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Six unforgettable summer road trips

Road trips are a way of life for Rob Taylor, who grew up in the US, and he’s passed that enthusiasm on to his kids. To celebrate the warmer weather, he’s collated his six favourite driving routes from around the world that never fail to wow him in terms of family adventure and affordability. So, pack your bags and get ready to hit the road…

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01/06/2021

The magical hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park (Gallery Stock/David Reinfeld)

Southern Utah

Arrival airport: Las Vegas 
Suggested days: 4+

The best tip for saving money when you visit Las Vegas is to leave town immediately. Head north towards Utah for an exciting drive through some of the most beautiful landscapes in the US. Beginning with Valley of Fire State Park just beyond Vegas, you’ll discover sandstone beehives and ancient petroglyphs on easy hikes. Our kids love how much wildlife there is here, particularly the bighorn sheep.

Continuing up through the corner of Arizona and into Utah, you’ll come to Snow Canyon State Park. It’s relatively close to Zion National Park and is a terrific alternative for amazing landscapes and hiking. If you feel Zion calling, however, be sure to enter on the less famous eastern side and hike the stunning Canyon Overlook Trail.

Next stop is Cedar Breaks National Monument where, if you’re lucky, you can sit at the edge of the giant natural amphitheatre and watch a thunderstorm pass by, shaking the ground with every boom. On your way to Bryce Canyon try a delicious Utah-style barbecue in Panguitch. Bryce Canyon National Park will leave you breathless as you take in the views along the rim drive. Every stop on this Utah road trip is memorable and perfect for the whole family.

Road trip tip

When visiting US National Parks, get National Park Passports for the kids (and adults) and collect the official cancellations and stamps as you go. These make for wonderful, lifelong souvenirs.

Take off to the USA


A statue of the Virgin Mary overlooks the small town of Trpanj in Dalmatia, Croatia (Alamy)

Croatia

Arrival airport: Zagreb 
Suggested days: 5+

Croatia is a fascinating country of gorgeous scenery and marvellous historic towns. Begin your four-wheeled wandering by flying into Zagreb. Explore the capital on foot, enjoying local wines and tasty burek (meat pastries). Leave Zagreb and head on to the Dalmatian Coast, stopping at Plitvice Lakes National Park to walk beneath its amazing, fairy tale-like waterfalls.

Arrive in Zadar, a small coastal city where you can enjoy the mediaeval architecture of the old town or sit on the waterfront and listen to the music of the famous Sea Organ. Continue on an hour or so to Split, where a hike beyond the city walls can be rewarded with an espresso overlooking the gothic and Romanesque buildings.

Drive to Ploče, where a short ferry ride will drop you at the town of Trpanj, which features beautiful beaches and buildings dating back 1,000 years. Trstenik, on the other side of the island, is where you’ll get on another ferry to Mljet, my favourite of the Dalmatian Isles.

From the town of Polače, rent bikes and ride into Mljet National Park, where you’ll find breathtaking tidal lakes and a convent, once occupied by pirates, on a tiny island in the middle of Lake Veliko. Return to your vehicle for a lovely drive across the island, passing vineyards and stone houses. Before getting on the next boat, stop in the town of Okuklje for a swim and some local olive oil to take home.

From Sobra, ferry back to the mainland and finish your adventure by heading south to Dubrovnik. This magnificent walled city is the perfect end to your Croatian trip. Grab a drink and watch the sun set over the fortressed town.

Road trip tip

Most of this road trip happens on winding, hilly roads. Families that are sensitive to motion sickness will be glad of the many easy stops along the way. 

Take off to Croatia

Dinny the dinosaur is a roadside attraction in Cabazon, Palm Springs (Alamy)

Palm Springs and Joshua Tree

Arrival airport: Los Angeles 
Suggested days: 4+

Resist the call of Hollywood and go east after landing at LAX to head into the desert of the Morongo and Yucca valleys. A stark contrast to LA’s city sights, this route explores the rough landscape of Southern California and is also peppered with unique glamping destinations.

Head into Joshua Tree National Park, where you’ll find beautiful boulder landscapes and groves of bizarre Joshua trees and cholla cacti. Remember to bring lots of water – it’s hot out and there are no water sources within the park. Even in the springtime during the ‘superbloom’, while it can actually be quite cold, the arid climate drives an unquenchable thirst.

