Here are the top tips I wished I had known when we visited Yellowstone National Park with my family and kids.
Yellowstone National Park is such a popular park and definitely a must visit. If you make the trip with your family, you’ll want to make the most of the time you are there.
The last thing you’ll want is grumpy children and therefore grumpy adults! Here are my tips for minimizing the likelihood for being bored, hungry, or uncomfortable and making the most of your trip.
Table of contents
Pack clothes for a variety of temperatures
On average, temperatures range from 40°F at night to 70-80°F during the day. The summer we went to Yellowstone temperatures reached into the high 80°F. Unless you are really used to those temperatures, plan to layer up at night.
I would also recommend layering during the day if you plan on exploring the park early in the morning or staying into the evenings. Before the sun is high in the sky, it stays fairly chilly.
Also, many of the buildings were air conditioned which was a nice break from the heat, but if you were inside for a prolonged time it could get quite chilly. A light sweater or jacket is a must if you are prone to being cold.
Have activities to keep kids busy
The drives in-between locations can be very long, especially if Yellowstone is busy which it usually is during the summer. To drive around the loop can take anywhere from 4-7 hours with around an 1 hour between some of the main stops even without traffic.
Especially around the most popular sites, traffic can back up and you can end up waiting for long periods of time waiting for parking spots to open up. There also can be long lines to get in to the park!
I don’t know of any kid who is excited about traffic. Although looking at wildlife can be fun, that’s only if there is something to see.
Having a variety of activities kids can do in the car, like these printable travel games, is just as necessary in Yellowstone as on the drive to the park.
Make sure you have food and water with you
Although there are places to buy food in the park they are generally near the main attractions. There is nothing worse than hangry kiddos and being stuck in traffic!
We packed a lunch each day that we could stop and eat whenever we were ready. I also made sure we were prepared with extra snacks in the car in addition to what I carried in our backpacks with us.
Extra water is also a must, even though you can refill water at any of the main buildings. I always keep an extra couple of water bottles in the car for those in between emergencies.
Having a hydration pack or two is also a good idea, especially if you plan to do any hikes. We have a backpack style one that is perfect for holding snacks and other objects.
Kid’s size hydration packs are also a good option that I have found also keeps the kids entertained. Having a snack or treat that you can slowly feed to kids as you hike is also a great way to entice littler ones to keep going when their energy lags.
I like small snacks like Goldfish crackers, fruit snacks, trail mix, or raisins, that are easy for them to chew while walking but are also less likely to fall on the ground and result in a meltdown. I prefer to be the keeper of the snacks and can hand them small amounts at a time to extend the life of the snacks.
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Cell service is very spotty
We went to Yellowstone as part of a family reunion but in the chaos of traffic and finding parking, we would often get separated. Unfortunately, unless you are near a building cell service is basically non-existent and we had difficulties in letting family know what had happened to us.
If you will have family members in separate vehicles, having walkie talkies is a better way to stay connected and can be a fun way for kids to keep busy. This is a good article on the different kinds walkie talkies with recommendations for different situations.
Stroller or baby carrier
I’ve seen lots of posts that talk about how strollers are just fine because of all the boardwalks. However, we found that having a stroller was rather cumbersome due to the crowds. Navigating around people, especially those who are in a group was difficult and often caused whoever was pushing the stroller to be separated from the group.
We found it much easier to navigate with a baby carrier than the stroller. At the time we had an old hand-me-down from my in laws which still worked well. Now, the one we have is an Osprey Poco and it’s been a fantastic investment to have made. There is a great article here highlighting several different brands of baby carriers if you are in the market for one.