The Complete Kids’ Carry-On Packing List

The Complete Kids’ Carry-On Packing List

Do you struggle at the last minute before a vacation and long for a quick and easy kids’ carry-on packing list? What you have with you on the airplane can be a lifesaver, just as a possible missing item can unleash a frustrated ear-splitting series of wails from a small traveler!

You need a complete carry-on packing list!

Of course, it’s possible ignore all the stares from the passengers around you. However, several years ago all I could see was judgment and glares, although some sympathize. Now, I don’t really care what others think, and the focus is on how to calm and reassure my child.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

Kids on an airplane

This summer we returned home from an international trip and were just at the end of a twelve and a half hour flight. If you want to picture it, I sat in between my two kids in a row of three seats by the window. In addition, my husband sat directly across the aisle.

This was the second flight in a series of three to get us home and so far the kids had been awesome. Cue trouble.

The dreaded seat-belt sign

First, the seatbelt sign turned on, and my worn out 4-year-old stared at it a second and then went into panic mode. “Potty! Potty! Mommy, I need the potty!” Now, at this point, it didn’t really matter what I said to him or how I reassured him.

Quick as a flash he had his seatbelt off and was clawing me to get into the aisle. We’d already learned the toilets were locked when the seatbelt sign was lit up, and after what felt like an eternity of screaming a flight attendant came by.

She looked pointedly at my struggling son and said, “Ma’am, I must ask you to put the seatbelt on. We’ve begun our descent.”

The Request

Now, I’m a rule follower and want to support flight attendants and put safety first. However, I don’t think our elevation had changed at all, there was no turbulence, and we were not anywhere close to landing. Everything I tried to make the child comfortable and sit back down in his seat failed.

He continued to scratch and scream, and he’s a strong kid! Another attendant walked by looking irritated, and I said, “Could you please unlock the door to let him go to the bathroom? He’ll calm down and be fine if he can just use the restroom.”

“Ma’am. The seatbelt light is on,” he began, and then just adopted an expression of incredible inconvenience. “Come with me.”

My son did his business and was back in his seat with his belt on, now a perfect angel. The anxiety over, he waited for us to land. I know my son, and it didn’t matter he was in a pull-up for the flight for just such a situation. Basically, he was tired, panicked, in one-track mode, and couldn’t think of anything but getting to the bathroom. I breathed a sigh of relief and turned to check on my daughter, whose eyes widened looking into mine, and at that instant, she threw up all over me.

We won’t ever be prepared for absolutely everything.

Why do I share this story? We can’t be prepared for everything, but we can help our kids limit the risk of panic and frustration and use a well-thought out kids’ carry on packing list.

Be assured your kids will be ready and entertained on their next flight when you use this kids’ carry-on packing list.

The complete kids' carry on packing list can be a lifesaver for family travel. Be prepared with kids on an airplane. #familytravel #packinglist

The Complete Kids’ Carry-On Packing List

Click on the picture of the item to see an example of it on Amazon.

1. The Bag

 
When selecting a bag for your child choose something they can carry themselves or pull on their own. Don’t get one that’s too big you’ll end up carrying it the entire trip.

2. Stuffed animal or blanket

Bring that one favorite stuffed animal or blanket. Your little one may need the extra comfort and a friend to talk to!

3. Tablet or iPad (with a good case)
 

Yes, yes, I know. This is the one time I let the kids play on the iPad or Kindle and do not try to limit their screen time. My goal is to get through the trip, and screens are a HUGE help.

Before you go, make sure your devices are charged and cords are packed where you can get at them. Also, download a bunch of new movies, shows, or games last through your no internet flight. I highly recommend Shaun the Sheep.

3. Headphones

You will want to test out the headphones for your kids before you go to be sure of sizes. In addition, in order to prevent fighting, it’s important to have a set of headphones for each kid (and a tablet for each if possible).

4. Coloring/activity books

       
My kids don’t use these too much on the plane, but they were a big hit for killing time during our layovers between flights. It all depends on the kids’ moods at the time.

5. Crayons (triangle) or Twistables, colored pencils
 

I love these triangular crayons because they don’t roll around on your airplane tray table. They still can fall to the floor obviously but are much less likely to, and I’ll take that!

6. Pencil pouch with pencils and pens
 

I admit I chose these pencil pouches for me, but you can get just about any color and style in the school supply area of your local store. They’re awesome for keeping those individual pencils and pens, erasers, or whatever the child deems necessary.

7. Travel journal or My Quiet Book

Travel Journal preview for kids' carry on   
Click here to take you to the post to download!

An older child can fill out the basic information and begin their travel journal for a trip, and for a younger child, something like this My Quiet Book is fabulous. You can tie shoes, button buttons stick things on, and it’s all attached to the book so you drop and lose nothing.

8. Mad Libs and joke books

          

First of all, it’s always good to laugh. Secondly, if your kids are laughing as you roll your eyes in your mind, it’s a lot better than a tantrum in the middle of the airport or plane. Have fun with it!

9. Book(s) to read

   
I always have a book to read with me on an airplane, and it’s always good to encourage reading time for kids. Get them engrossed in Harry Potter, and you won’t have to worry about them until the flight’s over and the book needs to be put away. So load up that Kindle or bring the physical book, but read!

10. Post-it notes

Now, Post-it notes may sound like an odd necessity to you, but they’re great especially for younger kids. My four-year-old thinks it’s a huge treat to draw creatures on all his sticky notes and then put them up all over the chair, window, airplane tray, and any other spot he can find. It takes a lot of time…FABULOUS!

11. Origami book and paper

     
Do you love origami? Origami is hugely popular in our family, and the kids love to do it at any time so why not on an airplane? It’s entertaining, takes up time, and you have a paper crane or boat at the end of it.

You can also tell them about the Japanese legend that says the one who folds 1000 Origami paper cranes will be granted a wish. And…go!

12. Games – UNO, a deck of cards, Skip-Bo, etc.

     

Card games are great for waiting to get on the airplane and a fun way to get the whole family interacting in a positive way. Who doesn’t like UNO?

13. Travel pillow

You always debate whether or not to splurge on using your packing space for a travel pillow. I think it depends on the person and how long your flight actually is, but my daughter loved hers on our last several flights. We were all able to rest a lot better with them, and I believe it’s worth the space. Make sure to get the right size of pillow for each person. I know from experience my adult-sized pillow will not work for my four-year-old.

14. Snacks (Mom will have back-ups in her carry-on)


Snacks are a must to get through a flight. We always bring nut-free snacks when on an airplane, and there are some great options out there without having to pay a fortune at the airport snack bar.

15. Wipes

This one is fairly self-explanatory, but they’ve saved me so many times. I always have a pack of Wet Ones in my purse!

16. Play-doh

An odd choice maybe? I thought so at first, but Play-Doh worked out really well on the airplane. It was fun sculpting and making snakes, and the kids were really good about keeping it on the tray table.

17. Make sure Mom has changes of clothes for everyone AND motion sickness medicine.

Kids' Carry On packing list preview

Do you need snack ideas for a flight?

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Do you have a carry-on packing list?

There you have it. The complete kids’ carry-on packing list. When I got off the airplane in Los Angeles to go through customs with vomit all over me, I was grateful to have a well-packed kids’ carry-on bag. We were able to get through the airport, change, calm everyone down, and make it to our next flight without further problems. Sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference. Have a great flight!

Are you traveling with young toddlers or babies who can’t handle their own carry-on? Check out these great ideas for the Best Backpack Diaper Bag For Travel and Everyday.

