There is no better way to celebrate summer than with a classic American road trip. Affordable, fun, and easy to plan, hitting the road is the perfect way to explore the United States. From San Francisco to Miami, there are countless routes that are dream summer road trips for families.
Feeling the call of the wide-open road? Here is everything you need to know to plan the perfect escape!
California’s Pacific Coast Highway Adventure
Easily one of the most beautiful stretches of road in the entire country, California’s Pacific Coast Highway is a dream destination. From age nine to 90, you will find something for everyone here.
California’s Highway 1 will take you down the 400-mile drive from Los Angeles and San Francisco. While you could knock out the entire trip in fewer than seven hours, you can easily spend days exploring.
Although San Francisco has a lot to offer families, the small cities down the road are easier to navigate for families. If you have younger kids, keep on truckin’! You’ll find the more car-friendly towns are a more enjoyable stay.
Start your trip driving from San Francisco to Carmel. Spend at least one night so you’ve got plenty of time to explore Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. It’s a stunning space to hike, dive, and take in the local flora and fauna. When you’re ready to head inside, make your way to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for a magical experience.
Another hour and a half down the road from San Luis Obispo is Santa Barbara. This fabulous beach town is perfect for soaking in the sun. If you can pull yourself away from the beach, you’ll find some impressive interactive museums for kids.
Your final hour and a half in the car will take you from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles. Home to Universal Studios Hollywood, Griffith Observatory, and the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, this can be a fun and navigable city for kids.
Here’s everything you need to know about visiting LA with kids.
Route 66 Road Trip for Families
When it comes to summer road trips for families, few journeys can complete with Route 66. This 2,448 mi road connects Illinois with California. With countless roadside attractions along the way, it’s not about the destination at all, but rather the journey.
Forget itineraries on a road trip down Route 66. Just grab your keys and see where the day takes you. Whether it’s an epic cross-country journey or a quick weekend away, this is an adventure your kids will never forget.
If you are starting your adventure in Illinois, pay a visit to the Shedd Aquarium before you go. With an incredible 32,000 animals, this place is a family fave.
One of the most famous attractions on Route 66 is the Blue Whale of Catoosa in Oklahoma. Snapchat solidified the fame of this place with the younger generation and, while it’s a quick stop, you won’t want to miss it.
Probably the most fun path on Route 66 is Central Avenue in Albuquerque. The old school diners, motels, and shops will transport you back to another time. For some classic comfort, check out the retro El Vado Motel. Opened way back in 1937, this has been a refuge for many weary travelers over the years.
Another unique place to stay on Route 66 is the Canyon Motel & RV Park. Located just over 50 miles north of Grand Canyon National Park, this kid-friendly hotel is perfect for RV summer road trips for families. The real charm of this place though is the 1929 Santa Fe cabooses that have been converted into hotel rooms. Train lovers, rejoice: This is your dream hotel.
Miami to the Florida Keys Family Road Trip
Of all the summer road trips for families, the journey through the Florida Keys is definitely amongst the most popular picks. There are countless stops along the way and, of course, it’s all about taking it slow and soaking in the sun.
The trip from Miami to Key West is around four hours on the Overseas Highway. The beautiful beaches and warm seas of Bahia Honda State Park and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park are amongst the best stops. Go parasailing, snorkeling, take a glass-bottom boat out for tours of the coral reefs.
Of course, roadside food is an essential element of all summer road trips for families! Around here, keep your eyes peeled for the most beloved local snack: conch fritters! Rumor has it that Alabama Jacks in Key Largo makes the best version of this seafood fave.
Driving Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton
An iconic historical site, Mount Rushmore is a great place to learn about civics. It’s a very family-friendly area that is fun for all ages. For a cheap and cheerful accommodation option, check out the Comfort Inn & Suites Near Mt. Rushmore. With free parking, laundry facilities, free buffet breakfast, game room, and pool, this place ticks all the boxes. Rushmore Tramway and Rushmore Cave are fun kid-friendly things to do around Mount Rushmore too.
From Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone, you’re looking at a 535-mile drive so you might want to break it up. If you have older kids who can deal with eight and a half hours in the car, go for it! Otherwise, places like Devils Tower or Billings are good places to stop.
At Yellowstone National Park, there are countless family-friendly activities for nature lovers. There are programs to become a Junior Ranger or you can just explore. See the geysers, go camping then hike, bike, and horseback ride your way around.
Fueled up to go? You need these essential tips for taking a road trip with kids!