that Entrant having provided inaccurate address details when requested.
  • If the winner fails to provide verification or address information within 14 days of a request from the Promoter or should the Promoter establish that the qualifying criteria was not met, the Promoter reserves the right to award the prize to an alternative winner selected from the remaining entries, with the originally selected winner forfeiting their right to the prize.
  • The Promoter reserves the right to modify, suspend or cancel the Contest without any prior notice.

Privacy and collection of personal data:

  • The Entrant’s email address and personal details will be used for no other reason than to notify a participant if they are a winner.
  • By entering the prize draw, Participants grant the Promoter the right to contact them regarding their entry


  • The Promoter will not be liable if a winner is unable to receive their prize for any reason beyond the control of the Promoter. Prizes are not transferrable or exchangeable and no cash alternatives will be available.
  • The Promoter accepts no responsibility for any loss suffered by an Entrant as a result of entering the Contest or accepting the prize. The Promoter further accepts no responsibility for any damage to an Entrant’s or any other person’s computer arising from their participation in the Contest.
  • The Promoter accepts no responsibility for Entries that fail to meet the entry mechanics, are uploaded outside of the Entry Period or which do not qualify for as an entry for any reason (including where the Entrant does not include hashtag #WanderlustWish).

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

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