Travelling to America with kids – 20 things you need to know before you go

It can be daunting travelling to America with children. Here are a few useful things that may help you be better prepared for your trip and also enjoy it more when you’re there :

  1. To fly to the US with your family, everyone needs an ESTA. An ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) is a system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. Be sure you apply for your ESTA on the official U.S. Customs and Border Protection website and not one of the numerous dodgy ones that are floating about. It costs $14 per application and be sure to apply no later than 72 hours before departing.
  2. Don’t forget to contact your travel insurance provider and upgrade your policy to include America as healthcare there is very expensive.
  3. Buy headphone adaptors for the flight so everyone can use their own comfortable headphones. Also bring lots of snacks for the plane and also a few comfortable neck pillows if you have them.
  4. If you’re booking a hire car use a reputable company like Hertz and check the car for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto when you collect it so that you can use Google/Apple maps for navigation.
  5. Remember to bring travel adaptors, they’re different to European ones.
  6. When booking accommodation, look for hotels that have small kitchens in the room like the Hotel Beacon in Upper West Side (NYC) or look for self-catering apartments like these available from Sonder Stays. That way you can save money by preparing your own breakfasts and your own occasional dinner.
  7. It may be an obvious one but be extra vigilant of your personal belongings when sightseeing in a large city. Keep passports and travel insurance details with you at all times.
  8. Remember the prices you see in the shops don’t include tax so that’s not the price you’ll pay at the checkout. The sales tax could be anything between 2.9% and 7.25%.
  9. Tipping is very important in America. Expect to pay at least 18% to your waiting staff as well as chambermaids and porters.
  10. When you visit a city, consider investing in a tour┬áin the first day or two. This will help you get your bearings and also help you find out so much more about where you’re visiting. Most companies offer family-friendly tour options.
  11. Check out the local Groupon page for deals on activities and attractions.
  12. When looking to book restaurants, look for early bird times or special offers to keep your costs down.
  13. When you’ve a busy day of sightseeing ahead of you save money by bringing a packed lunch for the family and always have fruit and snacks with you for those afternoon energy slumps.
  14. Bring a few reusable bottles out with you everyday so that you can refill them at a water station and keep everyone hydrated.
  15. If arrive early in a city, head straight to your hotel and check in. That way you can leave your luggage and get out there and start exploring.
  16. If you’re visiting a large city like New York, plan what you’re going to see and do so well in advance. Get your older kids involved in the planning process. Get them to look into a location or an attraction and sell it to the rest of the family. Planning your time in a city will mean that you won’t waste too much time on the metro. Don’t overplan, schedule some downtime every day.
  17. Talking of the underground, I’d recommend buying an unlimited MetroCard as it can be used on the subway as well as city transit buses. In NYC, a MetroCard costs $33 each for 7 days. It’s the same price for a child as it is for an adult. You can only pay cash for these metro cards but they can be bought in any manned subway office. By the way if you’re looking for things to do with the kids in New York, we’ve listed our favourite things here.
  18. Always wear comfortable shoes and make sure everyone wears a hat to protect themselves from the cold in winter or the sun the rest of the year round. We nearly got sunburnt in April. Also a colourful hat will help you spot your kids in a crowded place.
  19. Don’t overpack, you’ll need a lot less than you think. Bring detergent tablets with you to use at laundromats. They’re not expensive to use but the dispensed detergent there is always pricey.
  20. Get the kids to keep a travel diary everyday and perhaps encourage teenagers to take photos. They’re lovely souvenirs to look back on when they’re older.

Have you travelled in the US with kids? Would you add anything to this list?


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