Virtually everyone has heard of Yellowstone. It’s one of America’s most iconic National Parks, arguably THE most iconic National Park. This summer my husband and I had the privilege of taking our two daughters on a vacation to this magnificent American gem. We went with extended family, including my parents, my sister and her family. In total, we had six adults and four kids age three and under. We had a blast and I will cherish the memories forever. But, if I’m honest, the trip had a few hiccups. Let me share three of them.
Old Faithful: A Lesson in Toddler Attention Spans
So, everyone needs to learn about patience. However, this lesson is best learned in a safe location. My parents got us reservations at the Old Faithful Inn. It was a wonderful meal in a beautiful lodge. The staff was AMAZING and my daughters, fresh off a day of driving, were well behaved.
Afterward, we explored the lodge and listened to a violin player. Then, we decided to head over to the seating area surrounding Old Faithful to wait for the geyser to go off. I got our new child leashes out and thought we would have a lovely time sitting and waiting. Wrong. Bad Idea. The wait was long (totally our fault for sitting down TOO early) and the leashes proved their worth. After pointing out the gophers and birds to the four toddlers, they then proceeded to try and escape. In many different ways. It was chaotic, to say the least. But, when it did go off all the kids sat in silence and awe. Worth it? Totally.
Mom Advice: I recommend arriving just minutes before it’s projected to go off. Every seat in the house is great, so you don’t need to worry about getting the “best” view.
Mammoth Hot Springs: A Lesson in Mommy & Toddler Tantrums
Ugh. This is a tough one to share, but I think it’s a valuable lesson. We meticulously planned one of our days at Yellowstone to see a few of the most iconic landmarks. Mammoth Hot Springs being a big one. We got there about mid-day and decide to take a break from touring via car and hit the boardwalks by the hot springs. If you have been there, you know that staying on the boardwalks is important for both safety and the integrity of the natural springs.
As we were walking, soaking up their beauty, I determined it was too sunny for our girls’ heads and faces. Like any diligent mother, I whipped out their hats and instructed my husband to help me put them on our daughters. Dahlia put hers on without complaint, and then our threenager, Lilly, protested swiftly. Within a matter of milliseconds, her hat was on the fragile surface of the terrace hot springs. I was mad. She was mad. And I had an angry voice… loud enough for other visitors to hear. Then Lilly was upset. She thought the surface resembled snow (thanks, Minnesota), so she did not understand why we couldn’t quickly retrieve it. In my anger, we retreated to the car. While we were sitting, my own wonderful mother located the ranger station, and they rescued the hat (using a grabber). Apologies were made, and our trip continued, but boy was it a tough couple of hours.
Mom Advice: When walking on the boardwalks at Yellowstone DON’T let your kids hold onto anything. Not a thing.
The Upper and Lower Yellowstone Falls: A Lesson in Hiking & Heights
The Upper and Lower Falls at Yellowstone were amazing. We got to the parking lot and decided it looked like a short hike to the bottom of the trail. So, we decided to go with our leash backpacks to ensure that our daughters stayed safely on route. After hiking two switchbacks, we realized our mistake.
As we made the trek down, there was no railing or barrier, and our daughters had major opinions about our journey. Dahlia wanted to walk swiftly down the trail, while Lilly wanted to be carried most of the way. Then on the way back up our oldest become hangry, while our youngest wanted to stop to pick up every. single. rock. It was awesome.
Mom Advice: When in doubt, use your hiking backpack.
Folks, this is the reality of vacation with toddlers and preschoolers. Yellowstone was unforgettable. No vacation is perfect, but you take away the great moments and relish the time spent with family. The bison sightings, waterfall hikes and family meals made our Yellowstone trip worth every minute of hard work and stress. Those moments in the car where everyone was in awe of God’s creation are what we will remember forever.