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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tips for Traveling with Kids - From a Practical Mom: Part 2

Okay, not every vacation revolves around a character, and my practical best friend and mother of 4 knows that. She also can’t afford for every trip they take to be a big blow-out, so they take day trips as well. Last week I gave you her tips for Disney and theme parks in general, but we’re switching gears with her tips this time. If you guys are outdoorsy and love nature, then national parks are where it’s at. Go hiking, see cool rock formations, check out caves and more. Kids love that stuff and it’s fairly cheap. We made a day out of it and had a great time when we vacationed together last week. Make sure you bring snacks and things for the kids to do in the car.

Buy a national parks yearly pass. You can get a yearly pass for just $80 and use it for entry at all national parks all year long. Sounds expensive, you say? Well, if you plan to visit at least 3-4 parks a year, it is already saving you money. In fact, most parks have a $25 entry fee (per car), but some are even more. The Grand Canyon cost $40 when we looked recently, so just two trips there would cost you the whole amount of a yearly pass.

Buy a national parks passport. For just $8.95 per book, you have an excellent way to collect souvenirs from each park you visit. Make sure you stop by the visitor’s center to pick yours up and then get it stamped at each location. This is a wonderful thing for kids to do, because it teaches them about travel and each book tells you facts about every national park you can visit. Stamps are free. They also have a sticker available at each park that you can buy, or you can do what Lydia does and buy a pack of stickers they sell in the gift center and let the kids pick out which one they want and use the leftovers for scrapbooking. The stickers come in packs of 9 (3 of each kind) and run about the same as the individual sticker they sell specifically for the passport.

Become a Junior Ranger. Another awesome activity for your kids to do is to get involved in the Junior Rangers. It’s free and each location has a book of activities for them to complete that teach them important lessons about the environment and the area the park is located in. We visited Bryce Canyon and the questions were all about plateaus and rock formations. The children watched a movie to get the answers, answered other questions found in the packet and then picked up litter to complete their ranger training. At the end they had a real park ranger have them repeat the Junior Ranger oath and then they received a free pin (some have patches). Not only did they learn some cool stuff, but they also got a free souvenir out of the experience and had a fantastic time.

Go hiking. Yup. You’re in this awesome wilderness with hiking trails and amazing views. Strap on some comfortable shoes, grab some water and snacks and get going. It’s a great way to get exercise and also let the kids get out all their energy. Cap off the day with a picnic or a stop at a fun restaurant on the way home and you’ve had a full and fun outing. We picked Chili’s, mostly because it’s family-friendly, the adults all wanted to eat there (neither of us have one near where we live) and it was a little too cold out for a picnic.

Invest in a baby backpack (or sling or carrier). If you have a baby in amongst your kids, don’t give up on ever going anywhere until they’re old enough to walk. Depending on how hard-core you are when hiking, get yourself the appropriate baby carrying equipment. Lydia has both a folding hiking backpack for the baby and a front carrier for their little one. Strap it on and go. Just make sure to bring a change of clothes (possibly for both of you), some spare diapers and you’ll be prepared for whatever happens on your walk. It’s great to start them early and it gets you all out of the house without having to figure out how to get the stroller down the hill.

Want even more tips for traveling with kids and planning your summer vacation? Download my ebook: Secrets to Summer Savings. For just $2.99 you get 24 pages packed full of ways to save money and stretch your budget. Less than $3 to save hundreds (or more)?! Why haven't you clicked yet?
Do you have a national parks pass for your family?


  1. We haven't taken the zoo to a big park...We should get on that!

  2. Thank you for this post. I feel like this is going to be my lifesaver! My husband and I typically travel alone, but this summer we are taking our 3 yr old and 18 month old to newburyport ma to visit my in-laws. Wish us luck!


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