So I thought I’d share with you my to-do list before you leave as this was all info I was making sure I covered before I left, including booking and costs!
We got great sale flights with Qantas! It ended up being just $3,400 for everyone return (2A+2K). If you pop on flight alerts with most airlines you can wait until some great sale flights come up.
My preference, however, was Qantas as they have the new fleet of Dreamliner planes, a lot comfier for a 16-hour flight. FYI 16 hours is REALLY long, if you’re travelling with kids try and book the night flight (there is two per day) as that’s the Boeing flight!
On our flight there, one of the crew actually moved a passenger to a leg room seat just so we could have two rows for the kids to lay out. On the way back the girls were actually asked to check out the flight deck when we landed just for being such good sports on the plane. The staff really go above and beyond so you can imagine why we sing such high praise!!
Travelling as a family I found Airbnb really good for us as we could get a whole house and separate bedrooms. We ate in most nights either cooking or Uber Eats so this was perfect. It was also much cheaper than hotels and there is 1000’s of picks in the States.
Also, you can get Qantas points when booking Airbnb now – I’m legit trying my hardest to get enough points for an upgrade when we go to Europe haha so I book whatever I can for points!
We spent a little more in Palm Springs as I had my heart set on the Sycamore House, it was three bedrooms and had a large kitchen and lounge. Not to mention it was stocked with EVERYTHING and had that amazing outdoor and pool area. 110% worth the money and could have stayed there forever.
Our Airbnb in San Diego was a great location but a little old and a lot of noise from the street. Our Airbnb in LA was horrific and didn’t have curtains bahaha so we left early – so I won’t bother sharing that! A hotel in LA might be a better option or just don’t even bother with LA would be my hot tip.
Apply For Your Visa
Before they will even let you in the country, you need to apply for a visa with ESTA! It only takes a day or two to be approved but they do wanna know the colour of your undies so might take 20-30 minutes to fill out for a family! Make sure you have ID and passports on hand to fill out all the info you’ll need. Apply here.
A hot tip when you get to customs, the line is bloody long and can take ages. Let someone in line know you’re travelling with young kids and they put you in the fast line! Otherwise, you spend up to three hours sweating like a pig, snaking up 100 lines just to stand in 100 more!
Organise Your Money
Best to do this as early as you can so your all nice and prepared and get the best rates you can. Depending what you already have it might be cheaper to use your credit/debit card – just check the fees with your bank. I know for me that my ANZ Visa I already have had lower fees than the ANZ travel card? Seems silly but it’s true.
Another interesting fact – your Qantas Frequent Flyer card doubles as a Qantas Cash card – just activate on the website and load your money for no fee! Much cheaper rates than most travel cards and super easy since you already have the card. I used mine as a back up in case I lost my other card!
In the end, we only needed like $40 in cash to pay for tipping at a nail salon and cafe. Everywhere else has machines that just ask you what % you want to tip. You can totally get away with no cash in the USA I think.
Cost Of Things
Everything seems cheaper, but it SOOO isn’t. Add tax and tipping and you’re about the same if not more in the States. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate just knowing the final cost of goods now living in Aus – thank god for the GST!
So I ended up ordering a sim about a month prior to leaving. Then I set it all up ready to just pop in when I got to the USA. I got a month’s prepaid plan with AT&T for around $80 USD which allowed me to have unlimited data. Which meant I could FB call anyone back home if I wanted as well as be connected all ze time!
There is also free wifi at most restaurants, hotels and even at Disneyland.
Depending on if you are going far or not, car hire is actually really expensive in comparison to Aus I thought. Especially when you factor the tax and exchange rate. In America, UBER is 75% subsidised by UBER as there is so much competition over there so it makes it super cheap to use even over a long distance.
Even getting an UBER from Disneyland to the other side of LA, a 1.5-hour trip was only $60 USD.
That being said if you’re travelling a long distance as we did To Palm Springs and San Diego, the convenience of a car was perfect for us.
Do your research about car hire, we first had a car with Budget and it was expensive. The second stint we had one through Alamo and they were heaps cheaper, a better car and had locations within to Disneyland!
I did a lot of research and this really comes down to the length of time you’re going! I’d say anything over 7-10 days of car hire, buy them! Super cheap – like $40 USD for boosters at Target, Walmart etc.
Like I mentioned we ate in a lot. We headed to Walmart and did a big shop and cooked at home, as well as a snack. We also got UBER eats a lot which is pretty cheap even compared to cooking your own. Also, I’d halve your order. Their portion sizing is just ludicrous – it’s not even a joke!!
American BBQ and Mexican were the best we found in Southern Cali, you can’t really go wrong!
Book In Advance
If you are heading anywhere like Disneyland, then I suggest booking as much as you can in advance to avoid disappointment and waiting times. We booked our character breakfasts (which was almost booked out a month ahead), tickets and passes for the parks, and planned out most of our days so we got to do everything we wanted.
If you’re thinking of shopping while you’re in America just know Australian designers whip the pants on the USA. They just don’t have the same boutique designer brands we have. If you’re after big-name sporting brands though then head to the outlets, it’s defs cheaper!!
Electronics didn’t work out too much cheaper either and we opted to not buy a lot of things we planned to as it was the same price on Kogan or back home! There were somethings you couldn’t get back in Aus like the Nest stuff but not cheap enough to not just find it online!