Kerry and I and families visited Yellowstone early this week. Most of us had a blast, poor Kerry ended up with food poisoning or a stomach bug. Since we had my 4 children with me, I thought it might be good to share some of the things I learned about going to Yellowstone with kids. Even if you don’t have a Yellowstone trip in your future, a lot of these tips will translate to other vacations.
8 Tips for Visiting Yellowstone with Kids
1. Be Flexible
Don’t plan a complete itinerary for your family (like in the Hawaii episode of Duck Dynasty. Anyone else watch that show? It’s hilarious!). Well you can plan it but be willing to go off script if needed. Tune into your kids, do they need to head back to the hotel to relax?, do they need a snack break?. Be flexible will save you a lot of frustration.
2. Stop Often but not at Every Opportunity
Yellowstone is a lot of driving or can be but there is a lot of attractions to stop at. Your kids will get tired of being in the car so get them out into some nature.
Some of the things are right by the road like Mammoth Hot Springs and Gibbon Falls, others will require a lot more walking like the geyser area at Norris. Many of the places have signs with the distance of certain loops so you can pick the appropriate one for your family.
When we stopped to look at animals, we usually left the kids buckled in their car seats. If they couldn’t see if from the car, they usually couldn’t see it right outside the car anyway.
3. Bring a Stroller
If you have a kid 3 or under, bring a stroller! Even if you don’t pick the longest paths to walk, they will get tired! Even a cheap umbrella stroller will work if you are pressed for space in your car.
|Taken at Steamboat Geyser|
4. Make Simple Rules that Keep them Safe
We had 2 basic rules for Yellowstone, we added a few as we went but these were our main two.
1) Stay on the Path! – This made sure they weren’t on any unsafe areas
2) Always wear your shoes – Again made sure they were safe and kept us from putting on shoes at every stop. Tennis shoes are best.
I heard another family with older kids (about 8-12) repeating “Johnson’s stay together.”
5. Check out some of the stuff for Kids
1) The visitor’s center at Old Faithful has a section just for kids. My kids enjoying the model of the geyser that shows what goes on underground and the temperature reader that showed how hot the different colors of water were. We talked about the color display every time we saw those pools throughout the park.
2) The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone. If you are staying in West Yellowstone you might what to check it out. It has museum like displays and live animals (bears, wolves, and birds of prey) as well. It’s not huge but admission is good for 2 consecutive days and it gives the kids a chance to see bears and wolves which are much harder to spot in the park. It also has a little playground.
|Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center|
6. Get the Kids involved in looking for ALL Kinds of Wildlife/Nature
When you come into the park with kids, they give you a wildlife checklist (you might want to ask for extras). As we went along we checked off all the animals we saw but we also made sure to add any we saw that weren’t on the list. We emphasized that spotting any animal was awesome. We added the bunny and the lizard and all other animals we found to the list.
Every time we got back into the car, we talked about all we had seen. It’s easy to be disappointed that you didn’t see a bear or a moose but we focused on what we did see! And even if you don’t see any animals there is still amazing nature to behold.
Another thing we did is, my mom would take pictures of the animals on the iPad and then show the kids what we were seeing. This was great for my 2 year old as it was hard for him to see anything besides the buffalo.
7. Bring Stuff to Do in the Car
No matter how much you involve them in the trip at times they will get bored so bring other things to entertain them too. We had car bingo, a drawing pad, and other stuff to entertain them.
8. Take pictures of the Kids too!
It’s really easy to take a bunch of pictures of the animals, waterfall, and geysers, etc and forget to take pictures of the people you are with. Snap some pictures of them too! My mom was great about this and really I only took a few pictures the whole trip.
Most of all just enjoy the trip. Enjoy the kids’ banter and view on the whole experience. It was cute to hear Kae say “are we going to see more steam eruffting?” or the way Jet said “buff-low.” I loved going to Yellowstone as a kid and was so glad my children enjoyed it also.
For more general tips on visiting Yellowstone, check out Kerry’s Tips.
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