planning an outdoor family vacation

Planning A D.I.Y. Outdoor Family Vacation

Posted by Corey Hunt on March 26, 2021

As the pandemic continues, many families are planning outdoor vacations for spring and summer break. Outdoorswoman and mother-of-2, Corey Hunt, shares their experience vacationing at Yellowstone Park, plus 3 essential tips for planning your outdoor DIY vacation.

Planning a family vacation is challenging. Planning an outdoor family vacation takes this challenge to a whole new level. Taking into consideration environmental elements such as weather, insects and camping gear can be downright daunting, especially if your family includes small children.  

However, it can also be fun and enjoyable so don’t be intimidated. With careful planning and a few insider tricks from someone who has been there, it just might be the family’s favorite trip. 

How we planned our family's DIY outdoor vacation (and you can too)

Family photo 2

Ever since my husband and I first visited Yellowstone National Park, we have been waiting for the day our children would be old enough to enjoy it with us. This past August, with kids age 6 and 8 in tow, we traveled to the park for a seven day hiking and fly fishing adventure. 

This trip did not get thrown together overnight as some do when it is just my husband and I, but evolved over the last year. Which leads to my first piece of advice: 

Tip #1: Start planning your vacation 6 months to 1 year in advance

DSC_1406(1)Yellowstone National Park has over 2.2 million acres and is the size of Rhode Island and Delaware combined, so this trip was more about narrowing down our choices for itinerary rather than finding things to do. 

I ordered two books while preparing for our trip. The first was a general guidebook for the park to refresh my memory about getting around and different areas of the park. The second book covered short hikes in Yellowstone, which was extremely helpful given the ages of the kids. 

As I went through the different regions from the general guidebook, I would list the short hikes out and by the end of my reading we had about 3-5 hikes possible for each region we wanted to visit. 

The general guidebook was also helpful when considering activities outside of the park as well, such as the Wolf and Grizzly Discovery Center in West Yellowstone. Another benefit of planning a vacation greater than six months in advance is securing an available reservation in popular destinations that fill up quickly. 

After camping longer than 2-3 nights, I had a feeling sleeping in a bed was going to feel really good. We booked our midweek hotel and dining reservations almost one year in advance, knowing these popular spots fill up around nine months out. 

Tip #2: Rent gear from locals who know the area

DSC_1575(1)While weighing the options of an RV or rental car for our trip, my husband came across a company called Hatch Adventures. This company is a local family owned and operated rental SUV company based outside of Bozeman, Montana. Each of their adventure vehicles come equipped with “pop top” camper tents on top and includes camping gear such as a stove, folding chairs, pots and pans, etc. This company was also an excellent source of local knowledge such as where to camp, where to stock up on supplies in town, and their customer service was impeccable. 

By renting local, we were able to save on airline fees for extra bags of gear and were also guaranteed to have camping equipment that would stand up to the elements of the West. 

Tip #3: Get the kids involved in selecting activities

Family photo 1

The hardest part of planning this trip was selecting age appropriate activities for a seven day adventure trip while taking into consideration the energy levels, endurance, and ages of the kids.  

Even though my children have experience camping and enjoy being outdoors, 6 and 8 can still be too young for spending seven consecutive days outdoors. However, by letting the youngest or most tired member of the family choose the activity, it allowed us to please the whole family. 

The last thing I wanted to do was carry my six year old up a steep hill while both of us were miserable and possibly crying!

Some days, we sat for two hours and watched buffalo graze while we ate lunch, and several days we logged over 20,000 steps. 

how to plan an outdoor family vacation

Listing out hikes and activities based on area when planning the trip, allowed us to choose what to do based on our energy level instead of forcing something because of proximity. 

By planning in advance, renting local, and choosing activities that cater to the youngest family member, we had a relaxing and enjoyable outdoor vacation. Escaping to nature brought us closer as a family, and allowed us moments and views that we will not soon forget. D.I.Y. Outdoor Vacations are worth the extra time and effort so a vacation can be planned around your family’s individual needs and wants. 

For a more detailed itinerary of our trip, visit our blog

Corey Hunt

Corey Hunt is an award-winning freelance outdoor writer and photographer from the upstate of South Carolina, where she lives with her husband and two children. Her work has appeared in publications such as Dun Magazine, South Carolina Wildlife and other online publications. More on Corey’s writing can be found on the blog she writes with her husband,

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