Visiting Yellowstone with toddlers with tips
Book early when visiting Yellowstone National Park with toddlers
Yellowstone is one of the most popular parks in the United States and as such the competition for good value and well located accommodation can be a steep if you are trying to book a last minute trip to Yellowstone (like we did). To make sure yo
On top of its, popularity Yellowstone is also one of the largest national parks. A trip to Yellowstone, even just ticking off the must-sees from your Yellowstone National Park bucket list will involve a lot of driving. So if you can
Try and Stay in the Park
To limit the time your toddler is strapped into a car seat then I would definitely recommend trying to stay inside Yellowstone National Park. There are actual nine lodges within the grounds of park:
- Old Faithful Inn – a really centrally located lodge which is one of the better located lodges for those travelling to Yellowstone with children!
- Old Faithful Lodge Cabin
- Old Faithful Snow Hotel and Cabins
- Canyon Lodge and Cabins
- Grant Village Lodge
- Yellowstone Lake Hotel and Cabins
- Yellowstone Lake Lodge Cabins
- Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins
- Roosevelt Lodge Cabins
However these book up quickly, in fact you need to be booking your summer vacation a year in advance to try and get into one of the park lodges. The lodges aren’t avaible on any third party travel booking agencies so you must go directly through the park lodge website (click here for more information).
If you aren’t able to book that far in advance then you still have a chance at staying in the park as it is possible to get a cancellation. These cases are rare and there is no official waiting list for the on-site lodges but if you call up a few days in advance you might just get lucky. If you want to do this then I would recommend making sure you have booked refundable accommodation outside of the park.
For more tips for visiting national parks with toddlers check out this post.
Where to Stay Near Yellowstone with Toddlers
If you can’t stay in the park itself and are looking at where to stay near Yellowstone we have a complete breakdown of the different entrances and accommodation options at each entrance. However if you are visiting Yellowstone National Park with toddlers then I would personally recommend staying in West Yellowstone, which is where we stayed. West Yellowstone accommodation is actually closer to the park entrance and a lot of the main attractions which will help reduce the time your toddler is in their car seat.
When we stayed in West Yellowstone we stayed at Days Inn West Yellowstone. While the rooms were nothing fancy it was perfectly serviceable and close to the entrance and as an added bonus also had a swimming pool which my toddler loved blowing off steam in after a day in the park.
Other Choices in West Yellowstone with good online ratings are as followed (to check prices and availability please click on the below links):
Try and Book out of Season
One of my favourite things about travelling with toddlers versus older children is that you don’t have to travel during school holidays. By booking out of the peak season school holidays you will find the park less busy and the accommodation cheaper. Win win!
Don’t underestimate distances & don’t overplay your day
Yellowstone is almost 3,500-sq.-miles and the must see sites of Yellowstone are scattered across this park. Do not underestimate how far you have to travel between each place. We recommend spending no less than four days in the park to give yourself plenty of time to tick off everything on your bucket list while not keeping your toddler in a car seat for the whole day.
Be wildlife aware
Every year you hear of horror story of tourists getting too close to the animals in the park. For my little one seeing the bison was a big highlight of our trip but be sure to know all of the wildlife rules before you travel to make sure you have a safe trip.
Be aware of hot springs and geysers
One of the best things we did at Yellowstone National Park was exploring the geyser basin however the geysers and hot springs can be dangerous places if you don’t follow the rules. When exploring the geyser basin areas with toddlers, although boardwalks, I recommend using a carrier or toddler reins for safety.
Take plenty of snacks and entertainment
While as adults you may be in awe of everything you see in Yellowstone National Park, toddlers will soon be bored left with no entertainment in the car. So whether you use an iPad or have an activity tray for your toddler, be sure to have something that will keep them amused as you drive between sites.
And as any parent will yell you a hangry toddler stuck in a car is a nightmare. Be sure you have plenty of snacks with you as you don’t want to have to double back to lodges etc to find snacks as this will be a waste of time and also be expensive.
Be Sure that your Toddler can see out of the window
Do not underestimate the amount of time you will spend in the car in Yellowstone. If you are visiting Yellowstone with a toddler be sure that they can see out of the window so they can spot wildlife and other things out of the window on those long journeys
What to Pack for Visiting Yellowstone with toddlers
We have a full Yellowstone Packing List here which will tell you everything that you need to bring for your trip. But toddlers require some additional things. If you are visiting Yellowstone with toddlers then we suggest also packing
- Toddler Reins
I know people hate them but for me they are an essential for toddlers at Yellowstone. There are so many dangerous spots near geysers etc so you need to make sure you keep a good hold of your kids. For me the reins were a must!Our prefence is to travel with Back Pack Reins which my toddler calls her adventure pack as it is less intrusive for your little one!
- Portable Potty
While there are plenty of rest stops at Yellowstone, you can be sure your toddler will suddenly need a wee as soon as you are stuck in a bison jam. Traveling with a portable potty like the above was CAiYou will be spending a lot of time in the car and away from facilities so it is definitely good to have a portable potty with you!
If you don’t want to use reins around some of Yellowstone’s more dangerous sites then I would recommend using a carrier instead.
- Car Seats
One of the top tips I have for any road trip with young children but especially for places like Yellowstone is to make sure your toddler can see out of the window from their car seat. This will keep boredom at bay far longer.
- Entertainment and Lots of Snacks
No one wants to travel with a hangry toddler and there aren’t many rest stops in the park. Be sure to have plenty of snacks, a packed lunch and lots of bottled water for your trip to Yellowstone with a toddler. Also as much as we would love for our toddlers to gaze out of the windows in amazement at the natural beauty it is worth having some entertainment in the car for the kids for those longer days and drives back to your accommodation.
Best Things to do in Yellowstone with Toddlers
See Old Faithful
Old Faithful is a must for any visit to Yellowstone National park. The great thing about Old Faithful is you can check the times of expected eruptions which means (all being well) that you won’t be hanging around with a little one. There is also some seating in the area for little ones to rest at. And best of all, it is next to Old Faithful Lodge which you can stop in for a rest break.
Top Tip: get there early before an eruption to be guaranteed a seat. Sometimes a ranger will be there too who can give you some amazing ranger facts before the eruption occurs.
See the wildlife
This was without doubt by toddlers favourite thing in the park. The best place to see wildlife in the park is the Lamar Valley. There you can see bison and if you are lucky and there at the right time of day, bears and wolves too.
Wildlife Safety Tip: the clue is in the name – these animals are wild – please exercise caution and keep a reasonable distance. The guidance for viewing wildlife in Yellowstone tends to be stay 100 yards from bears and wolves, and 25 yards from all other animals at least.
Spend time on and around Lake Yellowstone
If you like to be active with your toddler in tow then a great activity for the whole family is to go on a kayak on the immense Lake Yellowstone.
See the Grand Prismatic Lake
The Grand Prismatic Lake is another Yellowstone must see even with a toddler in tow. If they are anything like mine they will be fascinated with the colours of the lake.
The view of the lake is best from the overlook and is doable with kids so we recommend giving yourself 1 – 2 hours to enjoy this stop.
Top Tip: As a Yellowstone must see the grand prismatic lake gets very busy with full car parks so try and do this stop very early in the day to avoid disappointment.
See the Mammoth Hot Springs
The Mammoth Hot Springs are great to do with toddlers as there is a boardwalk around it. Be sure to do the whole section if you can as there is a boardwalk making it one of the easier routes to do with the toddler in the carrier.