Today we will talk you about another XL-family journey: let’s fly to the USA!
I’ve just realized – mea culpa – that we haven’t yet introduced ourselves, to all the people following our blog.
we are 5:
mami Lorena Maria
and our 3 wonderkids:
Francesco, 11 years old
Maxi, 10 years
Milla, 8 years old
the heading XL-family, is due to the following:
1 – the average Italian family, according to data provided by Istat (National Institute of Statistics), is composed by 2.4 people;
2 – worldwide, there are few hotels that can offer accommodation for 5 people, in the same room;
3 – air travel tickets cost: for international and intercontinental flights prices are variable – depending on the airlines, but we can say that up to 12 years children pay a 70-75% of the full 6price ; after 12 years, the rate is standard, paying the full price.
So, if you have 2 or more kids, for the above topics you can consider yourself an XL family, and unfortunately also the costs will be… XL!
And it’s for this reason that, having a huge experience in the organization of family trips – always keeping in mind the budget – we have created this blog:
to help all the people who are in our same condition, when they have to organize their holidays.
So, if you have no time, or no idea, about how to organize all this by yourself, well this is the right place:
IMPORTANT INTRODUCTION TO YOUR JOURNEY IN THE USA:
To travel in US it’s not necessary, as was the past, to have a Visa issued by the Consulate;
but you have to fill out the ESTA form (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) which is a kind of permit expiring in 90 days, and you need to have an electronic passport (check that yours is!), through which you can fill out and then pay to receive the ESTA authorization online, at this official site:
this link is to to the OFFICIAL SITE page of the US Customs and Bord Protection government agency, in English;
you can choose your language in the same page, on the right “change Language”.
If you google ESTA, you will find several sites, all legitimate, but for the most of these you have to pay a commission to get the form filled.
The cost per person at ESTA official site is around $ 14.00 (12,00 € )
Another very important thing:
for people coming from a list of countries to have the access to US territory granted, the passport must be valid for at least 6 months (180 days) from the date you leave the USA:
is what the Americans call the six-month rule, but it is not valid for the countries that are part of the “Six Months Club“.
But we would give you this suggestion:
you never know who you can find in front of you at the custom, maybe there is a zealous person who doesn’t remember the rules (this can happen to all of us, we are only human, not robots!), and there is no reason to start a discussion while you are travelling…
so, if your passport is expiring, renew it in advance. Try to avoid some kind of problems, especially if you are traveling with children.
If you want to receive a copy of the official document “Six Months Rule“, please ask us (the service is for free).
And now let’s move on to our journey:
THE XL-FAMILY IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA! (EAST COAST)
So, we will talk you about another amazing journey, in the USA, that we decided to divide in 2 different:
East Coast (2018)
West Coast (2019)
We made the first one in August 2018, with the following stays:
- New York
and back to:
In addition to the flight from your country of origin (we were in Rome) you will have to plan internal trips (by plane and/or train);
and, for visiting Florida (Nasa site in Cape Canaveral and the Disney’s parks), a car rental.
As for planes and trains, these are the routes we made to travel the US east coast, according to the distance:
FLIGHT (FROM ROME) – NEW YORK
TRAIN NEW YORK – WASHINGTON
FLIGHT WASHINGTON – ORLANDO
TRAIN ORLANDO – MIAMI
FLIGHT MIAMI – NEW YORK
and then, obviously, there’s the flight back to your country of origin.
And these are the hotels we stayed in:
Orlando (Disney’s parks)
Also in this case we have a detailed .xls file with locations and costs, which is always available for those who would like to receive it (the service is for free).
And now, let’s begin with the journey, which took place from August 17 (date of our arrival in NY), to September 1 – 2018 (2 weeks).
New York – day 1 (late afternoon)
Visiting the Empire State Building
Arriving with a flight from Rome in the late afternoon, we decided for visiting (600 mt. far from the hotel) one of the New York symbol, probably the most famous skyscraper in the world, for 36 years also the highest with its 443 mt., from the year of its inauguration in 1931, until 1967.
My personal opinion: for me the most beautiful in the world, with its art decò ’30s style, an icon in the “The Great Gatsby” F. S. Fitzgerald era.
The Empire was chosen as location for a lot of films, like “King Kong” or “Sleepless in Seattle” with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.
Inside is bright and golden, remember to book the visit in advance:
if you want to change day or time maybe not a problem, we booked tickets with priority access on the site Get Your Guide, and did the the same for the Liberty Statue, you can also use the app and we found it very useful.
For info about costs and activities, as always, do not hesitate to write us! (the service is for free).