1 Day Mesa Verde Map Itinerary

1 Day Mesa Verde Map Itinerary

Are you planning to visit Mesa Verde National Park or short on time and considering it? Don’t miss this national wonder and immaculate preservation of American history! Follow this family-friendly 1 day Mesa Verde Map Itinerary and love every minute of your self-guided tour.

Mesa Verde National Park was founded in 1906 to preserve the archeological culture and legacy of the Ancestral Pueblo people. I’ve heard many Europeans speak about their medieval castles and state Americans have nothing to compare. Not true!

The Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings are true castles, not built on a solid hilltop but dug out and built inside the sides of a cliff! In fact, the two cowboys that found it and brought it to the attention Wetherill family called it “a magnificent city”. Can you imagine? Two cowboys, minding their own business herding cattle and discover a gigantic cliff dwelling!

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Visit the American cliff castles for yourself with a 1 day Mesa Verde map itinerary. Pressed for time? Follow the map and advice for a fun-filled educational day you won't want to miss. Family vacation or a day trip from Durango, Colorado. #familytravel #mesaverde

Now, to be fair, the Utes knew about the structures before this. However, the cowboys made their “discovery” famous and got more people involved in the excavation and preservation.

In fact, in Mesa Verde National Park, you will see not only cliff dwellings but a progression of homes and religious buildings. The Puebloans lived here for more than 600 years, from around A.D. 600 to around 1300. Take that European castles! (Don’t worry, I love you too!)

Mesa Verde National Park Quick Information

Mesa Verde is one of 4 national parks in the U.S. state of Colorado. They also include Rocky Mountain National Park, the Great Sand Dunes National Park, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

Location: In the southwestern corner of Colorado, easily accessible from Cortez or Durango, Colorado.

Elevation: 7,000 – 8,500 feet

Safety: The park has rugged terrain with steep cliff dropoffs, deep canyons, and some narrow trails. Stay on the prepared trails and monitor children.

Park Entrance Fees: There is an entrance fee to enter the park, and I suggest you check their website for current rates. If you have a fourth grader traveling with you, find out how to get a free U.S. national parks pass here!

Mesa Verde Tours:

If you visit during summer months, the park is more crowded, but you also have the opportunity to join a group tour. If you have the time and are physically able to walk for a couple of hours and climb ladders, I highly recommend the park-run tours of Cliff Palace and the other dwellings.

Be sure to reserve your spot beforehand or check in immediately at the Visitor’s Center to find out what’s available during your visit. They are various lengths and different levels of difficulty.

The self-guided 1 day Mesa Verde map itinerary below is kid-friendly and accessible for wheelchairs. The stops and short hikes I’ve recommended are mostly paved pathways or wide well-maintained paths.

Where to stay in Mesa Verde:

Camping: Stay in one of the brilliant campsites in the national park at Morefield Campground.

Airbnb: As a family, we love to book places using Airbnb! I like to have more room, a different experience, and our own kitchen to prepare meals. Check for options in and around Durango, Colorado.

When using Airbnb, I always advise you to choose a place with plenty of good ratings. It’s nice to read a few of the past reviews to get a feel for the place. Also, it will help you be able to tell if it’s a good fit for your family.

Coupon BONUS! To get $40 off an Airbnb home booking of $75 or more or $15 off an experience of $50 or more, click on my link here!

Hotels: My kids like to stay in hotels for the exciting experiences of a free morning breakfast buffet and a swimming pool! I always look for hotels with a good swimming pool.

Mesa Verde Map

While you probably won’t be able to see the detail on this map, it will give you an idea of the locations I suggest to visit. Be sure to pick up your own map on your way into the park when you pay the entrance fee and mark it up to your heart’s content.

1 day Mesa Verde Map Itinerary, National Parks map #mesaverde #familytravel

Now, shall we begin the self-guided essential 1-day tour? Yes, please!

1 Day Mesa Verde Map Itinerary

The following plan is meant to be a self-guided tour. It consists of easy, quick stops along the way for families with young kids or those who don’t wish to go on a long hike. Use this as a guide but make it your own day trip. Grab a Mesa Verde map, and if there’s something you want to see along the way I don’t specify, by all means, explore!

1. Mesa Verde National Park Visitor and Research Center

When you enter the park, do take the time to stop in at the visitor’s center. There’s an interesting exhibit, and the rangers are knowledgeable and ready to help. Ask what to do in the current weather conditions, if any trails or sites are closed, that sort of thing.

a. Purchase tour tickets

Here you will purchase any tour tickets you wish to go on run by Mesa Verde National Park. Purchase tickets or find out more information on the guided tours if you have the time and wish to tour the Cliff House or other dwellings. Most take at least a couple of hours so keep that in mind.

b. Sign up for the Mesa Verde Junior Ranger program

I absolutely LOVE the Junior Ranger program, and it’s a perfect fit for kids wanting to learn more about the park. My daughter is a huge fan, completes EVERY activity in EVERY book and is determined to collect as many badges from U.S. national parks as possible.

My son, on the other hand, is not quite as eager but has participated in the program, and we’ve had fun with it together. It also helps keep the adults in the group on their toes and on the lookout for interesting facts.

Find a ranger and ask to sign any kids with you up for the program. They’ll have to fill out a booklet of activities and when complete they’ll be sworn in as a Junior Ranger. They get an official certificate in a small ceremony and a badge. Awesome!

c. Gift shop souvenirs

If you or the family want to stock up on souvenirs to remember the trip, this is the place to do it! Truly, they do have a good variety of books, postcards, posters, and kid collectibles. My daughter selected an adult coloring book of all the national parks with some colored pencils, and the 6-year-old found a stuffed peregrine falcon he couldn’t live without.

d. Facilities

Last, but not least, this is a good place to use the bathrooms before you set off on your adventure. There are restrooms at some of the stops but not all so I like to avoid as many panicked emergencies as possible.

2. Mancos Valley Overlook

On to stop number 2! After the visitor’s center is about 4 miles to the Mancos Valley Overlook. This is a quick stop, but one not to miss! Get out of your vehicle and walk down to take in the views. This is also right next to the Morefield Campground if you happen to be camping there.

There are some tables if you’d like to have a picnic or a snack or simply get that photo op.

Mancos Valley Overlook, enjoying the view of Mesa Verde National Park #mesaverde #familytravel

3. Montezuma Valley Overlook

This is another great point to see some different views of the park. It was a little muddy when we were there, but I made great friends with this tree. We enjoyed the stop.

Tree at Montezuma Valley Overlook, Mesa Verde NP #mesaverde #nationalparktrees

4. Geologic Overlook

Continue to drive until you make it to the Geologic Overlook. In good weather, there are good views and short well-maintained paths. Take a minute to work on the Junior Ranger packets and think about the astounding feats of architecture you’re about to see.

5. Far View Sites

Next, travel down to the Far View Sites, passing the Far View Lodge and Far View area. Do NOT accidentally turn onto the Wetherill Mesa Road. This is a great turn off to visit on the second day in the park but won’t fit into our 1 day Mesa Verde map itinerary.

The Far View Sites are surface sites, which simply means they’re above ground and not in the cliff. You can see the Far View House, Pipe Shrine House, Coyote Village, Far View Reservoir, Megalithic House, and Far View Tower. We were told it was one of the most populated areas from A.D. 900 -1300.

Perfect spot on the Mesa Verde map for kids

What do I like about this site? It’s a good, safe place with nice trails, and interesting places to explore for kids. They can run around, act out stories, and let imaginations run wild!

