We are so excited to take a major road trip and to head to the amazing Yellowstone National Park.  I can remember taking this trip as a little girl and so thrilled to show my girls the beauty of Old Faithful, the animals, and Jackson Hole.

We were going to take an RV, which has been my dream, but the logistics didn’t pan out.  The price to rent an RV compared to driving and staying at hotels was triple.  So we decided to rent a 15 passenger van and hit the road!  Scott had a conference in Salt Lake City so we saw it as the perfect time to cut the drive time in half and fly the first leg from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City.

*I list out our budget at the end of the post.

Lava Hot Springs

Day 1

On day 1 we picked up our van in Salt Lake City, and went straight up the I-15. Our first stop was the Lava Hot Springs.  The beauty of Lava Hot Springs is impeccable.  The water is so hot though.  Almost too hot for children.  It is definitely a sight worth seeing.  In the little city of Lava they have a couple of yummy restaurants and a fabulous water park.  There are lots of tube rides and many high dives.  They also have a great toddler area and lap pool.  The water is super warm and if you are traveling like us from airplane you don’t need to worry about towels or swim diapers they have towels to rent, swim diapers and floaties are all there to purchase for very cheap.

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That afternoon, we traveled to Idaho Falls to show the kids the beauty of the falls.  Such a fun little city with the LDS temple right next to the Falls. We stayed the night in Idaho Falls to get up bright and early the next morning to hit up Yellowstone Bear World.

Bear World & West Yellowstone

Day 2

Bear World, somewhere you don’t want to miss.  We have ever only seen bears in a zoo which is like 30 feet and they are usually snoozing.  At Bear World the bears are up close and personal.  You are able to drive around in your own car and the bears come right up to your car.  They also have add on experiences where you are able to get into their viewing truck and are able to feed the bears.  My family wasn’t able to get a spot that day to feed the bear cubs.  BUT, if you do make this trip make sure you book the feeding of the bear cubs early.  What an amazing experience you are able to bottle feed the cubs.  At Bear World there is a little amusement park, petting zoo, and of course a little store where your kids demand every little trinket.  You should plan to spend about 2 hours here.  Bear World also has a few other animals to see up close like Moose, Elk, Mountain Goats, Deer, and Bison.  I learned that there aren’t actually any wild Buffalo in North America and that they are actually all Bison.

From Bear World we packed up our ‘bus’ and headed off to West Yellowstone.  West Yellowstone is gorgeous and cold! Well if you are from Las Vegas almost everything to you is cold, but it was around 50* for the high.  You could go to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center when you are there.  We decided since we had just been to Bear World we would pass.  We were all super tired so we just ate at a yummy restaurant and had to try some Bison Burgers.

While in West Yellowstone you will see so many fun animals.  We saw Bison, elk, deer, and many others.  Your kids will thoroughly enjoy searching for animals and enjoy the beauty of the Earth.  As we were coming into town we saw on the side of the street ‘Horse Back Rides.’  My girls were in heaven.  Kids had to be at least 7 years old to ride so I took them and we horse backed all up into the mountains.  Scott took the two little blondies on a horse drawn wagon ride.  It couldn’t have been more gorgeous.  Now the two older girls are both begging to get into riding lessons and then purchase a horse.  Obviously, they don’t understand that we can’t just chain him to our tree and let him drink the pool water.  But, it is quite tempting.

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Horseback and Wagon rides in West Yellowstone

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Old Faithful & Jackson Hole

Day 3

The next morning, we took off for Old Faithful.  It takes about 1 hour to get from West Yellowstone to Old Faithful.  It was so fascinating and again even COLDER.  We froze waiting for it to go off.  It was such a good teaching experience of how Mother Nature works.  The drive is absolutely stunningly green and trees everywhere.  Bison laying on the sides of the road and just a fun adventure.  A time where kids are actually excited to put down the electronics and enjoy the outside.

We were on a strict schedule and so left the geysers and were off to Jackson Hole; such an adorable little city.  We went and saw the Bar J Chuckwagon.  I thought it was going to be a bit more geared toward children.  I would say it is more geared for kids 7-8 on up.

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jackson hole

Rafting the Snake River

Day 4

My husband and two older daughters were off the next morning on a white water rafting trip.  They had a ball!  They had some pretty big waves and were even able to jump into the river.  Another highlight of the rafting trip that my husband demanded he take me back to see is that they saw guys surfing the river rapids.  It was pretty fabulous!  I was impressed!

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BUT…..all good things must come to an end.  We headed back to Salt Lake to catch our flight.  My husband and I both agree as much fun as a road trip is, we are SO grateful we did not make the drive from Vegas but flying from SLC.  It was a wonderful family vacation and hope you all are able to make the trip!  It demands that electronics go off and we enjoy what this beautiful nation we are blessed to live in has to offer.

BUDGET:

  • 15 Seater Van – give the kids some room to spread out.  Enterprise: $500 – $750 depending on if you want the additional insurance.  We opted for the additional insurance because we were going to be driving almost a 1000 miles.  Be sure that you get the unlimited miles option when you book the rental.
  • Lava Hot Springs- $10 for adults, $9 for children, and 2 and under $2 (swim diaper included)
  • Hotel in Idaho Falls – Best Western Driftwood Inn: Under $160.  Its a little older but perfect to be able to walk across the street and see the falls.
  • Bear World in Rexburg, ID – $16.95 Adult, $10.95 Child, and 2 & Under are FREE.  Bear Cub Bottle Feeding $45 and truck ride to feed the bears is $25 for an entire family.
  • Horse Back Riding in West Yellowstone – Wagon Ride: $20 Adult and $10 Child.  Horse Back: $35 per person.
  • Hotel in West Yellowstone – White Buffalo: $255.  Options in West Yellowstone are not a plenty.  This hotel is old but I knew that we were there to just crash so I didn’t want to spend more than $300.
  • Yellowstone Park Entrance – 7 Day Pass: $30.  We opted to upgrade our Lake Mead Annual Pass to the annual pass that allows you to enter every National Park in the U.S. for an additional $40.
  • Bar J Chuckwagon in Jackson Hole, WY – depends on the dinner plate that you order.  Ranges from $25 – $37 a plate.  Kids plates are $12 and under 2 are FREE.
  • Hotel in Jackson Hole – Hampton Inn: $375.  It’s hard to go cheap in Jackson but they had an indoor pool and I needed something to do while Scott and the older girls went white water rafting.
  • White Water Rafting – Lewis & Clark River Expeditions: $72 Adult, $62 Kids.  Under 6 aren’t allowed.  Kids price includes a wetsuit and water shoes.  Scott recommends for the adults to rent a wetsuit too for $7.

Our trip cost $2,140 plus some additional meals and gas.  On our drive back to Salt Lake, we asked the kids to rate the trip from a ONE to TEN and they yelled back a TWENTY!! I agree that this was a road trip that was worth every penny!

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