Have you heard people say they went to Yellowstone as children and have always wanted to go back? I’ve heard this dozens of times and have always responded: “Just do it!” When my own children were small, we lived too far from the park to take an inexpensive vacation there. But Yellowstone, a must-see vacation destination for any family, can be the perfect reasonably priced trip if you live less than a day’s drive from northwestern Wyoming.Plan to go when the kids are from about five years old, with their awareness of the outside world growing, until adolescence, when they will be totally involved in activities with their peers. Your family cannot help but be fascinated by Yellowstone if both children and adults are willing to have new experiences and have prepared in advance with videos, family conversations, and a guidebook or books about your family’s interests.
Costs you’ll encounter on your Yellowstone trip beyond car expenses and food include the $30 per vehicle entrance fee, which is good for seven days (a perfect length for your first visit!) and campground fees, which begin at $15 a night for unreserved campsites. (Reserved campgrounds and hotel rooms range from $24.25 to over $200 per night, but we’re talking here about keeping costs minimal.) If you want to visit neighboring Grand Teton National Park in the same seven days, you must now pay $50 or look into one of the passes. If you have a fourth grader in your household, did you know that he or she qualifies for a full-year of free admission that gets the whole family in together? See the Every Kid in a Park program. Of course, activities like horseback riding, boat trips, and an Old West cookout are available, but you can go everywhere without spending anything more if you choose.
What exactly can you see? The park itself has over 300 miles of roads, and just outside its boundaries are also many delightful sights. Many of those park miles take you near outstanding features you cannot find anywhere else, including geysers, hot springs, abundant wildlife, waterfalls, the Canyon, Yellowstone Lake, wildflowers, geology, fishing, hiking, and ranger-led excursions and talks. (The linked words take you to more nuggets about those topics!)
I’ve created a hypothetical plan for a trip with two kids, ten and seven years old: Itinerary for a Family Trip.
CREDITS: The photo is by Bruno Giletti.
Copyright Janet Chapple. All Rights Reserved. Updated August 3, 2017