The last time we were there it was under snow so I didn’t get a good picture. Let me know how your kids enjoy it!

6. Cliff Palace Loop (6mi/10km)

The Cliff Palace Loop is one of the two main loops that take you to see the cliff dwellings and mesa sites on the Chapin Mesa. It’s a one-way loop, and I suggest going here first and earlier in the day before the large crowds arrive.

a. Cliff Palace

If you see one thing in Mesa Verde National Park, you will want to see the Cliff Palace. It’s the “enchanted castle” and iconic picture you see in anything referencing Mesa Verde.

Explorer Momma at Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde NP #cliffpalace #mesaverde

Frederick Chapin, the first tourist guided by the Weatherill family to Cliff Palace, was an experienced mountaineer. He visited in 1889 and 1890 and described it in writing like this: “It occupies a great space under a grand oval cliff, appearing like a ruined fortress, with ramparts, bastions, and dismantled towers. The stones in front have broken away; but behind them rise the walls of a second story; and in the rear of these, in under the dark cavern, stands the third tier of masonry. Still farther back in the gloomy recess, little houses rest on upper ledges.”

The pathway down from the parking area is nicely paved and you even pass by a seating area for when the rangers give their guided tours. Once you get down to the viewing area there’s an amazing view of the Cliff Palace and all around the canyon.

Unfortunately, unless you have a ticket to attend one of the guided tours you won’t be able to go down the locked rusted staircase to view the dwelling up close. When traveling with kids and only a day to explore this is no problem. If you have an extra day book one of the tours.

Looking out at Mesa Verde NP, towards Cliff Palace #mesaverde

b. Balcony House

Balcony House can better be seen from the Soda Canyon Overlook trail. If you have tickets to the tour stop here or move on to see it from the trail viewpoint.

Balcony House, Mesa Verde NP

c. Soda Canyon Overlook Trail (1.2mi/1.9km)

The Soda Canyon Overlook Trail is the longest we attempted with my 6-year-old. Moreover, he called it the “really long hike”, and it was a lot of fun. Awesome views abound, but this is one of those places where Mom panic kicks in.

Soda Canyon Overlook Trail, Mesa Verde #familytravel #mesaverde

The trail goes very near the dropoff down into the canyon. Also, the telescope in the picture below is on a large rock sticking out into the canyon. While the places that meet the trail are fenced, off the trail they are not. I would advise kids know to stay on the trail on this one!

Looking though the telescope Mesa Verde NP #mesaverde #familytravel

But wow! What an experience!

7. Spruce Tree Terrace

Spruce Tree Terrace is a little café area where you can stop for lunch or a snack. We didn’t pack a picnic and found it to be a good break between loops. There are various sandwiches, hamburgers, brats, French fries, salads, cookies, and general American-style quick foods. It’s a little higher priced than you’d normally find, but hey, it’s the only thing in the park!

If you live close by or are organized to get a good picnic together before going I highly recommend that also and taking advantage of one of the many picnic areas.

In summer, needless to say, it is very HOT. Be sure to bring enough water, sun hats, non-toxic sunscreen, etc. to keep you hydrated and safe.

8. Spruce Tree House

Safety concerns with falling rocks have closed the Spruce Tree House for tours for the foreseeable future. However, you can still get a good view of it from the overlooks near the museum. This is the third largest cliff dwelling and hopefully will be open again soon! It’s one of the easiest to get down to and has paved paths for strollers and wheelchairs.

9. Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum

If you have the time or just want to breeze through, the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum is worth a stop. Some people will really want to examine the dioramas illustrating Ancestral Pueblo life. My children did not, but we’d also been on a lot of stops!

In addition to the dioramas, there are exhibits of prehistoric artifacts, a chronology of Ancestral Pueblo culture, and other displays.

If the family needs a rest, there’s also a 25-minute informational video on the park that runs on the half-hour. In summer months, I would imagine it would be a welcome break in the air conditioning! Check it out.

10. Mesa Top Loop (6mi/10km)

Now, head over to the second loop on the map, the Mesa Top Loop. It’s good to start this one after a good lunch and everyone’s revived and excited to see more! There’s a lot more to see on our 1 day Mesa Verde map itinerary than just Cliff Palace (although it IS pretty impressive on its own!).

a. Pit house

Be sure to stop at the Pit House. This is the earliest evidence of people living in the area from about A.D. 550 to 600. They build shallow pits in the ground and covered them with pole and mud roofs and wall. In fact, the entrance would have been through the roof!

The Pit House you will see at the site is one of the best preserved anywhere with features common on all pit houses. There’s a large space used as a living room with a fire pit in the middle. Then to the side, adjoining the living room is an antechamber where they think firewood and food were stored. All the family would sleep on the floor around the fire, grandparents, parents, kids.

How would you like that? Pick up the Mesa Top flyer at the entrance for more information.

b. Square Tower House

I have to say Square Tower House is my second favorite cliff dwelling in the park, after Cliff Palace. Take a short paved trail down to the viewpoint area. The four-story tower looming over the rest of the buildings is quite impressive. The tower boasts window, flooring, doorways, and even a reed mat, feathered cloth, and a humanlike figurine were found inside.

Square Tower, Mesa Verde National Park #mesaverde #familytravel

Evidently, the residents of the 80 original rooms in this dwelling came and went using hand-and-toe holds dug out of the cliff walls. Yes, they had to climb in and out! People lived here toward the end of building in Mesa Verde, from A.D. 1200 to 1300.

c. Sun Point View

Sun Point View is a good place to stop to view many dwellings at one time. Here you will see a dozen different cliff dwellings in alcoves in the Cliff and Fewkes Canyons. Take the kids out, stretch your legs, and see how many you can spot!

d. Sun Temple

The Sun Temple is a fascinating place to explore and let the kids run around to see what they can see. Moreover, it’s another place where you can get up close and personal with one of the structures. Peek through the windows and discuss why they might have created four-foot-thick walls.

Looking through the Sun Temple window, Mesa Verde #mesaverde #familyadventure

What would they have used this D-shaped structure for? There are signs it was left unfinished, without a roof, according to the experts. But, a point of interest is the natural rock basin in the southwestern corner possibly served as a “solar marker”. Also, people from the surrounding areas could have attended ceremonies in the temple.

Sun Temple, Mesa Verde NP

11. Return to the Visitor’s Center

The Sun Temple is the last stop on the Mesa Top Loop. From there, if you have any time left explore away. If not, head back to the Visitor’s Center before it closes. When we were there it closed at 4:30, but times do vary depending on the season.

In addition, the kids can complete the Junior Ranger program with a ranger and get their certificates. The packets can be mailed in, but they love that sense of accomplishment to finish in a day. Have I mentioned we LOVE the Junior Ranger program?!

Grab the last minute souvenirs, and you’re done for the day! I hope you enjoyed this 1 day Mesa Verde map itinerary. Let me know in the comments below if it’s useful to you!

Ready to visit more National Parks?

Check out Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico!

10 Musts for visiting Carlsbad Caverns National Park with kids


1 Day Mesa Verde Map Itinerary

To be fair, this is a lot to pack into one day at Mesa Verde National Park. However, if you do only have the day you’re going to want to see as much as possible! It’s a fascinating place to discover hands-on about the ancestral Puebloan people. Forget reading about it in books, go out and explore!

The kids will love this National Park, and I have a feeling it’s a trip they will remember for a long time! Happy travels!