New York – day 2 (morning)
Visiting the Statue of Liberty
Early in the morning of our 2nd day in New York, we visited what is, out of any kind of doubts, the most famous statue of the modern era, the Statue of Liberty (its name in full is “The Liberty that illuminates the world“).
The statue was a gift from French to the American people, as sign of friendship and for the common founding rules of their respective nations.
Is curious that its interior was designed by the same Eiffel engineer that worked for the famous tower in Paris, with stairs that go up to the crown, and for a short period to the torch (today not allowed for safety reasons).
The little island where the statue is located was renamed after the inauguration in Liberty Island, that is still its current name.
With its 93 mt. from the basement the statue has a great effect, no doubts, and with no doubts it was inspired, designed and built by men who had the same thoughts.
Also this visit has been booked in advance on the Get Your Guide site, where you can choose different ways for visiting, including the ferry to the island, the visit of the Statue with access to the pedestal and audio guides (included), and free access to the Ellis Island Immigration Museum where digital copies of documents of all immigrants are kept, very interesting if you have someone in your family who was here at the beginning of the last century!
New York – day 2 (afternoon)
Visiting the September 11 Memorial
Visiting places where human tragedies took place – that, in my opinion, do not only involve only people and nations where they occurred – has just a purpose for us:
let our children know the devastating effects that human ignorance and stupidity can have.
Like for the past year in Hiroshima, we decided to let them know what happened trying to explain them the feeling of people involved;
even if it’s very difficult, sometime impossible, try to shed light on the dark folds of the human spirit…
I have nothing to add to what you will see below: what it was, what we hope will never be again.
New York – day 2 (afternoon)
After the Memorial, we made the following even if the day was a bit rainy, a K-way can solve everything!
the “Wall Street Bull” is a bronze sculpture, placed by the author Arturo Di Modica in front of the NYSE – New York Stock Exchange, and was placed here without any kind of authorization was received by the public administration.
But it hasn’t never been removed, staying there since 1987, and has become a sort of permanent and public art work, considered to be lucky for those who want to invest in the stock exchange and the legend says it can bring economic prosperity to those who touch the Toro… nuts: those are rubbed at every time!
The Trump Building
at n. 40 of Wall Street is located the Trump Building, another historical skyscraper built in 1930, in origin called The Bank of Manhattan.
It changed owners and name, also because is known as the New York address of the US President, Donald Trump.
You can’t give up for a walk in the Italian district!
Restaurants, bars and places that talk you of italian traditions, although I have to say I had the feeling of being a bit in a cliché, with all the Saint Gennaro of Naples pictures everywhere and the specialties of our so called “Belpaese” …
But, well, it’s nice to make a jump among the people living here, who still thinks about Italy with a great sense of nostalgia, even if many people have found here in the US opportunities that, elsewhere, were denied to them.
“Spaghetti with meatballs: do we have it?!?”
New York – day 3
Gospel Mass in Harlem and visit to the Museum of Natural History
Man, I’m not a frequent “churchgoers”.. so I tried to don’t go to this Gospel Mass on Sunday, in the Harlem district;
even if it was, in fact, a sung-mass, as we call it in Italy.
I must admit that, despite having some basic information before, I was surprised:
the mass here is for all and for everyone, and gives you joy rather than the heavy feeling of due expiation … have a look at the attached video!
The following stop of the day was at the Museum of Natural History, movie set for “Night at the Museum” with Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Robin Williams.
Very interesting, a must-see for kids!
The rooms dedicated to the representation of the wild fauna of the American continent and the immense whale are the best 🔝:
The ones dedicated to dinosaurs already seen everywhere. But a Tirex is always a Tirex!
New York – day 4 – “looking around”!
In order to don’t miss anything, we decided to visit the Plaza Hotel, probably the most famous hotel with the Waldorf Astoria, also used to film location: one above all, “Mum I missed the plane – I got lost in New York”
The access to the Plaza is free, and you can eat in one of the restaurants inside.
Prices are not exorbitant, considering that we are in NY, and inside the Plaza!
Turning to the 5th avenue and the other streets, we made some “special” rendez-vous:
we met these guys with snakes (live, not fake) around the neck, you can make a picture for $ 10 you too, and show your courage!
And then … if you are traveling with your wife, daughter or girlfriend, it will be difficult (impossible) don’t have a stop at the most famous jewelry store in the world: the historic Tiffany headquarters, still on 5th avenue at no. 727 from 1940 with its magical windows that made Audrey Hepburn dream in the film “Breakfast at Tiffany“, a true icon of feminine elegance.
