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Yellowstone with a toddler and a van full of folks?

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Yellowstone with a toddler and a van full of folks?

I am in the preliminary stages of planning our biennial vacation for 2014 and could use some advice. We are an extended family of 7 adult, ranging from 40s to 75ish, plus a 6 year old – and for the first time we will have a toddler around 1 ½ years old. The 6 year old went to Alaska with us last year and loves our adventures. We will fly in and rent a large van wherever we decide upon.

We usually travel for around 2 weeks decided the next trip should be somewhere around the Wyoming, South Dakota, or Montana area. We move around so it’s not unusual to change locations 2 or 3 times during a trip. I started thinking of suggesting a few days in Yellowstone. After spending a week looking online, I’m not so sure.

My concern is that Yellowstone may not be the best place to visit with a young toddler. We love historical museums and sites and enjoy easy activities – some like to hike while we all love things like a gentle float trip on a river and guided tours. We also drive ourselves around a lot but Yellowstone may be too much for this trip with the young one.

So, after my long introduction, I could use some help. Is there enough to do in an area or two of Yellowstone or will we end up spending most of our days in our rental van?

I’m also researching the following places to fill out our trip – Cody, Sheridan, all the way over to Mt Rushmore and Custer State Park. As you can tell, there are just so many choices – but where we stay will need enough to fill our out days without spending every single day driving long distances. I'm just not used to planning for a toddler and it's kind of feaking me out :-).

Driggs, Idaho
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for Grand Teton National Park
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1. Re: Yellowstone with a toddler and a van full of folks?

Ok, well the good thing is that you have plenty of family members to entertain said toddler when driving or dining. With that said, yes, YNP is not a place for a toddler on *their own legs* in some places where they don’t intelligently know their boundaries around certain sites (hot thermals like Old Faithful/Norris, steep drop offs like the Canyon area and any water features or wildlife). But there are other places they can have fun (ie a stop at a picnic area/visitor centers etc). I do not know the mentality of the child or their tolerance but we have done this every year since our son was born. However, we have the luxury of living close by, and not investing the $ on a vacation.

With the exception of thermals, this is similar to any other place their parents have travelled to, so to me its common sense. I have seen my share of young children in the park, and given the size of your party, I would not let a younger age deter you from your activities, but there will be sacrifices to be had of course. Believe me… I’ve done it enough lol.

I digress. Outside of that, your family sounds really outgoing. I think the best thing you can do is make sure the parents bring a backpack to carry the toddler along. If they do not have one and do not want to invest in one new, they can be purchased used, at a lot of children’s consignment stores. When that doesn’t work, (and I think you need the backpack regardless) because they are asleep and should not be interrupted, then someone else will need to be left behind. In those cases, park in a shady spot, car directed away from the immediate sun, near a visitor center, roll the windows down and sit inside or *directly* outside of the car (you never know, it has to be said lol) with your chair and read a good book or plan your next day. If and when toddler wakes up, the opportunity for fun is not lost because you are right near a visitor center! Visitor Centers are very kid oriented and that would be a good base to meet up again with the other party. Also Visitor Centers are great for gifts or as we call them “prizes” because someone has been really good.

It’s not the best scenario but a good one. Good luck!

P.S. Why are you planning for the toddler vs the parents :)

Edited: 30 May 2013, 02:09
Fruita, Colorado
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for Fruita, Grand Junction
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2. Re: Yellowstone with a toddler and a van full of folks?

I wouldn't want to take a toddler to YNP. To a toddler water is something to splash about in no matter the temperature, staying on boardwalks isn't all that important (or possible if it's crowded), and the consequences of being too close to the edge has no meaning. I think there are so many other places to visit that would be a better match than this place at this time. Also, a toddler will have no memory of the grandeur while whoever is babysitting will have missed it.

3. Re: Yellowstone with a toddler and a van full of folks?

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