Lauren

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Only have a day in Mesa Verde National Park? This is the perfect family one day Mesa Verde map itinerary with the best places to be sure to see. From Cliff Palace to the Sun Temple, it's a must-see national park. #mesaverde #familytravel #usnationalparks

Hotel Booking Options:



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More information on U.S. National Parks:

  1. State and National Parks Family Bucket List
  2. Northern States National Parks Bucket List
  3. Utah and Colorado National Parks Bucket List
  4. California National Parks Bucket List
  5. How to Get a Free National Parks Pass
  6. Carlsbad Caverns with Kids: 10 Musts for an Amazing Visit
  7. Secrets of Rocky Mountain National Park in Winter

Kids Travel Journal

Kids Travel Journal

A kids travel journal is the ultimate fun and memorable activity on a family vacation! You know all that time in the car or on the airplane? Use it wisely and have your kids reflect on what they’ve seen, eaten, and experienced!

Do your kids love to look back at old photos? What about old school papers and accomplishments?

Both of my kids do, especially my daughter. She is my child who likes to write stories, make lists, and have written and physical souvenirs of past adventures. If you’ve followed this blog at all you may have seen or downloaded the original kids travel journal I created for her.

While we still LOVE it, and it’s been great for past travels and adventures, the child is ready for something new.

That’s why I put together this new journal. Next week we’re heading off on a Spring Break road trip, and it requires something new and fresh for her to put her mind to!

In a hurry?

Scroll to get the travel journal bonus! Or PIN it for later here!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

A kids travel journal is the perfect road trip or air travel activity! Give the kids something to do as they travel, make memories, and reflect on new experiences. #kidstravel #traveljournal

 

The journey, not the arrival matters.

T.S. Eliot

Poet

What’s new in this kids travel journal?

First of all, I looked at quite a few ideas from my kids and others who’d used our original journal before. How could we make it better, more user-friendly, and still super-fun and engaging for kids?

One of the first things I did was change the size of the journal. Instead of a full page, I changed it to a half-sheet printout.

Why do you ask? Well, the half-sheet size is easier to travel with. It will fit in all sizes of bags, purses, backpacks, as a bookmark in a book, you name it.

It makes it easier to pull out and write/draw on any place you go whether it be in a car, a museum, or when you sit down to rest during a hike.

Record and reflect on family vacations with this printable kids travel journal. Fun and easy to take on the go, it's perfect for road trips, air travel, or any kids' outing! #kidstraveljournal #travelprintable

Another thing that’s changed is the amount of color vs. white space.

This journal has some pictures and color, but not as much as the last one. It was done on purpose so it’s easier to print out either in black and white, full color, or grayscale, depending on your preference. This also lets the child doodle in the edges and put in their own colors.

In addition, I’ve added some more prompts to spark kids imaginations.

For example, there’s a page for the day with the weather, how I feel, and other things listed. But then there are also pages on what I ate today, where I’m sleeping, who I saw, etc.

Depending on the kid, you may want to use all the pages or just a few and make more copies based on the length of the trip.

Filling out the kids travel journal. #kidstravel #printables

List of travel journal activity pages

  • Cover Page: My Travel Journal
  • Name and contact page with space to draw a self-portrait
  • Where in the world are you going? A world map to record where you travel.
  • Where in the USA are you going? A map of the USA to record where you travel.
  • The daily page includes:
    • Today’s Date:
    • I felt
    • The weather was:
    • I learned:
    • I met:
    • Three things I did today:
    • Today I traveled by:
  • What I ate
  • Written prompts: Three words to describe today, I miss…, I tried something new today!, I felt…
  • Out my window is a place to draw what they’ve seen out their window today!
  • Tonight we are staying… (where, and place to draw it)
  • Written prompts 2: The best thing about today was…, my least favorite thing was…, three words to describe this city/town are…, three questions I have are…
  • Today I learned a new word! This page includes a word bubble with an area to draw and a field to describe what it means.
  • Today I saw this! Includes a space to draw/color and descriptive words.
  • Here is a portrait of a person I saw today.
  • Today I saw this animal.
  • Trip Reflection page

Pages of the kids travel journal with a pen. #kidstraveljournal #kidsactivities

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.

J.R.R. Tolkien

Author, The Lord of the Rings


New Kids Travel Journal Bonus

Sign up for Explorer Momma’s newsletter and get the NEW Kids Travel Journal as a bonus! If you’re already on our list, awesome! You can still download the journal!

Preview of the new kids travel journal #kidstravel #kidstraveljournal

How to download the kids travel journal

First, enter your first name and email in the field below. Second, open up your email, and in a few minutes or less you should receive an email. Click on the button in the email to confirm your subscription to the Explorer Momma newsletter and your bonus kids travel journal should then download to your computer.

It’s that simple! Print out the entire thing or pick and choose the pages your child would most enjoy!

What do you think of the journal?

So far the journal has met approval with my own kids. We’ll be giving it the full road trip test next week, and I can’t wait to see how it goes!

After this one, as my daughter gets older we may turn to a basic blank journal with a few travel quotes here and there.

However, for now, when they’re in elementary school, this style of a journal is still appealing. It also makes kids think a bit about their travels. Who they’ve seen, what they’ve done, cultural differences, etc.

Do please let me know if you use it with the kids in your life! I hope it’s useful, and let me know if you have any suggestions to make it even better!

PIN it here for later:

An easy to use kids travel journal is perfect for any family vacation! Whether the kids are on a road trip, airplane, or train it makes a memorable travel diary. #traveljournal #kidstraveljournal

 

More kids travel activities:

  1. The Ultimate Road Trip Activities for Kids
  2. Kids Airplane Activities: Airplane BINGO
  3. 8 Ways to Survive a Long Layover with Kids
  4. The Complete Kids Carry-On Packing List

Kids Travel Journal

The Perfect Road Trip or Air Travel Activity! Click here to check our the Original Travel Journal Printable

State and National Parks Family Bucket List

State and National Parks Family Bucket List

Preview: A State and National Parks Family Bucket List. Join guest writers as we travel around the southern and eastern areas of the United States to national and state parks!

Are you ready to add to your family bucket list? There are so many amazing natural wonders around the United States. Sometimes we overlook the opportunities for family adventures as they seem they’re in our own backyards! What kid doesn’t like to seek out mountains, streams, and wildlife? Embrace it and do some family bonding at the same time.

So onward! Let’s continue our tour around the United States in Explorer Momma’s Operation U.S. Parks, Every Kid in a Park. This is the fourth series featuring guest writers who plug their favorite parks and give tips and stories about the area. The goal is to encourage you and your family to get out, wander, hike, and appreciate these amazing destinations.

Let’s get started. We’ll continue our journey and add to your own state and national parks family bucket list!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

State and National Parks Family Bucket List, the Great Smoky Mountains to Big Bend National Park in Texas. Family adventures perfect for your next park destination! #familytravel #familyadventuretravel

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Shenandoah National Park is located within driving distance of Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and North Carolina, making is the perfect National park for families living or visiting the East Coast. Our family are frequent visitors of Shenandoah National Park because it offers something for everyone. With three entrances (North, Middle, South) it is easy to access the 105 miles skyline drive that covers the length of the park.

We love Shenandoah National park because it features a variety of trails for all activity levels and interests. Before we had children, we would hike for miles to find hidden waterfalls and vistas overlooking the valley. Now that we have a toddler, we are still able to find shorter hikes to search for unique bugs and beautiful flowers. Shenandoah even has a handicapped accessible trail for everyone to enjoy the great outdoors. Want to linger longer? Make a reservation for their campsite, complete with a general store. Or if you’d prefer to stay in a hotel or cabin, check their website for a list of accommodations. 