And here in this huge jewelry store now there is a place for having breakfast or a coffee:
the “Blue Box Cafe” is located on the 4th floor, over the 5th avenue and inside everything is in blue “Tiffany” color, which is the typical and registered color that results from a combination of color models that refer to n. 1837, which is the year of the maison foundation.
Last “curiosity” of the day:
perhaps few know that in New York there is a place called “Burger Joint” inside an hotel, the Parker Hotel in Manhattan and that coexist without any kind of worries.
Finding the small joint is not easy, but the hotel staff in the lobby is very kind, and will give you the info to get to the nearby corridor where you will find the queue to get in.
The Burger Joint has a “grunge” style, in spite of medium prices – burgers and fries cost about 20 $ – but on the other hand you can “customize” the hamburger with all the ingredients you want.
And then, we’re in Manhattan! 😁🍔🍻
Central Park New York – day 5
Central Park is the “green lung” of Manhattan, and New Yorkers love spending time here, as soon as they can.
You can stay here for having lunch, visiting the zoo, or – if the weather conditions allow it – to make a romantic ride on the lake by boat; or a bike ride, as we did.
Outside the park you will always find guys who rent bikes, prices are not so high and if you decide for doing it, in a while will appear a guy with a trolley with your bikes on (we were 9!), with bikes for adults and children (children will have helmets);
and with secure chains, if you want to have a stop in the park (depending on the route and the ride, will take 2 or 3 hours), enjoy an ice cream, and lie down on the grass, “Barefoot in the park“!
If you want tips on where to rent bikes, contact us (the service is for free).
Washington – days 6-7
Day 6: transfer by train from NY to Washington – Amtrak trains.
Washington is a very quiet city compared to New York, similar to some European cities (I’m thinking about Vienna, but only for the quiet place);
sure, you do not have that sense of “big”, or “BIGGEST” of NYC, but Washington seems to be less chaotic.
As we already did in NY, we chose for a ride aboard the “hop on-hop off” buses, there are 2 main companies (with no competition).
Verify if you can be entitled for discounts before paying. It’s a good way to take a tour of the city (or part of it) that you will visit, and you can hop-off to have a look at the main tourist attractions.
It’s very good if it’s your first time visiting a city, even if you’ve have studied what to see and where to go before.
Day 7: Visit to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
Washington has in common with NYC of having many interesting museums to visit, with free entrance (you can decide to make a donation, it’s up to you) and we decided for visiting the Air and Space Museum, the most famous and visited among the Smithsonian museums, where you can admire models of aircraft from different eras, from the pioneering Wright brothers to the latest technological war models, passing through the Lindbergh “Spirit of St. Louis” and the single-engine plane belonged to World War I Ace Manfred Von Richthofen, known as the invincible “Red Baron“, for having shot down 80 enemy planes during war.
A very interesting part is the one dedicated to the space missions Mercury, Gemini and Apollo, until the last mission, the number 17.
A glimpse of what we have seen after at Kennedy Space Center in Florida! 🚀
Washington – day 7 (part 2)
Visiting the Lincoln Memorial and the White House
You cannot go to Washington and don’t visit the White House, it’s a bit like going to Rome don’t having time for the Colosseo…
I want to underline an aspect that must be considered in the times we are living in: the security.
looking at the (few) and isolated agents set to oversee the White House – maybe Trump was not there, but does not change the concept – and also thinking about the general lack of controls in airports and total absence in crowded places – like subway (unlike what happens in Italy, where you will always have around this places military and Police), I asked to myself if it’s a sort of “level of guard lowering” by the Americans, or are so good in doing it that you don’t see the controls .
I still have the doubt due to the different feeling of greater security that I have in my country.
A very personal thought, the monument that more than any other I wanted to visit in Washington was the memorial dedicated to the president that I consider the most enlightened of all: Abraham Lincoln
To make these kind of visits interesting for kids, I usually try to associate their with a movie or something interesting for them;
in this case, I refer to the final scene of Planet of the Apes with Mark Wahlberg.
Washington – day 8
Visit to the Arlington Memorial and the John F. Kennedy gravesite
This huge Memorial, with so many graves of fallen soldiers is place inspiring peace, the white gravestones are as far as the eyes could see;
and here is the gravesite of the most celebrated President: John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and his wife Jacqueline Lee Bouvier.
In this place you will not feel just like a tourist, you will feel the need to keep the best of each one of these people has left, often with the sacrifice of their lives;
but with their ideals still standing, like the eternal flame on their tombs.
Cape Canaveral “Kennedy Space Center” – day 9
“Once upon a time” a child was dreaming of being an astronaut … like so many others.
