Many UK families love to take their family holiday in the US or Canada and they're most welcome, especially as they tend to stay longer than domestic travelers. (A vacation over a week has become rare in the US.)
Below are some tips that hopefully will help UK visitors plan their family holiday.
1. Know the Busy Travel Times for Family Holidays
US school breaks are very different than in the UK. School traditionally starts back -- after a two-month summer holiday -- the first week in September (right after Labor Day.) However, in recent years many schools are starting up earlier, in August or even as early as July.
Tip: during the last week in August crowds thin out at popular spots like Disney World. (Though Disney is attempting to boost attendance, with special rates and a Little Ones Travel Time promotion.)
The next major school break is the Holiday Season (Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year's), when kids typically get 10 days to two weeks off school.
Next big travel time is Spring Break season: dates vary in different areas, but schools typically have at least a week off sometime in March or April. This is high, high season in the Caribbean! And very busy at Disney World (though with side benefits such as late park openings.)
Several long weekends also occur during the school year in addition to these major breaks: Martin Luther King Day in January, President's Day in Feburary (which is extended at some schools into President's week.)
But the uber long-weekend for family holidays is Thanksgiving weekend, the last Thursday in November. Think of all those American movies where family dramas unfold over Thanksgiving weekend! The whole country is on the move, as people "go home" for Thanksgiving dinner.
2. Do a Beach Resort Family Holiday a la Carte
- Many UK visitors like to take family holidays at all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean or Mexico, and typically buy a convenient package, including their airfare and resort stay.
However, if this family were to chat with the North American guests lounging on the beach next to them, they might find that the Americans paid a lot less for the land portion of their holiday.
Is there any way to avoid paying more for the same resort experience? Maybe: if you're prepared to get yourself across the Atlantic, add a stopover in a US hub city such as New York, and buy your beach vacation from a US packager. Read more about booking your family holiday a la carte.
- When mum or dad starts to research what's offered by family holiday packagers, s/he may find the same destinations appearing again and again.
Yet the US and Canada are vast destinations; Mexico is giant too compared to European-size; and even the small Caribbean islands have a lot of variety.
The internet is a wonderful tool for exploring beyond the prominent destinations. How about an all-inclusive ranch in NY State with kids programs and myriad activities? A Disney beach resort? (-not the one at Disney World).
For starters, have a look at some Vacation Ideas by Region.
Another benefit of the internet: you can check recent visitor comments for any resort or destination at sites such as TripAdvisor.com.
- UK visitors blithely buying souvenirs on a family holiday may get a nasty shock when they make a purchase for, say, $100, and find that their bill comes to $105, or $107, or (in Canada, with an extra federal tax thrown in), $114.
Canada will refund at least the federal-government part of the tax bite, for out-of-country visitors. Highly motivated visitors can even apply for a sales tax refund from some provinces.
Meanwhile, in the US, sales tax is handled at the state level, and rates vary; a few states have 0% sales tax. Louisiana is one state that gives sales tax refunds to international visitors (for certain purchases, certain stores.)