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, for family travel and fun! #shenandoahnationalpark #familytravel

Park Tips

If it’s your first visit to the park, I highly recommend stopping at one of their visitor’s centers to get a detailed park map or pick up one of their $2 map booklets that feature titles such as “kid-friendly hikes” or “peaks and vistas”. We’ve used these little booklets over and over. The visitor’s centers also have interactive exhibits about animals you may encounter in the park, helping to bring nature closer to families.

Be sure to visit the park at different times of the year, Fall is certainly a favorite with the changing Fall foliage. Want to read more about where we like to go in the park? Head over to our family friendly travel blog, Pack More Into Life.

By Chelsea from Pack More Into Life

 

Chimney Rock State Park, North Carolina

Chimney Rock State Park is the perfect area for a family to explore. Be prepared to give your legs a workout but it will all be worth it.

If your family is craving some time in nature, like we were, you can hike directly from the parking lot up the Four Seasons Trail. Head to the Hickory Nut Falls, which are an impressive 404 feet tall. After taking time to marvel at the falls, you can walk back along the Hickory Nut Falls trail to a very long set of stairs up to the main entrance.

Don’t worry, if this doesn’t sound like your kind of fun, you can take a shuttle from the parking lot up here. Our kids seemed up for climbing the stairs, so after a lunch stop, we just kept climbing right up to the Pulpit Rock and Chimney Rock viewpoints. The trail sign says this was 500 steps, but it actually didn’t feel like that much… There is an elevator option too. Either way, the view of the Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure are worth every step!

Chimney Rock State Park, North Carolina is the perfect adventure with kids! Hiking and family fun. Add it to your family bucket list today! #exploremore #familyadventure

There is the possibility to climb even further, but our kids were more interested in exploring the bat cave. From there we took the shuttle bus back to the parking lot to give us all a little break. Once at the parking lot, we took time to stop at the Animal Discovery Den and hike around the Great Woodland Adventure trail (an interpretive trail for kids). The kids loved this part of the day. We especially loved that this outing gave us an opportunity to hike with our kids and included some fun things for them!

Other close parks to visit

I also have some great tips for visiting nearby Shenandoah National Park at our family travel blog, Family Can Travel.

By Celine from Family Can Travel

 

Great Smoky Mountain National Park, North Carolina, Tennessee

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park was visited by more than 11 million people in 2017. You can bet many of those were families! Our family has been visiting the Smoky Mountains since before I could walk, and I’ve continued that tradition with my own kids. While I was a child my family enjoyed visiting the Smoky Mountain gateway towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. However, my husband and I now prefer hiking in the Smokies.

There are hiking trails suitable for families with kids of all ages including those in strollers. We recently enjoyed a great hike on the Middle Prong trail which served as a logging camp in the 1900s for the community of Tremont. The trail has numerous climbing and exploring side adventures, a gradual elevation gain of only 275 feet, and is wide with lots of room for kids to spread out.

There are three cascading waterfalls to enjoy along the way. The entire trail is probably too long for kids, but it’s a great place to explore for an hour or so and then head back

If you love wildlife, Cades Cove is a must, but be sure to take a lunch because the 11-mile loop auto trail gets backed up and wait times can be quite long. We also recommend viewing the Elk in the Cataloochee area on the southeastern section of the park.

There are so many opportunities for family fun in the Smokies, you are sure to have a great family adventure when you visit.

By Amanda from VeraVise Outdoor Living

 

Watkins Glen State Park, New York

While the Finger Lakes region may be known for its wine, it’s also an amazing area for family adventures. One destination that’s not to be missed is Watkins Glen. This adorable little town is also home to Watkins Glen State Park.

Watkins Glen State Park, Cavern Cascade, New York #iloveny #familytravel

No matter your age, you’ll fall in love with the beautifully picturesque trails and incredible waterfalls that call the park home. With over 700 acres of land, the highlight is the almost 400ft deep gorge. Carved by glaciers thousands of years ago, it’s home to 19 beautiful waterfalls. The trails can be tricky, but it is definitely worth a visit. Since you can see a waterfall from the entrance, you can truly spend as little or as much time as you like here! I suggest at least a couple of hours to see a few of the waterfalls, especially the Cavern Cascade where you can feel the water as it rushes into the gorge!

For families, the best time to visit would be in the summer. This is when all of their facilities are open, including their campgrounds as well as their swimming pool. You can also take advantage of their daily shuttle service from the end of June until Labor Day which will definitely help keep any little legs well rested! To reward the little ones (and big kids, of course) on completing such a great adventure, there’s an amazing ice cream shop just down the road. A delicious way to end the trek!

By Lindsay from I’ve Been Bit!

Ready to visit more national parks?

What’s on your national and state parks bucket list in our northern states?

Anastasia State Park, St. Augustine, Florida

Anastasia State Park in Northern Florida is 1,600 acres of fun! With 139 campsites, bike trails, three playgrounds, fishing, boating, hiking trails, geocaching, wildlife viewing, an amphitheater for events, shelling and the beach there is plenty to keep a family busy. Especially given that it is so close to the oldest occupied city in America — historic St. Augustine!

Anastasia State Park Beach, St. Augustine, Florida #exploreflorida #floridastateparks

You can’t see the beach from the main road or parking lot. It’s like a secret waiting to be discovered. However, if you walk along the raised wooden trail (to protect the dunes) you’ll find the most amazing of beaches.

While you are visiting, go on a kayaking excursion or SUP of the Salt Run estuarine tidal marsh like we did. There you’ll see lots of wildlife including osprey, eagles, turtles and possibly a dolphin or two!  Don’t worry if you don’t have your gear, there are rentals available.

By Mary from Calculated Traveller

 

Big Bend National Park, Texas

Big Bend National Park is located in West Texas, right where the Rio Grande bends deeply to the south before Texas meets New Mexico (hence the name).

Despite being born and raised in Texas, it wasn’t until recently that I finally made it to this isolated park. We visited in the heart of summer, which concerned me (how smart can it be to drive into the desert in August?). But Big Bend is special, it’s the only park that houses an entire mountain range within its borders. The Chisos Mountains rise up from the Chihuahua Desert and are filled with hiking trails of different lengths and difficulties. 

Big Bend National Park, Texas #familytravel #familyadventure

While there are miles of trails in the desert and along the Rio Grande, we decided to save those for cooler months. We spent our three days in the mountains. We hiked the popular Lost Mine Trail and the massively long and strenuous Southern Rim Trail.

Big Bend for families

Big Bend is a family-friendly national park, in fact, plenty of friends of mine came here every summer on their family vacations. We even met a troop of boy scouts hanging out at the top of Lost Mine Trail. There are campsites for the adventurous traveler or family, and a lodge in the mountains for those (like myself) that prefer a mattress and indoor plumbing.

Whether you come alone, with a partner or a family, Big Bend is worth every ounce of effort required to get to in the isolated West Texas desert.

By Erin from Sol Salute

 

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

The Petrified Forest and Painted Desert were a natural choice for us when visiting the USA with our kids. We traveled Route 66, and the road passes right through the park! 

We’d never visited a National Park before and this was a great introduction for us. We’re not big hikers at all, and although the park does have some hiking trails it wasn’t necessary for us to go on them to have a really good day there. 

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona old car #petrifiedforestnationalpark #familiesexplore

There’s a road that goes around the park with spots to park up in, take pictures and learn about what’s there. We went with teens but it would be great to visit with younger kids who might not walk far. We loved the fabulous scenery around with gorgeous hills and vistas with all sorts of colors peeping through. Therefore, for me, it would be worth it to visit for that alone. 

There’s so much more to see in the Petrified Forest. We loved the history with an old building that dates to when Route 66 was built and was originally built with petrified wood! There’s also an old rusty car which sits next to an older section of the road. It’s great for photos but also for the kids to poke around in and explore.

Finally, towards the end of the trail is another visitor center and lots of big bits of petrified wood around to see and learn about. We collected some worksheets about them and qualified to become junior rangers too – a highlight for us all!

By Kirsty from Lost In Landmarks

 

Wupatki National Monument, Arizona

Wupatki National Monument is a huge 56 square mile site in Arizona. It protects numerous ancient pueblo and dwelling ruins. The largest pueblo in the area – and the most impressive – is the ruins of Wupatki Pueblo.

Meaning ‘tall house’ in Hopi language, Wupatki is three stories tall. It has 100 rooms and housed around 100 people at its peak in the late 12th Century. It is thought to have been the largest and richest pueblo in the region. Built from flat Moenkopi sandstone, the deep red rock structure is striking against a pure blue Arizona sky. The walls are held together by mortar and are in remarkably good condition.

 Wupatki State Park colors, Arizona #familytravel #operationusparks

The site is compact and only takes a couple of hours to fully explore so it is an ideal stop for families. It is not an over visited site and we arrived on a particularly quiet day which allowed us to enjoy the serene environment. It is also one of those parks where you are allowed to get up close to the ruins; a must for inquisitive children. 

Visitors are provided with an information booklet to read on a trail that winds around the historical site, explaining at various significant points how the pueblos were built and how the people lived, farmed and traded – in what seems an inhospitable environment! It is a fascinating place.

Our children joined the Junior Ranger program here, had a full oath ceremony, and were fully engaged throughout our visit by their excellent Junior Ranger activity booklet. Don’t miss the blowhole, a geological fissure in the ground blasting hot air into your face. We had not encountered one before. The kids loved it! 

By Sinead from Map Made Memories

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State and National Parks Family Bucket List | Fabulous family adventure destinations like Great Smoky National Park, Watkins Glen State Park, and  the Petrified Forest National Park. #familytravel #usnationalparks

Operation U.S. Parks

It is so awesome to be able to travel with all of these guest writers to the state and national parks all over the United States. I love to hear stories and plan out where I think my family would like to travel. Oh, wanderlust! Where are you planning to travel to next as a family? Have you seen the studies on how children remember their family vacations and how they bring the family closer together? Right, let’s plan a trip! 

What’s next on your bucket list?

Check out more articles on U.S. parks:

Will you add any of these to your own State and National Parks Family Bucket List? Or maybe you’ve been to some of them already?

Tag me in your pics on Instagram @explorermomma. I’d love to see them!

California National Parks Bucket List

California National Parks Bucket List

Preview: A California National Parks Bucket List for families. Join guest writers as we travel around the state of California to national and state parks!

This year my daughter is in the fourth grade, and eligible for the Every Kid in a Park pass. What this means is she gets her own national parks pass that will let our entire family into all national parks all year for free! Your child does have to be a U.S. resident to qualify, so click here to see my blog post on how to get your own free pass!

We’re in the process of planning trips for this summer so I asked travel bloggers from all over to share their experiences in U.S. state and national parks. I got many fabulous responses and will share them with you by region of the United States.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

California National Parks Bucket List | Tips for family travel to Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Redwood National Park, and more. #nationalparks #familytravel

So, without further ado, let’s begin our journey and add to your own

California national parks bucket list!

Yay! Let’s go!

Joshua Tree National Park

One of our favorite national parks to visit as a family is the unusual and beautiful Joshua Tree National Park. It’s located in Southern California, on the way between Los Angeles and Arizona. Joshua Tree is often described as ‘otherworldly’ and indeed, it is different from anything we had ever seen before.

The park lies where the Mojave and the Colorado deserts meet. Indeed, its landscape is made of barren land dominated by large boulders which erosion has carved into unusual shapes. The park takes its name from the ‘Joshua trees’, yucca plants stretching their spiky arms towards the sky, typical of this area.

Joshua Tree in Joshua Tree National Park, California #joshuatree #exploremore

You can visit Joshua Tree at any time of the year. The spring is the most popular time as it is when the desert flowers blossom. However, we went there in the summer and it was still easy to enjoy its stillness and beauty. 

If visiting in the hot season, be aware that this is an unforgiving, desert landscape and some caution is required. Suitable clothing, shoes, and sunscreen are a must as well as protection from the sun and water.

The park is easy to enjoy with kids as several of its hikes are short and some even stroller friendly. The most popular hikes with kids are the walk in the Cholla cactus garden and the loop around Skull Rock.

The park is served by 3 visitor centers, one at each entrance. I highly recommend a stop there as they rangers can give advice on how to visit safely no matter the season.

By Marta, Learning Escapes

 

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park is one of the most unique and yet least visited National Parks in California. The park is famous for having every type of volcano represented in the park from shield, composite, cinder cone, to plug dome. The volcanic landscape allows visitors to explore beautiful and interesting rock formations, sulfur pools, boiling mud pots, and volcanic cones.

Lassan Volcanic National Park, California National Parks Bucket List #usnationalparks #familytravel

One of my favorite experiences in the park was getting to climb up the sides of a cinder cone. It was around sunset, and I got to see the light highlighting various spots of the volcanic ash.

The park is a great learning experience, especially for those interesting in viewing the violent and beautiful sides of nature.

By Anwar, Beyond My Front Door 

 

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park in California is an amazing destination for outdoor, family adventures. This national park is a part of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and it’s named for its beautiful Sequoia trees.

The General Sherman Tree is the largest tree in the world (based on its volume) and is a must-see! The giant sequoia forest is beautiful, so plan for at least one full day to explore the trees alone. The paths through the forest are all stroller accessible.

In addition to enjoying the sequoia trees, you will want to go to the underground Crystal Cave to explore cool streams and rocks. Walk around Crescent Meadow Trail and enjoy the beautiful meadow flowers, and if you’re lucky, catch a glimpse of a bear (I have seen several bears in the meadow over the years!).

Sequoia National Park, California National Parks Bucket List #sequoianationalpark #familytravel

Sequoia National Park Family Travel Tips

Hike to the top of Moro Rock for a magnificent view of the park from above. It is a steep climb and therefore not the best for small children on their own two feet. Babies in carriers and older children who don’t have a fear of heights will do just fine, but leave the stroller behind!

If your family enjoys camping, the Lodgepole Campground is our family’s personal favorite. It is located in Lodgepole Village, which has a small market, restaurant, and showers. Campsites are available 6 months in advance, and they go almost immediately, so be sure to plan ahead to avoid missing out!

The park’s shuttle system runs often, is family-friendly, and is the easiest way to explore multiple destinations within the park. During holiday weekends and peak season, it can be difficult to find parking, so I highly recommend considering the shuttle.

Sequoia National Park is a stunning destination, and it definitely deserves a spot on your family’s bucket list.

By Leah, An Adventure is Calling

 

DL Bliss State Park

DL Bliss State Park is home to gorgeous Emerald Bay in South Lake Tahoe, California. The picturesque bay is the spot of many iconic photos of the region.

The parking lot fills up quickly so arrive early in the morning!

Many visitors photograph the view from the upper lookout each day. However, only those willing to hike down to the shoreline get to enjoy all that the area has to offer. The hike is .8 miles each way on a wide paved path, but it is quite steep.

Our kids basically ran down the hill; the walk up was much slower (and hotter!), but they all made it and were so proud. We saw younger children riding back up on their parents’ shoulders, so be prepared!

DL Bliss State Park, California National Parks Bucket List #californiastateparks #dlblissstatepark

Because the path is paved, it is easily accessible for strollers as well. Down at the shoreline are restrooms, kayak rentals, swimming, guided tours of the Vikingsholm Mansion, and a small gift shop with drinks and ice cream. The tour is not stroller friendly, but it is short and doable for children of all ages. Our daughter was in awe of the historical interior design, and it was a highlight of her day.

Our children loved playing in the shallow water on the water’s edge. Also, just a few minutes beyond the mansion is an easy detour hike. It brings you to Eagle Falls which is a peaceful photo spot and a wonderful bonus.

When in Lake Tahoe, DL Bliss State Park is not to be missed!

By Sierra, Free to Travel Mama

Interested in other State and National Parks?

You do not want to miss Carlsbad Caverns National Park! Get great tips for visiting the caverns with kids.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, formations #carlsbadcavernsnationalpark #familytravel

(Pssst!! Add all of these to your California national parks bucket list today!)

King’s Canyon National Park

Part of the charm of King’s Canyon National Park is the variety of ever-shifting landscapes throughout this beautiful place.  From towering granite walls, to open vistas, to groves of giant sequoias, each new landscape is surprising and delightful.

One of the most well-known features of King’s Canyon is the General Grant sequoia tree—the second largest tree in the world.  This tree is an icon as both the official US National Christmas Tree and a living monument to veterans.

Kings Canyon National Park, California National Parks Bucket List #nationalparks #californiabucketlist

But besides groves of living sequoias, King’s Canyon also contains groves that are monuments to fallen giant sequoias from the days of logging.  The Big Stump Trail hosts the most famous stump—the Mark Twain Tree. A ladder stands against the remains of this tree so visitors can climb on top of the stump and gain a new perspective of the size of these sequoias. Kids and adults alike will love to experience the size of this fallen giant in a tactile way. They will also love attempting to count the tree rings to find its age!

Towards the backcountry of King’s Canyon, there are hikes for all ages and skill levels. From very short hikes like Roaring River Falls, longer hikes like the one to Mist Falls, to hiking overnight, there is something here for everyone. Inevitably, each hike reveals another facet of this park’s beauty. The waterfalls are particularly gorgeous and worth the journey to see them.

Whether you visit for a short or a long time, King’s Canyon National Park will leave you fascinated by its diversity of nature and the range of things to do and see!

By Abi, Happy Go Abi

 

Yosemite National Park

There are so many amazing national parks to visit in the US. Yosemite however, is a great option for those who aren’t very outdoorsy, or have younger children with them. But it does cater to the adventure junkies too. 

Yosemite is one of the most popular national parks on the list. And after even just one afternoon there – you will want to return a million times over. The thing I love about Yosemite is that it is full of amazing scenic views but also some hidden gems worth detouring for.

Tip: Bear in mind that even as late as June, parts of the park may be closed following the winter season. We had a 4-hour detour because a major road was closed. But it was so worth the wait.

Yosemite National Park, California National Parks Bucket List #yosemitenationalpark #familytravel

When it comes to ultimate views, you really can’t go past Taft Point at sunset without stopping. It’s recently made the news for both positive and negative reasons. One couple had a photograph taken of their marriage proposal by chance, and the photographer managed to track them down. However, one couple also fell from Taft Point, assumed, when taking a selfie together.

Therefore, always remember to err on the side of caution and be careful around cliff edges and lookout points. It can be dangerous if you aren’t paying attention.

Other highlights for your California national parks bucket list

Other highlights include Half Dome (for rock climbing), Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Falls and El Capitan. There are heaps more, but if I listed everything we would be here all day! 

A real highlight that many don’t know about is Bridgeport. We stayed at an RV park there and rented an anchored RV for the night. At sunrise, we woke up in darkness to enjoy the views from the natural hot spring rock pools at the Travertine Hot Springs. This is evidently a real local haunt as we only saw one other person there. Little kids would absolutely love it!

Yosemite is truly amazing. I need to go back to see more, just like everyone who visits and immediately falls in love with it too. 

By Toni, Enchanted Serendipity

 

Redwood National Park

Home to the tallest trees on earth, Redwood National Park is the most magical of national parks and in 2018 was 50 years old!

It was the discovery of the world’s tallest tree that led to the creation of Redwood National Park in 1968. While the tallest tree lost its title to another, the current record holder is in the vicinity. There are 40 miles of rugged coastline to explore, and you’ll find 45% of the remaining coastal redwoods here.

Redwood National Park, giant Redwoods #redwoodnationalpark #gianttrees

The biggest tree you’ll see here is Big Tree, which has a circumference of 68 feet and is estimated to be 1500 years old.

The Shrine Drive-Thru Tree is the focal point for many visitors, myself included. There are in fact THREE drive through trees on the Redwood Coast. It’s a great sight for all ages and of course fun to drive through too!

For me, though, the unique and best thing about Redwood National Park is simply being able to walk through the woods and stare in wonder at the giant trees, protected for future generations.

By Sarah, A Social Nomad 

Redwood National Park, line of cars #californianationalparks #bucketlist

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California National Parks Bucket List | Tips for amazing family travel to the Redwoods, Yosemite, and more! #californianationalparks #familytravel

Operation U.S. Parks

Does your family love to visit U.S. National and State Parks? This is such a beautiful country, and visiting parks, hiking, camping, and just being outdoors can be a huge education for kids. They need to see their beauty and learn hands-on why we must protect them and the wildlife in them.

I hope you’re enjoying our journey around the country to the U.S. Parks. Have you added to your California National Parks bucket list? Maybe it will give you and yours some inspiration to get out and plan your own visit! Happy Travels!

Check out more articles on U.S. parks:

10 Musts for Visiting Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Epic Things to Do at Niagara Falls with Kids

Secrets of Rocky Mountain National Park in Winter

Epic Things to do at Niagara Falls with Kids

Epic Things to do at Niagara Falls with Kids

Did you know if you go to Niagara Falls with kids you’ll experience 3,160 tons of water flowing over Niagara Falls every second? Amazingly enough, the power of Niagara Falls is capable of producing over 4 million kilowatts of electricity. Situated between the two countries, that electricity is shared by both the United States and Canada.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

What do I love about these natural giants of power? Absolutely everything! Niagara Falls is one of those super epic impressive sites that if it isn’t on your bucket list, then WHY NOT?? To a child, the immensity of the falls is huge and one of those experiences that will stay with them forever. These are the moments I love to capture with my kiddos. As we begin this year of Operation National Parks, let’s start off with one mouth-dropping state park. This is why we travel to national parks, state parks, and the world!

The perfect family vacation is Niagara Falls with kids. State Parks and family travel are the best! #operationusparks #everykidinapark #familytravel #iloveny #explorermomma

Just the basics

Niagara Falls State Park is located on the border between the United States and Canada. It’s easy to get to from Buffalo, New York or Toronto, Ontario from the Canadian side. Because it is a U.S. State Park, it is located on the U.S. side, but you can get amazing views by crossing over into Canada as well.

TIP: I had no trouble parking and was there mid-September on a weekday. However, I was told the lots fill up quickly in summer, especially on weekends, so if you’re traveling with kids or a large group I would do my best to come on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday to avoid lines and crowds.

TIP 2: If you plan to see all the attractions, save some money and purchase a Discovery Pass before you go. It gets you access to Maid of the Mists, Cave of the Winds, and pretty much everything, with about a 35% discount. Check out the Niagara Falls State Park website for the most up to date prices here.

Rainbow over the crash of the falls. Niagara Falls with kids is the perfect family vacation. #operationusparks #explorermomma

Top 10 things to do at Niagara Falls with kids

1. Cave of the Winds

From the parking lot, I meandered over to the Cave of the Winds ticket booth and building. I walked under a grand archway and enjoyed the plants and flowers smartly planned throughout. There was no line, and the friendly woman working the booth gave me a flier of attractions and suggested some options.

TIP: Conveniently, there are also restrooms right next door to the Cave of the Winds ticket area for that 5-year-old’s emergency!

The actual tour is awesome. I’m an admitted history nut and love to spend hours soaking up little bits of random facts and staring at black and white photographs. The beginning of the Cave of the Winds tour is for the general public, and presents a visual experience through displays and then a short film. It is very well done and designed to make the history of the falls come alive to not just the interested history buff, but for the energetic 12-year-old boy, or anyone.

Hurricane Deck at the falls. Cave of the Wind is a must-see experience with kids. #operationusparks #explorermomma

From there you walk over to get on the elevator to take you down to the walkway at the bottom of the falls. You’re given souvenir sandals to wear and keep (the 12-year-old boy I mentioned was super-excited about this), a bag to protect your own shoes, and a yellow poncho to protect you from the water spray. Wander around. I highly recommend it. It’s amazing!

2. Trolley

Take the Niagara Falls trolley with the family. #operationusparks #explorermomma

The trolley is a fabulous option for families to take to the major attractions and sites all over the park. You can leave your car, save your feet, and the kids love the novelty of taking the trolley to each place. All aboard!

3. Maid of the Mist

Niagara Falls Maid of the Mist boat tour. #operationusparks #explorermomma

Maid of the Mist is another must-do at Niagara Falls with kids. This time you get a blue poncho and a tourist-filled boat takes you lazily down the river past flora and fauna past Bridal Falls, Cave of the Winds, and then into the spray of the mighty Horseshoe Falls. From the bank, it looks as if the boat’s enveloped by the water at the bottom of the falls. It’s an amazing experience for sure and a great memory for kids.

4. Niagara Fall Observation Tower

While you’re at the Maid of the Mists, be sure to ride the elevator up to the Niagara Falls Observation Tower. There are some stairs to the top, but you’re rewarded with fabulous views. In addition, should you have a young up and coming bird watcher with you, this is the perfect location to see some of the local peregrine falcons, bald eagles, and other birds. We search for these birds everywhere we go thanks to our friends the Wild Kratts so this is a huge hit with our family.

The Niagara Gorge has officially been designated an Audubon Important Bird Area (IBA).

Niagara Falls with the Maid of Mist boat below. #operationuspark #explorermomma

5. Aquarium of Niagara

The Aquarium of Niagara is always a hit with kids who love marine animals. Check out the Penguin Coast exhibit and see some sharks! With over 40 exhibits you’re sure to find the California sea lion or seahorse.

6. Hiking Trails and the Discovery Center

Does your family love to hike? Briefly check out the Discovery Center then pick one of the many hikes to explore. There are convenient signs posted around with the distance of each hike, difficulty, and age appropriateness. It’s super-easy to find the best one for you as an individual or a group with different levels.

7. Walking Tour App

Do you have a teenager attached to their phone with you? Did you know the Niagara Fall State Park has its own Walking Tour app? It’s a great thing to put that pre-teen or teen in charge of downloading the app and giving the family the information it sends to you as you complete the walking tour. Just search for Official Niagara Falls Tour in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. There’s information on 17 sites as you make your way around the park and an interactive map. Depending on where you go it can even send coupons for discounts on ice cream, souvenirs, and more. Click here to learn more about the app.

Flowers with Niagara Falls mist in the background. #operationusparks #explorermomma

8. Niagara Adventure Theater

Okay, you’ve walked, hiked, and are planning to bike. Do you need a rest? The Niagara Adventure Theater provides a little break in your active schedule. When it’s time for a rest, stop at the Niagara Falls State Park Visitor Center. There you can view the half-hour presentation of “Niagara: Legends of Adventure” full of daredevils, stories, and history. It’s air-conditioned and a good place to relax for a while.

9. Biking the State Park

While I did not bike, a family with older kids can have a wonderful time biking around the state park. As you finish with the Adventure Theater look for the rentals tents just outside the Visitor Center. There are different kinds of bikes on offer, even kids bikes for ages 7-13. Ask about the best bike routes or explore on your own.

Here you can also rent wheelchairs, strollers, and kid wagons. I love that this gives everyone access and opportunity to explore the park in their own way!

10. Fireworks and Illumination days

Fireworks and illumination. Family travel at Niagara Falls. #operationusparks #explorermomma
Bryan Goff

If you’re going to get the family out at night, the fireworks and Niagara Falls’ illumination days are spectacular and very popular. Kids love the fireworks and the different displays of color on the water.

Travel Stories

I love people watching when you travel. It’s fun to see the families, individuals, and couples and imagine, what brought them to this place at this time? For example, I ran into a couple at the Cave of the Winds last week. Evidently, I’m fairly approachable being a mom, generally with at least a hint of a smile, and the ability to handle an iPhone, because I get asked all the time to take pictures for people.

This particular couple wanted their picture under the falls at Hurricane Deck, so I took the traditional smiling pose. “Great”, she says, “thanks so much!”

They gave each other a quick kiss before coming back to get the phone from me, and I managed to capture that moment with the kiss under the falls. The woman looked at the photo with the kiss, and a gigantic smile lit up her face. “This is absolutely perfect!” she says. “We’re on our honeymoon, and I’m blowing this one up to frame!”

You never know how you can make someone’s day! It definitely was a great addition to mine!

Join us for Operation U.S. Parks!

Get your free U.S. National Parks pass and join us on the U.S. Parks journey.

Congratulations! Free US National Parks pass. #operationusparks #explorermomma

Books and shows with Niagara Falls

It’s always fun to tie something kids know to their travels. If my son sees something on TV or we read a book about it beforehand, that prior knowledge makes it all that much more interesting when you actually visit. For example, “Mommy! This is where Trek fed the baby Spinosaurus!”

Films and shows


Niagara Falls With Kids Books


Are you going to Niagara Falls with kids?

Niagara Falls is one of these magical places on earth that creates an inner joy and excitement to those who experience it. Last week when I visited, I could feel the enthusiasm in people all around me! Travel establishes a bond or camaraderie with those near you like few things can. Also, it’s another teaching point for me to show my kids how to interact with others and be kind to everyone when you’re traveling or just visiting a local event.

Have you been to Niagara Falls? Tag me in your pics on Instagram @explorermomma. I’d love to see them!

Hover over the Pin and click Save for later! Then don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest here!

Niagara Falls with kids. Family travel awesomeness and things to do. #operationusparks #iloveny #explorermomma  The perfect family vacation is Niagara Falls with kids. State Parks and family travel are the best! #operationusparks #everykidinapark #familytravel #explorermomma

Thanks all!

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