That child is now almost 50 y.o., and his dream has not come true, but he is aware of being in good company!
This burden of dreams are still alive, and this was helpful for him, to face up the adult life difficulties; and his spirit is unchanged.
But above all, this drives him to bring three young “explorers” to live new experiences;
So, one day in the future – even if they will not become astronauts, as for the famous Star Trek motto, “They will get there, where their dad has never gone before” …
The JFK Visitors Complex is a place that deserves more than a day for visiting, because even those who are not passionate or fascinated by space travel will be captivated by the histories of these men, space pioneers.
The complex has several sections:
as soon as you arrive, take the bus that will take you around the areas that are for visitors, and you will pass right next to the launching ramps of the moon rockets!
The dayly ticket costs less than € 50 per adult, and about € 45 per child, and the visitor complex is organized in sections:
- Behind the gates: bus tour to the launch sites and work site of the Nasa staff;
- Heroes & Legends: you will visit sections with rockets:
from Mercury missions (launching first men in space), preparatory to Gemini missions (crews of 2 astronauts making extra-vehicular activity – EVA), and at last the Apollo missions (crews of 3 astronauts, with moon landing);
- Race to the moon: get ready to be launched into space and land on the moon!
You will be impressed by the majesty of the Saturn V rocket, designed by Ing. Wernher von Braun, who also designed the V1 and V2 rockets that hit London; and then became the man in charge for the space program.
- Shuttle: a very exciting show awaits you in this section, don’t miss the scheduled times as well as the Shuttle Lunch Experience!
Also, you can meet an astronaut and have lunch with him to ask for any questions you want.
DISNEY PARKS OF ORLANDO – GENERAL INFO
Orlando parks are in total 4, plus 2 water parks:
- Magic Kingdom
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom
- Blizzard Beach
- Typhoon Lagoon
each one of the 4 parks deserves to be visited for a whole day; so, our suggestion is to visit a park a day; but if you want to visit all the 4 parks in 4 day… good luck!
The tickets will be an important part of your holiday budget (the cost of entry, even if in combined formula, is high), and you should have an iron body and rubber feet!
To give you an idea about the costs:
the ticket valid for 2 days for 1 adult (from 10 years on) costs € 199,00; the cost for 1 child is € 187,00.
So, if you decide to go to the parks, you will want to stay in as long as you can!
Admission tickets: buy on the official Disney site, you will avoid commissions and huge queues, even if you will have to pass through check point, and change your voucher at the ticket office.
Here you will receive cards that you can use inside, for the skip-the-row options (Fast Pass) that you would have chosen before, using the app;
it’s very simple, but if you need help or tips contact us! (The service is for free).
Other tips: it’s better if you have a car, to get to the Magic Kingdom and book a hotel nearby – ours was 9 km far from park.
Orlando, Disney “Magic Kingdom” – day 10
IT’S MAGICAL …
“The most magical place on earth” according to its most famous slogan impresses you even before you arrive, for the structures built specifically to get there, and for the huge entrance like a mega-tollgate, where you have to pay for parking;
take note and remember where you park you car, to avoid loss of time searchinf for it – I suggest you to take a picture with cell of the place, but maybe you will do so many photos and videos that, at the end of the day spent here, the battery will have left you …
The Magic Kingdom is divided into thematic areas:
- Main Street
- Liberty Square
- Fantasy land
- Tomorrow land
arrive early in the morning, my suggestion is at 9:00 am, and go immediately to the attractions that are more interesting to you.
However, you will stay here until the park will close (check before for closing time, as they can vary from 6pm to 11pm depending on the day and season), so equip yourself with super-comfortable shoes and clothing!
And look at the pictures … it’s a place that makes everyone go back in time, when we were younger!
Orlando, Disney’s Hollywood Studios – day 11
IT’S MORE THAN MAGICAL !!
So: if you’re a fan of Star Wars or Indiana Jones fan, this park is made for you!
Maybe, compared to the Magic Kingdom, you can appreciate it more when you are not so young, I mean after 8.
The main attractions are:
- Tower of Terror, a trip to an abandoned hotel that at a certain point … will take your breath away! (do it last, as icing on the cake)
- Toy Story Mania, with a funny roller coaster in the shape of Slinky (Slinky Dog Dash) the Toy Story dog, very funny for children
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, coaster with a background of the Aerosmith’s!
- Star Tours, in my opinion the best for over 18.
Don’t miss the shows in the arenas / theaters at scheduled times, below you have a video related to the show dedicated to Indiana Jones: