The internet has somewhat simplified the planning process of family vacations. That is unless your family includes your sister, brothers, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends – 45 to be exact. The success of a road trip depends on the creativity of the planner!
Open your map and follow Interstate 15 north, past Las Vegas, past Salt Lake City then follow Highway 20 north until you run into a big green square area called Yellowstone National Park located at the northwest corner of Wyoming. Using yahoomaps.com, it is exactly 996.18 miles one way to the west entrance of the park. This road trip will be for 9 days and 8 nights.
Each family driving their own cars would be illogical if not crazy. It will take 2 days to reach our destination and I am completely sold on chartering a bus and sticking with the “no driving” rule.
Chartering a bus for a big group is practical, economical and good for the environment. Use the internet to find tour companies who will work with your itinerary. Look at your map and remember the maximum 10 hour driving rule for the bus driver in one day. I use yahoomaps.com to get the furthest possible daily destination. In order for tour companies to give you their best quote, they will require a tentative daily itinerary so that they can calculate your total mileage for the trip. Don’t be afraid to ask questions as this is going to be bulk of your budget. Once again, I chose Tour West America and requested Michael as our driver. Being able to play games, watch videos, sing songs, tell jokes, making play tents, sleeping, reading or just doing nothing is priceless. www.tourwestamerica.com
Next is deciding where to stay. Consider your destination and put some thought into your choice of accommodations. West Yellowstone would be ideal with its many choices of hotels but I was looking for something different. We are going to Wyoming and when I think of Wyoming, I didn’t see us staying in a hotel. I was thinking more in line of a ranch type accommodation surrounded by trees, a river nearby, maybe horses, definitely cabins and not too far from the park.
The 320 Guest Ranch in Big Sky, Montana is all that and more. They have cabins, they offer group rates, they serve a hot complimentary breakfast and had parking for the bus. They also offer activities such as horseback riding, hayrides, fly fishing lessons and BBQ alongside the Gallatin River. This is the same river where Brad Pitt is fly fishing in the movie “A River Runs Through It”. Pack your astronomy book as I think every star can be seen from here! It is located on Highway 191 on Mile Marker 36 approximately 36 miles from the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park. www.320ranch.com
Yellowstone National Park is known for Old Faithful and its geysers. Plan on at least two or three days to explore and enjoy the park. There are so many trails to hike, so many geysers to see, so many animals to watch for and so many places to stop and take amazing pictures.
Old Faithful is located between Madison and West Thumb. There are several restaurants and stores to visit while you keep an eye on the clock to see when Old Faithful will next erupt. Be sure not to miss the history of Yellowstone National Park as given by the park rangers. To cool off your day, Firehole Canyon is a swimming hole nearby.
Mammoth Hot Springs is located near the north entrance. This is a great stop after you have hiked nearby Tower Falls. The Boiling River is also in this area and is probably the best kept secret of the park. It is a swimming hole where 140 degree water mixes with the cold Gardiner River. Come here to soak your tired muscles after a day of hiking.
But after you’ve seen Old Faithful, a buffalo or elk on the side of the road and the other must see spots, consider exploring the less traveled parts of Yellowstone National Park and nearby areas. Pack a picnic basket and take a drive on Beartooth Highway to Cooke City or Red Lodge. Go whitewater rafting on the Gallatin River. Go horseback riding and learn how to fly fish. This is, after all, Wyoming.
No matter the size, think different and go outside the box when planning your next family road trip. Ag pasiar tayo, let’s go on vacation!