Continue driving south to the Coachella Valley, home to the famous music and arts festival, as well as small towns and great hiking trails. Desert oases pop up here and there throughout the valley on the way into Palm Springs, so plan to explore these dreamy pockets of palm forests with bubbling streams (Indian Canyons has the best hiking here).

Once in Palm Springs, prepare yourself for fun and SoCal culture. Farmer and artist markets bring the streets of downtown to life, while galleries and art museums provide an airconditioned break from the Californian sun. As you return to Los Angeles, make a stop at the Palm Springs aerial tramway or the Cabazon Dinosaurs roadside attraction for a final, kid-friendly farewell.

Road trip tip

Plan your travel on LA’s freeways for lower traffic times, as heading into or out of the city during rush hour can try your patience and makes for bored passengers.

Take off to Los Angeles


A breathtaking lake in Mount Revelstoke National Park (Jonathan Woods). Opening image: a road crossing forest in British Columbia (Getty Images)

British Columbia

Arrival airport: Vancouver 
Suggested days: 6+

It’s easy to visit Vancouver and stay for a week, as it’s such an attractive and entertaining city, but there’s a lot beyond its limits. Spend a day finding your bearings and your favourite local microbrew (I like Yaletown Brewing Company for its wonderfully diverse beers) before heading north out of town to Cypress Provincial Park for an easy hike with epic views of the inlet and Strait of Georgia.

And what’s a summer trip to British Columbia without a visit to Whistler? Hop on the Sea to Sky Highway (route 99) and head to the famous ski village that in summer transforms into the active holidaymaker’s dream. Enjoy mountain biking, kid-friendly hikes and activities and truly spectacular food (try Rimrock Café). Join the Trans-Canada Highway and enjoy the rugged landscape of the Thompson River.

Stop in Kamloops for a quiet day exploring the hills or fishing. Being just north of British Columbia’s wine country, you’ll find wineries and family friendly dining all along the drive. The next destination is Mount Revelstoke National Park and Glacier National Park of Canada, where you’ll discover the true definition of a waterfall. Here, there are endless cascades and mountain sides teeming with wildlife.

If you have extra days to work with, visit Yoho and Kootenay National Parks, very near to Glacier, just beyond the town of Golden.

Make your way back towards Vancouver with a visit to beautiful Vernon and Kelowna, BC. Enjoy the turquoise waters of Kalamalka Lake or splash in Okanagan Lake (chilly, but stunning). Seek out a lodge for your last night up in the mountains and relish the fresh air before returning to the city.

Road trip tip

The best time of day to observe wildlife, such as grizzly and black bears, is just after sunrise. An easy way to get kids moving for an early start is to make it fun spotting animals.

Take off to Canada

(Alamy)

London and South East England

Arrival Airport: London Heathrow (LHR)
Suggested Days: 5+

London is every bit as vibrant and majestic as it’s written up to be in literature. Enjoy several days here visiting the historic centre around Whitehall and Parliament, including taking in Evensong at Westminster Abbey (also a daily activity at St Paul’s). I particularly loved sitting in St-Martin-in-the-Fields church to listen to the chamber music that’s frequently rehearsed here.

Venture to Camden Town to see a different side of London, particularly the beautiful locks, markets and Primrose Hill. East London, especially Brick Lane and beyond in Shoreditch, is fun for exploring on foot, scoping out street art, doing a Jack the Ripper walking tour, or just perusing the stalls at the Columbia Road Flower Market.

While London could be its own two-week adventure, you won’t want to miss out on some of the UK’s other southeast gems. Hop in the car and head east towards Canterbury where a cathedral, mediaeval houses and ruins and picturesque gardens make up the ‘perfect’ English town.

Move on down to the coast and Dover, whose White Cliffs and historic structures are a must-see in the southeast. If castles and ancient historic sites are on your holiday bucket list, plan to spend time visiting the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Bodiam Castle or the ruins of Hastings Castle.

Wrap up the journey in Brighton. There are some glorious sights, including the Royal Pavilion, the Palace Pier and the iconic bathing houses on the beach.

There are, of course, many more stops and scenes along this wonderful road route but, if you’re on a tight schedule, stick to this plan and you’ll have the perfect adventure.

Road trip tip

If you choose to do guided tours, in London or Canterbury, be sure they are age appropriate for any children you’re traveling with. Our kids are sensitive to ghost tours, so we’re careful when selecting our guided excursions.

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