It’s the trip of a lifetime… taking your family of four to America on a four week adventure.
Photographer and owner of Cloud Nine Photography, Rainee Lantry, did exactly that with her two boys, Jackson, 9, and Oscar, 6, and husband, Brian. Here, Rainee shares her favourite holiday photos, and gives insightful tips on travel with kids. Bon voyage!
Passport to… Hawaii, Las Vegas, New York, LA.
How long? 4 weeks.
Budget $22,000, which covered our airfares, accommodation and Disneyland Park Hopper pass and included $15,000 spending money. It took us three years to save and plan the trip!
Best planning advice?
“We decided the smart way to do it was to break the trip up into manageable flight distances for the kids to enjoy the flights and for us to keep our sanity! On the first leg, we flew nine hours from Sydney to Hawaii, and stayed overnight purely to break up the flight. From Hawaii, we flew five hours to Las Vegas on an overnight flight, arriving early morning with time to recharge and recover. We spent two nights in Las Vegas. Initially it was a stopover of convenience, as its located half way between Hawaii and New York, but we all really loved it.
Flying direct from Sydney to New York in one hit would be exhausting both mentally and physically for the boys. It was more sensible to add a few extra days to the holiday, so we could adjust slowly to the time difference, and see more of America without rushing.”
“It was really difficult to find healthy food that the kids would eat. My eldest son is a very picky eater. After aimlessly looking, we just relied on asking the locals for recommendations, which was much easier.”
American style diners and milkshakes. “The boys loved lunch at the Tick Tock diner, which was located under our hotel in New York. We eventually stopped stressing about what the boys were eating. If there was a healthy option then we took it, but we realized it was easier to go for what was available.”
Tired, exhausted children… Any tips?
“Before leaving, we presumed it was going to be really difficult travelling with tired children. Surprisingly though, we all coped much better than expected. I think being in new and exciting places took everyone’s mind off being tired, and all that worry was for nothing. For us, the key was to keep the kids involved in the decisions – where we were going, what we all wanted to see. There was compromise and group planning. We usually saw the things my husband and I were interested in during the morning, while the kids were fresh and excited about the day ahead, and then set out to see the boy’s picks in the afternoon – when the gloss started to wear off! This ended up giving them a second win and staying upbeat for the trip.”
Just a tad jet lagged! “Oscar was worn out after changing time zones.”
What tips do you have for flight layovers and delays?
“We took IPods for the boys, which were a lifesaver! We were able to connect to the Wi-Fi (ask at the airport information desk for a password if required), so Brian and I could catch up on emails too. Most big airports also have playground areas for children so we sought these out for the boys to burn some energy.
We packed carry-on bags for both of the boys, filled with way too many books and activities that were never used (but was very heavy), so choose carefully! The in-flight entertainment (games, movies etc) was more than enough to keep them happy on the plane, but check with your airline first as not all planes have a screen on the back of every headrest.”
Are we there yet? Are we there yet? “The busy airports were entertainment in themselves while we waited for flights.”
“Don’t sweat the small stuff! There are going to be little hick-ups along the way, but they are not the end of the world. Also, plan out the things you want to see before you go, that way you won’t be overwhelmed once you arrive.”
First stop: Las Vegas
“We spent two nights in Las Vegas purely to break up the flight, but loved it!”
Next destination… New York
“We spent five nights in New York and in fact, New York and LA were the main reasons we chose America. It has always been a dream of my husband and mine to go to New York – symbolic of America and a hustling, bustling city that is just waiting to explode your senses! The boys were pretty excited too, since New York is home to the biggest toy store (Toys R Us) in the world. Even more exciting though was that New York was the backdrop for some of their favorite Superhero movies – Batman and Gotham City, Superman and Metropolis and The Avengers.”
Fave New York family adventures?
“There were so many highlights, including:
- Relaxing in Central Park
- The view from the Empire State Building
- Riding the subway
- Cruising the harbor
- Seeing the very special and symbolic lady, the Statute of Liberty
- Getting lost in Toys R Us (it’s so big it has a three storey Ferris Wheel inside!)
- Soaking up the energy in Times Square
- Hearing the buzz and sounds of the city all day and all night
- The incredible skyscrapers
- Discovering incredible comic book stores
- Visiting the New York City Fire Museum
- Taking a helicopter ride over the city
Any tips for New York?
“You don’t need to hire a car – it’s quick, inexpensive and safe to get around on the subway. We bought one ticket for the family and just added credit to the same card when required. You simply swipe the ticket and the turnstiles and pass it to the next family member!
Los Angeles: Disneyland, Hollywood and San Diego
“L.A is the home to Disneyland, Hollywood and San Diego Sea World – all high on our family list of ‘must-see’ places! We spent five nights here.”
Fave L.A family sites…
… Sea World, San Diego
“We took a day trip down to Sea World in San Diego where we couldn’t believe how close you can get to the Orcas. We had visited when it was school time in the US so we pretty much had the park to ourselves.”
… Disneyland and California Adventure Park
“You can’t go past Disneyland and California Adventure Park! From the time you walk in through the theme park gates, to the moment you arrive back at your hotel after a full day exploring, you feel utter happiness! The parks are located right next to each other and we bought a five day Park Hopper pass (costs $100 more than the three day pass for four people, so well worth it).
Where did you stay?
“We stayed at the Red Lion Hotel Anaheim. The service and staff here were exceptional. The hotel was just a short walk to the gates of Disneyland and the rooms were clean and comfortable. There is a restaurant in the lobby which was affordable, offered tasty meals and the staff were all fantastic. On a Friday night the manager would cook all the guests toasted marshmallows in the fire pits around the pool, which added a lovely personal touch.”
Last stop: Hawaii
“We spent the final 10 nights of the holiday in Hawaii, so we could chill out and relax after such an active adventure.”
Where did you stay?
“On the island of O’ahu at the Outrigger Waikiki Shore apartments. It was a two-bedroom apartment located right on the beach. The building is an older style but it is well maintained and perfectly located. You literally step out onto the sand and into the water at the back door! After sharing one room for most of the trip, it was great to have a little space and a kitchen to cook in.
This is a great place for a beach family holiday. There is plenty to do for the kids – sun filled days on paddle boards and warm nights chilling out watching the sunset over the water.”
“Exploring Hanauma Bay was our favorite day. It’s known as ‘the most spectacular natural resource in Hawaii’, and it truly lived up to the description. We took the 6am tour out to the bay and we were not disappointed swimming with sea turtles and colorful reef fish – it was a really amazing experience for the boys. I’d recommend doing the early 6am tour, since the bay fills with large tour groups by 11am and can get a little crowded.
If you’re after a trip to the north shore, like Pipeline and Waimea Bay, I would recommend the Surf Bus tour. They pick you up from your hotel and a local guide explains this most famous surf spot. This is a family friendly tour as well, with lots to do for the kids.
This is the second time the boys have been to Hawaii and they love it even more now. There is no doubt in our mind, we will definitely go back!”
“Leaving Hawaii was a bittersweet moment. We were truly grateful to have been able to have this adventure with Jackson and Oscar and we were excited to get home and see our family and friends, but who would want to leave paradise? We had the most amazing four weeks and it has inspired us to start saving for our next adventure”.
How did your children cope being away from home for so long?
“The boys loved traveling so much. Having the four of us together for four weeks brought us all closer, without the distractions of everyday errands. The boys learnt to appreciate each other and play together without conflict. There were times when they missed their friends and Grandparents, but as a whole they can’t wait for the next adventure! Jackson wants to buy an ‘Around-the-world-ticket’ now!”
Rainee Lantry is a multi international and national award winning professional photographer and owner of Cloud Nine Photography specialising in newborn photography, weddings, family portraits Destination Photography and more. Rainee has also photographed celebrities and their families, and her work has appeared as magazine covers as well as in Cosmopolitan Pregnancy magazine, My Child, LittleONE Baby and Practical Parenting magazine. Rainee has also been featured in Women’s Day magazine. Rainee is based on the NSW Central Coast.
Check out www.cloudninephotography.net.au for details.